The Squadron arrived in Italy to strengthen 285 Wing barely two months before the Allied offensive against the Gustav Line. In order to appreciate the situation in Italy it is necessary to back track a few months.
In October, 1943, whilst the Allies were holding their ground at Salerno and exerting pressure on the Germans, the 8th Army was advancing rapidly northwards on the eastern side of Italy thereby outflanking the Germans at Salerno. The main aim of the reconnaissance squadrons during this phase was to observe the German lines of withdrawal and call in air support to smash the enemy before he had time to reach his next line of defence. However the Germans were already building up their defences using the most formidable geographic features available, and this was to be known as the Gustav line. This line commenced at the west coast where the River Garigliano flowed into the sea, extended south to Gaeta, thence to Cassino - the towering hill overlooking the valleys of the Lire and Rapido rivers on which stood the famous Benedictine Monastery, for weeks to be the scene of the most bloody and desperate fighting. From Cassino it lay over the Apennines and along the river Sangro to its mouth on the east coast, approximately halfway between Vasto and Pescara. To add to the geographical hazards the rainy season was about to commence causing the rivers to flood, thus making crossings under fire almost impossible. By November, the ground was a quagmire and the Allied advance was halted. The Army therefore sat tight, consolidated its position and waited for the weather to improve.
285 Wing, consisting of 225 and 40 (SAAF) Squadrons together with a flight of “blue Spits” (strategical photographic reconnaissance Spitfire PRXIs) from 682 Squadron, had moved from Palazzo to Foggia and thence to Vasto in order to be close to the 8th Army and Desert Air Force Headquarters. (See Map above).