Polish Naval Memories of WWII









Władysław Pacewicz, Able-bodied Seaman

Allied landings at Salerno, Italy 3rd-16th September.

Able-bodied Seaman Władysław PacewiczThe Polish Navy provide support the allied landings at Salerno, Calabria and Taranto, Italy 3rd-16th September 1943.Allied Landings ItalyThe Allied Invasion of Italy was the allied landing on mainland Italy with the objective of seizing the port of Naples to ensure resupply, and to cut across to the east coast, trapping Axis troops further south.

On 3rd September 1943, 13th Corps of Montgomery’s 8th Army crossed the Straits of Messina from Sicily to mainland Italy. This was preceded by a massive artillery bombardment of the Italian shore by naval support.

The primary Allied landing in mainland Italy, Operation Avalanche, took place in the early hours of 9th September at Salerno, carried out by Clark’s US 5th Army.  The naval task force of warships, merchant ships and landing craft totalled 627 vessels. Cover for the task force was provided by Force H, a group of 4 British battleships and 2 fleet carriers with destroyers in support. Elements had sailed from Sicily and from North Africa, some at sea as early as 5th and 6th September. To achieve surprise, there was no preliminary naval or aerial bombardment.

The landings were fiercely contested by the Germans and the Salerno landing was hard fought. Two supporting operations took place in Calabria (Operation Baytown) and Taranto (Operation Slapstick).

Able-bodied Seaman Władysław Pacewicz was serving on ORP Piorun.

In August 1943 ORP Piorun was in the Mediterranean with the Home Fleet as a part of the 24th Destroyer Flotilla Fleet. She was nominated for support of the planned allied landings on the mainland of Italy:

31st August 1943

ORP Piorun carried out bombardment of the coast between Reggio Calabria and Pessaro prior to the landings of the British XIII Corps with HMS Nelson, Rodney, Warspite, HM cruiser Orion, HM destroyers Offa, Petard, Quail, Queenborough, Quilliam, Tartar, Troubridge and Tyrian (Operation Baytown).

2nd September 1943

ORP Piorun carried out bombardment of Reggio

Ray Ward was an officer with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, one of the thousands who landed that day:

On 2 September, south of Messina, the British 5th and Canadian 1st divisions prepared to embark for the invasion of the mainland. On a calm sea, hundreds of landing craft, DUKWS and destroyers milled around. These preparations were impossible to conceal from Jerry.

While we waited on the beach we were attacked by three bombers but they sheered off without dropping bombs, scared off by the curtain of ack- ack fire that was raised. As they vanished into the darkness over the Italian shore, I saw the sea splattered with falling shrapnel. Unusually, there was hardly any enemy artillery fire from the mainland, as there had been a few days before.

We boarded our landing craft and cast off at 1900. At 0335 on 3 September 1943 — the fourth anniversary of the start of the war — the night exploded with an ‘Alamein barrage’, a ferocious 600-gun bombardment. The sky sang with shells from Sicily as we chugged across the straits in the dark, watching in frozen fascination as the barrage straddled the enemy coast.

Source: www.ww2today.com

9th September 1943

ORP Piorun was deployed with screen for HMS Nelson, HMS Rodney, HMS Valiant and HMS Warspite providing naval gunfire support and cover from Italian warship interference during the allied landings at Salerno (Operation Avalanche).

On release from Screen ORP Piorun was deployed with Flotilla for escort, patrol and support of military operations.


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