2 Commando, Sicily
"On the 22nd July 1943, No. 2 Commando arrived in Sicily. They had come from Gibraltar, calling at Algiers, Bone, Phillipville, Tunis and Valleta, in Malta, along the way. This author and ten others had been temporarily detached from the Commando a few months previously to attend to some S.S. Brigade unrelated business in North Africa. We rejoined the Commando on board ship in Valetta harbour and got acquainted with some new faces that had volunteered to join us from the Gibraltar garrison. Some of these ‘newly-minted’ Commandos come to mind. They had left their N.C.O.’s stripes on the ‘rock’ as an entry fee required to become ‘members’ - Pte. Bill Woolley, Pte. Des Rochford and Pte. Albert Myram who would win an M.M. for himself on the last day of fighting in Sicily.
The campaign in Sicily was not very noteworthy to 2 Commando. We resided in the dirty and mosquito-infested olive groves between Augusta and Catania and did nothing too much in the way of plying our trade until August 15th. Up until that date No. 3 Commando had done the ‘heavy-lifting’ in Sicily and Lt. Col. John Durnford- Slater was probably a most-satisfied commander. For some reason or other, at the same time, our Colonel Jack was not the most-contented of men.
No. 2 Commando came off the unemployed list on the night of August 15th, landing at Scaletta – a small coastal town well behind the supposed German lines, about 15 miles or so south of Messina. Our landing was a bit off the intended spot, but no matter, as we soon were engaged with the luckless tail-end of the German rearguard who were heading at top speed towards their evacuation point at Messina. The enemy vehicle drivers and their troop passengers didn’t have much of a chance and the fight was over in short order. The following morning it became apparent that several soldiers of the German rearguard had ‘holed-up’ in houses and other buildings in Scaletta. Some rather-bitter street fighting followed on the morning of August 16th, resulting in casualties on both sides.
No. 2 killed in action or died of wounds
- Cpl. Bill Watt from Cumberland, age 25
- Lieut. John Jeffreys from Essex, age 23
- Sgt. Anthony Duffy from Liverpool, age 29
- Gnr. Edward Cox from Blackpool, age 22
They were buried alongside many more of their comrades from No. 3 Commando at Catania War Cemetery.
Following the conclusion of the fight at Scaletta, ‘Mad Jack’ and a few officers piled into a vehicle (the author cannot remember if it was a captured ‘Kubelwagen’ or an automobile). They headed for Messina at high speed brushing off other ‘eager-beavers’ who tried to join them. Arriving in Messina, Jack discovered, much to his chagrin, that the Americans had gotten there first during the previous night. Reflecting now on that day, it seems stupid to have put any value on who had entered Messina ahead of anyone else. The bragging rights really belonged to all the British, Canadian and American soldiers who rejoiced at being alive on that day the campaign in Sicily ended."
Note: National Archives references for research of this operation. [view].
nb. The above account is part of the overall history of No 2 Commando by Bob Bishop No 2 Cdo.