Canada’s National War Finance Committee presents “Sicily: Key to Victory,” a black-and-white World War II-era film released following the July-August 1943 Sicilian Campaign. Filmed by the Canadian Army Film Unit and produced by the National Film Board of Canada, the picture is a partial record of the achievements of Canada’s First Division in that campaign.
A scroll at the start of the film explains, “The victory in Sicily began in the wheat fields and factories of Canada. Only by the ever-increasing stream of arms and supplies and with the full support of the men and women of Canada was this victory possible. In this unity of effort lies the key to victory, in war and in peace, over the enemies of freedom”
At mark 01:50, we are shown troops from the First Division as they prepare to set sail in June 1943. “Men, machines, and materials were going into history with this convoy,” we are told starting at mark 02:00, as battleships, corvettes, cruisers, and destroyers are shown at sea. “One thing’s for sure: this floating camp is headed for Zero Hour.”
“The Navy’s on the job all right,” we’re emphatically told at mark 02:50. “Ready to paste the U-Boats to kingdom come; blow the Jerry pilots into the drink.”
At mark 03:13, the troops are finally told where they are going: Sicily.
After a 2,000 mile journey, the convoy approaches its target: only to be met by rough seas and a raging storm. Waves crash over the bows of ships, as we see starting at mark 04:20, as they are buffeted by wind and rain.
By mark 04:53, the troops are ready to attack Axis powers on their home turf. Zero Hour, July 10, 1943. An illustration shows some of the seven landing points, including Licata, Gela, and Pachino, as the film switches to scenes of offshore bombardments in the dead of night and the eventual landing of troops on the beach. Facing little resistance, the Allied troops move forward, and beginning at mark 06:00 we see tanks and transports rolling through the sand, as we’re told vessels span 100 miles across the coastline.
British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery appears at mark 07:24 to salute the Allied fighters, as we then see troops move deeper into Sicily, toward Agrigento, Augusta, Caltagirone, and Syracuse, allowing Canadian forces to move toward Enna, in the center of Sicily. In only a week, Allied troops occupied a quarter of Sicily as they faced only week resistance.
The viewer is informed at mark 08:38, “The Italian soldiers act happy (after laying down their arms). Thousands of them anxious to surrender. It don’t look to me like their hearts are in it, fighting for Il Dulce and the Nazis. But this show hasn’t been easy. The enemy doesn’t give up easily everywhere. But we put the Nazis where they belonged. But some of our boys got it too…,” as the camera pans makeshift graves and covered bodies. “We’ve got a score to settle all over the world.”
Near mark 11:00, Allied troops are seen marching into Enna, after only two weeks of fighting, as the camera pans along building ruins and abandoned military equipment. Montgomery and Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, who commanded the First Canadian Infantry Division and II Canadian Corps are shown reviewing battle plans at mark 12:00 as soldiers take a break from the battle, lying in shade, taking an impromptu bath, or enjoying a cigarette.
With more than two-thirds of Sicily under control of the Allies by mark 14:20, Canadian forces are shown moving on Nazi strongholds at Agira, as heavy artillery fires on German positions at mark 15:15. Canadians tool control of Agira on July 28, 1943.
With the fall of Randazzo and Messina at mark 18:52, the Allied sweep through Sicily was complete, ending the first round in the battle for Europe in 38 days.
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