Ortona Remembered

This week, rather than attend to their usual Tuesday night training activities, cadets of 72nd Seaforth Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps commemorated the Christmas Dinner served to members of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada during the historic Battle of Ortona.

The background story goes like this: December 25, 1943 was Christmas in Ortona, Italy and the war against Nazi Germany was being fought vigorously. In a bombed-out church (Santa Maria di Constantinopoli) members of the Seaforth Highlanders gathered in shifts for a Christmas dinner a few blocks away from the fighting. The quartermaster had scrounged the essentials for this special meal—table cloths, chinaware, beer, wine, roast pork, applesauce, cauliflower, mashed potatoes, gravy, chocolate, oranges, nuts, and cigarettes. An organist played “Silent Night” and for a few moments there was a semblance of normality as the soldiers were able to sing these words amongst the raging war. But they had to return to the fighting. For some, it would be their last meal. The battle lasted from December 20th to December 27th, 1943.


[PHOTO: The original Ortona dinner. Image: courtesy of Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Archives]

Now, 76 years later in Vancouver, our cadets dressed in their field training uniforms (FTU’s) and recreated the original meal. Sgt Ching delivered a reading about the Battle of Ortona and the history of the dinner served that evening in 1943. Cdt McNally gave the toast to the Queen, MCpl VanDunn gave the toast to the Regiment, and MCpl Braude gave the toast to Fallen. Under direction of Sgt Tam in the role of PMC, Cadets also learned the finer points of attending a formal military dinner, thus completing a part of their training and also stimulating an interest in the history and traditions of their affiliated unit, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. To top the evening off, MWO Leong was promoted to RSM


[PHOTO: Seaforth Army Cadets commemorate the Ortona Diner, under camouflage netting, at the Seaforth Armoury. Image: CV Menzies]

Cadets were joined by distinguished guests Seaforth Hon. Col. Hoffmeister, Seaforth RSM McKenzie, Ms. Valerie Merritt of the Billy Bishop / Kerrisdale Legion, and Mr. Gordon Coburn of the Mount Pleasant Legion, who all joined 72RCACC commanding officer Capt Millard at the head table. The Seaforth Regiment’s pastor Capt. Lees also attended and gave the Selkirk Grace.


[PHOTO: Capt. Lees delivers the Selkirk Grace. Image: Lt. Urbanowski]

The aim of the cadet organization is to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship, and leadership; promote physical fitness; and stimulate an interest in the activities of the Canadian Armed Forces. Youth between 12 to 18 years of age may enrol in cadets. 72nd Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps parades at the Seaforth Armoury, 1650 Burrard Street (corner of West 1st Avenue and Burrard Street) on Tuesday nights, from 6:30pm. The Army Cadet program is sponsored by the Canadian Armed Forces and is supported in partnership by the Army Cadet League of Canada. For information on joining, visit the How to Join section of this website.

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