CBC Digital Archives

Return to Ortona

"This is Matthew Halton of the CBC." So began Halton's war broadcasts. His reports were at times tender and sad and other times shocking and explosive. Halton was an unabashed sentimentalist who covered the war as a crusade, for which he was sometimes criticized but more often loved. Covering the major milestones of his generation – from the war trenches to the coronation of the Queen, Halton became Canada's most famous foreign correspondent. A thoughtful philosopher and determined idealist, Matthew Halton was an everyman poet who wore his heart boldly on his sleeve.

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The ghosts of Ortona have returned to Italy. Fifty-five years ago, Matthew Halton's famous reports on the Battle of Ortona detailed the brutal street combat between the Canadian and German soldiers. Listeners at home were riveted to the sounds of the crashing shells and Halton's descriptions of "the courtyard of hell." This Christmas, CBC Reporter David Halton, Matthew's son, writes the final epilogue to his father's reports. Interviewing the same soldiers his father followed, Halton is there as the Canadian and German veterans reconcile.
• "He enjoyed the fame but once told me, not long before he died in 1956, that he felt a little uncomfortable with a fame more properly deserved by the young Canadian volunteers who fought so bravely." - CBC Reporter David Halton speaking about his father Matthew Halton.
• "This meeting has been a cleansing of the soul in many ways," said Canadian veteran Ted Griffiths. "It's a shedding of some the ghosts of Ortona. They have forgiven us sort of thing, we have forgiven them...and we've come together in the spirit of friendship."

• "War is a terrible thing. You see the white colour in the eyes of your opposite, and you know exactly when you don't shoot him, he will shoot you, of course" - German veteran Joseph Klein.
• Ortona was deemed Canada's bloodiest battle in the Italian campaign. In the brutal battle, Canadians and Germans fought in the streets in houses and alleys. On Dec. 28, 1943, the Germans retreated after seven days of brutal fighting.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Feb. 1, 1999
Guest: Ted Griffiths, Samuel Lanko, John Matteson, Mel McFie, Bill Warton
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: David Halton
Duration: 25:49

Last updated: October 2, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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