Canada’s part in World War Two’s Italian campaign commemorated in docu-film

There are a few key events during World War Two that are commemorated in the mainstream, however there are hundreds of thousands of events, people and stories that were experienced during the war that remain little known.

One of those being is the role of Canadian troops as they made their way through Sicily on Europe’s Italian campaign with the intent of pushing on into Italy in 1943.

Until that time Canadian troops hadn’t been involved in any major action aside from Dieppe. But on this mission Canadian troops had to march 300kms across Sicily in order to secure the Southern Front. It was the gains on the Southern Front that occupied Nazi troops and enabled D-Day to take place in the north.

Last year on the 70th anniversary of the march, Max Fraser and a group of ten Canadian war enthusiasts made the exact same trip in commemoration of the role the Canadian troops played and for the sacrifice they made.

Max’s father, James Fraser, was one of those Canadian troops who marched across Sicily. He fought with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment.

Max says that his father didn’t really talk about his war experiences until later in life when he did start to open up about what had happened during that time.

It was in 2006 when Max and his daughter went on a school trip to Italy and France on a tour of the battlefields. It grasped Max’s interest and emotions, just trying to imagine what it would have been like for his father. He wanted to do something that would help to immortalise the Canadian troop efforts during the war.

On his return from Europe Max heard about the expedition to Sicily and immediately got involved. Ten Canadians from all different parts of the country took part in the walk that lasted three weeks. They started from the beach at Pachino in the south of the island to Agira in the north east.

They would march 15kms every day and start out early in the mornings in order to stay out of the summer sun. The march wasn’t just on flat ground, there was a lot of mountainous terrain.

The original Canadian troops experienced little resistance at first, but as they made their way further north there was a lot of fighting and many were killed in action.

When the expedition to commemorate the journey reached Agira where the original troops had ended their mission, the group held a ceremony and roll call of every single Canadian soldier who had taken part was read aloud, The Hamilton Spectator reports.

Max not only took part, he filmed the entire expedition. As film-maker he has documented the project and is currently editing the film and finalising interviews.

Max is funding the film via crowdsourcing through which he has raised around $30,000.

Max has called the film ‘Bond of Strangers,’ since the ten people who took part in the expedition started off as strangers, but through their journey became life-long friends, just like the troops must have experienced.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE