Veterans Affairs Canada

Veterans Affairs Canada

December 01, 2009 15:34 ET

Canadians Remember the Brutal Battle of Ortona in Italy

ORTONA, ITALY--(Marketwire - Dec. 1, 2009) - The ancient town of Ortona holds grim memories for Canadians. Sixty-six years ago it was the site of some of the most bitter fighting of the Second World War. A Government of Canada delegation, led by the Honourable Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, stopped in Ortona today as they visited a number of historic sites with great significance for Canadians in the Italian Campaign from 1943 to 1945. Local citizens joined the delegation in a moving floral-laying ceremony at the Price of Peace monument.

"The price for freedom during the Italian Campaign was high," Minister Thompson told the gathering of Veterans, Ortona citizens and visiting Canadian students, adding that nearly 6,000 Canadians lost their lives and some 20,000 were wounded or taken prisoner of war. "Freedom is never free. The values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law that Canadians fought and died for in Ortona and throughout the 20-month campaign are the same values our Canadian Forces men and women continue to protect today."

Today, Canada also paid special tribute to a Canadian soldier, Lance-Sergeant John Aubrey Matthew of The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. A rededication ceremony was held at the Moro River Cemetery in honour of the soldier, whose grave has been identified. A grave marker formerly indicating "a soldier of the 1939-1945 war" now bears his name.

Over the next week, the members of the delegation which includes Veterans, representatives of Veterans' organizations and youth, will continue to visit historic sites relevant to Canadians in the Italian Campaign. Already, they have visited the Cassino War Cemetery where 855 Canadians lie buried and another 194 Canadians, who have no known grave, are remembered. They will also visit various other cemeteries where rows of white headstones are a sombre reminder of the cost of war.

For more information on the Second World War or to view daily reports with photos of the events in Italy, visit To watch interviews with Veterans of the Italian Campaign, search "Heroes Remembers" and "Italy" on this site.

You can also visit the Canada Remembers Facebook page or YouTube channel to share your thoughts on the Italian Campaign. How will you remember?

Contact Information

  • Veterans Affairs Canada
    Heather MacDonald
    Media Relations Officer
    Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
    Richard Roik
    Director of Communications