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  • Yves Bélanger

Reliving The Italian Campaign

Over the past year, retired Sergeant Roger Chabot has retraced the path of Canadian soldiers who took part in the Italian Campaign during the World War II. His goal: bringing to life these important events in our military history in a documentary that should see the light of day in 2023.

It was in 2019 that the veteran started working on this project. “The pandemic has slowed me down, but it has still been beneficial. I was able to promote the project more and get more funding. This documentary has thus become the most important project of my life,” he says.

He explains that the idea was born in recent years, following a first trip to Italy. “I visited some historic World War II sites there and found that the Italians were very fond of the Canadians and were very grateful.”

The former member of the Royal 22e Régiment also realized that he did not know his regimental history well. “That’s why I had the idea to shoot this documentary which will have 14 episodes lasting 20 minutes each.”

Initially, the shooting was to be done in two parts. “We had to shoot in the summer to represent the deployment in Sicily and then we had to return during the fall for filming in the rest of the country, especially in the North.” The pandemic forced the team to change their plans. “So we decided to do it all in one trip.”

Mr. Chabot knew how to surround himself with good collaborators to carry out his project. First up is John Serviss, the main cameraman and editor. “He is the son-in-law of an former CAF member who served with me in a first commando.” There is also retired Sergeant Georges Janes, second cameraman and drone pilot. “We also had retired Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Comeau, responsible for logistics. He was the one who took care of booking our hotels and making sure that we could eat.” Finally, Steve Gregory, from the Operation Husky Foundation, was also very involved in the project. “He facilitated contacts with resource persons and expert historians in Sicily.”

This 32-day trip was not easy. “We had several shoots to do in a short time. We were constantly on the move. During our stay, we covered no less than 5,300 km.” By 7 a.m., the team was ready to get to work and rarely finished before 8:30 p.m. “When I arrived at the hotel, I made sure that everything we had shot was O.K.”

Roger Chabot is proud to announce that the documentary will be presented in French and English. “Every take I did was shot in French and English. I wanted to avoid dubbing.”

The team had the chance to meet experts in history. “There are a lot of interactions with them throughout the documentary. These people share their knowledge with us. They bring a lot of credibility to our project.”

Some historical reconstructions are also integrated into the video. “We were lucky enough to shoot them on location.” This is among others the case of the battle of Assoro. “We were able to re-enact part of the fight at the top of the mountain.”

Last month, Roger Chabot returned alone to Sicily to record some new scenes. “Because of the heavy rain, we didn’t have time to film everything. I went back there for five days to complete the project.”

It is in January 2023 that the documentary should be officially launched on YouTube, on the channel Bravery in Arms. “I am happy because Veterans Affairs Canada will broadcast the direct link to access the 14 episodes.” Until then, people can watch the mini videos of the documentary filming, released once a month.

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