In Memoriam  -   Colin Roderick Penness                                                                             Home


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Arthur Ernest Abbott

William John Berrill

Peter (F.C.) Causebrook

Harold Cheaseman

Gordon Roy Coe

Jack Dunkley

Gordon George Elderton

Peter Gifford Felce

Frederick Furr

Harold Philip Gardiner

Anthony Robert Gillitt

Ronald Douglas Hales

Norman Leonard Hornsey

Robert Howard

Edwin Hudson

John Arthur Paul Loake

Richard Saxby Mutimer

Raymond Reginald Norman Raymond George Osborne Brian Terence Peck
Colin Roderick Penness Douglas Arthur Prigmore John Harry Sharp Norman Perkins Sharpe
Robert Troath Died after Korean War: Raymond-Kimber Leslie Walters

If you can help with his early career please contact me:

COLIN RODERICK PENNESS, born 23.7.1924, entered the School in September 1935.  In 1940, he joined the Staff of Tecnic Boot Co. and

In March 1943 he joined R.E.M.E.  From September 1943 to March 1944 he served in North Africa.  He then went to Italy, where he was killed in September 1944, in the Battle of the Gothic Line.  He is buried in the British War Cemetery at Montechio, N.  Italy. 

He was the son of Mr.  and Mrs.J.Penness, 71 Newton Road, Rushden.

'In Memoriam'  book


Two other Old Grammarians who served in the 8th army also died in Italian battles

John Loake      died on the 28th April 1944;  buried at Naples.

Colin Roderick Penness     3rd September 1944 at the Gothic Line

William Berrill died on the 24th April 1945, in the battle at Argenta Gap

 Sadly, being in different regiments they probably did not even know of each others presence.

The difficulty with discovering Roderick's movements in Italy is because whilst REME had major repair sections,  

REME detachments are part of the make-up of every combat, service or support unit in the Army and wherever the unit goes, REME goes too. During action this could mean being part of a Rapid Response Unit where a Vehicle Mechanic may be called upon to change the power pack of a Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank, close to the front line.


Colin joined REME in March 1943 and initially served in North Africa, moving to Italy after John Loake had died at Naples   The allied troops were at this time attacking the Gustav defenses. These operations resulted in casualties of over 54,000 Allied and 20,000 German soldiers.

Right: After the Battle of Monte Cassino:  Ruins of Cassino town  (Wikipedia)


Adriatic front (British 8th Army) 25 August to 4 September 1944

British 8th Army crossed the Metauro river and launched its attack against the Gothic Line outposts on August 25. Polish II Corps was on the coast, I Canadian Corps was on the coastal plain on the Poles' left and V Corps was in the hills on the Canadians' left.

 British X Corps was on the left wing of the 8th Army front in a holding role. As the coastal plain narrowed near Pesaro, it was planned that the Polish Corps, weakened by losses and lack of replacements, would go into Army reserve and the front on the coastal plain would become the responsibility of the Canadian Corps alone. The Germans were taken by surprise. They were in the process of pulling back their forward units to the Gothic Line proper and were uncertain whether this was the start of a major offensive or just 8th Army advancing to occupy vacated ground whilst the main Allied attack would come on the U.S. 5th Army front towards Bologna. It was not until August 28 when they saw a captured copy of General Leese's order of the day to his army prior to the attack that they realised that a major offensive was in progress, and 3 divisions of reinforcements were ordered from Bologna to the Adriatic front, still needing at least two days to get into position.

By August 30 the Canadian and British Corps had reached the second main defensive positions running along the ridges on the far side of the Foglia river. Taking advantage of the Germans' lack of manpower, the Canadians punched through and by September 3 had advanced a further 15 miles (24 km) to the third line of defenses running from the

Right:  Gothic Line

coast near Riccione. The Allies were close to breaking through to Rimini and the Romagna plain. However, German LXXVI Panzer Corps on the Tenth Army's left wing had withdrawn in good order behind the line of the Conca river.  Fierce resistance from the Corps's 1st Parachute Division, commanded by Richard Heidrich, supported by intense artillery fire from the Coriano ridge in the hills on the Canadians' left brought their advance to a halt.


Meanwhile, the British V Corps was finding progress in the more difficult hill terrain with its poor roads tough going. On September 3 and September 4 (September 3rd was the day Colin Penness died), whilst the Canadians once again attacked along the coastal plain, V Corps made an armoured thrust to dislodge the Coriano Ridge defenses and reach the Marano river. This was to open the gate to the plain beyond which could be rapidly exploited by the tanks of British 1st Armoured Division, poised for this purpose. However, after two days of gruesome fighting with heavy losses on both sides, the Allies were obliged to call off their assault and reassess their strategy. General Leese decided to outflank the Coriano ridge positions by driving westwards towards Croce and Gemmano to reach the Merano valley which curved behind the Coriano and Riccione positions to the sea.


Further Information on the Gothic Line:

Gothic Line: 1st Phase. 1944 - THE BATTLE OF RIMINI

Gothic Line Defenses

Gothic Line attack and 8th Army

The Gothic Line: The Battle for San Martina By Trooper Tom Canning (One man's experience)








United Kingdom




Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers



Date of Death:


Service No:


Additional information:

Son of James and Winifred Penness, of Rushden, Northamptonshire.

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

II. H. 9.










Visiting Information:

The cemetery is permanently open and may be visited anytime. Wheelchair access to site is possible, but may be by alternative entrance. For further information regarding wheelchair access, please contact our Enquiries Section on telephone number 01628 507200.

Location Information:

The War Cemetery lies in the locality of Montecchio in the Commune of Montelabbate (Province of Pesaro). It stands on rising ground just north of the main road from Pesaro to Urbino, about 12 kilometres west of Pesaro. Take the SS 423 from Pesaro to Urbino, following the signs for Montecchio. Just before entering the town, the cemetery will be seen on the right hand side of the road.

Historical Information:

On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Following the fall of Rome to the Allies in June 1944, the German retreat became ordered and successive stands were made on a series of defensive positions known as the Trasimene, Arezzo, Arno and Gothic Lines. Montecchio lies near the eastern end of the Gothic Line. The anti-tank ditch of this defensive system used to run through the valley immediately below the cemetery. Montecchio village was practically razed to the ground for purposes of defence during the war and much damage was done in the surrounding country. The site was selected by the Canadian Corps for burials during the fighting to break into the Gothic Line in the autumn of 1944. An additional plot was added later for graves brought in from the surrounding country. Montecchio War Cemetery contains 582 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

No. of Identified Casualties:




2Bn REME’s History


The Corp of REME was formed on the 1st October 1942 through the amalgamation of tradesmen from the RAOC, RASC and RE. Through the provisions of the Kings Regulations 1940, the powers of command and combatant status were granted.

The origins of the Battalion can be traced to 5 Light Repair Section, which was raised in1940, (prior to the formation of the Corp), on Salisbury Plain. From 1940 to 1942 the Section fought in North Africa under the designation of 22 Armd Bde Light Repair Sect, and later as 22 Armd Bde Workshop. In 1943 REME landed at Salerno and supported 22 Armd Bde in the Italian campaign until it was withdrawn to take part in the Normandy Landings later that year. As part of 7 Armd Div, the REME supported 21 Army Group from Normandy to the Baltic, finally stopping at Itzehoe in 1944.


REME’s purpose:

when breakdowns happen, it is REME that get things moving again.

Whether it is on exercise or just general daily use, the Army's kit needs to be maintained 24/7. Thousands of pieces of equipment are used by the Army every day - rifles to rocket launchers, armoured vehicles to helicopters - and as you would expect, REME doesn't sit around waiting for things to go wrong. Equipment needs to be ready for action when the Army needs it, so a key part of the job is regular inspection and maintenance.




Gothic Line:   1st Phase. 1944 - THE BATTLE OF RIMINI

"Alexander's Summer Offensive" (Churchill)

"The Battle of the Apennines" (Kesselring)


Rimini, a very ancient Etruscan-Celtic-Roman town,  where in 49 B.C. the Eagles of Julius Caesar started their imperial flight,  where in 359 A.D. a "diabolical" Council gave temporarily the Christian Church to the heretical Arians,  where in 1226 the Emperor Friedrich the 2nd Hohenstaufen gave birth to the modern Germany with the Gold Bulle von Rimini,  where in 1300 Dante sang the everlasting tragedy of Paolo and Francesca and  in 1450 Sigismondo Malatesta started the Italian Renaissance in 1944 was again in the focus of History.


25 Aug - 30 Sept '44    The Battle of Rimini

" Now we begin the last lap. Swiftly and secretly we have moved an Army of immense strength and striking power to break the Gothic Line. Victory in coming battles means the beginning of the end for the German Armies in Italy." (Gen. Leese)


The Gothic Line (rechristened "Green Line" in June '44) was a fortified line, running Km 320 from Pesaro on the Adriatic to Massa Carrara on the Tyrrhenian sea., thick with Panther gun turrets, steel shelters, rock tunnellings of defence positions, deep minefields, etc. From the left bank of the river Foglia it had 2,376 machine-gun posts, 479 antitank guns, mortar and assault guns positions, 120.000 metres of wire and many miles of antitank ditches. Before there was a Security Line and behind, at 20 Km., the Gothic Line n.2. Alexander's offensive was launched by Churchill himself. Its first phase, "the battle of Rimini", "the biggest battle of materials ever fought in Italy", was one of the most crucial (and unknown) battles of the 2nd World War, fought by 1.200.000 men and thousands of guns, tanks and aircraft.  It was a giant pincer manoeuvre fought by the British 8th Army on the Adriatic and by the US 5th Army in the Apennines.  Against Rimini, already ruined by 92 air raids, the Allied Artillery fired 1,470,000 rounds (1,200,000 at El Alamein, 500,000 at Cassino), not counting the British Navy and  the German Artillery. The aircraft flew 11.510 sorties (486 only on Sept.18). Casualties until 21.09.1944 amounted to around 80,000, civilians inclusive, and to more than 754 armoured vehicles destroyed or damaged only in the Adriatic sector. In the whole battle, casualties were around 100,000, Italians inclusive. (On 7 Oct. Alexander assessed 30,000 allied and 42,000 German casualties).  The battle climaxed in the last days of September 1944.  Breached the Gothic Lines. 1 and 2, captured Rimini gateway to North Italy and to the Balkans, cut the German defences in the Apennines, Kesselring was menaced with being surrounded. He felt to be defeated and asked Hitler twice to evacuate Italy. The victory for the Allies was within grasp, but soon disappeared when the Americans were stopped at Mount Battaglia.  Kesselring, the winner, was later rewarded with the command of the German Armies in the West.


According to the international official histories the real Gothic Line offensive ends with the end of the battle of Rimini, on Sept. 30.  The Germans prolong it to the end of October. According to us the "battle of rivers" which followed until Jan. 6th, 1945 should be regarded as its 2nd phase. Totally the casualties increased to around 200.000. The 2nd phase went on by force of inertia. The Americans couldn't take Bologna and the British had to stop at the river Senio (Irmgard Line).

Churchill admitted the failure of the offensive that cost Italy the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia, but pursued his Balkan plans with a landing in Greece which denied the Mediterranean to the Russians.


Gothic Line Defenses

34th Infantry Division     US forces

Searching for the most economical defense line by whose retention the maximum share of Italy's wealth could be assured to them, the Germans decided to base their main line of fortifications on the southern crest of the Apennine Mountains chain, north of the Arno River, where a kink in the backbone of Italy placed the forbidding heights in a barrier from the western coast right across the boot almost to Rimini, now under assault of the Eighth Army. This belt of defenses the Germans had named the "Gothic Line".


   From the start it was conceived as a long-term project. Even in January 1944 constant aerial reconnaissance had discerned the preparations for permanent concrete defenses,field works, and the beginning of one of the most elaborate anti-tank ditches in the theater. Although the successful German resistance along the Gustav Line at Cassino had diverted the enemy's attention from the Gothic Line to positions south of Rome, the defeat which the Germans had suffered in the fighting from May onward had refocused their attention to their original defensive choice. Reports from many sources testified to the feverish activity in the Apennines and by August the project was very nearly complete. The line itself was three to four miles deep and consisted of field-type bunkers revetted with logs, rails, and railroad ties, "text-book" concrete emplacements for anti-tank guns, tank turrets with high-velocity guns dug into the rock so that only 12 inches of the cupola appeared above the surface, enormous minefields sown wherever movement appeared feasible, anti-tank ditches wide and deep enough to accommodate a double-decker bus, their sides strongly reinforced with pine saplings, and the whole undertaking protected by thick bands of barbed wire and anti-personnel mines actuated by trip wires. Some of the most cunning positions known were anti-tank and machine-gun emplacements dug into the face of a cliff in such a manner that only a small embrasure could be seen from the Allied side. Access to this artificial cave was gained by means of a trap door in the surface of the road above, down a vertical shaft leading to the firing chamber.


   Through this formidable network of defenses two main routes existed in this sector north of Florence. One was the main highway (No. 65) connecting Bologna to Florence; the second was a parallel road [S 325] connecting Bologna with Prato, running by way of Vernio. Both of these highways ran though easily defensible mountain passes, the most famous of which was the Futa Pass of Highway 65. The Germans had prepared demolitions on all bridges along these roads, and at awkward hairpin turns they had laid 500 pound charges at intervals of a few hundred yards which, on being detonated, would blow the road off the face of the earth.


   The penetration by frontal assault of long-prepared defenses, adequately garrisoned, is one of the most costly projects known to warfare, and while everybody realized that the operation, if successful, would virtually end the war in Italy, it was in no mood of lighthearted optimism, but rather one of grim determination, that the 34th Division began preparations to play its part in the attack on this famous position.


Gothic Line attack and 8th Army

Operation Olive, as the new offensive was christened, called for Leese's Eighth Army to attack up the Adriatic coast towards Pesaro and Rimini and draw in the German reserves from the center of the country. General Clark's US Fifth Army would then attack in the weakened central Apennines north of Florence towards Bologna with British XIII Corps on the right wing of the attack fanning towards the coast to create a pincer with the Eighth Army advance. This meant that as a preparatory move, the bulk of Eighth Army had to be transferred from the centre of Italy to the Adriatic coast, taking two valuable weeks, whilst a new intelligence deception plan was commenced to convince Kesselring that the main attack would be in the centre.


Information till 4th September given above in the tables next to the two photographs


Battles for Gemmano and Croce

The Battle of Gemmano has been nicknamed by some historians as the "Cassino of the Adriatic". After eleven assaults between September 4 and September 13—first by British 56th Division and then British 46th Division—it was the turn of Indian 4th Division who after a heavy bombardment made the twelfth attack at 03:00 on September 15 and finally carried and secured the German defensive positions.  In the meantime, to the north, on the other side of the Conca valley a similarly bloody engagement was being ground out at Croce. The German 98th Division held their positions with great tenacity, and it took five days of constant fighting, often door to door and hand to hand before 56th Division captured Croce.

Coriano taken and the advance to Rimini and San Marino

With progress slow at Gemmano, General Leese decided to renew the attack on Coriano. After a paralyzing bombardment from 700 artillery pieces and bombers, Canadian 5th Armoured Division and British 1st Armoured Division launched their attack on the night of September 12. The Coriano positions were finally taken on September 14.

Once again the way was open to Rimini. Kesselring's forces had taken heavy losses, and 3 divisions of reinforcements ordered to the Adriatic front would not be available for at least a day. Not for the first time in the Italian Campaign the weather intervened, with torrential rain turning the rivers into torrents and halting air support operations. Once again movement ground to a crawl, and the German defenders had the opportunity to reorganise and reinforce their positions on the Marano river, and the salient to the Lombardy plain closed. Once more 8th Army was confronted by an organised line of defense. It was not until September 21 that Rimini fell to the 8th Army's advance…….



The Gothic Line: The Battle for San Martina By Trooper Tom Canning

 The following story is one mans account of a part of one of the bloodiest battles in the Eighth Army�s campaign from the Western Desert to the Alps - The Gothic Line.   Gemmano and the Coriano ridge left the 56th (London) Division with two brigades, the 46th Division looking just as bad, and the 1st Armoured was so badly mauled that it never reformed.   This is written by Trooper Tom Canning who served with the 145th Royal Armoured Corps.


In the Battle of the Gothic Line in Northern Italy during aug/sept of 1944, we were given a two day respite for rest,recreation,replacement of vital equipment and reinforcement of losses sustained so far in the Battle, which had started for us some eighteen days before. This time the 'rest' came first which was unusual,to say the least.


We enjoyed this in the company of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, whom we were supporting with our Churchill Tanks, during Sept 13 -15th, at the small Town of Cattolica with it's white sandy beaches and blue Adriatic Sea. The rest of the 21st British Tank Brigade carried on with the battle with unfortunate results for the 12th Batt. RTR, who were mauled by an 88mm German a/tank gun from the south end of Rimini Airfield.


So in the late evening of the 15th we were once more on the move to take up our positions ready for another phase of the Battle for San Martina which was proving a very difficult nut to crack, as a major feature of Coriano Ridge which along with the San Fortunato feature were contributing a great deal of Tank killing practice for the German 88mm A/T gunners.Two troops had been detailed for the next attack by both "A" and "C" companies of the Seaforths, our 5th Troop 'A' squadron 145th R.A.C. led by Lt.Graham Douse and #3 Troop led by Lt. Geof. Reynolds, whose brother was commanding 'C' Squadron.


Early on the 16th there was still a problem with this 88mm gun and so we stood down while the Artillery had a few stonks in that direction. They obviously failed to knock him out and so the Royal Navy sent up two destroyers who blasted away for half an hour before departing. It was then the turn of the RAF who made a few fighting passes and strafed everything in sight, but promising to return in the a.m. to finish him off.


As good as their word ,three spitfires appeared and strafed us as we were having breakfast which did not improve our mood. When they were sorted out they strafed the 88mm. gun area and assured us that it was taken care of and that we could proceed, unmolested with our little 'skirmish'.


So at 13:30 hours the Infantry moved off up the hill and we followed shortly afterwards to arrive at the top by 14:00 hours. By 14:05 we realised that we were in a killing ground and that the Infantry were being cut to pieces and I was running out of smoke bombs to fire over them. This was completely ineffective as a breeze from the Adriatic was wafting it away .


Around 14:10, Alf Spence,Troop leaders W/op. announced that Lt. Douse was dead and he had fallen over Cockney Taylor who could not operate his guns and so they were withdrawing. The squadron Leader, Major Lyall Lusted of Dorking Surrey, was reporting the loss of Graham to Colonel E.V. Strickland when we were hit, and the force of the shot knocked me to the floor of the turret from where I heard Sgt Trevor Williams of Bradford yell "bail out'.


I was somehow propelled upwards and outwards without apparently touching the Tank and as I passed I noted that the shot had penetrated the engine and the exhaust was perpendicular. As I landed another shot hit the turret where I normally stood ! On running around to the port side I noticed that both the Driver Charlie Bailey of Keighley , Yorks and Harold Whattingham of London were well clear and long gone !


On reaching the rear of the Tank ,I just had time to acknowledge both Trevor and Harry Gray, our gunner from Halifax Yorks. when a shell/mortar bomb landed between and scattering us. As I ran back to our lines the nebelwerfers were raining down and I was hit again. I lay there for a minute until the next salvo and was hit for a third time. Finally getting back to where some infantry were lying with harry Gray, who was badly wounded as I could see his kidney pulsating. I jammed his field dressing into the wound and gave him his shot of morphine ,meanwhile the Infantry were swearing at me for moving around as the firing was intense.


The firing subsided and I could only lay there and watch five of our six Tanks blazing away with the ammunition 'cooking' off for hours. Trevor was moaning and obviously in great pain but was too far away to assist and I surmised, he went into a coma and died later in the evening. I then redressed harry's wound with my field dressing and injected him with my morphine and he settled down.


We were then picked up after darkness had finally descended and taken to the Seaforth's RAP and some sergeant jammed a cigarette into my mouth as I was obviously in shock - I didn't smoke until then !


Harry was among the first to go off and I followed on a four stretcher jeep with two other Seaforths and a Van Doo ( Quebec 22nd Regt) who had lost both legs and his morphine was wearing off. As we passed a field the whole place was lit up with the first experimental "Artificial Moonlight", which was supposed to blind the enemy forces and allow our Infantry to just walk over the Battlefield and subdue the enemy. Instead we watched in horrified fascination as we saw a battalion of our Infantry of the 4th Div. being slaughtered.


By dawn I was tucked up in bed - on my stomach - in the CCS at Ancona, after a very long day. three days later I was thrown out to a convalescent camp where the shrapnel entry wounds and blast were coming out in a rainbow effect which meant I was unable to sleep, dress, wash or feed myself and I was thankful for the assistance of some Infantrymen. I was not able to walk far and so kept missing the M.O. Days later I caught up with him and discovered that a large burn on my left calf had become septic and was soon back in the Hospital at Ancona. A week later to the 33rd Brit. Gen Hospital in Bari where I arrived with a case of malaria, and finally an annexe to 33rd Brit, Gen at Catania Sicily for surgery, where in January 1945 I was declared fit to fight once more !