Friday, February 24, 2006

Dive Bombing in Italy, A memory confirmed

Photo shows: Larry with some of his friends

One very strong memory that remains with me till today, concerns watching ME 109s dive bombing and machine-gunning our troops.

The time was November 1943, the place Termoli, in Italy and our wireless truck was by a farmhouse some 1000 yards away from a road junction.
Well within our sight were some of our guns, sited near the junction to give protection to passing vehicles.

On this particular day I was working in the back of the 15cwt Bedford truck when I heard the unmistakeable "gedang-- gedang" clamour of Bofor guns in action.

I piled out of the back of the truck, still with my earphones on, and could see the dive-bombing taking place imediately to my front.
Common sense should have told me to get under cover but I was held spellbound by the grandstand view that I now had of the spectacle.

I watched with horror as at least two planes at a time were taking turns to dive, literally vertically on to the guns, and were pulling up sharply just as they reached ground level.

Too much dust was being raised by the effect of the bombs and the machine gunning to be able to see anything at ground level but it was obvious that our troops were getting a hammering.

After no more than five minutes of intense action the planes peeled off and comparative silence decended on the scene.

This therefore was, and is , my memory and it is only some 60 odd years later that I have been able to obtain actual confirmation of the event.

Firstly, from the Regimental History of the 49th LAA Regiment, (Copyright RA Historical Trust 2004, Compiled by Major D.Rollo):

OCT 1943
On the 2nd, RHQ moved to San Paolo. The next day 90 Bty guns moved towards Termoli on route protection and RHQ moved to north of Serracapriola and was joined there by HQ 280 Bty. 90 Bty had one man killed and one wounded by enemy aircraft machine-gunning.

Secondly from 'Larry' Fox's own diary (my own diaries for this period having gone missing over the years)

Very early we had orders to go out on a Recce with the adjutant (Capt.Weeks).
We went right up the front overlooking Termoli, in fact I saw the tanks and infantry moving up to take it. The place we found for RHQ was Serracapriola on an un-swept minefield. He left Les Cooper and myself to wait until the engineers had swept it. At about 9pm our truck turned up with some grub and we slept in a barn with C/84. During that I think we were in and out of the truck about a dozen times as Jerry was bombing and machine gunning the roads.

Again, the Regimental Diary:
On the 4th RHQ moved again, to a farm south of Campomarino and was joined there by HQ 84 Bty. 84 Bty had one man killed by aircraft machine-gunning. HQ 94 Bty moved to near Termoli.

Finally, from Larry's Diary:
As we were only just outside Campo Marina and Termoli well within enemy artillery range we started digging slit trenches and after we had dug only about 2 feet we had to leave off and get behind the house as shells were falling in the road next to us. Following that the Jerries came out of the sky machine gunning. This was my most frightening experience.
(The photo shows Larry with some of his friends, Larry is dead centre)

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