Montecchio War Cemetery

Montecchio War Cemetery

The village of Montecchio was basically razed by the Germans so their field of fire could be clearly viewed. Ironically, it has since been rebuilt and has become a popular destination for German tourists. To break this end of the Gothic Line, the Canadians planned to attack from the banks of the Metauro River, several miles inland, to the coast. The Apennines provided many natural ridges and valleys favourable to defence, so casualty reports were frequent. The 1st Canadian Division set out August 25, encouraged by the following address from the 1st Canadian Corps Commander, General E.L.M. Burns:

Let everyone of us go into this battle with the determination to press forward until the enemy is destroyed; to strike and pursue until he can fight no longer. Then, and only then, shall we have won what we, as Canadians, have been fighting for - security, peace and honour for our country.*

After four days of fighting in the hills, the Canadians successfully crossed the Foglia River. But the main enemy defences lay ahead. The 5th Armoured Division moved up to assist by establishing a second front.

The Allies began the day of August 30th with an air bombardment against German positions at dawn. At 5.30 p.m., the Perth Regiment attacked the end of a ridge northeast of Montecchio, while a knoll at the west end of the town and the high ground beyond were the objectives of the Cape Breton Highlanders. Both units faced incessant fire from the heights as well as minefields along the flat lands. The Perths managed to break through the line first, reaching and passing their objective. The Cape Breton troops had the support of tanks from the 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars, which helped three of their companies make it to the base of the knoll. After each attempt, however, they were driven back to the Foglia, with casualties totalling 19 members killed and 46 wounded. The Irish Regiment, which had been in reserve, was moved through the path of the Perths. Tanks and artillery guns were not yet available here and as a result the regiment lost 19 killed and 31 wounded. In the end, however, the knoll position was successfully taken, and 121 Germans captured, thanks to Allied artillery assaults and crafty positioning of the Irish Regiment soldiers who caught the enemy from behind. The 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards were also involved in these actions as they had been assigned "mop up" duties.

*The Canadian Army in the Second World War (Volume II, The Canadians in Italy, by Lcol G.W.L. Nicholson, Queen's Printer, Ottawa, 1956), p. 504

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Begun as a battlefield cemetery, this site is in the rural locality of Montecchio, in the commune of Sant'Angelo (in Lizzola) and the province of Pesaro-Urbino. It is located 12 kilometres west of Pesaro and was chosen as a permanent battlefield in the autumn of 1944, when the Allies were fighting to break through the Gothic Line. During the war, Montecchio was situated on the east end and just to the south of this highly effective defensive barrier. In fact, an anti-tank ditch which formed part of the line ran through the valley that lies below the cemetery. There are 582 graves here, of which nearly half - 289 - are Canadian, including one unknown soldier. The majority are from the armoured units, and the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery is also heavily represented. In addition there is one member of the Royal Canadian Dental Corps. The remaining Commonwealth graves belong to the U.K., South Africa and India. Most of these soldiers gave their lives in this area in late August and September of 1944.

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