2 NZ Division Timeline – Rimini Airfield, Italy

This WW2 timeline picks up 2 New Zealand Division as they, in conjunction with 3 Greek Mountain Brigade, approach Rimini. The timeline covers the period 12-21 Sep 1944.

Gothic Line

12 Sep 1944

The British Eighth Army launched its offensive against the Gothic Line behind a wall of shellfire (Henderson, 1958). The right flank on the Adriatic coast was 3 Greek Mountain Brigade attached to 1 Canadian Division. 3 Greek Mountain Brigade were fresh from training in Syria and this was their first time in the line. In reserve behind the Greeks came the 2 (New Zealand) Division, also attached to 1 Canadian Corp since 10 Sep (Pringle & Glue, 1957). 22 (NZ) Battalion with supporting tanks, initially B Squadron from 20 (NZ) Armoured Regiment but then C Squadron from 18 (NZ) Armoured Regiment, were attached to the Greeks and acted as the Brigade’s reserve (Pringle & Glue, 1957).

The objective for the Greeks and New Zealanders was the town of Rimini and the nearby Rimini Airfield (Henderson, 1958). The field itself was about 2.5 square km in area. It was thick with mines and covered by fire from snipers, mortars and machine-guns in hangars, buildings, and houses around the field. Allied Air reconnaissance photos had also highlighted some suspicious bumps on the ground by the corners of the airfield; these turned out to be two dug-in Panther turrets, positioned with with good fields of fire. There was also at least one self-propelled gun at the airfield and tanks were also used in the area.

Much of the surrounding area was reclaimed marsh, so the ground was boggy (Doherty, 1999; Henderson, 1958). Streams, ditches, canals, and small rivers formed effective anti-tank obstacles. It was a flat country and the vines, farms, hedge-lined lanes and irrigation canals limited visibility (Dawson, 1961).

Crossfire Orbats

In Crossfire I would treat the German Paratroop and Russian “Turcomen” defenders as Veteran. I assume Turcomen were organised and fought like German regulars.

The Kiwis were Veteran and definitely used British TO&E. During this operation there was never more than a rifle company in any one location.

Given the Kiwi opinion of them I would treat the Greeks as Green. As they were organised into a “Brigade”, had trained in British controlled Syria, and were in the British 8th army, I assume the Greeks had a British TO&E. So four rifle companies to a battalion, plus supports. There is no mention of carriers, so I assume they didn’t have any.

Campaign Idea: 4 linked scenarios

There seems some scope here for a campaign based on Rimini. A simple approach is to just run a series of linked scenarios concentrating on the most interesting. Possible scenarios to include are:

  • Monaldini and Monticelli
  • 3 Greek Battalion attacking the hamlet of Casalecchio
  • 1 Greek Battalion attacking the airfield.
  • 2 Greek Battalion flanking the airfield..

This selection gives all the Allied units an opportunity to feature in the campaign.

Monaldini and Monticelli

13 Sep

Monaldini and Monticelli were small farm settlements on the Marano lateral road about 400 m to 800 m south-west of San Lorenzo (Pringle & Glue, 1957). Monaldini at least had only eight buildings. On 13 Sep the German 1 Parachute Regiment and some “Turcomen” inflicted 172 casualties on 3 Greek Mountain Brigade from their positions in the two settlements (Henderson, 1958). When the allies finally took the settlement the next day, they were very impressed by the German defences; the well camouflaged positions had been dug behind the surrounding fences, and stretched for about half a mile up the road.

The “Turcomen” were captured Russians and White Russians in German service (Pringle & Glue, 1957). According to BattleFront: 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade in Italy 1944 the “Turcomen” were probably a Turkestani Ostlegion battalion from the 162. Infantry Division.

22 Battalion was behind the Greek Battalions at the town of Riccione on route 16 (Henderson, 1958). Their role was to plug the gap if the enemy broke through.

14 Sep

1 Canadian Division launched a big attack, attempting to take Rimini from the west and capture a bridgehead across the river above the town (Henderson, 1958). The dogged Greeks got nowhere in the face of machine and mortar fire, and the Canadians called upon the New Zealanders to give the Greeks ‘moral and physical support’. As a result tanks from B Squadron 20 Armoured Regiment and one Company (Major O’Reilly) of 22 Battalion became the first New Zealanders to go into action against the Gothic Line. Being only a company in strength the New Zealand infantry where only expected to protect the tanks.

Attack on Moticelli 14 Sep 1944

7 and 8 Troops ( Major Clapham) were initially assigned to support a 22 Battalion platoon’s attack on Monticelli after Monaldini had been captured (Pringle & Glue, 1957). 5 and 6 Troops (Captain Familton) were each attached to Greek platoons attacking Monaldini on the left. One of the Kiwi officers “was intrigued by the Greeks’ ‘Jack-in-the-box’ trick with a little anti-tank gun: they would rush it outside the house in which they were sheltering, fire a few rounds, and then drag it back inside before the enemy’s mortars caught them in the open” (p. 484).

At 1745 hours 6 Troop (Lieutenant Shacklock) crossed the Rio Melo, a creek west of Casa Fagnoni, with the Greeks and sought fire positions (Pringle & Glue, 1957).

At 1930 hours 5 troop (Lieutenant Cross), the associated Greek platoon, and 8 platoon (Second-Lieutenant Avery) from 22 Battalion attacked the lightly held farm buildings at Monaldini (Henderson, 1958; Pringle & Glue, 1957). They advanced through vineyards and shrubs into the smoke and dust-covered remains of the farm buildings. Having only only two spandaus and a handful of troops the Germans quickly succumbed. By 2000 hours had taken the settlement, after little opposition – the Kiwis found six dead Germans and two spandaus, and the rest (if any) had fled.

German mortars inflicted casualties on 6 Platoon and the Company HQ from 22 Battalion as they took up supporting positions about 500 m east of Monticelli (Henderson, 1958).

At some point 7 Troop (Second-Lieutenant Innes) was transferred to Familton’s half-squadron so it could give supporting fire for the attack on Monticelli, however, it was delayed crossing the Rio Melo and the bombardment started without it (Pringle & Glue, 1957). 6 Troop (Shacklock) started the Monticelli bombardment at 1925 and kept it up until the 7 Troop arrived.

At 2015, with the farm buildings at Monaldini in Allied hands, 6 Troop, the supporting platoon of Greeks, and 7 Platoon (Lieutenant Bassett) from 22 Battalion, moved to a point north-east of the settlement (Henderson, 1958; Pringle & Glue, 1957). At 2045 hour 7 Troop came arrived to pick up 7 Platoon and advanced up the road toward Monticelli settlement. The enemy cleared out as the attackers approached.

But by 2130 hours the New Zealanders were firmly settled in Monticelli (Henderson, 1958).

As 20 Armoured Regiment was intended for the breakthrough with 6 Brigade, 18 Armoured Regiment was ordered to send one squadron – they sent C Squadron – to replace the 20 Regiment tanks operating with 22 Battalion (Dawson, 1961). B Squadron received its orders at 1200 hours and headed off at 1300 hours for 22 Battalion’s headquarters, just south of Riccione, but did not relieve the 20 Armoured Regiment until 15 Sep (Pringle & Glue, 1957).

Scenario Idea: Monaldini and Monticelli

This is 3 Greek Mountain Brigade’s attempt to take the two settlements. I’m guessing that only one Greek battalion was involved in the attack; given the deployment from the map this was probably 3 Greek Battalion (or possibly 1 Greek Battalion). Judging from the map above, you can probably fit Monaldini, Monticelli, San Lorenzo, and Casa Renzi all on the same 6′ x 4′ table. Terrain objective seem appropriate.

Actually there are three possible games here:

  • 13 Sep. Greeks attack alone, but at full strength. They have a battalion, and the defenders at most two companies.
  • 14 Sep. The second Greek attempt, but this time supported by Kiwi infantry and tanks. The Greek companies will have been depleted due to the losses the day before.
  • Combined 13-14 Sep. Combine both parts into one game, with the Kiwis being reinforcements. Either give the Germans more troops at the start to compensate, or give them reinforcements as well.

Casalecchio and The Airfield

15 Sep

At dawn a patrol from 7 Platoon, 22 Battalion, advanced a short distance up the road from Monticelli and found San Lorenzo unoccupied (Henderson, 1958) .

The Greeks, for their part, now attacked Rimini airfield about 1.5 km away (Henderson, 1958). The German paratroopers were entrenched along the southern edge of the airfield and among hedges and vines to the west (Dawson, 1961).

Before 1000 hours 1 Greek Battalion, supported by 6 Platoon from 22 NZ Battalion, crossed the Marano River – a trickle of murky water with willows all along its banks – in the centre of the brigade (Dawson, 1961; Henderson, 1958) . Machine-gun fire from the airfield’s edge sent the troops to ground near a house. The Greeks paused to organise a full-scale attack for the afternoon, complete with their New Zealand tanks and infantry.

There was no further progress until 1330 hours when C Squadron 18 Armoured Regiment – less 12 Troop, which stayed in reserve – crossed the Marano and replaced B Squadron 20 Armoured Regiment (Dawson, 1961; Henderson, 1958). The tanks fanned out along the lanes, 9 Troop (Lieutenant Barber) on the right near Route 16, 10 Troop (Lieutenant Collins) straight up the middle towards the airfield, and 11 Troop (Second-Lieutenant Colin McIntosh) to the left.

Rimini Airfield 15 Sep 1944

Shortly after Allied fighter-bombers pounded the western side of the airfield, then the Greeks went in again (Henderson, 1958). The three Greek battalions attacked side by side; each had one troop of Kiwi Shermans and one platoon of 22 Battalion to protect the tanks (Dawson, 1961).

3 Greek Battalion attacked the hamlet of Casalecchio on the left, supported by 7 Platoon and 11 Troop (Henderson, 1958; Dawson, 1961). Casalecchio was a little crossroads hamlet with just a church and a couple of houses. The Greeks took the houses easily, but but a few paratroopers held out in the church and could not be dislodged. An artillery “stonk” preceded an attack by 11 Troop, a Greek platoon, and 7 Platoon from 22 Battalion. The allies took the remains of the church but mortar and machinegun fire from the airfield stopped any further advance. The tanks parked among the vines to wait.

As in the morning, 1 Greek Battalion suffered heavy fire from the airfield as they advanced (Henderson, 1958). The Greeks had 10 Troop (Lieutenant Collins) and 6 Platoon in support (Dawson, 1961). Tank-Greek coordination was better in this sector because the troop commander – Lieutenant Collins – could make himself understood in Greek. Although the Germans didn’t appear to be deployed in the cultivated area south of the airfield, the tanks knocked holes in each house they passed – just in case. The battle began as the tanks approached the open field. A self-propelled gun at the bottom-left of the airfield and a emplaced Panther turret on the right joined the machine guns and “Bazookas” (presumably Panzershrek) in pinning the Greek infantry just short of the airfield. The New Zealand tanks edged along a hedge row in an attempt to avoid the German anti-tank weapons, found themselves at the head of the attack. One tank was knocked out by the self-propelled gun on the left, but the Kiwis began clearing dugouts with high explosives and grenades, and the defenders withdrew.

2 Greek Battalion, on the Brigade’s right, was the least successful of the three (Dawson, 1961; Henderson, 1958). In support were 8 (NZ) Platoon, but poor coordination between the Greek infantry and Kiwi Tankers meant 9 Troop was delayed in the thick country short of the airfield. The battalion attacked up Route 16 towards the east side of the airfield, reaching the Marano River easily, but were then blocked by the strong airfield defences. The Germans had troops in the airfield buildings and in houses on the eastern, seaward, side of the road. They had also laid a fair number of mines. Finally, at the southern end of the field, covering Route 16 was the dug-in Panther turret mentioned in 1 Greek Battalion’s attack.

The company from 22 Battalion took minor casualties, but the Greeks suffered 33 losses (Henderson, 1958). Despite the losses it was a successful day with the Germans losing 36 killed and 12 prisoners. Furthermore, with their supporting infantry gone, the crew of the Panther turret destroyed it during the night before withdrawing themselves (Dawson, 1961).

Scenario Idea: Rimini Airfield

3 Greek Mountain Brigade’s attempt on the airfield, supported by Kiwi infantry and tanks. By this time the Greek battalions will have been severely depleted, so each platoon probably only has two squads. Furthermore, they probably didn’t have all companies in the line, so I’d give each attacking battalion only two weakened companies, although they get a Kiwi infantry platoon and KIwi tank platoon as well. Facing each Greek battalion the Axis player would have a weakened company in defence, supported by a couple of assault guns and/or panther turret. Terrain objective seem appropriate.

In fact there are four possible scenarios here:

  • 1 Greek Battalion attacking the airfield.
  • 2 Greek Battalion attacking across the Marano River.
  • 3 Greek Battalion attacking the hamlet of Casalecchio
  • A huge scenario reflecting the entire Brigade attack.

Of these 1 and 3 Battalion probably provide the best scenarios.

16 Sep

The next morning the Greeks tightened their grip on the airfield although the defenders held on in the hangars, buildings, and houses around the field, and there was still one dug-in Panther turret to be dealt with. (Henderson, 1958). 3 Greek Battalion on the left pushed through the thick country beyond Casalecchio, advancing with machine guns sweeping the area before them and drew level with 1 Battalion in the centre. 2 Greek battalion advanced 700 m on the right flank . Nos. 10 and 11 Troops made no move during the day, but 9 Troop was in support of 3 Greek battalion and advanced to the south-east corner of the field (Dawson, 1961). Like the Greeks on the far flank the Kiwi tankers sprayed the route ahead of them Brownings. The advance was made more difficult because the tank crews and 8 Platoon had to lift mines ahead of the tanks while under mortar and machinegun fire. Once they reached the airfield things quietened down with only occasional exchanges of fire with the Germans in the houses beyond Route 16. The Kiwis noticed there didn’t seem to be no anti-tank guns or bazookas in sector.

17 Sep

The next day 2 and 3 Greek Battalions slowly began working their way up either side of the airfield (Henderson, 1958). In the afternoon six aircraft tried skip bombing the remaining Panther turret in the north of the airfield but without effect (Dawson, 1961). Similarly, 25-pounders had no effect. The Kiwi tanks of C Squadron were deemed to far away (about 1.5 km) to be able to engage the turret. But under cover of a smoke barrage one of the Kiwi tanks from 10 Troop in the centre (under Lieutenant Collins) headed west to have a go at the Panther turret. Collins moved around the left side, advancing unobtrusively along a tree-bordered lane, across a field of wooden box mines, and through vines and scrub into German controlled territory where he parked in the shelter of a house and waited for the smoke to clear. With the smoke gone Collins had a clear view 1,100 m across the open field to the Panther turret. He pumped seven AP rounds into the turret, persuading the German crew to abandon the ruins, then withdrew under cover of smoke thrown out by his Sherman.

Scenario Idea: Flanking the Airfield

2 and 3 Greek Battalions attacking along the flanks of the airfield on 16-17 Sep. By this time the Greek companies will have been severely depleted. Similar orbats to above, i.e. two weak Greek companies versus one weak German company. Terrain objective seem appropriate.

Rimini

18-21 Sep

Over the next three days, 2 and 3 Greek Battalions, supported respectively by 8 and 7 Platoons 22 Battalion, and reinforced by Kiwi tanks pushed on to the city of Rimini (Dawson, 1961; Henderson, 1958). The 13 day operation cost 3 Greek Mountain Brigade 314 casualties was a victory. 2 Greek Battalion were the first to enter the new part of Rimini, called Rimini Marina, a summer resort on the coast and about 1.5 km from the old city square. But it was Kiwis – 8 Platoon 22 Battalion and 11 Troop 19 Armoured Regiment – who first entered the old city and reached the main square.

3 Greek Patch

Allied Order of Battle: 3 Greek Mountain Brigade

After a communist inspired mutiny 1 Greek brigade was disbanded in Apr 1944 (BattleFront: 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade in Italy 1944). The most “reliable” soldiers were then formed into 3 Greek Mountain Brigade under the command of Colonel Thrassivoulos Tsakalotos. The new formation consisted of three infantry battalions, a regiment of field artillery and attached support troops, approximately 3000 men. (This is much smaller than the original brigade; when formed the 1st Greek brigade had had a total strength of 4,500 with three infantry battalions, an artillery regiment, engineer company and machine-gun company. ) Some of the Greeks were veterans from Albania and El Alamein, but others were yet to see action. 3 Greek Mountain Brigade was attached to the 2 New Zealand Division in Aug 1944.

The Kiwis had mixed impressions of the Greeks, describing them as ” dogged” and “good fellows and brave soldiers”, but “inexperienced” and sometimes “unimpressive”, and when operating in conjunction with tanks they “did not seem to have many clues” (Dawson, 1961; Henderson, 1958; Pringle & Glue, 1957). ” The only Greeks I saw were dead ones, and the others looting everything in sight.”. Perhaps this is also why the New Zealand troops noticed that although officially the Greek brigade was in charge of the attack on Rimini, it was in fact Lieutenant-Colonel Donald of 22 Battalion that seemed to be running the show.

The Kiwis supported the Greek attacks with 22 (NZ) Battalion and tanks, initially B Squadron from 20 (NZ) Armoured Regiment but then C Squadron from 18 (NZ) Armoured Regiment (Pringle & Glue, 1957). (BattleFront: 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade in Italy 1944) also says the the Canadian Saskatoon Light Infantry (SLI), with a Heavy Mortar company and Machine-gun company, and the New Zealand 33 Anti-tank battery (17pdrs) supported of the Greeks.

German Order of Battle

The Kiwis faced 1st Parachute Regiment and “Turcomen” during the fighting around Rimini (Pringle & Glue, 1957). 1st Parachute Regiment was part of 1. Parachute Division in LXXVI Panzer Korps (BattleFront: Axis forces on the Gustav and Gothic lines). The “Turcomen” fighting alongside the paratroopers were captured Russians and White Russians in German service (Pringle & Glue, 1957). According to BattleFront: 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade in Italy 1944 the “Turcomen” were probably a Ostlegion battalion from the 162. (Turkistani) Infantry Division.

The full order of battle for LXXVI Panzer Korps was (BattleFront: Axis forces on the Gustav and Gothic lines):

Order of Battle LXXVI Panzer Korps (Herr)

  • 1. Fallschirmjäger Division (Heidrich, later Schultz)
    • 1st Fallschirmjäger Regiment
    • 3rd Fallschirmjäger Regiment
    • 4th Fallschirmjäger Regiment
    • 1st Fallschirm Machine-gun Battalion
    • 1st Fallschirm Panzerjäger Battalion
    • 1st Fallschirm Artillery Regiment
  • 71. Infantry Division (Raapke)
    • 191st Grenadier Regiment
    • 194th Grenadier Regiment
    • 211th Grenadier Regiment
    • 171st Fusilier Battalion
    • 171st Pioneer Battalion
    • 171st Artillery Regiment
    • 171st Panzerjäger Battalion
  • 5. Gebirgsjäger Division (Schrank)
    • 85th Gebirgsjäger Regiment
    • 100th Gebirgsjäger Regiment
    • 95th Reconnaissance Battalion
    • 95th Panzerjäger Battalion (14 Semovente 75/18 and towed PaKs)
    • 95th Mountain Artillery Regiment
  • 162. (Turkistani) Infantry Division
    • 303rd Infantry Regiment (2nd Turkistani Legion)
    • 214th Infantry Regiment (Azerbaijani Legion)
    • 329th Infantry Regiment
      • 804th Azerbaijani Battalion
      • 806th Azerbaijani Battalion
      • 162nd Division Battalion
    • 236th Artillery Regiment
    • 936th Pioneer Battalion
  • 278. Infantry Division (Hoppe)
    • 992nd Grenadier Regiment
    • 993rd Grenadier Regiment
    • 994th Grenadier Regiment
    • 278th Fusilier Battalion
    • 278th Artillery Regiment
    • 278th Panzerjäger Battalion (towed PaKs)
  • Korps Troops
    • 508th Schwere Panzer Battalion (Tiger Ie)
    • 504th Schwere Panzer Battalion (Tiger 1e)
    • 525th Panzerjäger Battalion (Jagdpanther)1
    • 590th Panzerjäger Battalion (towed PaKs)
    • I/4th Panzer Regiment (1 battalion)
    • 242nd Sturmgeschütz Battalion (StuG)

Notes:
(1) Jagdpanther or Nashorn? Carlos Herrera wrote to say “Just a quick note. On your Webpage for Rimini Airfield, Italy (12-21 Sep 1944), there is a listing for Jadgpanthers with the 525th Panzerjäger Battalion (Jagdpanther), They used Nashorns (88mm self propelled) Jadgpanthers were never used in Italy.”

References

BattleFront: 3rd Greek Mountain Brigade in Italy 1944

BattleFront: Axis forces on the Gustav and Gothic lines

This is one of the pages that disappeared from the BattleFront site. I used it for the the order of battle.

Dawson, W. D. (1961). CHAPTER 37 The Road to the Plains. 18 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. On-line http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-18Ba-c37.html. War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs. New Zealand.

Doherty, R. (1999). A Noble Crusade: The history of the Eighth Army 1941-45. Spellmount. Henderson, J. (1958). CHAPTER 12 Adriatic. 22 Battalion. On-line http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-22Ba-c12.html. War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs. New Zealand.

Pringle, D. J. C., and Glue, W. A. (1957). CHAPTER 18 From Florence to the Savio. 20 Battalion and Armoured Regiment. On-line http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2-20Ba-c18.html. War History Branch, Department of Internal Affairs. New Zealand.

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