Jacob's Ladder - Italy July 1944

Discussion in 'Italy' started by GANDALF, Sep 21, 2012.


    GANDALF Member


    I am searching information about military operation in Umbria (central Italy) during WW2. While I was reading about Indian divisions in the northern Tiber Valley I found that a task force formed by british, canadian, indian and italian engineers built a jeep trail enlarging and improving existing paths in the area of Monte Favalto and Volterrano ( a border area between Umbria and Tuscany, provinces of Perugia and Arezzo respectively).

    In "The Tiger Triumphs" is only mentioned that the Jacob's Ladder was completed in two days (14-15 July 1944) and king George VI visited the "ladder" during is visit in Italy some days later.

    Can anyone help me to identify the exact path of Jacob's Ladder and provide further informations and pictures?

    Thank You very much
  2. DouglasLaw

    DouglasLaw New Member

    Hello, not sure if you are still interested as your post is now a couple of years old, but I can tell you a little about Jacob's ladder.

    My father was a Sergeant in the Royal Wilts Yeomanry, with B Squadron. He went up Jacob's ladder, which as far as I can establish is in a region about 5 miles east of Arezzo. The place they were attempting to reach is called Alpe di poti. You can find it on a decent map, although I don't think it comes up on google maps.

    I'm off to Italy tomorrow, with the specific intention of finding Jacob's ladder, and in particular the place where B Squadron lost 2 Shermans over a cliff. The two tanks concerned were call 'The Lamb' and 'Upavon II'. (2) My father was normally the commander of the Lavington tank. He says in his diary that he returned to the Upavon 2 tank the day after it went over the cliff, to get the gun shield out of the turret, as he had been issued with a new tank, which didn't have a gun shield in it. Apparently all the crew bailed out of both tanks before they fell over the cliff. In the books about the RWY it says the went over a 100 ft precpice, but my dad says in his diary it was 300 ft. As he obviously scaled the cliff to get to the tanks, I think his assesment may be more accurate, or maybe if just felt like 300 ft on the way back up!

    I will post again on my return, but if I don't find it this time, I'll have another go next year.
    ClankyPencil, Drew5233, dbf and 2 others like this.

    GANDALF Member

    Hi DouglasLaw,
    I am still interested in the Jacob's Ladder because I have tried to identify on the ground wich was the right path followed.
    Even if Alpe di Poti is not a focal point of my research, please tell me if you found what you were searching for and if you need help for the next time

  4. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    If you have a look at this site (in Italian but use the translator) there is some information and pictures. Not sure it gives a precise location but gives the general area. May give you a lead for further research – perhaps you could even contact the writer.

  5. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    From “The Bombay Sappers & Miners 1939 – 1947”

    “At 0700 On 14th July, work started on making a track for tanks and jeeps to join up the road from Volterrano to Pallazo Del Pero over Mount Dognana. The recce officers of 21 Company and 12 (Madras) Field Company went forward to mark out the alignment. At the same time 1 and 2 Platoons of 21 Company with 12 Company, two D4s and a D7 bulldozer and 200 Italian soldiers cut a path through the undergrowth. With the aid of a spotter plane, a route was selected which defied rather than circumvented obstacles. Canadian mining squads followed with explosives blasting major obstacles on the route. The CIH provided the covering parties. Work continued on the track next day with the added help of a D7 and a D6 bulldozer. By midday one jeep had got through to Mount Dognana. Lt Hughes and a brigade staff captain then went forward to recce the road up to Pallazo Del Pero. They were shelled on sight and a shell splinter punctured one of the tyres forcing them to withdraw until dusk. By 1900 the track was opened for jeeps and by 2100 the first Sherman lank proceeded along the route. So after approximately 28 working hours a jeep and tank had emerged from Mount Dognana on the left of Monte Fouralto and the route was feeling its way towards Palazzo del Pero, the nearest point on Highway 73. For the following two days 1 and 2 Platoons 21 Company continued improving the track with the D7 and 100 of the Italians.

    On July 17th, Arezzo fell and Highway 73 was open for an approach to the Alpe di Ponti. The circumstance, however, did not distract from the constructional achievement of "Jacob's Ladder" as the trans-mountain Dognana track was named. The speed of its building and the extraordinary difficulties that were overcome were bruited abroad. When King George VI visited Italy during the summer he asked to be driven over and up "Jacob's Ladder". As with any task carried out by 4 Ind Div and the Sappers and Miners, it was always a team effort by all units, Bengal, Madras and Bombay, of many castes working all hours together against the common enemy.”

    I think I have identified the locations, the road, mentioned above, goes from the road junction 43.361053, 12.063725 to Palazzo del Pero 43.422180, 11.976653 passing Monte Dogana 43.396269, 12.023912 on its way.

    The road is clearly marked on Google maps and twists and turns as it makes its way uphill. A ‘ride’ up it with ‘street view’ is worthwhile.

    Perhaps this is getting closer?

    Attached Files:

  6. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    Just going to look up my fathers Regiments War Diaries (4th Recce) to see where he was at the time.

    Regards and good luck with your quest.

  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    According to my Fathers Regimental War diaries his "B" Squadron was on Recce about 10 kms west of Arezzo by Civitella and then Badia Agnano.

    21 to 25th the Regt were by Levane and the Kings visit was noted as the 26th July on Momnte S. Savino when some ot the Regiment were in attendance.


    Very interesting finding out where members of the family and relatives were, especially comparing it with Maps to give you an idea.

    Thank you for posting.

  8. Danny Ghurka

    Danny Ghurka Member

    Dear Gentlemen,

    It's been some time that I have been following this forum, and have seen an increased interest in the topic matter. Since I am a local historian who knows the area well, I think I can provide very useful information gathered in recent days. I am working on this issue along with some members of the Aretian Historical Society (Società Storica Aretina - online). A few days ago, we interviewed two local farmers who, at the time, were young boys namely Ivano Bracci (born 1933) and Orfeo Favilli (born 1931). Ivano was living at the time near Pieve a Ranco and Orfeo Favilli near Mulino Nuovo, both hamlets located in the Cerfone Valley which runs, roughly east to west, from Palazzo del Pero (10 kms south of Arezzo) to Città di Castello.
    Mr. Favilli states that the 2 Sherman tanks previously mentioned (The Lamb and Upavon II) were descending from the heights of Alpe di Poti directed west to Bagnaia, down in the Cerfone Creek. The 2 tanks were preceded by another Sherman which shortly after the hamlet of Stragnano met a steep hump along the road exposing its belly to an undetected German soldier who set upon it a magnetic antitank mine. Shortly after, about two hundred meters ahead, the tank exploded in the vicinity of the cemetery of Badia San Veriano killing its crew. It seems that the following tank crews feared the narrow road being mined and therefore took a right side detour but ended up slowly sliding down the slope. This occured near Stragnano in a curve known to the local people as the "English tanks' curve" (la curva dei carri inglesi). Ivano Bracci states that the Brits tried to recover one tank by lifting it with a cable but it broke capsizing the tank which ended with the tracks up and the cannon stuck in the ground. The three tanks were left there by the Brits who were following the retreating German forces. In the following three months, Mr Bracci along with three family members disassembled the tanks into pieces by using wedges and sledgehammers, carrying away a daily cart of approximately one ton of iron to be sold. These two witnesses were interviewed Saturday the 5 September 2015 at the Trattoria Palazzo del Pero by me (Daniele Cesaretti) and four members of the Società Storica Aretina (namely Giovanni Bianchini, Sauro Fortini, Flavio Angeli and Giovanni Galli). I am planning to visit the location of Stragnano in the near future.
    As for Jacob's Ladder, this newly built road ran a few kms south of the location where the tanks were lost, starting from Morra/Volterrano in the Nestore Valley, passing near the heights of Monte Dogana and Monte Favalto and ending near Palazzo del Pero. I am planning for some recce here too.
    Meanwhile we have been working on another topic: the visit of HM King George VI on 26 July 1944, who while travelling incognito as "General Collingwood", met representatives of the 4th Indian Division commanded by Brig. Gen. Arthur W. W. Holworthy at Palazzo del Pero. Local authorities are planning to unveil a plaque, commemorating the event, on Thursday 15 October 2015 during a visit of the 7th Gurkha Rifles, who are touring their Italian battlefields guided by Lt Col. Bob Couldrey and myself. Among the members of this group is Major Richard Holworthy, son of the 4th Indian Division commander. The plaque will be unveiled by the mayor of Arezzo, Mr. Alessandro Ghinelli.
    Along with the above topics, I have been helping several Gurkha units in exploring their battlefields, especially in the Gothic Line areas since 2004.
    Whomever wishes to contact me, even for other matters concerning British or U.S. units, can write me at:

    Dr Daniele Cesaretti
    Via del Passetto 97
    47897 Fiorentino
    Republic of San Marino (Italy)

    I will then provide you my email address.


    Danny (Honorary Member of Gurkha Brigade Association)
    Charley Fortnum and Smudger Jnr like this.
  9. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Many thanks for your most valuable input and report.
    I am sure that other members with interest in the Italian campaign as well as myself will be looking forward to reading further posts from you.

  10. Danny Ghurka

    Danny Ghurka Member

    Thank you, Tom.

    In my post please read on line 5: ".... Cerfone Valley which runs, roughly West to East," and not viceversa.

    As for the tanks, in short, they were not lost upon Jacob's Ladder but 3-4 kms to the north.


  11. Danny Ghurka

    Danny Ghurka Member


    please read lines 7/8 as so: "...descending from the heights of Alpe di Poti directed EAST to Bagnaia..." (not west).

    One more note. A good and wide map of the area is produced by Kompass-Karten GmbH Innsbruck.
    Arezzo, Casentino Anschlusskarte nr.2459 scale 1:50 000

    I will soon be posting on ww2talk King George VI visit in Italy and ww2talk 1/9 Gurkha Rifles, San Marino.


  12. Danny Ghurka

    Danny Ghurka Member


    attached please find a map scan (taken from the Kompass, Arezzo, Ansclusskarte nr. 2459) concerning the places I previously mentioned which are located in the center/upper part. Palazzo del Pero is on the bottom left. Some of you may recognize only the final part of Jacob's Ladder which is descending towards Palazzo del Pero.

    Any questions? I am often in the area doing recce. I will take pictures of the Stragnano - Badia San Veriano area (that of the lost tanks) as soon as possible.


    Danny View attachment cerfone valley.pdf

    Attached Files:

  13. DouglasLaw

    DouglasLaw New Member

    One week today my son James and I will be in the hills just to the east of Arezzo at the Country Hill B&B
    mappa B&B
    We will be meeting with Dr Daniele Cesaretti and we will be visiting the spot where the 2 Shermans, The Lamb, and Upavon were lost down a ravine when the road they were travelling on collapsed.
    As regards Jacobs Ladder, in my post of a few years ago I though it was leading to Alp di Potti, but that was incorrect. In my fathers diary he refers to going up a specially made road to hill 906. Hill 906 is I believe about 4 Km to the south east of Palazzo del Pero. The number simply refers to it's height in metres and I have a map showing both hills refereed to in my fathers diary, the other being 770 which is the site of Badia san Verano. Jacobs ladder I think must have been made to get to the top of this hill 906 from the south. There is quite a lot of information about it in the post above from Tom. Sadly I can't read Itialian so it's not much use to me, but next week I will hopefully drive to hill 906 and try to find some remains of the track.
    I'll take some photos and post a more accurate location on here if I actually find it.
    minden1759 and Owen like this.
  14. Gloucestershire Hussar

    Gloucestershire Hussar 2RGH Research Committee

    2021 update to this thread: the Historical Research Committee of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars are now in possession of the original map as used by Capt. E.H. (Teddy) Milvain MC,(late 2RGH) 2ic B Sqdn. Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry May to Sept 1944. As one of the first commanders to navigate Jacob's Ladder in a tank, the map clearly shows the path selected and with the use of google maps I can confirm the route stated above is correct.
    I have transferred all of the map markings to a google My Map and can email a link to those who may be interested.
  15. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    In view of the previous interest perhaps it may be possible to post a copy?
  16. Gloucestershire Hussar

    Gloucestershire Hussar 2RGH Research Committee

    That is more than likely once completed but for now, as it's still a work in progress with the need to add further information to the North of this particular location, for those interested in this area I can make it available now.
    It is hoped that the various routes taken by all elements of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry will be available to download into a SatNav so that those who wish to tour the region can do so in "real time" or at their own pace. Following the route through the various Key Points, Objectives etc. with the Unit War Diary as their Aide Memoire!
    It is more than likely that a party from the RGH/RWY will be touring Italy in the not too distant future.
  17. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Yes please to seeing the map in all its glory.


  18. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Perhaps some one needs to have a read of the 1 Royal Sussex war diaries for this period. I'm thinking this is to do also with the 4 Indian Infantry Division? Only just got to page 107 of The Tiger Triumphs out of the draw.

    More info in my next post from page 107.

  19. Gloucestershire Hussar

    Gloucestershire Hussar 2RGH Research Committee

    Map now complete.
    Units noted are;
    Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry
    Royal Gloucestershire Hussars
    3rd Kings Own Hussars
    Warwickshire Yeomanry
    Lovat Scouts
    1st Kings Own Royal Regt.
    1/2nd Punjab Regt.
    3/1st Punjab Regt.
    2/3rd Gurkha Rifles
    3rd Maratha Light Infantry
    8th Manchester Regt.

    Most Unit/sub-Unit locations/objectives, patrol routes, Key Points, Strong Points and German defensive positions are marked for the approach and assault on the Gothic Line within a date range of 7th July 1944 (given) to an assumed date of mid to late September, [when the RWY lost most of it's experienced troops due to the release of all those men who had been in it since the beginning]!
    I will be posting a link here once the "Committee" have had their fill and sanction it. But until then, I will attempt to answer questions and should be able to provide screen-shots on request.

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