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Canadian soldiers to be honoured in Sicily

On July 10, 1943, Allied forces arrived on the shores near Pachino, Sicily, to begin their invasion of Italy. The 1st Canadian Infantry Division and 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade moved alongside British and American troops to carry out two main objectives: break the German line of defence and free Italy from Fascism.

On that day nearly 70 years ago, Operation Husky began — the first independent Canadian role in the Second World War. For 28 days, Canadian soldiers battled German forces, marching across 193 kilometres of Sicily’s dusty, sweltering landscape, farther than any other division of the Allied forces. By the end of the campaign, Italy had surrendered and German troops had retreated. No other division made as large a contribution to the victory in Sicily as did the Canadians, but it came at a cost: 562 dead, 2,310 injured and 17 missing.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of this often-overlooked campaign, Operation Husky 2013 is calling on all Canadians to assemble in Sicily this summer. A memorial to Canadian forces will be unveiled on the beaches of Pachino on July 10, from where participants will take part in a symbolic march along the same route as the Canadian soldiers in 1943.

“One of the problems Canada faced during Operation Husky was that the three ships carrying our trucks sank. The soldiers had to walk. That’s why I’m walking,” says Steve Gregory, the Montréal businessman who founded Operation Husky 2013.

The highlight of the event involves a ceremony and roll call at the Canadian War Cemetery in Agira, in central Sicily, on July 30. The goal is for 562 Canadians to be present — one to answer for each fallen soldier.

“They bled their last drop of blood on Sicilian soil,” says Gregory, “and nobody even said thank you.”

— Kimberly Ryan

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