Leadgate Community History Club


Italy-D Day and Operation Market Garden 

German Defensive Lines Defending Italy

The German defensive position south of Rome designated as the Gustav Line  which ran across Italy and included the famous Abbey at Monte Cassino. The line was a major obstacle for the Allied forces, initially commanded by Major General John P. Lucas  were hard pressed to breakout from the initial beachhead but they eventually prevailed.

The Caesar Line  was the last German line of defence in Italy before Rome. It extended from the west coast near Ostia, over the Alban Hills south of Rome, from Valmontone to Avezzano and then to Pescara on the Adriatic coast. Behind the western half of the line was a subsidiary line, the Roman switch line which took a path north of Rome.

When the Caesar C Line defences, manned by the German 14th Army, were breached by the U.S. Fifth Army on 30 May 1944, following the breakout from Anzio, the road to Rome was finally opened. The Germans retreated to their next line of defence, the Trasimene  Line where the 14th Army re-aligned with the German 10th Army before withdrawing to the formidable defences of the Gothic Line .

The Battle of Anzio and Capture of Rome

The Battle of Anzio took place from January 22, 1944 after an Allied landing Operation Shingle  to June 5, 1944. The operation was opposed by German forces in the area of Anzio and Nettuno.

In March 1944, the American commander of the 5th Army Lieutenant General Mark Clark , began his advance on Rome. He chose not to take the most obvious approach​, which would have been to surround the German soldiers who had already started retreating from the south. Instead, he chose to strike out from the Anzio beachhead. This tactic was not just unconventional – it actually went against the orders of General Sir Harold Alexander , the British officer in overall charge of the operation. However, the approach proved to be effective and, in the end, the Allied armies met with little resistance from the German occupiers, who were scattered around the city and had already begun their withdrawal. The 5th Army entered the city of the  5th June 1944.

5th June 1944 US 5th Army in Rome

After the fall of Rome the German Army conducted a fierce fighting withdrawal to Northern Italy, and formed the final defensive line, the formidable Gothic Line , so strong was this defence that it would not be until March 1945 that Italy was finally free from German Occupation.

The Battle of Monte Cassino 17th January - 18th May 1944

The first Battle of Monte Cassino  in Italy began on the 17th January 1944 when the British X Corps (56th and 5th Divisions) forced a crossing of the Garigliano (followed some two days later by the British 46th Division on their right) causing General Fridolin von Senger und Etterlin , commander of the German XIV Panzer Corps , and responsible for the Gustav defences on the south western half of the line, some serious concern as to the ability of the German 94th Infantry Division to hold the line. The Germans Fortified their positions by bringing up 2 Divisions from Rome. The three divisions of  Lieutenant General McCreery's X Corps sustained some 4,000 casualties during the period of the first battle.

There were to be 3 further battles before Monte Cassino was finally cleared, the battles were hard fought and both sides suffered heavy losses. The final phase Operation Diadem  was launched at 23:00 pm on 11 May 1944 by elements of the British 4th Infantry Division  and 8th Indian Infantry Division , with supporting fire from the  1st Canadian Armoured Brigade. They made a successful strongly opposed night crossing of the Garigliano and Rapido rivers. This broke into the heart of the German defences in the Liri valley against strong opposition and drew in German theatre reserves, reducing pressure on the Anzio beachhead. The Free French Corps pushed through the mountains to the left on 14 May, supported by U.S. II Corps  along the coast. On 17 May, Polish II Corps  on the right attacked Monte Cassino.

Polish Troops attacking up the ridge at Monte Cassino

The Allied Invasion of Europe

Deception Plan

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted Operation Bodyguard , the overall strategy designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings.[68] Operation Fortitude  included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio-traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway,[69] and Fortitude South, a major deception designed to fool the Germans into believing that the landings would take place at Pas de Calais in July. A fictitious First U.S. Army Group was invented, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. The deception plan worked well thanks mainly to double agents who fed German Intelligence false information. One double agent Juan Pujol García , a Spanish opponent of the Nazis known by the code name "Garbo", developed over the two years leading up to D-Day a fake network of informants that the Germans believed were collecting intelligence on their behalf. In the months preceding D-Day, Pujol sent hundreds of messages to his superiors in Madrid, messages specially prepared by the British intelligence service to convince the Germans that the attack would come in July at Calais.

Juan Pujol García - Agent Garbo

D-Day Operation Overlord - Normandy

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings. A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, Some 132,000 men were transported by sea on D-Day, and a further 24,000 came by air. Preliminary naval bombardment commenced at 05:45 and continued until 06:25 from five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors. Infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 06:30.

The Allied landings

The main areas for the landings were Utah Beach  (United States Army), Pointe du Hoc  (United States Army),  Omaha Beach (United States Army), Gold Beach  (British Army)  Juno Beach  (Canadian Army , and  Sword Beach (British Army).

Supplies landing on the Normandy beaches soon after D Day


The German Atlantic wall  was a formidable defensive structure, the battles fought on the 6th June were long and hard but by the end of the day, although falling short of some of the objectives, the landings were successful and the men of the first wave had, in the main, cleared and secured their respective beachheads. over the next few da​ys they had broken out from the beachheads and started the advance into Normandy.

Atlantic Wall Defences in Normandy

The Battle for Caen

The Battle for Caen  (June to August 1944) is the name given to fighting between the British Second Army  and the German Panzergruppe West  in the Second World War for control of the city of Caen and vicinity, during the larger Battle of Normandy. The  British 3rd Infantry Division was to seize Caen on D-Day or dig in short of the city if the Germans prevented its capture, temporarily masking Caen to maintain the Allied threat against it and thwarting a potential German counter-attack from the city. Caen, Bayeux and Carentan were not captured by the Allies on D-Day and for the first week of the invasion the Allies concentrated on linking the beachheads. British and Canadian forces resumed their attacks in the vicinity of Caen and the suburbs and city centre north of the Orne were captured during Operation Charnwood (8–9 July) . The Caen suburbs south of the river were captured by the II Canadian Corps during Operation Atlantic (18–20 July). The Germans had committed most of their panzer divisions in a determined defence of Caen, which made the fighting mutually costly and greatly deprived the Germans of the means to reinforce the west end of the invasion front.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill observes destruction at Caen, France, with General Sir Bernard Montgomery and Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey on 22 July 1944.

Operation Market Garden

Operation Market Garden  was an unsuccessful World War II military operation fought in the Netherlands from 17 to 25 September 1944. It was the brainchild of Field Marshal Montgomery. The objective was to create a 64 mile salient into German territory with a bridgehead over the River Rhine, creating an Allied invasion route into northern Germany. Market Garden consisted of two sub-operations: Market – an airborne assault to seize key bridges, and; Garden – a ground attack moving over the seized bridges creating the salient.

 Allied tanks of British XXX Corps cross the road bridge at Nijmegen during its capture.

The Allies captured several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen at the beginning of the operation. Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks XXX Corps  ground force advance was delayed by the initial failure of the airborne units to secure bridges at Son en Breugel and Nijmegen. German forces demolished the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son before it could be captured by the US 101st Airborne Division , and a partly prefabricated Bailey bridge was then built over the canal by British sappers. This delayed XXX Corps' advance by 12 hours; however, they made up the time, reaching Nijmegen on schedule. The  US 82nd Airborne Division's failure to capture the main highway bridge over the Waal River at Nijmegen before 20 September delayed the advance by 36 hours. XXX Corps had to first seize the bridge themselves instead of speeding over a captured bridge onwards to Arnhem , where the British paratroopers were still holding the north end of the bridge. Eventually the Germans recaptured Arnhem Bridge despite a heroic defence battle by the paratrooper led by John Frost  were captured, having run out of ammunition and food.

Arnhem Bridge

Interactive Database of Leadgate Fallen 1944

Able Seaman Thomas Brown, aged 25. Son of George Brown a miner and Hannah Baines of Hanging Stone (the back road from Stoney Heap to Maiden Law). Royal Navy HMS Tweed  Died on the 7th January 1944 when HMS Tweed was sunk by U-305 . Commemorated Portsmouth Naval Memorial.   Leadgate Remembers
Gunner Sydney Burkin aged 35. Son of Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Burkin; husband of Annie Burkin, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. 65 Fd Regiment Royal Artillery Died during the First battle of Monte Cassino  on 25th January 1944. Buried Minturno War Cemetery  Italy.  Leadgate Remembers
Private James Page aged 28. Son of Thomas Reuben Page and Elizabeth Martin.  1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment Died during the Battle of Imphal  15th May 1944. Buried Imphal War Cemetery  India.  Leadgate Remembers
Private Thomas Turnbull aged 25. Son of John Robert Turnbull and Caroline Ledger of 39 North Cross Street Leadgate Co Durham. 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)  Died during the Allied Forces first attempt to breakout from the Anzio Beachhead  on 31 January 1944 Buried  Anzio War Cemetery Italy  Leadgate Remembers
Flying Officer John Anthony Edgar  DFC aged 26, Son of Herbert and Hannah Dent Edgar, of Tin Street Leadgate. 264 Squadron Royal Air Force Volunteer ReserveDied when his aircraft entered into a dogfight with a Junkers 88 over Hampshire on 15th May 1944. Buried  Leadgate St Ives Churchyard  Leadgate Remembers
Rifleman Thomas Edgar aged 25. Son of Thomas Edgar and Elizabeth White of Hawthorn Terrace at Derwent Cottages close to The Hat and Feather Leadgate Co Durham. 7th Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).  Died 24 May 1944 in Burma when he was on the strength of 1st Battalion, sadly his body was never recovered. Commemorated Rangoon Memorial  Burma.  Leadgate Remembers
Private Samuel Thomas Coombe aged 19. Son of Jonathan and Elizabeth Coombe, of Consett, Co. Durham.  11th Battalion Durham Light Infantry Died at the Battle of Rauray  in Normandy on 27th June 1944.27th June 1944. Buried  Fontenay-Le-Pesnel War Cemetery, Tessel France.   Leadgate Remembers
Private Vincent Earnest Tennant aged 27, Husband of Ethel Tennant, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment  Died near Caen  in Normandy on 28th June 1944. Commemorated  Bayeux Memorial France.  Leadgate Remembers
Driver Robert Curtis aged 25. Son of Edward Curtis Charlotte Nelson of Watling Bungalows Leadgate. Royal Army Service Corps  Died near the German Trasimene Line  during the advance from Rome to Florence on 1st July 1944. Buried Foiano Della Chiana War Cemetery  Italy. Leadgate Remembers
Lance Corporal John Henry Bell  aged 25. Son of James & Annie Bell, of Leadgate, Co. Durham.  1st Battalion. (The Tyneside Scottish) Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) John's Unit was heavily involved in the Battle of Rauray . Although the Unit War Dairy states that there were out of the line by the 4th July, John is listed as killed in action on the 5th July 1944. Buried  Bayeux War Cemetery France.   Leadgate Remembers
Sergeant Leonard Wilson Clough aged 27. Son of Frederick and Nora Winifred Clough; husband of Eva Clough, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. 9th Battalion Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)  . Setting off at about 7.30 in the morning of the 6th they advanced towards the village of Gournay in Normandy and they came under heavy mortar fire, Leonard was among 17 men who died on 6th August 1944 Buried Bayeux War Cemetery  France.   Leadgate Remembers
Guardsman Edward Westhorpe Stirling  aged 19. Son of Andrew Stirling and Harriet Jane Westhorpe of 554 Garden Terrace Leadgate Co Durham.  2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Edwards Unit were engaged in the Battle for Florence, he died near Torre a Monte south of Florence during a series of "clearing up" engagements on 16 August 1944. Buried  Florence War Cemetery Italy  Leadgate Remembers
Private William Johns aged 28. Son of William and Barbara Johns, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. 2/6th Battalion The Queen's Royal Regiment (West Surrey) . Died at the Gothic Line near Rimini Italy were his unit was involved in heavy fighting at Coriano Ridge and Gemmano  on 9th September 1944. Buried Coriano Ridge War Cemetery  Italy.   Leadgate Remembers
Private Thomas McDonald aged 28. Son of Francis and Mary McDonald of Leadgate Co Durham. 1st (Airborne) Battalion The Border Regiment  Died at Arnhem during  Operation Market Garden on 21st September 1944. Thomas was with the scout section of 13 Platoon close to Westerbouwing,  a wooded hill with a restaurant and the path to a ferry, at 10am they were ordered to meet up with the rest of his platoon and they were caught in an artillery barrage. Buried Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery  Netherlands.   Leadgate Remembers
Private John Gartland aged 20. Son of John Edward and Annie Gartland, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. 5/7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders  30th October 1944. Buried Uden War Cemetery  Netherlands.  Leadgate Remembers
ERA 4th Class Stanley Wass aged 20. Son of Joseph and Elizabeth Rebecca Wass, of Leadgate, Co. Durham. Royal Navy Died from tuberculosis and pneumonia on 9th November 1944. Buried Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (West Road) Crematorium .   Leadgate Remembers
Sergeant Matthew Leslie Gill aged 36. Son of Matthew and Mary E. Gill; husband of Ena E. Gill, of Leadgate.  Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve Died on 19th November 1944 of pneumonia while serving with the RAF in Lincolnshire.. Buried  Leadgate St Ives Churchyard.   Leadgate Remembers

Leadgate Remembers World War 2

Leadgate Remembers World War 2  is a Facebook Project compiled by Andy Plant. We have worked closely with Andy on all the Leadgate Remembers projects and he has done a magnificent job of researching the fallen of Leadgate in both world wars. Andy's World War 2 project was designed to use a one year calendar view of the fallen on the date they died, regardless of which year.

Acknowledgements & Sources

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Leadgate Remembers WW2 - Andy Plant
Wiki Mili
Military wikia
History of War.org
Wartime Memories Project

Copyright Notice

Leadgate Community History Club do not claim any copyright over the any of the photographs on this page. The photographs are all either Public Domain or licenced as Free to Use and Share on the internet. All are referenced here for educational purposes only.