Arthur Molyneux CHEETHAM (english version)

RANK: Captain (Later Major)
BORN – 22 July 1919
SERVICE/REGIMENT – 2nd Field Regiment Royal Artillery. 25 pounder guns.

 

Unloading vehicles down the ramp of a Landing Ship Tank onto a smaller Landing Craft Tank in a rough sea, then landing near the port of Anzio. Acting as Forward Observation Officer with 2nd Foresters in their attack on Campoleone. C Company crossed the railway line, but were forced to withdraw by tanks and machine gun fire, suffering 76 casualties. The gun position we occupied for 15 weeks after the beachhead perimeter was formed. We were bombed or shelled almost every night. All the guns were dug in to a depth of about a metre, and later we constructed roofs over our slit trenches, sandbags laid on tree trunks, as protection against anti-personnel bombs which scattered over the position. Sergeant Hardy in C troop had seven guns in Anzio. Four were damaged by shellfire and two by bombing, yet none of his gun detachment was injured.

The Observation Post in the tunnel dug through the embankment of the Flyover Bridge. This was very heavily shelled and mortared, especially just after dark when supplies came up the main road and turned east or west onto the lateral road. There was a good view north to the factory (Aprilia) and across to Buon Riposo ridge. Another O.P. we used was a tree just south of the lateral road, with a view over the ‘wadis’.

A third O.P. was on a small hill just south of the lateral road looking over the ground to the west of PANTONI.

The infantry had a very hard life living in the water-filled wadis, and no movement above ground was possible for either side in the forward areas. German O.P.s. at the Factory, PANTONI, and the Buon Riposo ridge gave them a good view over our forward areas, so the infantry had to live in the water-filled streams and wadis.

There was heavy harassing fire of the Port, rear areas . And gun position ever night, with often an ammunition dump being set alight. The famous heavy gun, called Anzio Archie, leaved in a tunnel on the Alban Hills during the day, but emerged at night to shell the port areas.

I almost flattened thefarm of Pantoni one day firing, 20 shells from an American M10 Tank Destroyer gun. Ammunition fired by our guns at Anzio was very high. Our Regiment fired over 200,000 shells at Anzio The breakout. Feint attack on Pantoni, then Americans attacked Cisterna.

We advanced to the Factory. All buildings were heaps of rubble. Dead bodies, dead horses, knocked out tanks and armoured vehicles, and the stench of death. A further stiff battle at the Ardea Line, held by German Paratroops, then an attack at Pian di Frasso. I Joined a mobile column which drove through to the Tiber. Our 42 battery crossed the Tiber on the night of June 5th, and our last gun position was Maccarese in the grounds of Radio Rome commercial station.

Croasdale,
80 Freshfield road,
Formby,
Merseyside L37 7BQ
22nd June 1995

 

Dear Mr.Copplestone,

Very many thanks for your letter. First of all, in answer to your specific enquiry about wartime memoirs, I have been through my Diary/weekly book that I kept whilst we were abroad, and find that all the good reminiscences about Anzio were included in my book, chapters 7-10.

I was interested to know of your connection with the ill-fated 18 Brigade attack. It always seemed a forlorn hope to think that we could maintain a position in the Caronte when Germans held positions in wadis to the west, and the Pantoni farm feature. I seem to recall that on the night of the attack Sherman tanks were clanking, up and down the lateral road near the flyover, pretending armoured support was imminent. But they never ventured northwards!

I had a spell doing O.P./Rep with the 14 Foresters Bn.HQ during the breakout battles. Colonel Redmayne was very pleasant, and the Foresters seemed a good battalion to work with. Mind you, most infantry were kind to we gunners-­presumably a sort of cupboard love anticipating goodies to come in the shape of artillery stonks. Redmayne later became Brigadier of the 66 Brigade that replaced you in 1st Division.

Like you, we were not too happy about being kept out of Rome. We crossed the Tiber west of Rome on the night Rome fell. After 24hours we were pulled back to rest in some pinewoods on the Ostia road, and kept out of the holy City for a week. When we did have the odd leave party allowed in to Rome we found that the local hooch labeled Wiskee was certainly not distilled in Scotland. We managed to penetrate one 5star hotel that had been requisitioned by the Allied Control Commission by assuring the American MP on duty that we were ACC-Army Catering Corps. Our stay amidst the red-tabbed hierarchy was short-sadly my companion passed out, and I extricated him with some difficulty.

I trust that you are keeping well, and that your hip operation proves successful. Most of them are.

With beat wishes,
Arthur Cheetham.

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