The Battle of Salerno, Italy

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The Battle of Salerno is the third Regimental Day of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment and the anniversary on the 9th September 1992 marked the formation of the new Regiment. The day was well chosen, as it commemorated the exemplary courage of members of The Queen’s and Hampshires, who landed on the beaches in 1943. Six territorial battalions of The Queen’s fought in the battle within 169 (Queen’s) Brigade and 131 (Queen’s) Brigade alongside three Hampshire battalions of 128 (Hampshire) Brigade. In addition, a number of Beach Groups were manned by Queensmen and Hampshire soldiers .

The idea was that the allies would advance quicker through Italy and capture Naples within a few days, as Churchill said, ‘Why crawl up the leg like a harvest bug from the ankle upwards? Let us strike at the knee’. 169 Brigade and 128 Brigade were in the initial assaulting divisions and by the end of the first day; the British X Corps was ashore with 23,000 troops, 80 tanks, 325 guns and 2,000 vehicles. However, most of the objectives had not been taken and the enemy still occupied the dominating heights. The days following the landings were a mess of confused fighting, sporadic attacks, prisoners taken, men killed, strong points over-run and abandoned and sometimes over-run again. This situation culminated in ‘Black Monday’ on the 13th September, when the last major German counter-attack took place, but this was blunted with the help of Naval Gunfire Support and air strikes. On the 17th September, the three Queen’s battalions of 131 Brigade joined the battle and by the next day, nine of the Regiment’s forebear battalions were in the bridgehead. Both sides claimed victory from the Battle of Salerno. The Germans had managed to extricate themselves and had dictated the pace of the battle; however, the allies were not driven back to the sea and the objectives were eventually seized, thanks to the doggedness of those nine forebear battalions.

Following Salerno, the allied forces then continued their advance and The Buffs, East Surreys, Royal Sussex, Queen’s Own Royal West Kents and Hampshires were all to gain the battle honour of Cassino on their way through Italy. Some of the fiercest fighting followed the landings at Anzio, where the 2/7th Middlesex had landed in January 1944. A month later, the 2nd Queen’s Brigade, and the 1st Buffs helped to retrieve a desperate situation.