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Italy Volume II : From Cassino to Trieste

IV: Through the Venetian Line

IV: Through the Venetian Line


The Venetian Line, designed to close the 40-mile-wide corridor leading into north-eastern Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Dolomites which border the Alps, was believed to be the strongest system of prepared defences constructed by the Germans in Italy. From the port of Chioggia, at the southern end of the Venetian Lagoon, the line followed the Canale Gozzone south-westward to the Adige River, ran along the north bank of that river, swung north-westward to the towns of Monselice and Este on the southern slopes of the Euganean hills (Colli Euganei), and continued along the northern wall of the great plain of the Po valley to Lake Garda. In the east the line was protected by floods and swamps, in the west by the formidable hill country; in the centre, where there were no natural obstacles behind the outpost barrier of the Adige, the enemy had spent much time and ingenuity on an elaborate defence system.

Eighth Army's proposed plan had been for 13 Corps to attack the Euganean hills and 5 Corps or the Polish Corps the centre of the line; these attacks were to have been preceded by two or three daily bombardments of the enemy's positions by the heavy bombers, and when a breakthrough had been assured, 2 Parachute Brigade was to have been despatched by air to capture the bridges over the Brenta River, just beyond Padua. The battles south of the River Po, however, had created so much disorganisation and inflicted such losses on Army Group C that the enemy was unable to weld together an effective force in time to man his defensive system and stand on the Venetian Line. There was, therefore, no occasion to stage an attack on this line, and no need for the aerial assault which was to have started on 29 April.

In 13 Corps the New Zealand Division, having had first use on 25 April of the folding-boat bridge at the River Po, had advanced rapidly to cross the Adige River in the evening of the 26th. The first troops of 6 Armoured Division to cross the Po were halted during the night of 25–26 April at the Canale Bianca, and the equipment for bridging this watercourse did not arrive until next day. By the evening of the 27th, therefore, 6 Armoured Division had reached but had not crossed the Adige. An attempt to construct a raft did not succeed, but next day a battalion of 61 Infantry page 516 Brigade used the New Zealand bridge near Badia and advanced to Monselice, at the junction of Routes 10 and 16.

Thirteenth Corps was ordered on 28 April to take advantage of the enemy's disorganisation and get to Trieste as quickly as possible. Because of the problems of supply and transport the corps decided to continue the advance with one division only, and although the New Zealand Division had been in action continuously since the start of the offensive on 9 April, it was chosen because it had four brigades under its command—and no doubt because of the rapid progress it had made.

On the right of 13 Corps, 56 Division of 5 Corps was to exploit east of Route 16 to Stra and then north-eastward along Route 11 to Mestre and Venice; on the left 2 United States Corps, with 91 Division leading, was exploiting north-eastward from Vicenza along Route 53 to Treviso. Thirteenth Corps was to exploit at top speed to Trieste along the axis of MonselicePaduaMestre – San Dona di PiavePortogruaroMonfalcone. The New Zealand Division, retaining 12 Lancers under command, was to lead this advance; it also was to mop up the corps' sector west of Route 16 as far as Padua with 43 Brigade (which was then to concentrate in the Padua area and revert to corps command).


General Freyberg had to decide on the morning of 28 April whether to race towards the Venetian Line and try to break through with mobile columns, or whether to shape up to the line and put in a set-piece attack. The Division would have to go alone. In 5 Corps' sector on the right 56 Division so far had only a small foothold on the north bank of the Adige.

At a planning conference at Divisional Headquarters that morning General Harding, the 13 Corps'commander, announced that his object was to ‘gatecrash’ the Venetian Line as soon as possible. Freyberg said it depended on the enemy: ‘If he is in strength we shall have to decide whether we can get sufficient forces forward to attack.’1 Harding replied that 13 Corps Intelligence believed that 1 Parachute Division was the only reasonably organised formation opposite. When Freyberg pointed out that the Division's Adige bridge ‘is barely sufficient for our own use’, Harding promised to ‘get one and possibly two Class 40 bridges across. The NZ Division is the only formation in a position to gatecrash the line so far as 13 Corps is concerned and top priority must go to you as regards the bridges.’2 Freyberg then drew attention to the fact that a

1 GOC's papers.

2 Ibid.

page 517 battalion of 61 Infantry Brigade had caused some trouble at the Adige by using the New Zealand bridge during the night, and also that 43 Gurkha Brigade and Rear Divisional Headquarters had been held up at the crossing of the Po. He asked 13 Corps to go into the question of whether less urgently needed troops than the Gurkhas should be allowed to cross the Po ahead of them. He also wanted the Division to be allowed to control its own bridge and ferry across the Adige.

Part of 4 Armoured Brigade was still on the south bank of the Po. ‘Feeling cheated, the tank crews … [had] watched their infantry cross in their assault boats while they waited their turn at the ferry or filled in time while the engineers built a pontoon bridge.’1 On 27 April C and A Squadrons of 18 Regiment and half each of A and B Squadrons of 20 Regiment had been ferried over the river; of the armour still on the south bank, a squadron each of 19 Regiment and 2 Royal Tanks, which were to support 9 and 43 Brigades respectively, were to have priority.

Because of the congestion of traffic and the slow progress of wheeled convoys on the roads, C Squadron of 19 Regiment drove across country to the ferry, which by 7 p.m. on the 27th had carried five of its tanks over the river. All work then ceased on the ferry, so Lieutenant-Colonel Everist2 sought permission to use the pontoon bridge, which had just been opened to traffic. He was told that until additional decking was available, Corps' orders were that only wheeled vehicles were to use the bridge. All tank movement across the river was suspended indefinitely when the bridge was wrecked in the centre by an explosion, apparently caused by a mine floating downstream,3 and the ferry was requisitioned to repair the damage.

Permission was granted for C Squadron of 19 Regiment to use the pontoon bridge in the afternoon of 29 April, and the whole of this regiment was across next day. The rest of the New Zealand tanks followed, but the last did not reach the north bank until 1 May. Thus it took 4 Armoured Brigade a week to complete the crossing of the River Po.


The armoured cars of 12 Lancers made spectacular advances on 28 April and by nightfall had penetrated the Venetian Line: D Squadron reached Este and Monselice and later pushed on to Padua; A Squadron made contact with 6 South African Armoured Division of Fifth Army at Montagnana, west of Este.

2 Lt-Col A. M. Everist, DSO; Christchurch; born Christchurch, 31 Oct 1912; accountant; wounded 28 Jun 1942; CO 19 Armd Regt Aug–Nov 1944, Mar–Dec 1945.

3 This was thought to be the work of saboteurs.

page 518

Ninth Brigade had passed through 6 Brigade north of the Adige River in the evening of the 27th and reached the Fiume Fratta. A patrol from 27 Battalion went some distance beyond this stream towards San Vitale before dawn on the 28th without meeting the enemy. Two companies (2 and 4) followed on foot, but a large demolition blocked the passage of the tanks and wheeled vehicles, which compelled the remainder of the brigade to take an alternative route farther west. Divisional Cavalry Battalion in RMT trucks, with C Squadron in the lead and supported by tanks from 20 Regiment, made a non-stop run along the road from Masi past Castelbaldo to Casale di Scodosia and then eastward to Ospedaletto, on Route 10 between Este and Montagnana.

‘The previous evening had been miserable. Everybody in the leading squadrons had got wet to the skin clambering through one canal after another, and now, with the rain coming down, had to dig in and suffer a wet night…. At Ospedaletto both A and C Squadrons had to dismount and fight quite a little battle, for the enemy there had taken to using faustpatronen against the tanks as well as machine guns.’1 The infantry and tanks cleared the enemy from some houses and took about 50 prisoners.

The companies of 27 Battalion which followed Divisional Cavalry Battalion on this route found 2 Company already at San Vitale, where the New Zealanders were given a tumultuous welcome. ‘Rain poured down again while we were there, but all the civilians were out in the streets rejoicing and the band was playing some Italian marches.’2

Meanwhile news of momentous events elsewhere reached the Division. ‘At one o'clock I turned on the wireless for the B.B.C. news. The Russian and American forces had linked up in Germany. The partisans in Milan were rumoured to have captured Mussolini. General Dittmar, the German military spokesman, had surrendered and described the situation as hopeless. Then the telephone rang. … the G. 2 “I” of 13th Corps was on the line. “The Yanks say they are through the Venetian Line and north of Vicenza.” I started across to the General with this news, when the phone went again. It was the artillery I.O. “The air op. reports that the Este bridge is intact and that the armoured cars of the 12th Lancers are almost on it.”

‘This time I sprinted across to the General's caravan. He was already in his jeep, with his A.D.C. climbing in the back holding the General's revolver belt and steel helmet. He had the news

1 Divisional Cavalry, pp. 410–11.

2 27 (Machine Gun) Battalion, p. 493.

page 519 direct from the C.R.A. “I'm off to Este,” he said. “Whips out”’1

Before he left Divisional Headquarters the GOC had a telephone conversation with General Harding, whom he told: ‘We have Gentry [9 Brigade] stamping up there hard and I have directed 12 L [ancers] to concentrate at ESTE and push through to PADUA. Gentry will go after them and we shall follow afterwards with our HQ.’2 The Division was to manage with the one bridge at the Adige. The GOC intended to get four brigades completely mobile and ready to go when called upon; he would try to get two field regiments and two brigade groups into Padua ‘and then we shall consider further’. The corps commander wanted no more than a squadron to be diverted to Venice; he felt strongly that ‘the place we want to get most of all is TRIESTE’.Freyberg answered, ‘Well, we will direct them on to TRIESTE—we can get there in a day!’3 Harding also wanted only a small force of 6 Armoured Division to go beyond the Adige, and it was to stop at Padua ‘because we cannot give you both petrol’.4

From Este 9 Infantry Brigade, still led by Divisional Cavalry Battalion and B Squadron of 20 Regiment, drove eastward along Route 10 to Monselice and then north-eastward along Route 16 towards Padua. ‘In village after village the crowds had increased, lining the streets to shout “Adios—Viva”, and a new word we had not heard before. It sounded like “Chow”, was written, we discovered “Ciao”, and meant a mixture, so far as we could see, of “Hurrah—Good luck—and Good-bye.” Girls threw us flowers hastily gathered from the fields, and white elder blossom torn from the roadside trees. In one village I asked when the Germans had left. “leri Sera—last night,” and they had left “molti morti.” What, dead Germans? No, “molti morti Italiani.” The parachutists had wanted bicycles, and had shot down half the men of the village in seizing them….’5

At Battaglia, on Route 16, the leading tank ran into a road block and was hit by a bazooka, which did negligible damage. The way was cleared by 7 p.m. and the column sped, sometimes at up to 20 miles an hour, towards Padua, which it reached about three hours later. Armoured cars of B Squadron, 12 Lancers, which had passed through the leading troops of 6 Armoured Division at Monselice, had been the first to enter the city.

1 The Road to Trieste, pp. 162–3. The 88th US Division had penetrated the Venetian Line and was north of Vicenza. Benito Mussolini was intercepted by partisans while fleeing Italy and executed by a firing squad in a village on Lake Como.

2 GOC's diary.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

page 520

On the way 9 Brigade overtook a German column. The enemy, with horse-drawn transport and estimated to be 300 strong, ‘wisely enough, made no attempt to interfere with the [New Zealand] tanks’ passage north. “We did not shoot and neither did they and we drove past them as they plodded along,” says one troop commander. “I will always remember a very excited infantryman who was riding on the back of my tank, hammering me on the back and pointing at the waggons moving along beside us and shouting, ‘Those are Jerries!’”1

Among the Germans who blundered into the Division was a colonel who was commanding the remnants of 362 Infantry Division. He showed the New Zealand Intelligence staff the line he had been ordered to take up with his troops. He was escorted with his marked map to Headquarters 9 Brigade, where General Freyberg was with Brigadier Gentry. Already the New Zealanders were across the very branch of the canal where the captured colonel was to have taken his stand.

At Padua 20 Regiment's tanks entered a large square and took up positions covering the autostrada which ran straight to Mestre. As soon as the Italians had identified the New Zealanders, ‘Windows were thrown open noisily in every direction, “women were running around in their nighties”, partisans fired their weapons, and shouts of greeting and cheers came from all sides.’2 The whole of 9 Brigade entered the city in the next few hours, and Divisional Cavalry Battalion and 27 Battalion went through to the north-eastern side.

The partisans had gained control of Padua on the morning of 27 April and held 5000 German prisoners, including the former commanding officer of the Ferrara area, General von Alten. They also declared that Venice was under partisan control. In fact, from that stage onwards the partisans were in control of most of the towns along the Division's axis of advance, although many pockets of enemy had not yet surrendered. The large number of prisoners was an embarrassment to 9 Brigade, which could not spare sufficient men to guard them, so they were handed over to the partisans until they could be collected by the following brigades.

The 43rd Gurkha Brigade had completed the relief of 5 Brigade north of the Adige River. It met no opposition on the Piacenza- Este road, but was much delayed by demolitions. After clearing the enemy from the area west of Route 16 as far as Padua, it passed to the command of 13 Corps on the 29th. In the next day or two the number of prisoners held by the Gurkhas, including groups brought in by the partisans, grew prodigiously.

2 Ibid.

page 521


Shortly after 3 a.m. on 29 April Brigadier Gentry ordered 27 Battalion to capture intact the two bridges over the Brenta River, about four miles from Padua. The more northerly of these bridges was at the small village of Ponte di Brenta, where Route 11 crosses the river; the other was on the autostrada, which leaves Route 11 just east of Padua, passes over that highway on the far side of the river about half a mile downstream from Ponte di Brenta and continues straight to Mestre, where it rejoins the winding Route 11. The enemy had damaged the bridge where the autostrada crosses the Brenta sufficiently to prevent vehicles using it. After motoring to within a few hundred yards of the bridge, 1 Company of 27 Battalion advanced on foot with a troop of A Squadron, 20 Regiment in support. The Germans showed little inclination to fight, and after some brief exchanges of small-arms fire about 200 surrendered.

The bridge at Ponte di Brenta was still intact but was held by German armoured cars, two 105-millimetre guns on the north bank and a screen of machine-gunners and infantry on the south bank. Before entering the village some men of 3 Company, 27 Battalion, left their trucks to ride on the tanks of Lieutenant Sisam's1 troop of A Squadron, 20 Regiment, which dashed straight to the bridge and cut off the retreat of two companies of Germans and two or three armoured cars. The infantry jumped off the tanks right in the middle of the enemy and rounded up many of them before they recovered from their surprise. The tanks knocked out an armoured car and a 105-millimetre gun, and the infantry crossed the bridge and seized ground on the far bank. Further shooting by the tanks helped to put an end to resistance. Altogether about 230 prisoners, both 105-millimetre guns and several vehicles were captured.

Later 27 Battalion collected a further 200 prisoners. Two German officers who surrendered asked if they could return to their battalion and persuade their men to give themselves up. A platoon from 2 Company took these men into custody and continued down the Brenta River as far as Stra without finding any more.


The bold, swift action at Ponte di Brenta had saved the bridge for the Division. Orders were issued to continue the advance from Padua along the autostrada to Mestre and then along Route 14 to the Piave River. The armoured cars of 12 Lancers were to reconnoitre on each flank and advance at top speed to secure

1 Lt W. J. Sisam, MC; Tawa, Wellington; born NZ 3 Jul 1919; bank clerk.

page 522 the bridge intact over the Piave. Ninth Brigade was to detach a small force to capture Venice, 20-odd miles from Padua. Sixth Brigade, with C Squadron of 18 Regiment under command, was to replace 43 Gurkha Brigade in the order of march, which then was 12 Lancers, the GOC's tactical headquarters, 9 Brigade, Main Divisional Headquarters, the engineers, 6 Brigade, the gun group, and 5 Brigade.
9 brigade's advance, 29 april 1945

9 brigade's advance, 29 april 1945

B Squadron of 12 Lancers drove on to the autostrada, met and quickly dispersed a few scattered pockets of enemy, turned off along the causeway from Mestre into Venice, where it was the first Allied unit to arrive, and later pushed on towards the Piave River. C Squadron followed B into Venice. A Squadron cleared the ground north of the autostrada, where it captured a column of 600 infantry, six guns, vehicles and horses; on the other flank D Squadron guarded the south-eastern approaches to Padua and the autostrada. It was impossible to obtain an accurate count of the Germans who fell into the Lancers' hands during the day, but the regiment's estimate was between 1150 and 1200.

Delay was caused at the start of 9 Brigade's advance from Padua by reports of enemy columns approaching from the south and south-east. About 9 a.m., when a message was received that remnants of 26 Panzer Division1 were moving towards Padua along the road from the south-east, 4 Field Regiment sited guns of 46 Battery in an anti-tank role, and the rest of the regiment went into action on the road. The 25-pounders were continually in action for about an hour and knocked out three tanks, which ended any threat there might have been to Padua. The New Zealanders did

1 According to a British narrative, the enemy column consisted mainly of remnants of 362 Division retreating in front of 5 Corps and apparently acting on the assumption that Padua was still in German hands.

page 523 not escape casualties. A premature explosion in front of the barrel of one of the 25-pounders killed a man and wounded three others who were cutting down trees which affected the field of fire. Some enemy shells fell in Padua, and one which landed in the square wounded the commanding officer (Lieutenant-Colonel J. R. Williams) and the Padre (the Very Rev. A K. Warren1) of Divisional Cavalry Battalion, mortally wounded a provost sergeant, and killed another man. Major Tanner2 assumed command of the battalion. When one of 4 Field Regiment's vehicles was strafed by Allied aircraft (‘two Thunderbolts—markings unknown’3), an officer was killed and two men were wounded.

Preceded by the Lancers' armoured cars, 27 Battalion and B Squadron of 20 Regiment crossed the captured bridge at Ponte di Brenta and with some difficulty got on to the autostrada, which ran above the surrounding country on a high embankment (through a tunnel in which passed Route 11). The battalion went as fast as the tanks could go. From Mestre the causeway led south-eastward to Venice, Route 13 northward to Treviso, and Route 14 north-eastward to the Piave River. The 27th Battalion took Route 14, and by 3 p.m. had reached Portegrandi, on the Sile River, about half-way to the Piave. So far the 27th had been unopposed, but the following Divisional Cavalry Battalion and 22 Battalion met several groups of enemy, who surrendered willingly enough after the tanks accompanying the infantry had fired a few rounds. One small German column actually passed through a tunnel under the autostrada while 9 Brigade was speeding along it.

Near the Sile River one of the tanks accompanying 27 Battalion opened fire on an object which resembled a tank with a camouflaged superstructure but was in fact a German-manned motor launch moving along a nearby canal. ‘The third shell landed on the deck creating horrible havoc among the Teds aboard. Immediately a white flag was raised and shortly afterwards more appeared all along the stopbank of the canal. Other tanks along our column were firing now, and before they could be stopped they dropped a few shells among the surrendering Jerries…. 1 Coy was sent off to round up the prisoners…. The Jerries were Kriegsmarinen of a coast watching unit and were wonderfully equipped.’4 About 200 surrendered. Although damaged, the launches were not holed.

A mile or two short of the Piave River (which was 23 miles from Mestre) the road forked: Route 14 turned eastward to

1 Rt. Rev. A. K. Warren, CMG, MC; Bishop of Christchurch, 1951–66; born Wellington, 23 Sep 1900; Anglican minister; wounded 29 Apr 1945.

2 Lt-Col V. J. Tanner, DSO, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Wellington, 6 Jan 1916; sales manager; CO Div Cav Apr – Aug 1945; three times wounded.

3 War diary, 4 Fd Regt.

4 Diary, B.C. H. Moss.

page 524 Musile di Piave and San Dona di Piave, and the other road continued north-eastward to Fossalta di Piave. Directed to Musile, 4 Company of 27 Battalion found the village unoccupied by either civilians or enemy. The bridge over the Piave between Musile and San Dona was down, and according to some Italians a ferry service had been operating since Allied bombers wrecked it in September, five months earlier. Partisans informed 2 Company that there were Germans in Fossalta who might surrender. Eventually 300 or 400 were taken prisoner there.

The 27th Battalion concentrated at Musile. From 7 p.m. onwards it continually received reports from the partisans about a German force not less than 2000 strong between the village and the coast. This was described as mainly a coastal defence unit with a number of 88-millimetre guns and many light anti-aircraft guns. At 8.15 p.m. the partisans said the enemy was filtering towards Musile and had occupied Chiesanuova, a small village on the Piave Vecchia about two miles from Musile. Lieutenant-Colonel Sanders despatched 3 Company to the Piave Vecchia to warn of an enemy crossing, but the company did not make contact and was withdrawn at midnight.

That night 22 Battalion and Divisional Cavalry Battalion also reached the Piave River. C Company of the 22nd was ferried across to San Dona di Piave, rounded up some 60 prisoners and handed them over to the partisans.

There is no record of how many prisoners were taken by the Division on 28 and 29 April, but the majority of them seem to have come from coastwatching and other non-divisional units. A deserter from 1 Parachute Corps stated that the parachutists had been told to make for Verona after retreating across the River Po. but had been prevented from doing this by the speed of the American advance and consequently had been directed on the Euganean hills and Vicenza, with the intention of holding the Venetian Line in these hills and along the lower Adige River. The American thrust to Vicenza, however, had outflanked this part of the line. The Germans had begun a general withdrawal towards the Alps when the New Zealand Division reached Padua.


From Mestre 9 Brigade despatched to Venice a small force of armoured cars from 12 Lancers,1 a troop of tanks from A Squadron of 20 Regiment, and B Company of 22 Battalion, under the com-

1 According to the war diary of 12 Lancers, B Squadron had arrived in Venice soon after 2 p.m., and C Squadron later in the afternoon. The history of the New Zealand Artillery claims that Lt-Col C. H. Sawyers, CO of 5 Fd Regt, was the first Allied soldier to enter Venice. He was soon joined by an artillery reconnaissance party.

page 525 mand of Colonel J. I. Thodey. This force was met by a guide from the Lancers at the turn-off to the causeway, and entered the city about 4p.m. on the 29th. Thodey had orders to hold the Albergo Danieli, reputed to be the best hotel in Venice, which General Freyberg intended to be used as a New Zealand forces club.

The tanks were parked by the railway station at the end of the causeway, and the force assembled in an open space nearby while officers guided by partisans reconnoitred the city. The Venetians gave the New Zealanders a tumultuous welcome; they embraced and kissed them, and made lavish gifts of wines, liqueurs and spirits. It was decided that 10 and 12 Platoons of B Company should occupy the Albergo Santa Chiara, near the assembly area, while 11 Platoon and Company Headquarters went by motor barge and launch through the Grand Canal to the Albergo Danieli. The partisans gave information about the location of German troops, and delivered prisoners to a large garage, where 2730 were collected. Next day the officer commanding B Company (Major Spicer1) and eight men went in a commandeered ferry boat to the Lido, the long, narrow island between Venice and the open sea, to demand the surrender of the garrison there, and brought back six officers and 350 other ranks without trouble. Similar excursions to the islands of Murano and Burano, in the lagoon north of Venice, produced no enemy.

The first troops of 56 Division arrived at Venice about four hours after Thodey Force. Next day (the 30th) 169 Brigade ‘formed up and marched impressively to San Marco Square. Several Thodey Force men, on the sideline, ironically hailed the “liberators”.’2 B Company transferred 12 Platoon to the Albergo Danieli, and the New Zealanders refused all requests by representatives of the Allied Military Government and by 56 Division that they should relinquish the hotel.

General Freyberg was always anxious to have good leave centres for his men, maintaining, “You can't treat a man like a butler and expect him to fight like a gladiator.” Denying the story that he spent his honeymoon at the Danieli in Venice, but saying that he had visited the hotel in the late 'twenties and 'thirties, the General writes (2 July 1955): “We were allotted the Excelsior Hotel, as a Club [in Rome] and when we arrived there we found Americans with a mounted Guard, who told us to buzz off, and they occupied the hotel themselves for a Club. When we were going up on the way to Trieste, we heard that the Americans were coming

1 Maj R. H. Spicer, MC; Palmerston North; born Christchurch, 20 Apr 1910; salesman; CO 22 Bn Aug – Oct 1945.

2 22 Battalion, p. 436.

page 526 up the road, and on their lorries had placards with Danieli Hotel. We were not going to have a repetition of what had happened in Rome, and I sent a Company of the 22 Battalion to occupy the Danieli Hotel, and made Colonel Thodey personally responsible to me that he kept the Americans out.”

‘The most prominent citizens of Venice, including Italian admirals and generals, generously entertained the New Zealanders at their new club. Soldiers quizzically heard how Venetians always had been patriotic to Italy, not mere supporters of Mussolini. Some maintained they had suffered much; others obviously were war profiteers.’1

The Division's senior Intelligence officer, Major Cox, obtained much valuable information on 30 April from a group of Italians who had been organised originally by the American Office of Strategic Services and had set up their headquarters in the Danieli. They ‘spent hour after hour collecting information by telephone from behind the German lines. For the Germans in their haste had failed to cut the telephone system. So we phoned to village after village up and down the rivers in our path—the Tagliamento, the Livenza, the Isonzo—finding out which bridges still stood and which were blown. We worked out which areas the partisans held and where the Germans were still strong. We even got through to the C.L.N.2 at Trieste, but before we could do more than identify ourselves the phone went dead.’3

1 22 Battalion, p. 437.

2 CLN: The Italian Committee of National Liberation.