Taking The Moro
On 8 December 1943, Major General Vokes devised a new plan for taking the Moro River. While the 48th Highlanders of Canada and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry resumed the assault on San Leonardo from the southwest side of the town, the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) would break out of the bridgehead created by the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, then move southwest towards San Leonardo to link up with the 48th and PPCLI. The operation was scheduled to start on the afternoon of 8 December.
The attack began with a massive artillery barrage which pounded German positions continuously for two hours. At 16:00, the Saskatoon Light Infantry support battalion joined in, hitting German positions with bursts of machine gun fire. The moment the heavy bombardment lifted, the 48th Highlanders and the RCR both initiated their attacks. D Company of the 48th Highlanders was able to quickly cross the Moro, taking minimal casualties. However, B Company was subjected to heavy fire from German mortars and 88 mm (3.46 in) artillery positions. Eventually, however, both companies managed to establish strong positions on the western ridge overlooking San Leonardo. During the night of 8/9 December, units of the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) constructed a bridge over the Moro, to allow armour and equipment to move into San Leonardo the following day.
As the 48th Highlanders secured their positions west of San Leonardo, the Royal Canadian Regiment was involved in intense fighting southwest of San Donato. Two companies had advanced against strong and well prepared German defences of the 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment. A Company was quickly tied down by German mortar fire, while B Company flanked German positions to the north of San Donato. By nightfall, all four companies held tenuous positions in the thick of German defences. On the night of 8/9 December, the RCR was subjected to counterattacks by the 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment which were repulsed with the support of continuous Canadian artillery shelling.
By the morning of 9 December, the RCE had completed the bridge across the Moro River, enabling the tanks of the King's Own Calgary Regiment (Calgary Tanks) to transport two companies of Seaforth Highlanders across the river into San Leonardo. By mid morning, San Leonardo had been cleared of German defenders, although strong positions still existed outside of the town. Within an hour, the Royal Canadian Regiment's tanks had broken through German positions near Sterlen Castle and two companies had linked up with the 48th Highlanders and Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry within San Leonardo, finally establishing firm Canadian positions across the Moro River. Near the end of 9 December, German forces of the 90th Panzergrenadier Division fell back to their second defensive line: a formidable obstacle known as "The Gully".