The Ortona Dinner

Remembering our past and marking major historical and civic events in Canadian history is an important aspect of the Army Cadet program. Readers may have seen Seaforth cadets at a Canada Day parade, a Remembrance Day event, or event at the opening of one of the BC Lions’ football games. But, because it is less public, there’s another event very few people see – the annual Ortona Dinner. The event introduces cadets to the traditions of a formal “mess dinner” (a far cry from our usual field training exercise meals!) and reproduces the core elements of a famous dinner held by members of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada on Christmas Eve, 1943

2018 marks the 75thanniversary of that famous battle which pitched Canadians against two battalions of German Fallschirmjager (paratroops) in the strategically important Italian port town of Ortona. The initial attack on the town was made on December 20 and continued until the Germans withdrew from the town on December 28th. In the middle of the battle, on the evening of the 24th, the Seaforth Highlanders’ quartermaster managed to create a moment of civility amidst the relentless conflict by providing a Christmas dinner in the nave of the Church of Santa di Constantinopoli.

To learn more about the Battle of Ortona read a full account of the Seaforth’s experience on the Regiment’s website, and view this episode of For King and Country by military historian Norm Christie.

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At the cadets’ dinner, on December 11, the original menu was replicated and the story of the battle was told. We were very fortunate to be able to hold our dinner in the Seaforth Armoury and grateful to be joined by the Regiment’s Commanding Officer LCol Ed Haverstock, Maj Steve McNally, and Valerie Merrett of the Billy Bishop / Kerrisdale Legion.

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