Montemaggoire Italy 24th August 1944 .
With a bit of research and being checked by Alex Ross, I now know he arrived in the early hours of the 24th August and was assigned as troop leader of Fox troop. When the second in command Major Alf Powis called for the advance party to go to the Montemaggoire our Lt Ross was left looking after and getting to know the troop personnel of which he was now a member.
Now back to the gun position at Montemaggoire. Our survey section was very busy getting the proper survey information from any available Italian survey monuments, and also picking up the corrected coordinates of just where we were from the 1st survey regiment RCA. To the best of everything we were ready for the guns to come up. The afternoon and into the evening wore on with a lot of shelling on the road to our rear of which we had a grandstand view.
We were told at dusk that the guns would come into our position after dark to hopefully escape the violent shelling of the road. Here is where a guide from each troop was to go with Major Powis to a crossroad to meet the guns, and direct them to their respective troop position. This guide is almost always the troop sergeant major. On this evening somehow Lt DeBelle asked me to stay with him and we would meet the guns at the foot of the hill. Gunner Kirby said he would go on my motor bike to meet the guns along with the other guides and Major Powis. So that was agreed and Kirby left to join the other guides .
Lt DeBelle and I walked along the hillside and down to the crossroad at the bottom of the hill. Soon some of the other troops guns were moving past us in the darkness. It was not going to be a pleasant night. The Germans knew that there was a great movement going on and they started to shell over the town and down into this crossroad. Shells crashed down around us and into the hillside above us showering us with dirt stones and whizzing metal.
Lt De Belle and I scurried for the small shallow ditch. Lt DeBelle landing on top of me. I twisted my neck around and here was Lt DeBelle's face inches from mine. I said sir you would be a lot lower if you got off me, which he did but in that frantic few seconds he did not realize that I was under him. I must say he wriggled off me in a hurry.
The shelling all around us was really close, and any movement of vehicles was being drowned out with the bursting shells. During this shelling our Colonel of just three days drove up and dismounted out of his vehicle. Right away he was hit with a shell killing him and wounding a couple of others with him. Gunner Marchuk, his driver, was to be awarded the MM for bravery trying to save Colonel McIntosh's life and the others. Within moments E troop guns appeared then our guns with our new troop leader Lt Ross leading them. Lt DeBelle jumped in with Lt Ross or walked in front of him with a flashlight to guide him to the troop command post. I brought the guns the rest of the way showing each sergeant where his particular site was. All this time the Germans were either shelling around the town, the road, or concentration areas around them. If I remember correctly the First Division Infantry namely the 48th Highlanders, were also on the move through the town and drew a lot of shell fire. They were using more lights on their vehicles than we were.
This area was to be an area hidden from the Germans until the main assault across the Metaura River. When all guns were in their gun pits slit trenches dug and camoulflaged, the gunners would try to get a short rest. The trip to this position was extremely hazardous, not just from the shelling but the twisting steep road all in the dark. We lost on observation tank, and I think three trucks rolled over coming down this grim hill. We were soon to name this position Death Valley and I will explain that next .