Sunday, May 21, 2006

‘Ancona’


A blurred photograph of Private Hugh McGuinness, Border Regiment taken some years after the war.

Hugh is sitting in front of a CWGC headstone in Ancona Cemetery, Italy, It is the grave of his uncle and great friend Sergeant Pat McGuinness, 7th Queens Own Hussars, Royal Armoured Corps who was killed in action at Ancona in 1944.

[Family photograph used with permission]

(For additional information about this photograph see Comments below)

14 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional inforamtion about Hugh McGuinness and Pat McGuinness

Private Hugh McGuinness was in the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment before WW2 with his uncle and great pal Sergeant Pat McGuinness They were with the B.E.F. in France in 1940 and they were amongst the last troops to be evacuated from Dunkirk.

Hugh McGuinness went on to join the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment (Airborne troops) and fought at Arnhem in September 1944. The official Battalion history about the Battle of Arnhem records that Hugh was one of the last men holding out against the Germans. After running out of ammunition, Hugh was still manning the last defensive position of the Allied troops. Even then, he only surrendered then after being ordered to do so by an officer, enabling wounded comrades to receive much needed medical attention.

After leaving the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment Sergeant Pat McGuinness joined the 7th Queen’s Own Hussars, Royal Armoured Corps. In 1944 Pat was killed on a hillside overlooking Ancona, Italy and lies buried in Ancona War Cemetery. Thanks largely to assistance from some of the Site Helpers with the BBC “People’s War” website (who might also contribute to the ‘Second World War’ Forum!) I was able to find out more about Pat’s wartime service in Italy. This information was passed on to Pat’s family who knew very little about events.

Hugh McGuinness passed away some years ago. After the war, he rarely, if ever, spoke about the war and his medals were put in a drawer out of sight for most of the time. However, Hugh did regularly meet up with fellow comrades in the Old Comrades Association of the Border Regiment and with those with whom he had been a POW in the last months of the war. No doubt, on these occasions and amongst those who had shared similar experiences, Hugh and his comrades would talk over the people and places they had known. I know that at the request of his CO in the Border Regiment, Hugh wrote a fairly comprehensive account of his view of the Battle of Arnhem. This is to be found in the Border Regiment Museum.

One of my work colleagues is a grandson of Hugh McGuinness. Recently, he showed me some photographs of his Granddad in Army uniform or at reunions. There were also photographs of a holiday to Rome, Italy. Amongst these was a photograph with a one word summary on the back: ‘Ancona’. This photograph shows Hugh sitting in front of a CWGC headstone.

Because the Ancona photograph is blurred it is impossible to read the name on the headstone. I told Hugh’s grandson we did not need to read the name. It can only be the grave of his uncle and good friend Sergeant Pat McGuinness in Ancona Cemetery. Hugh and his wife had travelled from Rome to Ancona for this private moment to honour a relative and a great friend. It was a remarkable gesture from one brave fellow to honour another brave man he had known.

Sunday, 21 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
Interesting tale of service in the 7th Hussars - they were a part of the 9th Armoured Brigade, which was a funny set up inasmuch as there were unusually, five battlions in that Brigade which consisted of 3rd Kings Hussars - 14/20th Hussars - Royal Wilts Yeo - Warwicks Yeo - as well as the 7th Hussars.
They came into prominence after Rome when they joined with 6th Armoured Div - 6th Sth African armoured Div and 78th Div - (until they defected to Eqypt)as a part of 10th Corps in US 5th Army, and fought through Trasimeno - Perugia -alongside them all the way to Arezzo. Their next battle was at
Gemmano / Croce on the eastern
flank of 8th Army as tank support for 56th Div - who had just returned from Egypt along with 78th Div - who had been naughty boys in Cairo and were sent back as they obviously enjoyed fighting !
Any casualties therefore from that carry on would have been buried at Ancona as being the only one open at that time the other nearer Urbino was not open nor was Riccione nor Coriano Ridge.
So - at a guess your friend would have been killed closer to Gemmano/Croce than Ancona as that was Polish territory - who had their own Armour.

Sunday, 21 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
I thought something had rung a bell here - I recall this case now as McGuinness was killed on 17th July '44 - at that time the 9th armoured were still swanning around below Arezzo - no where near Ancona - so I would say that he died and was buried temporarily close to Arezzo - then transferred to Ancona - for some strange reason, as it is a long way from Arezzo, and it would have made more sense to take him down to Perugia or even Assisi... have look at a map of Italy to get the story of my thinking. July the Polish Corps was still fighting up the Adriatic coast below Ancona, and the Cdn Corps with the X111 corps didn't start the Gothic Line battle until the 25th August'44, at Jesi which is almost opposite Ancona and we were depending on both Pesaro and Ancona as main ports for supplies. - Soooo it's a bit odd !

Monday, 22 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
you really have me scratching my head at the moment and so I have dug into this a bit further and now claim the 9th Armoured Bde DID NOT come over to the 8th Army flank alongside 56th Div - that was the 2nd Armoured Bde of 1st Armoured Div who came late into the battle of the Gothic line and took a pasting at Gemmano and Croce . the 2nd armoured consisted of the 4th Queens Hussars - The Queens Bays - 9th lancers and 10th Hussars.
I further seem to recall that Sgt McGuinness would have been killed south of Arezzo and Highway #73 and close to Highway # 75.

Monday, 22 May, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your help again. After the help you all gave me a few months ago, I tracked down various items about the campaign in the Adriatic sector. I eventually found out that the unit of Pat McGuinness was part of the armoured support for the Polish General Wladyslav Anders. There was also mention of the taking of Ancona in July 1944 in the memoirs of General Anders that I managed to find.

The letter Mrs McGuinness received from Pat's CO about him being killed is now unfortunately lost, but there seems to have been a reference to helping the Poles. I found a newspaper article from 1944 about Pat McGuinness and some postwar references in the local archives, so it all seemed to fit together. Pat was killed on a hillside overlooking a town they had just taken, and the date was 17 July, so it all points to Ancona.

Ideally, I would like to see the official War Diary for that period. My guess is this would give more specific information and might even mention Pat McGuinness as and NCO. If it was in a 'War Diary' it would stop any speculation.

It was very moving to find out that Hugh McGuinness and his wife had travelled all the way from Rome to Ancona to visit the grave of his uncle Pat. They never spoke about this visit to the younger members of the McGuinness family after they came back home. I'm sure they must have spoken of it to the older members of the family.

Bi for now

Tuesday, 23 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
it seems odd that the 7th Hussars would be taken from Arrezo to near Ancona to assist the Polish armoured Brigade but then many strange things happened in those days - I guess that the 7th Hussars Diary would be available at Dorset Tank Museum - I have friend who lives there - I'll get in touch and see if he can spare some time to have alook and get to the bottom of this.

Tuesday, 23 May, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Could I add a few words which might clarify matters for you? Tom is right in saying that the 7th Hussars were in the 9th Armoured Brigade, but they didn't join them until 22 October 1944.

To go back a bit, the 7th Hussars left the 10th Armoured Division in Egypt on 25 April '44 for Italy. There they were part of the Polish Corps. The corps' Order of Battle was:

3rd Carpathian Division
5th Kresowa Division
2nd Polish Armoured Brigade
Army Group Polish Artillery
C.I.L. (Corpo Italiano di Liberazione)
318th Polish Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron
British Troops: 7th Hussars, two medium regiments of artillery, engineers and service troops.

The background is this. East of the Apennine range the German withdrawal was taking place as fast as their shortage of transport and fuel would allow. After taking Pescara on 10th June, 5th Corps followed up the coast as far as the river Saline and, inland, occupied Aquila on 13 June. Then, in accordance with the original Allied Armies in Italy (AAI) instructions, 5th Corps advance was stopped and on 10 June the sector was handed over to the 2nd Polish Corps under Lieutenant-General Anders. He was directed to press ahead with all speed and capture the important port of Ancona whilst the Germans were still off-balance, whilst 5th Corps was to withdraw into Army Group reserve in the Campobasso area in preparation for a later assault on the Gothic Line.

The Polish advance was very rapid and on 20 June they seized a small bridgehead over the river Chienti, some 60 miles north of their start line on the Saline. However, the very next day the Germans counter-attacked with their 278th Infantry Division (prior to this the Polish Corps had been facing just the 51st Mountain Corps delaying and covering the retreat) and reestablished the line on the Chienti, some 20 miles from the Albert Line.

Anders appreciated that a full corps attack would be needed to force the German defences and he obtained Alexander's permission to halt and build up supplies for an assault on 4 July.

Events were however completely overtaken by German reaction to French landings on the Isle of Elba. The effect was mainly psychological, but it awakened German fears of Allied landings on AOK's western flank near Livorno. The upshot was Hitler's decision to defend the Albert Line to the utmost and to withdraw troops to it. At this stage Kesserling was being particularly hampered by Italian Partisans, cutting off his supplies to the front line. Jodl's directive of 5th July named Ancona and Livorno as main Allied objectives requiring 'stubborn resistance'. This stiffened the resistance of the German 278th Infantry Division, whose efforts to hold back the Poles gained in significance when Hitler personally decreed that the port of Ancona should be denied the Allies as long as possible (an example of how a misreading of an relatively insignificant event, the French action on Elba, had a serious knock-on effect for both sides).

On 29th June the 2nd Polish Corps was placed under the command of 8th Army, and continued to make preparations for the assault on Ancona, which was now put back to 13 July, then postponed again until 17 July.

General Leese had intended Anders to attack on 15 July but he delayed operations for two days for two reasons, first to avoid splitting the available air support between the battles of Arezzo and Ancona, and secondly to give the Italian C.I.L more time to get to its assembly area on the Polish Corps exposed left flank.

On that fateful day for Sgt McGuinness, the attack started with the Polish Corps breaking out from its bridgehead over the river Musone. Anders' plan was to develop his main thrust north of Osimo and Montoro west of the city to encircle it. The Poles threw in some 200 tanks in this. This was so different from 8th Army's usual infantry battalion/tank squadron tactics that Kesserling, informed on 19 July, called for greater efforts to improve the Gothic Line anti-tank defences. It seems clear that Sgt McGuinness fell in this great battle.

Ancona was a great prize, it was taken in the afternoon of 18 July 1944, providing the Allies with a large port second in size only to Bari.

Tuesday, 23 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Peter & Joseph - there you are , the oracle has spoke once more and straightened things out again.
Kesselring had good reason to be fearful of the insignificant French landing on Elba as at that time - he could not place the Canadian Corps - which after a rest near Rome was sent down to the Naples / Salerno to play around with boats /landing craft etc in a big scam to draw his reserves away from the Florence/Arezzo area, to the coast. This went on for weeks - (and made the Canadian Infantry a bit soft) - we were also drawn into this scam as we were ordered to proceed towards Siena and make a big fuss(180 Churchill Tanks tend to make a fuss ) to indicate that we were also going to the Florence area as lead Tanks for the Canadians - it seemed to work as Kesslering withdrew from the coast and placed them around the Florence area.
At the same time the 11th Armoured bde( Canadian) was operating in the Florence area and the prisoners taken was confirmation that the Canadian Corps was making its way to the same area.
WE then doubled back and crossed over to meet the Canadians at Fabriano thence on to Jesi to start the Gothic line thing on 25th August - Kesselring was caught on the wrong foot and took three days to switch the 29th panzers and 1st Paras over to meet us at the Foglia, we had already nearly finished off the 71st Div.The Polish corps remained on the coast during this time, until the 1st Cdn Bde took over at Cattolica with the Greek bde, where we had a rest for two days.
So History can be confusing - depending on the books one reads, the official Armoured corp book does not mention when the 7th Hussars joined the 2nd Armoured - nor does it mention that the 4th Queens Own Hussars of the 2nd Armoured Bde,were eagerly awaiting the later arrival of one
14377006 Trooper Ronald Goldstein
when he had completed his studies in the intricasies of Tank Warfare at the town of Rieti !So you see how inaccurate books can be !

Tuesday, 23 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Tom,
What an understatement, 150 Churchill tanks can cause a fuss? One Churchill tank can cause a fuss, they had minds of their own like unbroken horses, I preferred the unbroken horses myself.
50 Comets racing across the desert made enough fuss.
Tearing after them driving a Jeep with a radio Op and an Officer looking for breakdowns was an experience you do not want to repeat very often.
We were suposed to bring in the recovery fast when we got a call from the Tanks.
Problem the old radio battered by a mad dash across the desert would only get radio Cairo with some woman screaming her head off in a 4000 year old language or so it seemed.
We could see nothing but a huge dust cloud with the odd shadow in it, then you would realise the shadows were going the oposite way to you.
A panic from all aboard the Jeep, a hand brake turn, then floor the pedal and get the hell out, I did not want to look like a flat tin of corned beef.
After a couple of near misses they stopped sending us in Jeeps and gave us Half tracks, we were recovered more times than any tanks.
Who needed an enemy when we had the 4th Royal Tanks to contend with.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank -
you are so right with only one Churchill causing a fuss - we caused a fuss all by ourselves
on the way over to Fabriano - we were going past Spoleto when we spotted a large tree shaded pool - immediately we had a breakdown and five piles of clothes were deposited by this pool... which had to be the coldest pool in the world - it was fantastic - suddenly we spotted a well dressed officer standing guard on our clothes - as we climbed out of the poole to take possession of our clothes - it was the Brigadier wondering if we had enjoyed our dip! We had to look up some of the words he used during his 5minute "conversation" with us ! Funnily the breakdown seemed to mend itself !

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Blogger Frank Mee said...

Tom,
Brigadiers like WO1's have a way with words, they can make "Do you understand Soldier" sound like the sound of a mellow trumpet, or like the call from hell. The point being we are left in no doubt as to where you stand.
Saying that I would have been there in the pool with you, never one to miss a chance. You only live once Tom.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

well Frank - we had two goes with the Brigadier - we lost our Tank " Decisive" through sheer stupidity as you can read in my tale in the BBc series " Green Envelopes for Tank Bde Rimini" - and the Brigadier happened along and he was not at all happy and we had about 15 minutes with him at that time.I don't suppose he recognised us as we were fully dressed that time ! He was apretty good lad though Kit Dawney - he finished up with a good job as the Man in Venice - then on to Monty's lot in Berlin.

Wednesday, 24 May, 2006  
Anonymous Shirley said...

I suppose it is a bit late to join a thread that started nearly seven years ago but there are people on this site seemingly knowing their onions so it is worth a try.
I've just come back from a visit to Ancona war cemetary - nice spot but someone has built a car wash next to it which I wasn't impressed by. Anyway the person I went to visit died on Nov 12 1944 and was part of the The Queen's Royal Regiment. (In other places it says Surrey - but the chap was from Wales so I don't know why he joined them not the WF). Does anyone know where his regiment/brigade fitted into all this? He was a private Albert Reynolds (23) and I am not a military person so don't understand the jargon and lingo!

Thursday, 18 April, 2013  
Blogger Peter G said...

Shirley,

Three battalions of the Queen's Royal Regiment, the 2/5, 2/6, and 2/7, were in the 35th Infantry Brigade, 56th (London) Infantry Division.

56th Inf. Div. went to Italy from North Africa arriving on 9.9.43. The division was there until 28.3.44 and in Egypt from 3.4.44 to 11.7.44. They returned to Italy on 17.7.44, remaining until 31.8.45.

35th Inf. Brig. was in the thick of it. They took part in the following battles:

9.8.43 - 18.9.43: Salerno
22.9.43 - 1.10.43: Capture of Naples.
12.10.43 - 13.10.43: Volturno crossing.
5.11.43 - 9.12 43: Monte Camino.
17.1.44 - 31.1.44: Garigliano crossing.
22.1.44 - 22.5.44: Anzio.
22.8.44 - 22.9.44: Gothic Line.

Saturday, 20 April, 2013  

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