During the Second World War, Allied maritime traffic in the Mediterranean was under constant threat of Italian and German attack. In an effort to turn the tide, at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, the Allies proposed an invasion of Sicily, code named “Operation Husky.”
After long months of preparation, Allied troops, made up of American, Canadian, British, French, Australian and South African units, landed in the night of July 9 to 10. The 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade were under the command of Major-General Guy Simonds. Canadian troops fought in difficult conditions, dealing with very hilly terrain and temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius.
From their landing point on the Sicilian beaches near Pachino, Canadian troops advanced toward the interior of the island, taking part in the battles at Grammichele, Piazza Armerina and Valguarnera. The towns of Leonforte and Assoro, situated in good strategic positions at the top of hills, put up a strong defence, but the Canadians prevailed in the end. A total of 562 Canadian soldiers lost their lives during this campaign.
The Sicily landing opened the way for the Allies to launch the Italian campaign a few weeks later.
Library and Archives Canada holds a large collection of military documents relating to Operation Husky and the Sicilian Campaign. Other examples can be accessed via the links below.
- Movement of 1 Cdn Inf Div to Sicily – Op Husky incl pers for embarkation after 15 Jun 43 and allocation to convoy – Husky/1 Cdn Inf Div/Q/H Doc I Notes for GOC’s conference 15 Jun 43 – Exercise Stymie and Op Husky – Instrs to personnel – Husky/1 Cdn Inf Div/C/I Doc II
- 1 Cdn Inf Div War Diaries Jun/Jul 43 – Op Husky – Husky/1 Cdn Inf Div/K/F
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