Posts Tagged ‘December 20-28’

Farley Mowat: Vino

“I can tell you about a dog called Vino, a totally inscrutable creature who drifted into our lines north of Ortona in the winter of 1943″

As Farley describes vividly in his book AND NO BIRDS SANG about his military service in WW11 and especially in the Italian campaign, the Battle of Ortona was fought between December 20-28, 1943. It was a small but extremely fierce battle between German paratroopers and assaulting Canadian forces from the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. Sometimes called ‘Little Stalingrad’ for the in-your-face level of sustained combat, the Battle of Ortona and “Bloody December” is a beacon for bravery in the annals of Canadian military history.

“Vino attached himself to one of the platoons and they fed and looked after him; he responded by being a very good soldier’s dog. Then somebody noticed that he wore a peculiar collar. They took it off and discovered when they split it open that it contaned a very detailed but tiny map of the German artillery postions on the opposite side of the river where we were positioned.

Our own artillery was called in and did a considerable amount of damage to the German guns opposite us. Nobody ever leared how this information came to be in Vino’s collar but it was assumed it was placed there by one of the battalion partisans and that Vino was then sent across the lines to take it to us. Whatever the background of the story, there is no doubt that he served us very well and as a result he was treated as a hero within the Company for the rest of this life. Unfortunately, it was short. The truck he was riding in went over a landmine about a month later and everybody in it, including Vino, was killed. So there’s your story, as far as it goes.”