The 80th anniversary of the Allied landings in Sicily is to be commemorated in a two-day conference that will be held in Catania on 7-8 July 2023.
The Sicily 1943: Peace, Security & Prosperity conference is being hosted by the city’s ‘Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943’ and supported by Catania Municipality. The event is part of a range of activities occurring right across Sicily to mark the anniversary of Operation Husky and which will also include concerts and parades.
Operation Husky took place in July 1943 and followed the capture of Tunis at the end of the fighting in North Africa and was, at that point, the largest amphibious operation of the Second World War with around 150,000 troops, 3,000 ships and 4,000 aircraft being involved. In overall command of operations in Sicily was General Dwight Eisenhower, who was also to become Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord in June 1944. General Bernard Montgomery commanded the 8th Army and the US 7th Army was under the leadership of General George Patton. Canada’s 1st Infantry Division and 1st Tank Brigade also played a key role in the campaign, the first major operations for the Canadians in the European theatre after the Dieppe raid of August 1942. Many of the men from all three nations went on to play a role in the Normandy campaign.
The conference in Catania will be addressed by local dignitaries and representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. Speakers will also include local and international historians who will provide an overview of the Sicily campaign and its impact on the course of the war from all perspectives. Presentations will cover the details of the campaign and the part played in it by British forces including the Durham Light Infantry, the Green Howards, 38 (Irish) Brigade and the Special Raiding Squadron, which was commanded by Blair “Paddy” Mayne. They will examine the capture of coastal batteries on Capo Murro di Porco,
the battles for Primosole and Lemon bridges and the advance of the 78th (Battleaxe) Division through Centuripe, over the Simeto river and onto the battle of Maletto on 12/13 August, the division’s last major engagement of the campaign. Conference delegates will later have the opportunity to visit the locations where these battles occurred.
Speakers from the UK will include Steve Erskine from the Green Howards Museum, Ian Pearse of the Durham Light Infantry Association and Gavin Mortimer, an author and authority on British Special Forces in the Second World War. The role of 38 (Irish) Brigade – comprising 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (The Faughs); 6 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (The Skins) and 2 London Irish Rifles – will be examined by Richard O’Sullivan of the London Irish Rifles Museum and co-founder of the Irish Brigade website (www.irishbrigade.co.uk). The part in the Sicily campaign played by 231 Infantry Brigade, which comprised the Dorsetshire, Devonshire and Hampshire Regiments, will also be reviewed.
The conference will also hear presentations about the fighting advances of the Canadian forces and the notable achievements of the US 7th Army, which captured Palermo and then advanced across the north of the island before entering Messina at the end of the campaign.
Workshops at the conference will investigate existing and future ways of memorialising Second World War battlefields in Sicily including the role of Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943 and the work of local Italian groups in preserving monuments and local memories of events from the war-time period.
As well as the conference itself, a Memorial Service is to be held at the Catania Commonwealth War Graves cemetery on Sunday 9 July and, on the following day, delegates and visitors will gather at day break on the landing beaches on Sicily’s south-eastern coast to commemorate the precise moment that American, British and Canadian troops came ashore on 10 July 1943. Canadian volunteers will then begin a 325km Walk for Remembrance & Peace (WRAP) that will trace the route of Canadian forces from the beaches south of Syracuse to Adrano on the western slopes of Mount Etna. The Walk has been devised to re-enact this epic journey through twenty four Sicilian towns and follows a fully marked trail complete with educational plaques and attracts visitors from around the world.
For more information about the Sicily 1943: Peace, Security & Prosperity conference and to register to attend, go to https://www.irishbrigade.co.uk/the-sicily-1943-peace-security-prosperity-conference/
Black and white photo © IWM NA 4500 “The complete invader” Soldier on board ready to go ashore. The book tucked into the back of his pack is the Soldiers Guide to Sicily, a pamphlet issued to every man in the invasion force – 9th July 1943.