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Harry Broadhead

Trooper Harry Broadhead, 4624073, 145th (8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment) Royal Armoured Corps.

Harry Broadhead was born on the 29th of February 1916, the son of miner John William Broadhead (born 1885) and Annie Heald (born 1887) who married at Horbury St Peter’s and St Leonards Church Horbury on the 25th November 1905. John William Broadhead was a miner aged 20, of Horbury and Annie was 19 years old and of King Street, Horbury Bridge. In 1911 the couple were living at 26, Spa Street, Ossett, by which time the couple had two children, one of whom had sadly died before April 1911. The surviving child was not in the household.

In July 1934, Harry Broadhead of 101, Bradford Road, East Ardsley married Margaret Ethel Bull of St Michael’s, Wakefield at St Michael’s Church East Ardsley and by 1939 Harry was working as a Grocery Manager living at 39a Chancery Lane, Ossett. The couple do not appear to have had any children.

The 145th Regiment RAC was formed in November 1941 by the conversion to the armoured role of 8th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, which had been raised in 1940 and was serving in 203rd Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), a Home Defence formation serving in South West England. In common with other infantry units transferred to the Royal Armoured Corps, all personnel would have continued to wear their Duke of Wellington's cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps. They served in North Africa, Tunisia and Italy during World War II.

145 RAC was assigned to 21st Army Tank Brigade, which sailed for North Africa in March 1943, and took part in the Tunisia Campaign, including the actions on the Medjez Plain in April and around Tunis in May, its infantry tanks operating as part of a 'mixed division' with 4th Infantry Division.[4] After a year out of the line in North Africa, 21st Tank Brigade was sent to join British Eighth Army in Italy in May 1944. There it took part in I Canadian Corps' operations to force the Gothic Line (August–September), the Rimini Line (September) and the Lamone Crossing (December). 145 RAC was disbanded in Italy in December 1944.

On the 17th September 1944, 145 Regiment RAC in their Churchill tanks, were supporting a company of Canadian Seaforth Highlanders in an attempt to conquer the village of San Martino high on the Coriano ridge of Northern Italy. Three German 88mm guns, manned by German paratroopers had survived attacks by Allied artillery, shelling by two British destroyers and the close attention of Spifires from the RAF. These deadly 88mm guns were to cause mayhem and the accurate fire from the German guns took out tank after tank of the 145 Regiment. It took roughly twenty minutes to destroy 25% of "A " squadron of the 145th RAC with two dead and about seven severely wounded. In this action, Trooper Harry Broadhead was wounded and killed.

Churchill tanks in Italy in 1944

Above: Churchill tanks in Italy in 1944.

Trooper Broadhead was killed on the 17th September 1944 aged 28 years and is buried grave XII C 4 in the Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, near Riccione, Italy. On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side.

Following the fall of Rome to the Allies in June 1944, the German retreat became ordered and successive stands were made on a series of defensive lines. In the northern Appenine mountains the last of these, the Gothic Line, was breached by the Allies during the Autumn campaign and the front inched forward as far as Ravenna in the Adratic sector, but with divisions transferred to support the new offensive in France, and the Germans dug in to a number of key defensive positions, the advance stalled as winter set in.

Coriano Ridge was the last important ridge in the way of the Allied advance in the Adriatic sector in the autumn of 1944. Its capture was the key to Rimini and eventually to the River Po. German parachute and panzer troops, aided by bad weather, resisted all attacks on their positions between 4 and 12 September 1944. On the night of 12 September the Eighth Army reopened its attack on the Ridge, with the 1st British and 5th Canadian Armoured Divisions. This attack was successful in taking the Ridge, but marked the beginning of a week of the heaviest fighting experienced since Cassino in May, with daily losses for the Eighth Army of some 150 killed.

The site for the cemetery was selected in April 1945 and was created from graves brought in from the surrounding battlefields. Coriano Ridge War Cemetery contains 1,939 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site