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di Ian Dear (1935)

The most severe test for the two Troops during this period came when, on the night of 20 December, an Italian civilian came into Capracotta with the story that the Germans were about to attack the Poles' positions at Pescopennataro. He said that he had been taken by the Germans three day previously on the far side of the river and had been closely questioned as to the British dispositions in the Capracotta-Pescopennataro areas. He had been told that a German attack by 200 mountain Jäger troops would be carried out on the night of 21/22 December, with the intention of cutting out the British field guns just east of Capracotta, and that the attack would cross the Sangro at San Angelo at 7pm, clearing Pescopennataro before proceeding to the main objective. He himself had been detailed to guide the attacking troops during the approach march.

There was no means of knowing whether the man was telling the truth, but it seemed clearly unwise to ignore his story. Accordingly, the artillery at Capracotta was ordered to fire concentrations on the San Angelo crossings at 7pm, and the Poles were warned of the impending attack.

At 8pm the Poles reported that they were being attacked from the east by two groups of Germans, each forty strong. Shortly afterwards they reported that another party of approximately the same strength was attacking from the west. Between 8pm and midnight the Poles were entirely surrounded, and had to beat off successive attacks launched in different places. During this time the artillery  was firing concentrations close to the walls of Pescopennataro as directed by the FOO (Forward Observation Officer) in the village. At midnight the Poles announced that the fighting had died down but that the enemy were still in the area and were probably regrouping for a large final attack.

  • I. Dear, Ten Commando: 1942-1945, Cooper, London 1987, p. 97.

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