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The Battle of Ortona – Timeline


The Battle of Ortona took place over the space of approximately one week in December 1943, decimating the village and inflaming the total number of Canadian casualties during that December to almost 2400. The Canadian army was victorious despite its massive losses, giving the Battle of Ortona the nick-name of “Little Stalingrad”.


Timeline source information: CMHQ Historical Officers Report: Report NO. 129. Canadian Operations in Italy, September to December 1943, Preliminary Report. Department of National Defence.


December 1943


After a successful breakthrough at the Moro, the 1st Canadian Division prepares for an assault on the port town of Ortona on Italy’s East coast. Ortona is a key command centre for the German Army and is very heavily defended.


20 Dec: 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade forces through German defences to take up positions on the outskirts of Ortona. The advance is made possible with the support of 1 Canadian Armour Brigade and a heavy artillery barrage covering the advancing Canadians’ flanks with smoke screen.


21 Dec: The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (the “Loyal Eddies”), along with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, supported by armour begin the bloody advance into the town of Ortona to dislodge the occupying German defenders.


22 Dec: Canadian commanders divide Ortona into sectors and assign each fighting battalion a sector to clear of enemies. In a move to reduce pressure on the Canadians in Ortona, 1 Canadian Infantry Brigade moves into position northwest of Ortona to cut of key German supply routes.


23/24 Dec: Canadian reinforcements begin to arrive at Ortona to relieve exhausted troops and shore up units still embroiled in the bitterly slow and brutal advance into the town.


24 Dec: Two days into the advance on Ortona, Canadian soldiers are fighting a yard-by-yard battle to take the town. The Loyal Eddies and the Seaforths fight vicious house-to-house battles, and even room-to-room battles against the occupying German garrison forces.


25 Dec: Christmas Day brings no relief for Canadian soldiers in their efforts to take Ortona. Soldiers are rotated back to a Church to enjoy a hot Christmas meal where possible, though many are shot down by German forces in the attempt. Some commanders order their men to hold their positions rather than risk getting killed over trying to make it to Christmas Dinner.


26 Dec: The slow and perilous advance by Canadian forces begins to pay off as Canadian commanders in the field begin to report to their superiors that two-thirds of the battered town are now under Canadian control. However the battle continues to wage with the German forces making the Canadians fight for every yard gained in Ortona.


27 Dec: With the Canadian advance seemingly unstoppable, the German forces begin their withdrawal from Ortona.


28 Dec: Canadian forces take full control of Ortona. Canadian casualties for the month of December 1943 near 2400 men, effectively taking the 1st Canadian Division out of the war for a short period in order to rest its wounds. The Battle for Ortona has been won by the Canadians.


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