Canada’s contribution to the Italy campaign lasted almost two years and was the longest Canadian army campaign of the war. It started when the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, alongside other Allies, mounted a seaborne invasion of Sicily on July 10th, 1943. While the Italians troops surrendered quickly, there were also German divisions on the island who fought fiercely until August 17th.
On September 3rd, the Canadians, again with other Allies, began fighting their way through the mainland of Italy. Like in Sicily, the Italian troops were often quick to surrender, but the German troops took advantage of excellent defensive positions and built multiple defensive lines. One famous battle occurred at Ortona, where the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and the Seaforth Highlanders encountered the German 1st Parachute Division. This battle lasted from December 20th to 28th and cost the Canadians heavy casualties before the Germans withdrew. In February of 1945, the Canadians finally began to withdraw from Italy and join the First Canadian Army in Europe as they worked to defeat Germany and liberate the Netherlands. It was not until Germany’s surrender in the spring of 1945 that the Italy campaign finally ended in victory for the Allies. Over five thousand Canadians lost their lives in Italy, with a totally of 26,254 Canadian casualties.
Howard Duffy was the youngest of Pat and Julia Duffy’s six sons. He grew up on a farm east of Lacombe and at the age of 18, left school, having reached Grade 10. The next year, Howard joined the Army. Here is his description of the experience recounted later to Kelly Duff: