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Sicily | The Assault | Securing the Bridgehead | The Drive eastward | Campaign Map | Canadian Advance | Change of Plans | German Retreat | Further Reading  

The Next three days saw the establishment of the lodgement area envisaged in General Alexander's final invasion plan. On July 11th the 13 Corps gave its bridgehead over to the 30th Corps, and advanced over to the 30th Corps, and advanced northward on Augusta, which the 5th Division captured early on the 13th. The 30th Corps moved on two axes into the rough table-land which reaches down from Caltagirone to cover most of the south-east corner of the island. The 51st Division reached Vizzini on the 13th. Advancing on the Corps' left the Canadians found resistance in the towns near the coast completely broken by Allied aerial bombing and naval shelling. By the morning of the 12th they had made contact  with the 45th U.S. Division in Ragusa.

Meanwhile, on the Allied left General Patton's forces had gained possession of a continuous bridgehead which extended to a point 20 miles wet of Licata. They were putting into use the captured airfields near the coast and preparing to deepen their holdings sufficiently to provide the necessary protection for the English Army's left flank. The Americans had been the first to clash with the Germans. On July 11th their 1st Division had been beaten back with the support of naval gunfire three fierce counter attacks delivered in the Gela area by a battle group of the Herman Goring Division using 60 tanks.

It was General Alexander's intention that after the assaulting armies had secured a firm base "on a line from Catania to Licata" his forces should proceed  "to split the island in half." The first step in this direction would be to seize the central group of road junctions about Enna, and thence press on to the north coast in order to serve the east-west communications completely. Control of the road centres was of great tactical importance, for in the rugged terrain that covered the greater part of the island manoeuvre off the roads and tracks was extremely difficult, if not impossible. The unexpectedly light resistance encountered during the first few days of the campaign enabled General Montgomery to make a start on this plan before Catania had been captured. On 12th July he directed Leese to advance on Caltagirone and Enna, and thence on Leonforte, an important road centre on the main Catania-Palermo highway;  the 13th Corps was to continue its drive northward along the coast.

The attack on the Army's right flank met strong opposition. On the night of 13-14 July Commando troops, landing in the Gulf of Catania, secured a road bridge on the main Syracuse-Catania highway; while farther north the 1st Parachute Brigade (of the 1st Airborne Division), dropping at the mouth of the Simeto River, captured the important Primosole Bridge six miles south of Catania. Both bridges were held until on the arrival of reliving troops, and on the 16th, after very bitter fighting, a small foothold was established north of the Simento. Efforts by the 50th Division to break out of this bridgehead failed; it was apparent that the Germans were determined to oppose as long as possible the capture of Catania and the important Gerbini airfields.

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