During the night of 13 July 1943 the 1st Parachute Brigade under command of Brigadier C W Lathbury and consisting of 1, 2 and 3 Parachute Battalions, preceded by the Pathfinders from 21st Independent Company, dropped in Sicily. The objective was to capture the Primosole Bridge spanning the River Simeto. This vital defile covered the approaches to the Catonia Plain, over which the sea-borne invasion forces must pass to advance north.
Fired upon by both the enemy and the Allied invasion fleet the drop was widely scattered. Only 12 officers and 283 airborne soldiers from the 1,856 committed actually reached their rendezvous points. Nevertheless, the bridge was captured by dawn on 14 July.
Throughout the day the 4th German Fallschirmjäger (Parachute) Brigade attacked the weakly held position, from the west and north without success. When they crossed the river to the east and attacked from three directions the remnants of the brigade were forced into a small perimeter to the south. It held until the 4th Armoured Brigade arrived from the invasion beaches.
An attack was made by the 9th Durham Light infantry (DLI) but beaten off with considerable cost by the Germans. At dawn on 15 July a further attack by the DLI guided by Lt Col A S Pearson, commanding 1st Para Bn, and supported by brigade remnants successfully retook the bridge intact. The small brigade ‘scratch-force’ that managed to reach the objective had lost 27 killed, 78 wounded and several missing.
HQ 1st Parachute Brigade
1, 2, and 3 Parachute Battalions
Supporting Bde Arms and services,
including 21st Independent Company The Parachute Regiment.
Battle Honour Conferred: