Monte Camino – 2nd battle, pre barrage
At the beginning of December 1943, the second and final assault was mounted on Monte Camino. This time two British Divisions were employed supported by One American Division on the right flank, a different view was taken by those in Higher Command of the fire support which the Infantry would require to overcome the stubborn enemy. The operations of the 56th Division, which included 201st Guards Brigade would be supported by the Divisional Artillery of both the 46th and 56th Divisions and an Army Group Royal Artillery
General Clark had also ordered 75 heavy bombers, 24 mediums and 178 Fighter Bombers to support the 5th Army’s attack, the planes would keep up a dawn to dusk assault on the 1st and 2nd December. The scale of the bombing was about par for the course, but the attacks Artillery support would be something special. 925 guns would open up a simultaneous barrage at dusk on 2nd December, 820 guns would concentrate their fire on Monte Camino massif. The new American 8” gun-howitzers would take part in the bombardment. They were capable of outranging all enemy guns by several miles when fired for interdiction purposes, and when used as a Howitzer they proved to be the only Allied gun capable of destroying the standard enemy dugout of rock and railway sleepers.
Of the 820 guns firing 346 were aiming at the higher slopes of Monte La Difensa and the two saddles on either side of it. In the first hour they fired 22,000 shells; 11 tons a minute on some targets.
The barrage on the Camino Massif was one of the most concentrated of the Second World War. In four areas 500 yards square 1329 tons of shells were laid down in 75 minutes. During the first 24 hours of the battle, 89,833 rounds were fired by the British guns, 64,000 rounds by the American guns. During the second 24 hours a further 53,096 rounds were fired.
Guns of all calibre were firing onto the abandoned positions of the 6th Battalion and known enemy positions including some 12 Bofors guns which were firing tracer shells for directing finding in the darkness, an awesome display of fire power. ‘Terror’ concentrations were fired by all guns onto known enemy positions at least three times and at irregular intervals at a rate of 11 tons a minute.
It is little wonder that so many of the fallen, that had to be left where they fell, have no known graves.
The 14th Panzer Corps Artillery consisted of 16 x 170mm guns, 32 x 210mm Mortars, 173 Divisional Field Guns, 4 Batteries of Nebelwerfers and support from a substantial number of SP guns and Tanks.