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Villanova Canadian War Cemetery

Villanova Canadian War Cemetery

The 5th Canadian Armoured Division established a bridgehead over the Lamone River the night of December 10-11, 1944. In the days that followed, they became involved in heavy fighting to the west of it as they tried to make their way across three canals.

The advance across the Lamone near Villanova went well. The Cape Breton Highlanders were quickly over the dyke and in the village, with 43 prisoners captured. By 2 a.m. they had reached the Via Aguta road, one mile beyond. To the left, nearby, the Perth Regiment easily captured Borgo di Villanova and continued their advance. The reserve unit, the Irish Regiment of Canada, was sent across the river along the route of the Perths. They were then to turn left and join the 1st Division. They progressed 3,000 yards, taking 50 prisoners in the process. The Allied success in this sector is shared with the U.K..'s Desert Air Force which supported the ground troops with 312 sorties on December 11 alone.

Disregarding this air support, the Germans counterattacked early on the 11th. The Westminister Regiment (Motor) held them off, damaging four tanks and taking a number of prisoners. Two other attempts by the Germans in the afternoon met similar failure. The engineers, meanwhile, had completed their bridges and so, early on the 12th, tanks of the 8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars successfully crossed the Lamone at Villanova.

The Naviglio Canal was the next Canadian objective, and the assault began the night of December 12. The Lanark and Renfrew Scottish and the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, both of the 12th Brigade, met strong resistance along the canal's banks. Only two squadrons of the Dragoons made it across, and fierce counterattacks splintered them into isolated units. Enemy fire prevented the reserve squadrons from even approaching the canal. To make matters worse, air support was unavailable due to poor visibility and the tanks were unable to reach this section.

In that one night's action, 21 of the regiment were killed and 46 captured. At the same time, the Lanark and Renfrew group was being held up by fire from enemy-occupied houses across the canal. They resisted two days of pressure, suffering 38 fatalities. The situation would improve in a matter of days, when air and tank support became available.

Villanova War Cemetery Map


Originally begun as a battlefield cemetery, this permanent war graves site is located along the Lamone River just outside the village of Villanova, in the commune of Bagnacavallo and the province of Ravenna. It was selected as a cemetery by the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, which is heavily represented here. There are 206 Canadian graves, including one unknown soldier. There are also six soldiers from the UK. Most of the Canadian war dead belonged to one of four regiments - the Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment (52), the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards (34), the Perth Regiment (34) and the Irish Regiment of Canada (25). For the most part, they were killed following the Lamone River crossing in December 1944. A number also died in the advance to the Senio River and up to the final days of the Italian campaign - in February 1945 for the majority of Canadians.

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