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Bagnacavallo: the allied war cemeteries

There are 37 Commonwealth cemeteries in Italy hosting the about 50,000 soldiers who died during the Second World War. This is not by accident that ten of them are located in the Romagna area where between September 1944 and spring 1945 the fights were the hardest and longest fights took place.

They were all built on areas given by the Italian State to the Great Britain according to land concession conventions, according the architectural model designed by Rudyard Kipling to celebrate the memory of the overseas soldiers who died during the First World War to protect British Empire.

The cemetery of Villanova, built in 1950, is one of the smallest, with 212 graves, 206 of which are of Canadian victims of the Perth Regiment, and together with the cemetery of Piangipane, with its 956 graves, shows the commitment and fight of Canadian troops during the winter of 1944/45 to liberate the cities of Russi, Ravenna and Bagnacavallo.

During those months the 1st Canadian infantry division and the 5th battleship division, assigned to the VIII British Army, were the furthest advanced allied troops in Italy, which had forced a passage through the German Gothic line in September.

After several harsh fights, huge losses and heavy artillery fire, during the night between December 4 and 5, in Mezzano, and between December 10 and 11 here, the Canadian troops successfully crossed river Lamone by making use of special boats and a prefabricated bridge, thus creating a crucial bridgehead between Villanova, liberated on the 11, and Bagnacavallo, later liberated on December 21.

Beyond the Perth regiment, also the Carleton and York, Cape Breton Highlanders, West Nova Scotia and Westminster regiments were strongly involved in the fights fought against the Germans of the 114th Jäger along the three canals that flow from Faenza to the sea.

The countryside comprised between these canals and the Senio river staged many battles. For the whole winter it was like a no-man’s-land where door-to-door fights took place until the great offensive of April 9, 1945.

At the end of February the Canadian troops were sent to the Netherlands and handed over their outposts, stretching from the Lamone river until the Comacchio valleys, to the soldiers of the new Italian army, assigned to the fighting group “Cremona” and to the Jewish Brigade that for the first time deployed armed units against the Nazi and fascist troops.

 

Texts by the Historical Institute of Resistance and Contemporary Age of Ravenna and its Province 

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