Sicily 75 years on

A display of items relating to the role of Green Howards soldiers in the invasion of Sicily in 1943 is now on show.  It’s the 75th anniversary of Operation Husky, which started on 10 July, and three battalions (1st, 6th and 7th) of the regiment were involved.

Following their success in North Africa, the Allies (the British, Americans and Canadians) invaded the Italian island of Sicily.  The landings and initial objectives were quickly achieved, but there was fierce fighting, and the advance was slowed by the Germans’ tactical withdrawal from the island; enabling 100,000 German and Italian troops to reach mainland Italy.  140,000 were captured.

Soldiers from 1Bn advancing through the rubble in Catania, Sicily – July 1943 c IWM

Allied control of Sicily was confirmed on 17 August 1943, when the Americans entered Messina.

The 1st Battalion remained in Italy and 18 days later were ready to continue their advance north through Europe with the invasion of mainland Italy.  Meanwhile, the 6th and 7th Battalions returned to England for more training.  They’d already been selected by General Montgomery to invade mainland France the following year on D-Day.

126 Green Howards are buried in the shadow of Mt Etna, in the Catania and Syracuse cemeteries.

They include the Yorkshire cricketer Hedley Verity who played 40 times for England.  11 years earlier, whilst playing Nottingham at Headingley on 12 July 1932, he took all 10 of their wickets for just 10 runs – a world record which still stands.  Verity, a company commander, died in an Italian military hospital on 31 July 1943 after being wounded and captured during the fighting.

The museum objects, which include military equipment and personal items, as well as Verity’s Yorkshire cricket cap and our most recent medal group acquisition, will remain on display throughout the summer.

You can view the display for free in the entrance area of the museum.  We also have the short film, ‘Advance into Italy 1943-1944’ showing on the case screen.

There’s lots more information for visitors about the campaign, and the remaining years of the Second World War, in our Modern Times gallery cases and interactive screens, and the museum’s Medal Room.