Oliver Leese

Oliver Leese

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Oliver Leese was born in London on 26th October, 1884. Educated at Eton College he was commissioned into the British Army in 1914. During the First World War he served on the Western Front in France and was wounded three times.

Leese remained in the British Army and became commander of the Coldstream Guards. He was also chief instructor at the Quetta Staff College in India (1938-40).

In 1940 joined General John Gort and the British Expeditionary Force in France. After Dunkirk he commanded the 29th Brigade that defended Dover during Operation Sealoin.

Leese served under General Bernard Montgomery in North Africa and took part in the successful El Alamein campaign against General Erwin Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps. General Harold Alexander now wanted to give him command of the 1st Army but Montgomery, who considered Leese the best soldier in North Africa, refused to release him.

Leese also served with General Bernard Montgomery and General George Patton in Sicily. In December 1943 Leese replaced Montgomery as commander of the 8th Army. After successfully forcing Albrecht Kesselring to retreat from Italy, he became Commander in Chief of the Allied Land Forces in Southeast Asia.

After the war Leese was Commander in Chief of the Eastern Command (1945-46) before retiring from the British Army. Oliver Leese died on 22nd January, 1978.

I decided it was necessary to replace Ramsden in 30 Corps and I asked for Major-General Sir Oliver Leese who was commanding the Guards Armoured Division in England. He was flown out at once and I never regretted that choice; he was quite first class at Alamein and all through the campaign to Tunis and later in Sicily.

The Forgotten Army, Italy 1943-1945

I have used the above heading as something that was used to describe the fighting that was going on in Italy during WW2 after the launch of the D-Day Landing on the Normandy Coast in 1944. There were two armies fighting in Italy at that time, predominantly the United States (US) 5th and the British 8th. The only reporting has been about the US 5th Army on the Mediterranean side of Italy by the Snow family on BBC television. There seems to have been no mention of the fighting on at the Adriatic side. I am going to try to correct that situation by covering the landing into Taranto on the toe of Italy, through to Trieste at the northern end of the Adriatic coast.

The invasion of mainland Italy started with the British 8th Army landing at Taranto on 3 rd September 1943 and an operation named “Baytown”. As a matter of interest, the US 5th Army landed on the 9 th September 1943 against heavy German resistance at Salerno in operation “Avalanche”. The 8th Army were able to make relatively easy progress for a while up the eastern coast, capturing the Port of Brindisi, Bari, as well as airfields around Foggia, which provided a base from which US bombers were able to exploit the opportunity to bomb oil fields in Romania and various places in northern Germany. There was an interesting episode by the American Air Force who rescued 500 POW’s after landing in Yugoslavia with the assistance of the Italian Partisans.

What has never been reported is the raid by German bombers on the port of Bari on the evening of 2 nd December 1943. A small number of planes succeeded in destroying 17 Allied merchant ships and killing well over 1000 military personnel, merchant seamen and many local civilians. The Commonwealth Cemetery in Bari contains 2128 graves. It is reported that every available docking space was occupied, with ships anchored out beyond the jetties jutting out into the Adriatic. The dockyards had become such a beehive of activity that unloading was carried out during the night under the glare of lights. The German bombers had a perfect target – it was described as a “cake walk”. The ships already in the harbour contained a great store of ammunition, along with trucks, bales of clothing and hundreds of canvas mail bags for the troops. Alongside them was a US Navy tanker with half million gallons of high-octane gasoline on board. One ship, “John Harvey”, carried as part of its cargo, 100 tons of mustard gas bombs. It was thought that Germany were going to use mustard gas in attacks during the campaigns in Italy, they did not!

With successful Allied landings completed at Taranto units established themselves in various camps and carried out training in preparation for the fighting that lay ahead. As the Allies advanced northwards encountering increasingly difficult terrain, characterised by a succession of fast flowing rivers and intervening ridges running at right angles to the line of advance, this prevented fast movement and provided ideal defences for the Germans.

On 11 th November 1943, Pte Duncan of the Parachute Regiment was awarded the George Cross posthumously for bravery. On 12 th November 1943, Major W Hargreaves of the Parachute Regiment was awarded the Military Cross. The 2nd Parachute Brigade, together with other Commonwealth regiments made their way up the coast to the Sangro River, through icy winds and torrential rain, living in improvised shelters, and eating cold rations. During December 1943 the troops managed to establish a bridge across the Sangro River which had widened considerably due to heavy rains. The 2 nd Paras moved inland up the Sangro Valley to establish Battalion HQ in a school in Casoli from where they patrolled the local area including the villages of Fara, Lama and Torricella.

One of these patrols met with German soldiers at the Melone crossroads, an intense firefight ensued resulting in the death of Sergeant Alf Goldman and wounding Lt Stewart, who died at a later date. My cousin Trevor Warden, was shot in his back and was rescued by New Zealand medics and eventually to a UK hospital. During brigade stay in Casoli two English Ladies came into the HQ together with several POWs who had escaped from the prison camps. They were able to offer valuable information about the German positions.

The next obstacle was the German Gustav Line where a battle ensued to secure Ortona. Blizzards, drifting snow and zero visibility at the end of December 1943 caused the advance to grind to a halt. By the middle of December 1943, Canadian troops at the front of the 8 th Army had reached Ortona, a coastal city occupied by German troops. The armies clashed for nine days outside that city, with many casualties on both sides. Canadian troops finally won the terrain, but the Germans still held the city. The Canadians and German soldiers then battled within Ortona in fierce door-to-door fighting. After a week, the Germans retreated. These battles damaged or destroyed most of Ortona’s buildings and ravaged surrounding countryside. Ortona was secured on 28 th December 1943. River Moro War Cemetery is where 1615 service personnel are buried mostly Canadian, but it also contains other Allied service personnel as well. Sangro River War cemetery has 2617 burials, with a memorial commemorating more than 500 Indian service members who died fighting in the sector. In addition, the cemetery contains the graves of a number of escaped prisoners-of-war who died whilst trying to reach the Allied lines. Sangro cemetery is the second largest cemetery in Italy after Cassino. There are 2117 different regiments buried there, 279 from the Royal Artillery, 352 from New Zealand, 837 from the Combined Indian Regiments and 62 from the Parachute Regiment.

General Montgomery (Monty) halted the 8 th Army in order to conserve resources for the spring campaign. Monty then handed over command of the 8 th Army to General Oliver Leese in Vasto and flew to England to prepare for the invasion of France, scheduled for mid-1944.

In the meantime, the Canadians, New Zealand and Polish troops moved north along the coast towards Pescara. After reaching Pescara, the Indian, Canadian and Polish Regiments were moved across Italy to support the American 5 th Army who were in deep trouble attempting to take the Benedictine monastery on Mount Cassino. Eventually the Polish regiment took Mount Cassino, which to the Polish fighters was satisfying, in return for Germans invading Poland in 1938. Most of the Polish fighters came from units that had found themselves in the UK after escaping from Poland at the beginning of the war.

Editors note: Information received from Michal Smal and confirmed by Roy Quinten. “The Polish 2nd Corps (2 Korpus Poliski) 1943-1947 was a major unit o the Polish Armed Forces in the West, commanded by General Wladyslaw Anders. The training site for the 2nd Corps in the Middle East was Khanaqin-Quizil Ribar in Iraq (1943-1944) and was composed of the soldiers who had been released from exile in the USSR, the Carpathian Rifle Brigade, the 12th Podolski Lancers and 15th Poznan Lancers. Re-organised, the Polish 2nnd Corps comprised two infantry divisions each of which had 2 brigades and 2 light artillery regiments. General Anders also formed the Polish women’s Auxiliary Corps (Pomocznicznz Wojskowo Sluzba Kobiet) and they largely trained as heavy vehicle drivers. Approximately 80% of the Polish 2nd Corps came from Poland’s pre-war Kressy or Eastern Borderlands. In 1944 the Polish 2nd Corps were transferred to Italy where they were an independent unit of the British Eighth Army under General Oliver Leese. The Polish 2nd Corps took part in major Italian Campaigns- the Battle of Monte Cassino, the Battle of Ancona and the Battle of Bologna. Three previous Allied assaults on Monte Cassino had failed and Monte Cassino was a major victory fro the 2nd Polish Corps. With it, the road to Rome was at last open.”

The 8 th Army continued fighting along the Adriatic coast sadly this created the need for cemeteries at Ancona 1029 burials, Castiglione South African, 502 burials Montecchio 582 burials Gradara 1191 burials Coriano Ridge 939 burials Rimini Gurkha 618 burials Cesena 775 burials Medola 145 burials Forli 1234 burials plus a cremation memorial for nearly 800 Indian servicemen Ravenna 955 burials Villanova 955 burials Villanova Canadian cemetery 212 burials Faenza 1152 burials Santerno Valley 287 burials Bologna 184 burials Argente Gap 625 burials Padua 513 burials.

Fighting along the Adriatic section of Italy was quite intensive and continuous from Bari in the south to Milan in the north. The CWGC estimate that the Commonwealth lost nearly 50,000 dead in Italy during World War II most of whom lie buried in 37 war cemeteries, and over 4000 soldiers whose graves are not known but remembered by name on the Cassino memorials. Almost 1500 Indian servicemen, whose remains were cremated, are remembered on three memorials in various cemeteries. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the 8th Army had a difficult time fighting the Germans over very difficult terrain along the Eastern Adriatic coast of Italy. It seems only the Mediterranean side of Italy that is reported on, maybe it is because the American 5th Army proved to be more attractive to the TV producers or they had better PR service personnel?! In addition, they had wanted to be “first” into Rome! It is interesting to note that in the film “Anzio” showed two American soldiers entering Rome to find no Germans there. Having reported back to the American generals they decided not to follow-up on the information fearing it was a trap by the Germans. In fact the truth is that it was two British soldiers that were first to drive into Rome, not the Americans. I wonder if the two British soldiers are still alive and remember the occasion.

An interesting situation developed when a New Zealander, Lt. Titchener, with a patrol of eight men set out for Casoli. “Before they set out an Italian who spoke English informed them that the Germans had vacated, or were vacating, Casoli and he offered to take them there by a back road. His offer was accepted. There were no Germans in the first village, Altino, so they moved into Casoli. The Italian led the way, with Lt Titchener armed with a tommy gun immediately behind him, waiting to deal with him if the whole thing was a trap.

The patrol descended a steep hill, which they had to do in stages marvelling all the while at the untiring pace of the Italian guide, a short stumpy man. At last, on reaching the top of the hill they were greeted by a farmer and his family, offered chairs and given a glass of wine each, we moved on again however, and refusing repeated offers of wine and food, we came to the main street. It was a big town of 9,000 inhabitants and at first, the people did not seem to realise who we were. Then it suddenly struck them, they rushed out, shook our hands and as we neared the centre of the town started clapping, cheering and many of the women wept, Lt Titchener said he felt very embarrassed.”

Should any member of the Italy Star Association like to have a photograph of a relative buried in Italy, they can get in touch with the program director of the War Graves Photographic Project, Steve Rogers ( requesting a copy of a photo. There will be a small charge to cover postage and packaging. Please state the name of the service person, together with service number, and name which cemetery the person is buried at.

As it is, just over 70 years since 1942 and a considerable number of service personnel who died in Italy were no more than 20/21 years old. Many of them are about 90 years old now. Does anyone remember any of the occasions I have mentioned?

We are aware of the D-Day remembrance programmes that were promoted but sadly, nothing was highlighted about the fighting in Italy, even though the fighting stopped in Italy at the same time as fighting on D Day 1945. This is why I headed this article “The Forgotten Army “, remembering the 50,000 Commonwealth personnel that died in Italy! It is very interesting to note that The Far Eastern Association asked the same question! They also seem to have been forgotten!!

Any British Ex-Pat living in Italy reading this article, who would be interested in adopting a Cemetery in Italy near where they live, and be prepared to lay a wreath at a cemetery in November each year to remember those who are buried there and not forgotten, please do contact me. I would love to hear from them.

Bernard Warden

Bibliography :

Some of the following books may be of interest to readers.

“The Forgotten 500” The story of how the Americans rescued the 500 POW’s in Yugoslavia.

“Ortona” The Canadian efforts to capture Ortona.

“The Allied Forces in Italy 1943 – 1945” – Guido Rosignoli

“Italy’s Sorrow”. Fighting in Italy – James Holland.

“Travel Guide to WW2 sites in Italy” Including cemeteries – Ann Saunders.

“Rome remembers her Liberators” Story of Anzio and the role Italian Partisans played during WW2. – H Shindler

“4 th Battalion Parachute Regiment – War Diaries, November 1943 – December 1943”.

Battle of Monte Cassino

By the end of 1943, the Allied advance northwards into Italy had forced the Germans back to the fourth and best fortified of their defensive lines. The Gustav Line ran through the mountainous regions of Abruzzi and Campania, south west of Rome.

At the centre of the line, blocking the route to Rome, was the town of Cassino, dominated by the mountain of Monte Cassino with its 1,400 year old Benedictine abbey. The abbey had been evacuated by the Germans following the Allied landings both the Germans and the Allies had assured the Vatican that it would not be put to military use or attacked.

In December 1943 General Bernard Montgomery returned to Britain in preparation for the Normandy landings his place as commander of the 8th Army was taken by General Oliver Leese.

In January 1944 General Harold Alexander, the overall commander of US and British armies in the area, launched a two-part assault on the Gustav Line. On 17 January Clark's 10th Corps, including American, British and French Moroccan troops, broke through the Gustav Line west of Monte Cassino.

The attack was to be supported by 6th Corps, which was to establish and then move out from a beachhead at Anzio, 95km (60 miles) behind the Gustav Line. The line was breached in several places, but the crucial valley headed by Monte Cassino remained under German control, and 6th Corps did not succeed in breaking out from Anzio.

On 15 February, the 8th Army made a renewed assault on the mountain using Indian and New Zealand troops. The attack was repulsed, but it had been preceded by a heavy bomber attack which all but destroyed the abbey. As well as being unjustified in military terms, the bombing was counter productive: the Germans did not use the abbey until after it had been bombed, when they started using its ruins for shelter. A second assault on 15 March was preceded by aerial bombardment of the town of Cassino the result was a stalemate.

Alexander launched Operation Diadem, a final co-ordinated assault on the Gustav Line, on 11 May. While 5th Army made a flanking attack to the south, aiming to converge with a breakout from Anzio by the 6th Corps, the 8th Army made a frontal assault on the line at Cassino, using British, Canadian and Indian troops.

In addition, Cassino was outflanked by French Moroccan 8th Army troops in the west and a Polish division in the north. Kesselring ordered German withdrawal on 16 May the Poles entered Cassino two days later.

With the breakout from Anzio finally achieved on 23 May, the reunited armies pursued the Germans north. Rather than attempting to encircle the retreating German forces, Clark directed the 5th Army onward towards Rome. The Caesar Line, Kesselring's last defensive line south of Rome, was breached on 2 June two days later the city fell to the 5th Army.

Marked by outstanding military achievement in appalling conditions, the battles of Monte Cassino opened the road to Rome and the beginning of the end for the German occupation of Italy. But the human and material cost was high, and the Allies had not succeeded in seriously disrupting the Germans' staged withdrawal to prepared defensive positions.

After the war, the Allies insisted that the bombing of the abbey had been justified, and that they had solid evidence that the buildings had been used as a part of German defences. A 1949 report concluded that no such evidence existed, but it was kept from the public until 30 years later.

North West Europe [ edit | edit source ]

Order of Battle ΐ] [ edit | edit source ]

  • Corps Troops:
      (armoured cars)
  • 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal ArtilleryΑ]
  • 27th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA Β]
  • 4th (Durham) Survey Regiment, RA Γ]
  • XXX Corps Troops, Royal Engineers
  • XXX Corps Signals
    • Ε]
    • 7th Medium Regiment, RA Ζ]
    • 64th Medium Regiment, RA Η]
    • 84th (Sussex) Medium Regiment, RA ⎖]
    • 121st (West Riding) Medium Regiment, RA ⎗]⎘]

    Normandy [ edit | edit source ]

    In Normandy XXX Corps again included the 50th (Northumbrian) Division which landed on Gold Beach. It quickly overwhelmed the German defenders of the 716th Infantry Division and had linked up with the British I Corps by the end of D-Day. Following D-Day the Corps launched Operation Perch. It made slow gains facing stiff resistance but by 10 June had linked up with US forces advancing from Omaha Beach. On 12 June, an opportunity arose. The Germans had a gap in their front lines near the Town of Caumont-l'Éventé. The 7th Armoured Division was sent to exploit the gap and head towards Villers-Bocage in an attempt to outflank the German Panzer-Lehr-Division and force them to withdraw, resulting in the Battle of Villers-Bocage. This attack was thwarted by elements of the Panzer Lehr Division and the 101st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion. The Commander of XXX Corps, Lieutenant General Gerard Bucknall was heavily criticised for his decisions during the operation and battle.

    The Corps was then involved in a battle of attrition with only minor gains being made. Up to 24 July, the front line remained relatively unchanged. The next day however, the Americans launched Operation Cobra, an attack on German positions on the western end of the Contentin Peninsula. They made considerable progress and the British Army launched Operation Bluecoat to support the attack and to exploit the momentum. VIII Corps, on the right flank made considerable progress but XXX Corps was sluggish. Annoyed, Montgomery sacked Bucknall and replaced him with Brian Horrocks, a veteran of North Africa. After the sacking of Bucknall, the performance of XXX Corps improved considerably and it managed to keep up with the other British Corps during the battle for the Falaise Gap. After the German collapse, XXX Corps quickly advanced north-east and liberated Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium. There the advance was halted because of a shortage of fuel. Elements of Guards Armoured and the 2nd Household Cavalry Regiment managed to secure a bridge across the Maas-Schelde canal into the Netherlands. This bridge was nicknamed Joe's Bridge in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Joe Vandeleur, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, Irish Guards who captured the bridge.

    Operation Market Garden [ edit | edit source ]

    After the success in France and Belgium, General Montgomery commanding the 21st Army Group turned his attention to outflanking the Siegfried Line and invading the Ruhr. This required passing a number of choke points over water obstacles, the last of them a road bridge at Arnhem, allowing ground troops to trap the 15th Army, and split it from the 1st Parachute Army on the way around the northern flank of the Siegfried Line. To do this, he requested from General Eisenhower to deploy the 1st Allied Airborne Army, with the US 101st Airborne Division dropped at Eindhoven, to secure the Son and Wilhelmina Canal bridges, the US 82nd dropped at Nijmegen, to secure the Grave and Nijmegen bridges, while the British 1st Airborne dropped at Arnhem, to secure the bridgehead over the Neder Rijn. This would become the MARKET part of the operation. The XXX Corps which consisted of about 50,000 men would advance along the main axis of the British 2 Army's line of the offensive, and pass through Arnhem within 48 hours, and continue into Germany. This was to be the GARDEN part of the operation.

    Vehicles of the Guards Armoured Division of XXX Corps passing through Grave having linked up with US 82nd Airborne Division.

    Operation Market Garden commenced at 14:00H on Sunday 17 September 1944, with the artillery preparation by 350 guns at 14:35. ⎙] It was to be the most ambitious ground offensive operation by the British Army in the war so far. However it was also beset by problems. The ground was assessed to be too soft to accommodate the M4A4 Sherman tanks of the leading Irish Guards Battle Group, forcing the entire Guards Division to stay on the single highway. As the XXX Corps advanced north-east, it became obvious that the single highway was prone to traffic jams and was extremely vulnerable to enemy counter-attacks.

    The lead elements of XXX Corps, Guards Armoured Division were ambushed by German anti-tank defences, causing delays to the advance while the infantry dealt with the enemy. As a result, they were short of the 82nd Airborne Division's objectives, having not even reached the 101st Airborne Division's troops by the end of the first day. On the second day of GARDEN, the Guards Armoured continued northwards to Eindhoven, where they met elements of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. They soon discovered that the 101st had failed to secure the bridge over the Son intact, and there were more delays before engineers arrived to build a Bailey bridge.

    On the morning of the 19th the Guards Armoured Division advanced without facing much resistance, and had reached the Nijmegen Bridge by the 20th, where they found that the US 82nd Airborne Division had failed to capture the road bridge at Nijmegen. The XXX Corps brought up boats, allowing two companies of the 82nd to assault across the river, eventually capturing the rigged-for-demolition Nijmegen bridge. The Guards Armoured advanced and quickly established positions on the northern bank.

    Further south, in the 101st Airborne sector, many units from the XXX Corps had to be detached to fight off repeated attempts by the German 106th Panzerbrigade to cut the highway. The 231st Infantry Brigade (from 50th Infantry (Northumbrian) Division) and the 4th Armoured Brigade spent most of the time during Operation Market Garden reacting to these probes by Panthers and panzergrenadiers the 101st Airborne Sector. This created major traffic jams and delayed reinforcements reaching the Guards Division - particularly the 43rd Wessex Division, and the other two brigades of the 50th, which further slowed down the Corps advance.

    By the 21st the Guards Armoured Division troops were exhausted, and Horrocks also took ill, with the Corps periodically being commanded by its Brigadier General Staff (BGS) Brig. Harold English 'Peter' Pyman, for which he would be made Chief of Staff of Second Army after the operation. They had fought continuously for five days, much of it against fierce German resistance, and were unable to continue the offensive any longer. The 43rd Infantry (Wessex) Division was brought up to continue the offensive, and they managed to defeat elements of the 10th SS Panzer Division that penetrated to Nijmegen area, and advanced to the Neder Rijn and the area called "the Island". There, a battalion (4th Dorsets) successfully crossed the Rhine as a diversion, so that 1st Airborne could withdraw more safely, but many men of the 4th Dorsets were themselves left behind on the north Bank of the Rhine when the Division withdrew.

    Failure by the XXX Corps to arrive at the Arnhem bridge as planned caused most of the 1st Airborne Division to either die fighting, surrender, or withdraw to the Polish 1st Independent Brigade positions, and effectively ended the offensive of operation GARDEN.

    In the following weeks, the XXX Corps spent most of its time guarding the corridor that it had managed to create during the advance. Eventually, this corridor would be expanded and would provide a secure base for further operations.

    Ardennes [ edit | edit source ]

    During the Battle of the Bulge, units of XXX Corps moved to secure the bridges over the Meuse. On 27 December the Corps pushed the 2nd Panzer Division out of Celles. On 31 December they captured Rochefort at the western end of the salient.

    The Rhineland Campaign [ edit | edit source ]

    Lieutenant-General Horrocks addresses XXX Corps staff at Rees on the banks of the Rhine, 26 May 1945.

    XXX Corps was heavily involved in the fighting that preceded the Rhine crossings. Under command of the 1st Canadian Army, and with additional divisions, it was responsible for the successful, if difficult, advance through the Reichswald Forest that was the first phase of Operation Veritable in February 1945. The subsequent phases were redesignated as Operation Blockbuster. The terrain now allowed a two corps front, with XXX Corps taking the western side until meeting at Geldern with elements of the 9th US Army on 3 March.

    Sir Oliver Leese

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    General Sir Oliver Leese's Cacti 1958

    Famous Personality, General Sir Oliver Leese shows us his extensive collection of cacti and succulents.


    Salop, Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

    M/S of General Sir Oliver Leese in his study dictating a letter to his secretary, Rosemary Jennet. On the walls and surrounding the desk are military paintings and ornaments. The narrator explains that although the General's face may not be instantly recognisable, his name is famous for his wartime achievements. The secretary gets up and leaves. C/U of Sir Oliver writing at his desk. He stops and looks into the distance in deep thought.

    C/U on various military ornaments including a drum, an officer's cap and a bugle. C/U of wood panelled walls and military flags. M/S of Sir Oliver admiring his miniature model of the changing of the guard. C/U of the model. C/U of Sir Oliver. C/U of Sir Oliver's medals for his "outstanding" military service. Panning shot to Sir Oliver's more recent medals awarded for his growing of cacti - an interest of Sir Oliver's since his retirement in 1946.

    M/S of Sir Oliver walking past a long row of assorted cacti growing in a large green house, part of his cacti farm. Sir Oliver pauses to admire his cacti. According to the narrator Sir Oliver is "one of the country's foremost authorities" on cacti and succulents. C/U of Sir Oliver admiring a small cactus in a plant pot, a trichocereus, before replacing it amongst the other plants. Sir Oliver's nurseries produce thirty thousand plants in a year, besides fifty thousand others in the form of miniature gardens. M/S of Lady Leese and a gardener, Alfred Randall, taking cuttings from opuntias/ opuntis cacti in another part of the green house.

    The narrator reveals that Sir Oliver's interest in cacti started during the desert campaign of the last war. C/U of the opuntias/ opuntis cacti being cut and placed in a wire mesh tray. C/U of Lady Leese and the gardener - Sir Oliver's enthusiasm has "obviously become infectious". M/S of an "electrically heated beds of compost" in a smaller green house. Lady Leese and Gardner arrive with the cuttings and begin to plant them. C/U of tiny cuttings being planted. M/S of greenhouse two female and two male gardeners at work in the large greenhouse. C/U of a miniature cacti garden being prepared by one of the female gardeners. The narrator explains that there are fifteen hundred different types of cacti in Sir Oliver's collection. C/U of a female gardener's, Mrs Brent's, face as she works. M/S of another young female gardener, Jennifer Bent, at work on a cacti garden. M/S of Sir Oliver photographing a harrisia using a camera mounted on a tripod. C/U of Sir Oliver looking through the camera lens. C/U of the harrisia which "flowers beautifully at night". M/S of two older female gardeners re-potting cacti. C/U of a small cactus being re-potted. The narrator suggests that the recent popularity of cacti is due to the General - "perhaps not all that surprising" considering this is the man who took over command of the eighth army from Montgomery and later became 'C in C' South East Asia. Panning shot to re-potted cacti in a tray. C/U of a red cactus flower. M/S of a large cacti in the greenhouse. A group of gardeners walk past carrying pots and cacti. Panning shot to C/U of large cactus.

    Please note that both Bridgnorth and Salop are named as the location. Also please note the variation in the spelling of opuntias/ opuntis.

    Tag: Oliver Leese

    The Battle of of the Rapido River

    In mid January 1944, the slow, hard slog up the Italian peninsula was into its fourth month already and the Allies were looking for innovative ways to break the formidable German defenses. With the plan for an amphibious operation at Anzio, US Fifth Army Commander Mark Clark feared the landing force being forced back into the sea by the German reserve forces around Rome. In an attempt to draw the Germans away from the Rome and Anzio area and further south, he ordered an attack by the 36th Infantry Division from Texas across the Rapido River to the south of Cassino. Secondarily, there was even some hope that the attack might succeed with an armored follow up by the 1st Armored Division that would storm up the Liri River valley and beyond. Clark met his first objective, but failed miserably with the secondary objective.

    The Gustav Line

    The Allied plan was for a forceful movement against the Gustav Line, of which the Rapido River area around Sant’ Angelo was a central part of, to tie down the German defenses. Additionally, Clark wanted to inflict enough damage to bring out German Field Marshal Kesselring’s reserve forces away from Anzio. Clark instructed the British 10th Corps, led by Lieutenant General Richard McCreery, to attack the Gustav Line on 18 January at three places. The British 5th Divison would attack across the Liri River near Minturno on the west coast of Italy. The British 56th Divison would attack over the Liri near Castelforte. Finally, the British 46th Divison would attack over the Liri near Sant’ Ambrogia and most importantly continue to the area of Sant’ Apollinare and secure the high ground that overlooked the US 2nd Corps’ 36th Division’s assault area near Sant’ Angelo. The 36th’s Commander General Fred Walker had real reservations about his part of the operation and claimed (with some support) that Clark promised the 36th would not have to proceed if the southern high ground around Sant’ Apollinare had not been secured by the British 46th. This issue would prove disastrous.

    Anglo-American Bickering

    A little background is in order about the relations between the British and the Americans in Italy. British General Harold Alexander was in overall command of the Allied forces in Italy in the form of the 15th Army Group, which consisted of Mark Clark’ Fifth Army and Lieutenant General Sir Oliver Leese’s UK 8th Army. Fifth Army consisted, in part, of the US 2nd Corps under General Geoffrey Keyes and the British 10th Corps under McCreery. The British and the American military leadership often saw the same battlefield in two different ways. According to Carlo D’Este in Fatal Decision, the British were all about concentration of force, but the Americans liked to probe on a broad front, then exploit weak spots. More importantly, the key Generals in this fight exhibited their countrys’ worst stereotypical traits. Whereas Eisenhower was known first and foremost as a humble diplomat and a great smoother of Allied tensions, Clark seemed pathologically ambitious, vane and held contempt for anyone who might have the gall to cross him. Likewise, where Churchill’s manner was leavened by his American mother, Alexander showed the British aristocracy’s patronizing view of all things American. These traits combined with Clark’s coming of age in the Salerno campaign and finding that the Alexander controlled publicity machine made it out to be a British victory made the ground fertile for bad decisions. Clark held a deep distrust of the British and could not stomach the Brits getting any more glory in the Fifth Army sector. Therefore, Clark had made up his mind that the breaking of the Gustav Line, if it happened at all, would be led and exploited by the Americans.

    The Liri Valley

    In the Liri Valley plan, McCreery felt his 10th Corps had been spread too wide and did not want to force any particular area too hard for fear of getting in a fight with too few troops and taking heavy losses. This led to the tragically predictable consequence of McCreery’s Corps delaying their start by 24 hours, knowing full well it would enrage Clark, then, despite early success, not pushing to take the high ground near Sant’ Apollinare without having secured a bridge over the Liri behind them. Clark was livid, if not surprised, but was now presented with two decisions. First, Clark could, but not realistically, delay the 36th’s Rapido River assault, because he was already butting up against the 22nd of January which was the planned date for Operation Shingle, the Anzio landings. The Battle of the Rapido River assault was needed to ensure that Kesselring would have to deploy his reserves away from Rome and Anzio. Second, and ironically, Clark had a good choice and refused to take it. Clark could have followed American doctrine and re-enforced the British 10th Corps’s definite, but limited success, but just could not accept the idea of the British getting the credit for the break through. Clark declared the operation was to proceed as planned. The 36th Infantry’s Texans and General Walker would bear the brunt of this All-American bravado.

    The Effects on the 36th Infantry

    All of this high level bickering and positioning did not mean that the 36th were inevitably doomed to fail, but it surely seems that they were. The 36th had fought hard and painfully in the area around San Pietro in the bloody slog up to the Rapido. They were battle weary and filled with too many green replacements. However, most importantly, the 36th seemed to be filled with the belief that they drew all of the hard missions and the ones no one else wanted. In this case, they may have been right, but that belief in a combat unit is contagious and almost always self defeating. This included their General and at least one of their Colonels, who made their doubts about the operation public, without any notable objections up the chain. The 36th entered the battle looking for failure and they found it in spades.

    The Battle of of the Rapido River

    The plan was for 2 line regiments of the 36th, the 141st and the 143rd to attack across the Rapido on the night of the 20th and in the early morning hours of the 21st of January. The lead elements would cross in boats, then be followed by the engineers who would build foot bridges for the remainder of the regiments’ troops to cross. It was a clear and simple plan, but the execution was under-equipped and ill practiced to the point of negligence. The fact that so much coordination was needed was obvious to many, but 36th officers were too busy feeling hard-done-to. Some basic exercises were practiced on the Volturno River, but nothing to the scale that was required of such a tough operation. It was as if the 36th felt the result was not in question, so no real effort should be spent in preparation. The engineers were woefully short on the proper equipment and got little support from Fifth Army. Rather than amphibious DUKWs and specially made foot bridges, the troops got rubber dingys, wooden scows and catwalks laid over pontoons. Adding to the mess was the fact that no roads led to crossing sites and the area was open to German observation all throughout the day. The engineers cleared the mines during the night as best they could, but the infantry had to drag all of the boats and equipment forward themselves.

    The movement started as it was to follow, chaotically. Many of the boats had been damaged by German artillery and the infantry had not been trained how to handle them or even how many or what kind of oars were needed. The infantry stumbled through mine lanes in the dark, rattling boats and equipment all the way with at least one group straying into a minefield. The Germans were alerted by the sounds and started to bring fire down on the hapless Texans. When some did make it to the Rapido River, they found that it was narrow, but deep and fast. Many of the boats foundered or were hit by German fire. Shamefully for the 36th, a small number, but too many refused to go or fell in the river on purpose to avoid going. Many of those that did get to the western side of the river were drenched and exhausted. Each regiment got significant numbers across, but could not follow up with supporting battalions and the engineers could not keep their footbridges in tact for more than few hours. The tenuous positions on the western side of the river were quickly becoming untenable and the disaster was setting in by mid morning of the 21st. The lead battalion of the 143rd fell back across the river to their start point. This certainly helped them, but it allowed the Germans to concentrate all of their fire on the northern crossing and the 1st Battalion of the 141st. This battalion was stuck and would never be rescued.

    By midday on the 21st, Clark and Keyes were demanding a renewed offensive. Walker wanted a new offensive too, but only to retrieve the lost 1/141st and Walker wanted it under the cover of darkness. Keyes demanded that the new offensive should take place in the mid afternoon, but various other foul-ups meant it did not happen for the 143rd until 15:00 and the 141st until 21:00 on the 21st. Both crossings established a perimeter on the German side, but not large enough to get armor across for fire support. These assaults worked no better than the earlier ones. In fact, the new was exactly like the old, only worse. By midday on the 22nd, the situation was dire and all units were looking to pull back, but had their bridges and boats destroyed. In Cassino: The Hollow Victory, John Ellis says Keyes was not having it and demanded that the Division reserve, the 142nd Regiment, be committed. Walker balked, but complied. Soon, however, the losses became too great and the attack was cancelled in the mid afternoon of the 22nd. What was left of the 2 regiments retreated as best they could, but the 1st of the 141st, as a unit, was never heard from again.

    Battle of the Bloody River

    The numbers tell the soldiers’ story. 143 killed, 663 wounded an 875 missing ( approximately 500 were confirmed later to have been taken prisoner by the German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division ). The 36th Texas Infantry Division ceased to exist as a combat capable unit. The German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division had 64 killed and 179 wounded. Clark achieved his goals of tying up the Germans prior to the Anzio landings and even managed to get the Germans to send their reserves south. However, embarrassingly for Clark, they were sent in response to McCreery’s 10th Corps assaults, not the 36th’s.

    Churchill had pushed for the Italian campaign, calling it the “soft underbelly” of the German monster, but nothing could have been further than the truth. The German military machine was probably the best defensive army ever assembled and the succession of mountains on the Italian peninsula gave them a natural advantage. The Italian theatre was as grueling a campaign as anything in World War II and worst than most. The Battle of the Bloody River was its saddest moment for the Americans.

    Map: Maps courtesy of the USMA, Department of History


    Ride Suggestion

    Check out this ride that starts in Naples, then winds through the mountains south of the Liri River and finally follows the Liri up to the Rapido River around Sant’ Angelo in Theocides.

    Photographs and Photograph Albums

    Photographs are a joy. One of the pleasures of the digital age is that it is so easy to take a photograph. Some photographers might still want to take images and have them processed onto slides or film but I found even a Box Brownie a challenge. Putting films in a camera never seemed that simple. By the time you had remembered how to put the film in on one holiday, that holiday was over. By the next year you had to learn all over again. Eventually I graduated to a really nice camera. I can see it now, a Zeiss Ikon, in a lovely leather case and it came with a separate light meter. The two of us were just getting to know each other when a friend who is a good photographer came and laughed at my clumsy efforts. He, of course, has long forgotten his response but I never touched that camera again and eventually it went to a jumble sale. In fact I never touched any camera again until digital cameras were introduced.

    Fortunately there were many competent photographers pre digital and many photos remain which we can enjoy. In the Victorian age people visited the photographer and had their photo taken in a studio or more unusually outdoors. This photograph is of working class families having a picnic, I believe, near to Old Hill in Staffordshire.

    Photographs needed to be put somewhere safe and the Victorians produced ornate photograph albums many of which survive today. Look on ebay and you will see them for sale at very high prices. Most of the people are not named and any link with the family they represent has gone. They will probably end up far away from the place to which they once belonged or split up and sold as individual carte de visite. Lost to history they become just pretty or interesting pictures. Take this image thought to be from a Red Cross hospital somewhere in France in World War 1. Bought at an auction the trail leading from the family has long gone cold and there would seem to be no way of identifying the people or the place – at the moment. The Red Cross does not know the location. Yet there are nine people here who will very likely have living relatives and it is very sad that they cannot be reconnected with their families. This is especially so in view of the circumstances in which this photograph was taken.

    Years ago I thought if I could take images of these photos before they went to auction, then more historical value might be retained. That didn’t work because of a clash of values – money versus history. But I am always interested in other people’s images and indeed have set up so they can be kept for posterity. Most people say, ‘Oh, that’s a really nice idea,’ and at the same time their photos and other history stay firmly in a cupboard waiting to be disposed of when they die. Every history fair I do people come with carrier bags full of history, take them home, put them away and wait for the next time to bring them out, talk to someone and give the history an airing. They will tell you fantastic stories but as far as history is concerned it is lost. Even if they deposit what they have in an archive, much of the history will be lost because they can add to and embellish each photograph or document. They want to share what they have but they want to keep it in thei own hands and with the internet that can be done. The problem is that many are not good with computers.

    Oliver Leese ensured that his photographs would be safe by handing them over to the new owner of his house in 1963. That owner is still living at Lower Hall today and was happy to share the photographs with a wider audience as long as I uploaded them. In fact, like many people he was delighted to share them. They can be seen here at

    There are family photographs, photographs relating to the history of the house and photographs of a local historical interest. This photograph is of Sir Oliver Leese and his wife, Margaret (nee Leicester-Warren.)

    It is a lovely photograph, professionally taken, which reflects the time late 1940s but more likely the early 1950s. To many people it would simply be a couple enjoying the flowers in the garden but these flowers are indicative of the time. Russell’s Lupins were developed by George Russell and grown at Baker’s Nurseries, Codsall, in abundance. When I was at school in Codsall, Staffordshire, in the early 1950s there was a field close by which was a mass of vivid colour. So this is a nostalgic photo for me.

    The house is impressive, of course. Lower Hall Worfield is one of the oldest houses in the village of Worfield.There are details of the building of a new wall, garden features and also interior shots. This picture of the dining room shows a wonderful old fireplace and Oliver Leese’s army interests. In the Second World War he had a distinguished career and civilian life must have been a struggle to come to terms with.

    Worfield is a village which visually has changed little over the centuries. It is blessed by a topography which means that the Main Street goes nowhere and this has saved it from the over development which has befallen many villages. Nonetheless there are important landmarks which have disappeared. One such was Worfield Mill, photographed as it was being demolished in 1939.

    There is one other photograph whose significance one might miss. The black and white building on the right is the Old Grammar School but next to it is the Workhouse and with the windows flung open wide it would seem that it was still in use. Those are the small details one can get from old photographs.

    The question I suppose is would history be any poorer if such photographs didn’t exist. I think it would but I leave you to decide.

    Pasta Carbonara – Who invented it?

    A good pasta Carbonara, though, is a matter of art and balance: free-range eggs, good Pecorino or (Parmigiano?), great quality pancetta (or guanciale?). The egg must embrace the pasta without getting sticky and make it dry, but it definitely cannot be runny and raw.

    Balance, yes … and the right ingredients, we said, but which ones? On the decades-old diatribes about carbonara’s nature we have written an article: check it out to see what it is all about. Suffice here to say that yes, you may use cream, but no, you most definitely need to stir clear of ham and mushrooms.

    Carbonara holds the secret to its original recipe, then, but also that of its origins. “It was invented during the years of the Carboneria,” some say “no, it was the American GIs who inspired it.” Theories about who invented carbonara, and when, abounded, but nothing appeared certain.

    Or so the majority of we Italians thought.

    But there’s another version of the history of this popular dish, that seems to be the most accurate. Apparently, it was Renato Gualandi, a chef from Bologna who, history teaches us now, invented pasta alla Carbonara. When I heard this story I was astonished, as I had never heard of him, even though he was – I have now learned – one of the most influential chefs and restaurant owners of post-war Italy.

    And yes: apparently Renato Gualandi invented carbonara, guys!

    Renato Gualandi: more than pasta Carbonara

    Born in 1921, Renato Gualandi started early to work as a delivery boy for one of Bologna’s best-known butchers. In 1932, he was an assistant at a local deli shop, Palmirani. Aged 18, he won his first culinary prize in Catania, Sicily. Towards the end of the Second World War, he cooked both in Bologna, at Baglioni’s, and Imola, at the Albergo Grand’Italia: it was in this period, Gualandi says, that he created carbonara.

    In 1952, he opened his own restaurant in Bologna, the legendary 3G. Gualandi’s approach to food was quite innovative for a time when culinary trends were largely dictated by the kitchens of Europe’s most famous five-star hotels. He ditched novel ingredients and complex flavors to return to the simplicity and authenticity of the dishes of his land, Emilia Romagna, and of Bologna in particular. He certainly had a lot to take inspiration from, considering the culinary patrimony of the region.

    In 1959, his restaurant could sit 150 and by the time it closed, 12 years later, there were 7 “sfogline” (women who rolled pasta and pasta dough by hand) working in its kitchens. Very popular was also the 3G deli, annexed to the front section of the restaurant: with its large spit always going, this was where the bolognese went to pick up Gualandi’s creations to bring home.

    Throughout its glorious career, Gualandi cooked for the Queen of the Netherlands, Charles de Gaulle, Enzo Ferrari, Wanda Osiris (immense Italian soubrette, singer, and actress of the 1920s-1940s), Pier Paolo Pasolini, Tyrone Power.

    Until his departure in 2016, Gualandi kept up with his favorite pastime: he minded his vegetable and herbs garden in the hills around Misano, in the Rimini province, and loved to entertain and cook.

    Barilla even made a short film about the origins of pasta Carbonara

    A mystery solved: Gualandi’s invention of carbonara

    It was Gualandi himself to tell how carbonara came to be. It was 1944 and Italy was still torn by the war. In those months, Gualandi had been working in Riccione, a seaside town on the Riviera Romagnola, today is known for its beaches and nightlife. When Riccione was freed, the Allied decided to celebrate with a banquet: Gualandi was put in charge of it.

    There were quite some names attending, among them Harold Mac Millan, at the time in charge of the British forces, stanced in the Mediterranean (who was to become Prime Minister 13 years later) and UK generals Harold Alexander and Sir Oliver Leese. With such guests, and for such an occasion, Gualandi had to put together something tasty, but only with what was available in town, mostly army rations of dried foods and a little meat.

    Gualandi admitted he wanted to create something new, that could bring together Italian and Anglo-Saxon cuisine with a bit of help from Slovenian culinary tradition (he said to have been inspired by a soup popular in Isdria, called “spikrofi”), he concocted a sauce for spaghetti made of bacon, cream, processed cheese, and dried egg yolk, topped with a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.

    Needless to say, Gualandi’s dish was a success!

    So the mystery of pasta Carbonara is solved?

    Maybe, but some questions remain: many of you probably noticed the ingredients of this first, historical carbonara are not as wholesome as you may expect, dried egg yolk and processed cheese being the main culprits.

    Key, here, is the time period when the recipe was conceived: the war. Fresh produce was hard to come by in towns and cities and, even when available, was often strictly rationed. Wherever the Allied arrived, they often supplied military standard basic ingredients to citizens, ingredients just like dried eggs and milk, for instance, and processed meats and cheese. No wonder, then, our first carbonara was made the way it was.

    More than 70 years later, we are left with a dish that is incredible in its simplicity, tasty, filling, and satisfying: the perfect comfort food.

    Now, if you allow me… it is almost dinner time: let me check if I have egg and bacon in the fridge…

    Check out how to make a perfect carbonara here.

    Still rolling after 35 years

    Deb Gau

    Staff Writer
    [email protected]

    Photos by Deb Gau Several charter members of Shades of the Past are still active in the car club, 35 years later. From left to right are: Gale Swart, Curt Anton, LaVerne Gawarecki, Tim Swenson, Mike Leese, Rod Wilkison and Daris Nelson.

    It all had a simple beginning, Shades of the Past club members said.

    “It was just kind of a group of guys that had a common interest in restoring old cars,” said Rod Wilkison.

    “Doug (Mosch) said, ‘We ought to have a car club,'” Mike Leese said. The rest was history.

    Now, 35 years after the Shades of the Past car club was founded, events like the annual cruise and classic car show in Marshall are still going strong. The 2021 Shades of the Past show will kick off with a cruise around Marshall on Friday evening, and the main show will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

    Long-time club members say it’s not just Shades events that have stayed strong through the years. They’ve also built lasting friendships. Several of the club’s charter members are still active with Shades of the Past. A group of charter members, including Curt Anton, LaVerne Gawarecki, Bob Larsen, Mike Leese, Darrell Mercie, Daris Nelson, Gale Swart, Tim Swenson, and Rod Wilkison spoke with the Independent about their time with the club.

    Shades of the Past was founded in 1986, with the purpose of promoting interest in car-related hobbies, and encouraging better understanding of safe construction and restoration of vehicles. Doug Mosch was the first club president, and Keith Burckhardt was the first vice president, said Mercie. Mosch’s and Burckhardt’s classic cars went on to become a permanent part of the club — illustrations of both vehicles are part of the Shades of the Past logo, Mercie said.

    Larsen said the club’s very first meeting was held at his business, Bob’s Repair. Members started organizing special events early in the club’s history. Shades of the Past held its first car show in June 1987, at the Market Street Mall in Marshall.

    “It was inside the mall one time,” said Nelson.

    At first, the event was a 󈧶s revival weekend with dancers and music as well as classic cars, Wilkison said. Although the annual car show has a different location now, near Runnings in Marshall, “We always kept it the first weekend in June,” Swart said. Early summer is a good time to draw classic vehicle owners out to an event. “People want to get their cars out after the winter,” he said.

    “Over the years, we’ve tried to do different things” as a club, like going on road trips, or going to watch races at Huset’s Speedway in Brandon, S.D., Wilkison said.

    Attending events like classic car shows and cruises has been a great way to meet people and make friends over the years, Shades charter members said.

    “Car people like to have fun with their cars,” Wilkison said. Club members said even when they travel to different cities for events, they run into people wearing shirts or jackets from the Shades of the Past show.

    Of course, building and restoring classic vehicles, as well as hot rods and other custom vehicles, is also a key part of the fun of Shades of the Past.

    “Everyone has their own idea of how to put a car together,” said Swenson.

    Charter members all had stories about their cars and trucks. Wilkison’s restored Chevrolet Bel Air originally belonged to his parents, and still has its original 1956 license plate. Anton said he built his 1940 Chevy tow truck because “I always wanted one.” Larsen rebuilt his 1937 Ford together with the help of fellow charter member LaVerne Gawarecki.

    Over the years, charter Shades of the Past members have stayed close friends. Although he now lives in Glenwood, Larsen is still a member of the club and plans to be back at this weekend’s car show to announce the awards.

    In some ways, the group was like family, members said. A lot of members had kids who grew up around the club, Anton said.

    “It’s been just a great organization for our family,” Wilkison said.

    Club members have also been there for each other when members have died. Wilkison said there have been times where he or other club members drove their vehicles to a fellow member’s funeral.

    But you don’t have to be into restoring cars in order to bond with people over them, charter members said.

    “It’s a link to the past for everyone,” Swart said.

    Shades members said some of their memories from the past 35 years have come from times when they shared their vehicles with others. Wilkison talked about the time he gave a Lake Benton couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary a ride in his Bel Air. The couple once had a black 󈧽 Chevy just like it, he said. Club members said another fun event has been giving local nursing home residents rides in their cars. It’s a way for area residents to connect with their pasts, they said.

    Watch the video: Владимир Кличко vs. Дэвид Хэй (February 2023).

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