The 8th New Brunswick Hussars were to play a role in this operation. On the 29th of August, 1944, the Regiment moved into position in the hills south of the picturesque town of Foglia. Their objective: cross the valley below and occupy the high ground before occupying the town of Montecchio. The Germans had other plans, and elements of the German 10th Army were hastily digging-in in preparation for the inevitable Canadian offensive. A formidable 14-foot anti-tank ditch was dug, and machine-guns and anti-tank guns were positioned on the high ground with interlocking fields of fire. Montecchio lay surrounded by these formidable defences. It would not be an easy fight.
The attack began at 1730 hours on the night of the 30th, and was met by feeble German resistance. The Canadians had caught the Germans off-guard as they hurriedly tried to man their positions. Seizing the opportunity, Major Howard Keirstead and his tank advanced down the valley to join the Cape Bretons. This time, the Germans were prepared, and the Major’s tank faced a wall of enemy fire. Captain Bob McLeod and his tanks were eager to join the battle, but were held up in a traffic jam by a Provost. McLeod continued by motorcycle under fire in a bid to find Keirstead, who ordered the tanks moved up. With the tanks still being held up by the Provost, McLeod made a call to Colonel Somerville, seeking permission to get his tanks moving again.
The next day brought the inevitable German counterattack. The line held, and the Regiment consolidated its gains, with Cliff McEwen and C Squadron reinforcing Point 111. From the high ground, they pounded enemy positions in and around Montecchio. The fire was effective, and the Irish Regiment easily mopped up remaining German resistance. Outflanked, the Germans defending Point 120 quickly fell soon after.
From their newly-conquered commanding positions above the valley, the Hussars took stock of the cost of their conquest. Burnt out tanks littered the valley, and the Regiment spent the next several hours digging graves. The grim cost of war.
Fighting in and around Montecchio was just a taste of what was to come in later battles, as the Allies breached the formidable defences of the Gothic Line.
To find out more about this story, and the 8th Hussars in the Italian campaign, visit the 8th Hussars Museum on 66 Broad Street, in the historic Sussex Train Station.