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1st Battalion King's Own in Italy 1944-45

In November 1943 the 1st Battalion was on the Greek island of Leros when it was subjected to German airborne and sea landings.  Approximately 57 officers and men of the battalion escaped  to Palestine.  In November 1943 the 8th Battalion, who had spent the previous two years on the island of Malta, also arrived in Palestine for internal security duties.  The 8th Battalion was not involved in any actions, and moved to Beit Juja Camp near Gaza which became their base.

A decision was then made to merge the 1st and 8th Battalions and, permission to form a new 1st Battalion having been given, the merger took place without ceremony due to very poor weather on 30th January 1944.

The Battalion moved to Italy in late spring and advanced with the 25th Indian Brigade to the east of the River Tiber.  The first action of the battalion since reconstitution was on June 30th when  as they approached the market town of Umbertide resistance stiffened but the battalion continued to have success in a number of minor operations.

The Germans made a stand at Montone, a hill top village to the east of Umbertide and the 1st King’s Own were involved in this action.  After a successful approach to the village, and bitter house to house fighting, the town was successfully taken with 20 Germans killed and a further 85 taken prisoner.  Battalion casualties were 5 killed and 23 wounded.  'Montone' was awarded as a unique battle honour, and the Commanding Officer, Lt Col Richard Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his leadership.

The push northwards continued, as did German resistance, and on 13th July the battalion launched it's first night attack to open the road to Citta di Castello which was occupied on the 22nd.  The battalion was almost always on the move, following the fighting withdrawal of the German army, but rest came on 12th September when they were withdrawn from the front line.

On 3rd October the Battalion was transferred to the Adriatic sector where it joined the 8th Army.  The advance was at times slow and difficult over the next month, and this was followed by a period of rest in San Marino, an independent and neutral state, the capital of which stood high upon a mountain top.  The inhabitants of the state did not welcome this invasion of their neutrality, even though they had just seen the Germans leave a few days before!

On December 7th, the 1st King's Own took over a sector near Pideura, south-west of Faenza and the following night were subjected to a major attack.  Men of 'D' Company were involved in hand to hand fighting whilst the Germans were attacking with two tanks until forced to withdraw.  House to house clearance then allowed other troops to go forward and establish a bridgehead across the River Senio.  A spell of severe winter weather then brought the advance to a standstill for several weeks.

The battalion moved on to the Monte Grande and spent two months located within 15 miles of Bologna as stiff German resistance on all fronts had caused the Allies to delay their general offensive until the spring allowing time for re-supply of equipment and ammunition.  The 1st King's Own were on the River Po when, on 2nd May 1945, the Germans in Italy surrendered and  four days, on 6th May, hostilities in Germany came to an end.

© 2005 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum