Monday, 21 January 2013

Sicily - Military Cemeteries

Part of my stopover in Catania entailed visiting two cemeteries of two opposing sides in the Sicilian Campaign of WW2 - the British War Cemetery and the Deutscher Soldaten Friedhof (German Soldiers' Cemetery) both on the outskirts of Catania.
This campaign was also a major test and training ground for the ability of the Allies (British and American forces) to work and operate together. Lessons learnt here were all applied to the D-Day Normandy landings of June 1944.
The Sicilian campaign also highlighted the rivalry between two well known commanders of WW2, General Sir Bernard Montgomery (Monty) of the British and Lt Gen George Patton (Old Blood and Guts) of the Americans. Below an example of this rivalry:-

"On the morning of 17 August 1943, elements of the US 7th Army entered Messina, just hours after the last Axis (German and Italian) troops had boarded ship for Italy. The enemy had escaped, but Patton quickly brought reinforcements into the port, in the words of 3d Division assistant commander Brig. Gen. William Eagles, "to see that the British did not capture the city from us after we had taken it." Shortly after Patton accepted the city's surrender, a column of British vehicles slowly wound its way through Messina's crooked streets. Spotting General Patton, the commander of the British column walked over and offered his hand in congratulations. Patton had won his race".

Catania British Cemetery 1939-1945

Catania British Cemetery 1939-1945
2117 commemorated here

Mt Etna in the background

An unknown bonus of this visit was that the runway of Catania airport was next to the cemetery, which meant that you had a wonderful view of aircraft coming and going.

A passenger plane coming in to land

This successful campaign by the Allies also resulted in a significant setback for the Germans in that it was a humiliation for Mussolini and contributed to the switching of sides by the Italians in 1943. The campaign led to serious loss of life on all sides, as is reflected in casualty numbers in the cemeteries.

German Soldiers' Cemetery Catania 1939-1945 

German Soldiers' Cemetery Catania
4561 commemorated here

Dedicated to the Unknown soldier

The cemetery resembles a roofless building of five chambers, four of them commemorating the fallen in the four major centres of battle and the fifth to the Unknown soldier. It continues the theme whereby German WW2 cemeteries each have a unique way in which they honour their fallen.

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