Today, Brick to the Past builder James Pegrum explores his family’s involvement in the Second World War and the loss of his uncle, Barry Pegrum, who died on the Trasimene Line 75 years ago today. James and his family are also in Italy today, commemorating the event.
With Rome taken from the Germans at the beginning of June 1944, the German army has set up a number of defensive lines that stretch across Italy to halt, or if that failed, slow down the advancing Allied forces.
On the 20th June 1944, two British Infantry Divisions, the 78th and 4th, advanced on the 1 Fallschirmjager-Division and 334 Infanterie-Division of the German 10th Army in the territory which lies between Lake Trasimeno to the east and the two lakes of Chiusi and Montepulciano to the West. This defensive formation was known as ‘The Trasimene Line’ and was primarily set up to enable the Germans to delay the Allied forces so they could fortify and strengthen the Gothic Line further North.
By 24th June, the forward Allied forces had pushed the German troops less than a mile North and were lined up across Pucciarelli having captured Sanfatucchio after intense fighting. The 105 Anti-Tank Regiment, supporting the Infantry Divisions moved up to Sanfatucchio with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry in the morning. By the evening the Royal Irish Fusiliers along with others were lined up along the Pescia stream which was not possible to ford, while the 78th Division, which they were a part, was across the River Pescia on both sides of what is now Highway 71. Armoured support however, was restricted to the south bank due to the partial demolition of the road bridge. The Pescia was found to be impassable for wheels and tracks without bridging but the 5th Buffs moved over unsupported and established a bridgehead. Engineers from 214 Field Company worked all night of the 24th into the 25th with a heavy thunderstorm taking place. By 0500 hours on the 25th it was possible for the tanks to cross over but they were bogged down in the mud. It took up to 0930 for the vehicles that had been bogged to become free and eventually pass over the bridge.
One of the casualties of the fighting was a British manned American M10 Tank destroyer which was struck, possibly by either a German Panzershreck or Panzerfaust bazooka. All five British personnel either died immediately or from their wounds within 24 hours. Among the casualties was my Uncle, Barry Pegrum, aged 19.
Whilst I never knew him, his and so many others sacrifice has shaped the world we live in today. Most of the above information has been learnt by my brother - and along with our sister we will be visiting the scene of the battle and his final place of rest, 75 years on. The cost of war on our family, like so many, has left its mark and its sad effects are being remembered throughout this year with many 75th anniversaries taking place. As we look back thankful for the peace gained there is a lesson from such violence and cost of lives within our families that we should strive as individuals, communities, nations and as a planet to find less dreadful ways to secure peace in our relationships with each other.
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