Autumn through December 1944

Throughout the first half of 1944 Harry and his unit found themselves running supplies and preparing for an attack on the Germans along the Gustav Line from Cassino to the Adriatic Sea, before preparing a line of fortifications in the Liri Valley.  After the Liri Valley, Harry and his unit were in rest areas until August, repairing vehicles and getting supplies ready for the next push which would lead him to Rimini.

In mid August they got word that they would be moving out with no destination given. According to Harry:

“We had to paint over anything on our vehicles that indicated we were Canadian and also had to remove all Canadian insignia from our uniforms. The Canadian convoy moved at a slow pace of 30 mph and sometimes we would move all night.  One morning after we had been moving all night the sun was coming up right in my face.  The road was straight and clear and the lead truck could not figure out why I was slowing down until I fell over in the middle of the road and he knew I had gone to sleep.  No damage done and I was now wide awake.”

A letter from Harry to his mom at Christmas 1944

“The Division was soon engaged in very heavy fighting. Our goal was the Po Valley and the Germans had fortified every hill town and river valley between Spoleto and Ravenna resulting in very hard fighting and heavy casualties.”  On September 21, the Allies entered a deserted Rimini. That same day the 1st Division was relieved by the New Zealand Division. The Canadian Corps were then withdrawn into Army reserve where they could recuperate from the ten weeks of continuous fighting and train for the battles which lay ahead. On December 1st the Canadians returned to battle and “it was mid-December when we arrived in Ravenna and we did not know it then, but that was as far north in Italy that the Canadians would be fighting.”

Harry’s unit pulled back to Rimini for Christmas 1944 and there, alongside an American soldier nicknamed Dutch, he spent Christmas morning handing out gum and candy to the local children.  On January 3, 1945 Harry and his unit headed south to Aquila.

NSD Dusty taking care of one of his favourite kids

During the war it was common for soldiers to have nicknames and Harry’s was Dusty, as he often arrived at his destination covered with the dust and dirt from his journey.  In the spring of 2019 NSD Dusty was named in Harry’s memory and today is on the road to becoming a certified service or facility dog.

Motorcycle Specs:

Italy, The Battle of Ortona, Rimini and Operation Goldflake

Norton 16H

Harry enjoying his first bottle of Canadian beer since leaving Canada on a Norton 16H, taken just after the Canadians won the battle of the Liri Valley

Engine – 499cc single cylinder side valve 4 stroke

Power rating – 14 bhp @ 4500 rpm 

Chain drive 4 speed gearbox with foot shift

Weight – 388 lbs.

On November 7, 1943 Harry landed in Naples Italy and was given a B.S.A bike.  Just before Christmas he was assigned a brand new Norton 16H and then headed east to where the first Division was fighting in Ortona.  Harry predominantly spent most of his time on a Norton 16H.

The Norton 16H was the most widely used military motorcycle by the British Commonwealth Nations. Total production for the 16H was 100,000 machines. Many Dispatch Riders would lose their lives in the UK from the weather, convoys and blackout conditions. Imagine wet roads at night with very little light. Harry almost lost his life on a few occasions, both on the roads of London and during convoy duty in Italy and always-paid tribute to his training in both Canada and the UK for saving his life.

Client Testimonial

NSD Ajax ‘on call’ at Mississauga Fire

“NSD Ajax is specially trained to promote the improvement of physical, social and emotional ability in first responders.
Facility dogs work with a handler who helps to direct that emotional support. What he does is really break down barriers and we hope the stigma attached to mental health conversations to have people speak freely and openly about what they are going through,”

Harry Watts

A decade ago the NSD team had the pleasure of meeting Harry through our annual Motorcycle Ride.  As a member of the 1st CAV Motorcycle Unit, Harry rode in our annual fundraiser and championed our cause. Harry had a knack for bringing people together and was an engaging story teller.  Somehow he was always able to shine a light on the positive side of his journey, even when faced with horrors of war. 

You can read more of Harry’s stories in his book “Dispatch Rider”.  All money raised from the purchase of the book goes directly to supporting Service Dogs and continuing Harry’s legacy.

This year’s Charity Ride is featuring an Online Auction with a vast selection of unique items to choose from.  The Auction will be available to all of our supporters and will go on-line July 1 and run through July 5th  – Check It Out!

Thank you to our generous partners and sponsors.