Friday, December 9, 2011

Classic 48th Highlanders San Leonardo Picture, 10 December 1943

This 10 December 1943 photo of Canadian troops in San Leonardo, Italy, is an iconic Second World War photo.  The picture has been widely reproduced, in part because it demonstrates the extent of the demolished Italian city-scape that is associated with the soon to be hard fought Battle of Ortona.  It is also helpful in portraying the basic tools of the infantry section.  The picture captures a fire team poised for action, with the Bren gunner ready to shoot from cover.  The soldier with the binoculars is Lieutenant Macdonald who is said to have ordered an attack from San Leonardo after the picture was taken.  San Leonardo was a hard won objective which became the main line of advance for the 1st Canadian Division.  Beyond San Leonardo was the infamous "gully", which was a brutal killing ground for the Canadians.  The town of Ortona itself was only gained by close quarters fighting conducted street by street, and building by building, with severe casualties taken by both the 1st German Parachute Division, and the Canadians.  Several Lee-Enfield rifles are shown, and the soldier standing holds a Thompson sub-machine gun, issued to Canadian troops in the Mediterranean theatre.  In all likelihood, the photo is posed, but that does not diminish its historical interest.
Platoon Commander Lieutenant I. Macdonald (with binoculars) ready to give order to attack at S. Leonardo di Ortona, Italy, 10 December 1943. Left to right, Sergeant J.T. Cooney, Privates A.R. Downie, O.E. Bernier, G.R. Young (kneeling, with Lee-Enfield rifle), Corporal T. Fereday and Private S.L. Hart (lying down with Bren gun) all of the 48th Highlanders.

Further investigation yields a family tragedy.  The man crouched on the far right, directly above the Bren-gunner, is Lance Corporal Terry Fereday.  A survey of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission register shows that Fereday would be killed in action eight days later on the 18th of December.  Fereday is buried in the Moro River cemetery.
Globe and Mail, 24 December 1943, p5.
 The tragedy of Fereday's death is heightened by the death of his brother, Eric J. Fereday, killed in an accident in Prince Rupert the day after Terry. The Fereday family in Scarborough would have a grief-stricken Christmas in 1943.  The fate of Barney, the third son of the Fereday family, and also an airman in the RCAF, is unknown.
Globe and Mail, 31 December 1943. p.2.

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