Explorica, a company creating educational tours that connect students to new cultures, languages and people through educational travel, has been chosen as the exclusive educational tour operator for 70th anniversary tours commemorating the Canadian role in “Operation Husky”. The company was chosen by “Operation Husky 2013”, a memorial campaign organized by Canada Company Québec Chapter President Steve Gregory and designed to honour those who fought and fell in this historic Canadian military effort.
The Allied invasion of Sicily, known as “Operation Husky”, was the first successful Second World War invasion of the European mainland. It began on July 10th 1943, when Canadian soldiers landed at Pachino, Sicily and bravely fought and prevailed against the Italian and German defences. Flanked by General Montgomery and the British Eighth Army on the right, and General Patton and the US Seventh Army on the left, Canadian participation in Operation Husky marked the first independent role for Canadian soldiers in the Second World War. Its success led to the creation of a second major front that made the liberation of Italy possible, and ultimately led to the victory of Allied forces in Europe. 25,000 Canadian soldiers fought in Operation Husky, representing the entire country, and 562 lost their lives.
“We have to honour these men,” Gregory says. “- Operation Husky was the first time that Canadian troops fought under their own command in WWII. Our soldiers fought brilliantly and earned the reputation among Nazis as “Red Patch Devils” in Sicily. The sacrifice made by our men was significant 562 killed, 2310 wounded but nobody knows about it! Most veterans feel their sacrifice has been forgotten or overshadowed by D-day at Normandy. These were 19-year-olds, sons, fathers, brothers and husbands who gave their lives for us. We have to do more to honour them.”
Operation Husky 2013
Gregory was helping his son research the Sicilian Campaign for a sixth-grade school history project when the lack of information and awareness he encountered inspired him to organize the 2013 Canadian Citizens’ Memorial Campaign in Sicily (now “Operation Husky 2013”), to be held on the 70th anniversary of the Campaign in July of 2013. Planned events of Operation Husky 2013 include revisiting the route taken by the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in 1943 and conducting remembrance ceremonies at locations of significance to the Canadian advance.
Many veterans, historians and military experts have rallied to Gregory’s cause. Among them is Dr. Lee Windsor, Italian Campaign historian and military expert at the University of New Brunswick’s Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society. Windsor is collaborating with the Canadian war history tour specialists at Explorica to design meaningful itineraries and events for Operation Husky 2013 in honour of the Canadian effort in 1943.
Operation Husky was a pivotal campaign for Canada’s military and a turning point in WWII. This important, but sadly little-known, initiative deserves to be commemorated. Explorica and Operation Husky 2013 will be offering tours for the military (and their families), war history enthusiasts and experts, as well as teachers and students. Those interested can contact Allison Shepstone for more information on the Explorica tour options.