This Day in History: 1944-02-19

Anzio. In the early hours, 1st Loyals are heavily shelled and dive-bombed, then at 4 a.m. 2 German battalions, supported by tanks, attack and over-run C Company, with the exception of the right forward platoon, No.15. At dawn the platoon’s commander, Lieutenant E.W. Black, not knowing what had happened, goes to Company HQ to report, and is captured. 15 Platoon, however, holds on doggedly and it is not until the following morning, after they had been cut off for 28 hours, that the gallant little band is contacted by some tanks.

Intense fighting continues to rage across the battalion front. By mid-day, it has suffered nearly 200 casualties and is down to 24 officers and 509 men. Yet it has not withdrawn from a single trench, and the troops who are over-run have continued fighting grimly to the last man.

Finally, at 3 p.m.  a counter-attack by the North Staffords re-takes the C Company positions. Lt. Black and 20 fellow prisoners have the satisfaction of turning the table on their captors, and marching them back to Battalion HQ at the point of the bayonet. By 4 p.m. the defence line is completely restored.

The action marks the turning point in the battle for the Anzio beach-head.  Major-General Everleigh, the British Chief of Staff at Corps HQ, later declares that had it not been for 1st Loyals, the beach-head would have fallen.