Faenza, Trieste and home - the Italian campaign

North to Florence

After a period of rest and recuperation, the 'Div' was back in action again in July as part of the Allied effort to breach the Germans' new so-called Gothic Line running from Pisa to Rimini in the northern Apennines. The New Zealanders enjoyed early success in their return to the battlefield, capturing the town of Arezzo on 16 July. Seeking to move on to Florence, they encountered solid German resistance but eventually reached the city on 4 August. The New Zealanders were back in the line the following month, fighting their way across difficult terrain in a slow advance which brought them to the Savio River by the end of October. They now had a month's break during which the Division was reorganised.

Faenza and the Senio River

They rejoined the attack in late November and succeeded in capturing Faenza on 14 December. Having reached the Senio River, the Division halted and endured its second Italian winter. After another period of relief, the 'Div' lined up again on the banks of the Senio River on 8 April to begin what would prove the final offensive in Italy. The New Zealanders now moved forward at an increasingly rapid pace. After crossing the Senio, the drive continued to the Santerno River and then on to the Gaiana River. Briefly halted there, the New Zealanders then pushed on to the Idice, finally crossing the Po River on Anzac Day 1945. Taking Padua on 28 April, the 'Div' embarked on its last helter-skelter advance, amidst disintegrating German resistance and partisan success everywhere.

To Trieste

The 'Div' crossed the Izonso River on 1 May and reached Trieste the next day just as the German forces in Italy surrendered unconditionally. After their exhilarating final charge covering over 220 kilometres in less than a week, the New Zealanders arrived just in time to share in the city's liberation with local partisans and units of Josip Tito's Fourth Yugoslav Army. It should have been a final moment of glory in the Italian campaign—a chance to savour the end of the war in Europe and relax before a speedy return home. Instead, it proved a 'helluva way to end a war', as one soldier recorded in his diary.

The fortunes of war had pitched the 'Div' into an international hot spot, as Trieste became the setting for the first inter-Allied clash of the post-war era in Europe. The city was the focal point of a bitter territorial dispute between Italy and Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs had hoped to strengthen their post-war claims to Trieste by being first to liberate it and then putting in place their own military administration. The Western Allies, however, had planned that the city should come under Allied Military Government like other parts of liberated Italy, pending a final peace settlement. By arriving in Trieste when they did, the Second Division dashed the Yugoslavs' hopes of presenting the Western Allies with a fait accompli. For some weeks, Trieste was under an uneasy dual occupation. Only after the problem was resolved diplomatically at the highest Allied levels were the New Zealand soldiers able to relax when the Yugoslavs reluctantly withdrew from the city in mid-June.

Home to New Zealand

The following month, the Division began moving to Lake Trasimene, from where most of the New Zealanders would began their long journey home. Limited availability of shipping meant that it would prove a slow process and it was not until February 1946 that the last members of the 'Div' ended their wartime Italian sojourn.

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How to cite this page: 'Faenza, Trieste and home - the Italian campaign', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/the-italian-campaign/faenza-trieste, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 23-Apr-2014