The Old Diocesan Issue5 Mar2020 - Page 77



WORLD WAR II
The 75th anniversary of the end
of World War II in Europe will be
observed in May 2020. To mark
the occasion, school historian
Paul Murray remembers those
ODs who fought in the bitterly
contested Italian campaign
T
he Bishops war record in
World War II, as in World
War I, is steeped in glory,
with ODs seeing action
in many theatres of conflict and
in all three major services. They
served at home in southern Africa,
and abroad – in the Battle of Britain
and over the Atlantic Ocean;
throughout Europe, in France,
Holland, Germany, Norway,
Poland, Czechoslovakia, Greece,
Cyprus and Corsica; off Crete and
elsewhere in the Mediterranean
and in the Adriatic; in North
Africa, notably in the Desert;
in East Africa, notably in Eritrea,
Abyssinia and Somaliland; in the
Middle East; in the Indian Ocean,
particularly off Ceylon; in India,
against the Japanese; and, to the
very end, in the Italian campaign,
which officially ceased fire just
days before VE Day on 8 May 1945.
South Africa’s historical
contribution to the war was most
significant in North Africa and in
Italy, so it is of little surprise that
a significant number of ODs served
in the Italian campaign, where
the Allied and Axis forces faced
each other head-on for two years
between July 1943 and May 1945.
It was one of the most vicious
theatres of the war, with up to a
quarter of a million men left dead.
Having taken Sicily, the Allies
focused on the mainland in
September 1943, the invasion
coinciding with an armistice
made with the Italians who then
re-entered the war on the Allied
side. After the fall of Rome in June
the following year, the well-ordered
German retreat saw successive
stands being made on a series of
defensive positions, the Trasimene,
Arezzo, Arno and Gothic lines.
Florence, overrun by the Allies
in August 1944, was the centre of
the Arno line, and the point from
which the attack on the Gothic





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