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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Battle for the Gothic Line

August 1944 to 4 January 1945

Theatre: Mediterranean
Location: Northern Italy
Players: Allies: General Oliver Leese and Lieutenant-General Richard McCreery's 8th Army (consisting of 5th Corps, 10th Corps, 2nd Polish Corps and 1st Canadian Corps); General Mark Clark's US 5th Army (consisting of 2nd Corps, 4th Corps and the British 13th Corps). Germany: General Heinrich von Vietinghoff's German 10th Army; General Joachim Lemelsen's 14th Army.
Outcome: The Allies partially broke through the Gothic Line, paving the way for the 1945 Spring Offensive.

'We're the D-Day Dodgers here in Italy, Drinking all the vino, always on a spree... - D-Day Dodgers by Hamish Henderson (51st Highland Division)

After the fall of Rome, German forces withdrew to the Gothic Line, a string of heavily fortified positions north of Florence. The last of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring's major defensive lines, the Gothic Line blocked the route north into Austria.

Allied attacks concentrated on the eastern end of the line, where the natural defences of the Apennines gave way to hilly terrain crossed by a series of rivers.

On 25 August 1944, the 8th Army advanced; by 2 September the eastern end of the Gothic Line was breached.

The 5th Army attacked the west of the line on 13 September, pushing through the Apennines and reaching the outskirts of Bologna on 23 October. That month, McCreery replaced Leese, who left for Burma. In December, the 8th Army made a final push north and west, then dug in for the winter.

Since the Normandy landings in June 1944, the prospect of invading Germany through Italy had receded and the Italian campaign was widely seen as a sideshow. In Britain, Lady Astor accused the troops in Italy of 'dodging' D-Day, a thoughtless remark that was promptly immortalised in song.

The battles for the Gothic Line tied down two German armies - and cost the British infantry alone 7,000 casualties.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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