The Gothic Line: Canada's Month of Hell in World War II Italy


551 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55365-023-9
DDC 940.54'215





Reviewed by Trevor S. Raymond

Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.


This volume completes Zuehlke’s hefty trilogy on the Canadian army in
the 1943–45 Italian campaign, which left 5900 of our soldiers buried
in Italy. Here, he deals with the “largest, most decisive battles”
of the fight: the assault on Germany’s Gothic Line from Florence east
through the Apennine Mountains to the Adriatic Sea in August and
September 1944. Zuehlke skilfully sketches the overall strategic picture
and provides revealing and sometimes critical portraits of the
commanders, both English and Canadian, but his focus is primarily on the
soldier in the field. From official military records, published and
unpublished studies and memoirs, and interviews with veterans and
Italians who lived through those terrible weeks, he gives an almost
bullet-by-bullet, metre-by-metre account of a terrible and bloody
struggle that cost 4511 Canadian casualties. There are times, however,
when one might lose track of just which company and which platoon was
which, and who was moving where.

Maps are provided, and five appendixes include rank structures in the
Canadian and German armies, as well as lists of most of the Canadian
units in the battle, and an explanation of the various decorations. (It
may surprise some to find that only the Victoria Cross is open to
anyone; other decorations are tied to particular ranks.) A glossary
explains a number of common military terms and weaponry, but one might
wish that more of the abbreviations used in the text were explained

This ferocious campaign, not even mentioned in the 13-part National
Film Board series Canada at War, has been generally overlooked, as
Canadians remember more vividly our soldiers who were fighting from
Normandy through to the low countries at the same time. Zuehlke’s
accessible narrative, solidly grounded in well-documented research,
restores to us a piece of our history that has been almost forgotten.


Zuehlke, Mark., “The Gothic Line: Canada's Month of Hell in World War II Italy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,