Volume 6 Week 27

Monday, May 22


Updated Dec. 11

Updated Dec. 11

Phil McNeely
Posted Feb. 12






(Updated 2:30 p.m., May 22)
WWII vet makes return visit to Italy after 61 years
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

World War II veteran Angus Wilson recently left for a trip to Italy with 88 other former members of the Royal Westminster Regiment. It is Mr. Wilson first trip back to Italy since the end of the war. File photo

It’s been 61 years since Angus Wilson was last in Italy. As a member of the Royal Westminster Regiment, he spent roughly a year in the Mediterranean country from January, 1944 until the following January when they were redeployed to Northern Europe.

Wilson was in the Signal Corps and was trained in operating and maintaining telecommunications equip.m.ent such as wireless phones. And while he was never in actual combat, his company provided close support to the main unit and he came under heavy artillery fire during the battle for Monte Casino.

On Sunday, Wilson left for Italy with 88 of his former comrades to retrace their steps and relive old memories. The group plans to visit Naples, Caserta, Lanciano, which is near Ortona, Rimini and San Marino.

Wilson is the son of the late Cairine Wilson, Canada’s first female Senator. He joined the army in May 1941 despite his mother’s private objections.

In November 1943, the 1st Battalion of the Westminster Regiment was mustered overseas to England where they remained until they were deployed to Italy as part of the 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade.

The unit’s first order of business was to join in the offensive across central Italy to Ortona where they took up a defensive position just north of the coastal city.

After some additional training, they played an integral in the crossing of the Melfa River in May 1944 that breached the
infamous Hitler line and ultimately led to the liberation of Rome.

In September 1944, they were part of the 1st Canadian Corps offensive that breached the eastern most section of the Gustav Line near Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast. They also participated in the Lamone Crossing on Dec. 12, 1944 and the battle for Fosso Munio on Dec. 19.

Before leaving on Sunday, Wilson said that he had been looking forward to the trip for several weeks.

“A lot of the boys I haven’t seen in 65 years,” said Wilson, who moved to Cumberland Village after the war to be a farmer. “It’s going be quite something.”

Traveling along with the former members of the Royal Westminster Regiment, will be a several former members of the Women’s Naval Reserve, known as WRENs, who Wilson says will help keep the men “in line”.

Besides visiting the formal battle sites and war cemeteries, the group can also expect to get wined and dined by the locals. Similar reunions have been treated like royalty in the past.

“Apparently there’s going to be a little of that. The Italian people were always pretty hospitable to us when we were over there,” said Wilson.

Navan resident and native Italian Gino Nicolini has contacted many of the local municipalities the veterans will be visiting over the next two week’s to give them a heads up about the visit.

“The fact that it is Mr. Wilson’s first trip back to Italy since the war is news worthy alone, not to mention the stories that will no doubt be created by the 88 other living historians who are making this trip,” says Nicolini.

The trip itself is being organized by a travel agency out of B.C. where the regiment is based.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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Updated Dec. 11

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