|The Trasimene Line - revised edition.||9:05 PM, May 20 2013|
Italy - May 2013.
Tuscan based historian and author, Janet Kinrade Dethick, has this week issued a revised edition of her book "The Trasimene Line, June - July 1944" recounting the events near to Lake Trasimeno, in which the Irish Brigade took a leading role.
Janet, who is a good friend of the Irish Brigade web site, says:
"The book relates what happened along one small section of the Trasimene Line, from Lake Chiusi to the western shores of Lake Trasimeno, using eyewitness accounts from Italian civilians, written accounts from local partisans, official war diaries from the battalions involved, regimental histories, books and articles written about the battle by both protagonists and journalists, the Eighth Army News, letters and interviews with ex- servicemen and last but not least, ex-servicemen’s diaries, which they were not supposed to keep.
During the ten years since the first edition of this book came out, I have continued my research into the events which took place around Lake Trasimeno in 1944 and become aware of the importance of laying more emphasis on the days preceding the battle, both to 'set the scene' and permit the events to be placed in context."
You can order a copy of the book by following this link.
|Irish Brigade history conference to be held in Londonderry/Derry in July.||4:12 PM, May 20 2013|
Londonderry/Derry 20 May 2013.
A conference about the achievements during the Second World War of a formation made up of soldiers from the island of Ireland is to be held at the Tower Museum on 27 July, its organisers announce today.
The conference, called 'The Irish Brigade in the Second World War', is designed to highlight the key role played by Irish soldiers and soldiers of Irish descent in bloody battles throughout Tunisia, Sicily and Italy during the period 1942 to 1945.
“This is the first time a conference of this type has been held and it reflects the growing interest in Ireland’s involvement in the Second World War,” conference organiser Edmund O’Sullivan says. “Irishmen were volunteers, and most of them civilians, and could have avoided the dangers of front-line service, They made a major contribution to the defeat of Adolf Hitler, and this conference is about them and their conscript comrades.”
The conference is the product of The Irish Brigade Website, a non-profit online resource dedicated to the memory of the men who served in the brigade, their families and their descendants.
Co-founder of the website, Richard O’Sullivan, says: “We created the website in 2010 in memory of our father Ted O’Sullivan who was a sergeant in the brigade. We’ve been so very moved by the number of people from Ireland, Great Britain, the US and right across the world who have seen the site and sent in stories and photographs about the exploits and heroics of the men who served with the Irish Brigade. We’ve also had the privilege of meeting surviving veterans who have enthusiastically responded to the opportunity to tell their stories.”
Admission to the conference is free. Speakers will include historian Richard Doherty, author of Clear the Way! A History of the 38th (Irish) Brigade, 1941-47.
|Irish Brigade entry into Tunis - 8th May 1943.||12:30 PM, May 07 2013|
Windsor, May 2013.
It is 70 years ago since the Irish Brigade became the first British infantry troops to enter Tunis.
After six months of extremely strong German resistance across the whole of northern Tunisia, the brigade had expected bitter street fighting, but, instead, they were greeted with wild enthusiasm by the residents of the Tunisian capital.
The London Irish Rifles' war diary described the scenes that the 2nd Battalion witnessed during the afternoon of 8th May 1943.
"The Battalion commences to clear the town, all resistance had ceased by this time in Tunis and in the surrounding areas and those who had escaped were making for the Cap Bon area. The battalion was mobbed by huge enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets, waving flags, giving the 'V' sign and wanting to shake all of us by the hand. No opposition was met whatsoever except the terrific crowds and the battalion managed to reach the south side of Tunis by 1645 hrs...”
Twelve days later, men of the 1st and 8th Armies took part in a Victory parade in Tunis, but there were, of course, mixed emotions, as CQMS Edmund O'Sullivan recalled:
"As we approached the saluting stand, we could see Eisenhower, Alexander, Montgomery and the Free French Commander General Giraud. An American film cameraman shouted: ‘Get a load of this!’ as he saw our saffron kilted pipers and the caubeens with their green and blue hackles. The detachment of London Irish wore the only hackles that could be found among the few hundred survivors from the Tunisian campaign.
High above the city of Tunis, and dominating the skyline, were the twin white towers of one of the oldest basilicas of the Catholic Church. Close by were the ruins of a great Roman city. It had been built on the site of Carthage, Hannibal’s capital, which had been destroyed after the 2nd Punic war. The Catholics of the 78th Division marched to a Mass of thanksgiving and remembrance there.
Leading the division were the pipes and drums of the Skins, the Faughs and the London Irish Rifles. I again was the only colour sergeant from the battalion. To me, these parades were a duty I never avoided. It was both a pleasure and a privilege to march behind the pipes.
My main prayers, apart from thanksgiving for survival, were for the repose of the souls of my many comrades and friends including Denis Griffin and Andy Gardiner, the gentle provost sergeants; George Rock and Ian Brooks; Captain Carrigan; Snootch McDowell, whom I escorted to his death, and Harry McRory. I thought of the hundreds of others from the battalion who had died, were missing or had been wounded. I also remembered those I had helped to bury, without due prayer, both friend and foe. What a waste."
Edmund was indeed rightly remembering the 360 men of the Irish Brigade who had fallen during the Tunisian campaign. It would, of course, be another two years before he and his comrades could truly celebrate their "Final" Victory. And over the succeeding 70 years, they would not forget the sacrifice of the many men, who they had to leave behind in Africa.
|Corporal Victor Stanton.||10:17 AM, May 05 2013|
Windsor, May 2013.
We have been recently contacted by the nephew of Corporal Victor Harry Stanton, who served with the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2 LIR).
Michael Doherty, who lives in Australia, said in his note to us : "I'm trying to find out details of my uncle Cpl VH Stanton 704490, who served with 2 LIR during the Second World War. I understand he was killed on 30/11/1943 - however we have been unable to find any details of the action that he was involved in at the time."
On review, it's clear from the date of Cpl Stanton's death that he was fell during the Irish Brigade's successful assault on the German Winter Line at the River Sangro.
We would like to send our best wishes to Cpl Stanton's family as we near the 70th anniversary of his death in Italy.
|Major PC Murphy MC.||10:23 AM, May 05 2013|
Windsor, April 2013.
One of the heroes of the Irish Brigade's campaign in Tunisia continues to be remembered by the village of Jacobstowe in Devon.
Rod Lane, who has been researching the war dead of the village, wrote to us recently with further background details about Major Peter Murphy, who was killed during the valiant defensive actions undertaken by the Irish Brigade during January 1943 on Grandstand Ridge, which is close to Bou Arada in northern Tunisia.
Rod said in his note, "I am researching our war dead in the village of Jacobstowe. One of the names commemorates Major Peter Cassella Murphy MC, a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, who was killed on 18th January 1943. I have managed to contact his son Patrick Murphy, and also aware of the details about the campaign in John Horsfall's book 'The Wild Geese Are Flighting.' "
Full biographical details of Major Murphy's life can be read here - courtesy of RJ Lane 2013, an unpublished work.
|Stuka Ridge - 26th February 1943.||12:58 PM, Feb 28 2013|
Windsor, February 2013.
After a month of patrolling in the areas east and west of the Goubellat to Bou Arada road, on the morning of 26th February 1943, the Irish Brigade was attacked all across their defensive lines by four German battle groups. In particular, 2 LIR felt the full force of the frontal assaults by the Herman Goring Jager Regiment and were initially overrun.
Following the initial assault, CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan of 2 LIR recalls Capt Conroy’s attempt to form a defensive cadre from amongst HQ Company.
“Conroy formed a fighting party consisting of himself as section leader, CSM Billy Girvin, Colour Sergeant Dann, Provost Sergeant Andy Gardiner, the cook sergeant, a couple of clerks and myself. We were to advance well spread out and endeavour to help G Company on Castle Hill in the battalion’s centre. It was hard pressed and in danger of being overrun. I had started to move off when RSM Reid roared. ‘Colour Sergeant O’Sullivan, you are wanted by the commanding officer.’ Conroy said: ‘You’d better go.’ Thankfully, I ran to the commanding officer’s truck where he told me that he had contacted E Company at last and that they had withdrawn a couple of miles from Hadj and were dug in on a hill. They needed ammunition and I was to go with the RSM to find them as he was not certain of the position.”
Spike Milligan, a Gunner OP in 19 Battery 56 Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery was also present near to Stuka Ridge, and was mentioned in despatches for his repeated journeys to the OP during the battle. Milligan recalled some part of the confused activity of that day in his memoirs:
“I watched as the battery pulled out..We were retracing tracks we had originally taken from the El Aroussa road. A company of infantry were digging in along the railway bank. They were second line defences: this was the direction that Jerry wanted to come. The guns were now well across the field, but as they turned onto the road, 88mm shells started to burst among the convoy. It was deadly accurate and miraculously they didn’t hit men or charges. I watched fascinated as scarlet and purple flashes exploded among the lumbering lorries and guns.”
Due to fine defensive action by all three battalions of the brigade supported by artillery and armour from Ayrshire Yeomanry and the North Irish Horse, the Irish Brigade's position was eventually stabilised by the evening.
A number of casualties were suffered – 25 men in total from the Irish Brigade were killed on 26th February, with many others wounded and captured.
CQMS O'Sullivan recalls what he learnt later about the attack on 2 LIR's positions:
“F Company at Stuka Farm and G Company on Castle Hill had gallantly clung to their precarious positions while a detachment of Irish Fusiliers had protected the guns. I heard what happened to the section led by Captain Conroy which I almost joined. Sergeant Andy Gardiner and one other had been killed. CSM Girvin, Conroy, Colour Sergeant Dann and two others had been wounded. Dann’s condition was so serious he was later discharged."
“Two wonderful provost sergeants who had been my friends had been lost. Dennis Griffin, the boxing champion who took over my platoon when I transferred to R Company before we left Scotland and Andy Gardiner. In addition, George Rock -- the indomitable, ever faithful, perfect soldier, adversary yet friend -- died leading his platoon."
|John Whillock, 2 LIR.||12:53 PM, Feb 28 2013|
Windsor, 19th February 2013.
We recently received the following guest book entry from John Whillock:
"My father, the late John Whillock, served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles, in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria. I have his pay book and various documents and medals, and just wondering if anybody remembers him. Great web site. Attached are some photos of Dad."
John went onto say:
"My Father rarely spoke of his time in the army other than where he had been and since he died at a relatively young age (63) I didn’t get to ask him, much to my regret. When he did mention the war it was mostly Cassino. I remember he didn’t like the smell of heather as it reminded him of his friend who was shot and killed next to him whilst in amongst heather.."
The Irish Brigade website is, of course, honoured to share these photographs and memories of John Whillock with you.
|Remembering Rifleman DL Scott, 2 LIR.||7:41 PM, Feb 01 2013|
Windsor, February 2013.
The Irish Brigade web site has been contacted by the nephew of Rifleman David Lowry Scott, who served with the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) in Tunisia.
Tom Scott said in his initial note to us “I have noted one name missing from the Roll of Honour for 1939-1945; that of my uncle 7018891 Rifleman D L Scott, LIR, who died on 26th February 1943.”
On re-checking with the CWGC database, we were able to correct that omission and add Rifleman Scott’s name to our listing, and also send a photo of his final resting place in Tunisia to his family in Northern Ireland.
Tom went on to say in a subsequent note to us:
“I was completely overwhelmed to receive a photograph of my uncle's grave at Medjez-El-Bab War Cemetery. None of the family (he had three brothers and two sisters - sadly all now passed away) have ever been to see the grave, so this is the first time that any of us have had sight of it. I cannot thank you enough.
His name appears on the Lisburn War Memorial and also on the Memorial in the grounds of Hillhall Presbyterian Church as he is the only WWII fatality belonging to that congregation. My grandfather (D L Scott Snr) was at one time sexton there.
I have an old faded photograph of him in uniform with an unnamed colleague, which I had retained from my late father's possessions...”
On reviewing David Scott’s war time service records, it is clear that he initially joined the 7th Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR) in July 1940, then training, and taking part in home front duties with the RUR before he transferred to the London Irish Rifles during November 1942, eventually joining up with their 2nd Battalion on 23rd January 1943, near to Bou Arada.
David served with 2 LIR for a total of 34 days before he was killed during the German assault on their positions to the west of the Goubellat to Bou Arada road and known un-affectionately as “Stuka Ridge”.
As we near the 70th anniversary of Rifleman Scott’s death, we shall continue to remember him and his comrades, who rest at peace in Tunisia.
|Irish Brigade website visit to Tunisia - April 2013.||10:00 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Windsor, January 2013.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Irish Brigade’s campaign in Tunisia, this web site’s co founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan will be visiting the battlefields of central Tunisia in April to explore the areas where their father spent a most difficult six months from November 1942 to May 1943.
Richard explained: “We visited the Bou Arada and Medjez-el-Bab areas in April of last year and enjoyed such a wonderful week of fine weather and welcome hospitality that we have decided to return to Tunisia to pay our respects to the memory of the men of the Irish Brigade who battled the elements and the German Army on their long journey through plains and over mountains from Algiers to Tunis. During the previous visit, we also became much more aware of the sufferings of the Tunisian people during the period of hostilities, and we hope again to get the chance to offer our best wishes to them - city and countryside dweller alike”.
Edmund and Richard’s visit is now confirmed for the period 2nd to 9th April 2013, and we welcome others to join us on our visit to offer a small token of remembrance of that long ago, but not forgotten time. Please drop us a note of contact if you wish to join us.
|The Irish Brigade fights its first battles in Tunisia during January 1943.||7:20 PM, Feb 01 2013|
Windsor, January 2013.
It is exactly 70 years ago this month since the Irish Brigade undertook its first major actions on the plains and low lying hills north of Bou Arada in Tunisia. The brigade had three major encounters during the month.
On 13th January, 6 Innisks led an an assault on Two Tree Hill and two other hills to the east of the Goubellat to Bou Arada road. Although they were able to attain their initial objective, the indefensible nature of the rocky hill top, and an inability for supplies to reach them due to the very muddy conditions, forced them to withdraw after they suffered significant levels of casualties.
On 18th January, as the brigade was preparing for their own further assault, this time to be led by 1 RIrF, on Two Tree Hill, the positions of 6 Innisks on Grandstand Hill were attacked by a force, estimated at five infantry battalions and over twenty tanks. After some heavy fighting, the attack was eventually repulsed by the stubborn defensive actions of both 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF.
On 20th and 21st January, 2 LIR attacked Hills 286 and 279 to the east of the Goubellat to Bou Arada road. All four rifle companies were in action, but 2 LIR suffered a serious reverse when there was a large scale counter offensive during the early morning of 21st January, and which was likened to a cavalry charge. The counter attack was finally subdued by the defensive actions of 1 RIrF. During their two days on the two hills, 2 LIR suffered 250 casualties, killed, wounded or captured with a total of 47 London Irishmen being killed during the action.
|Tours of the Trasimeno battlefields.||7:40 PM, Jan 30 2013|
Passignano, Italy - December 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site is pleased to draw your attention to a regular battlefield tour of the areas to the west of Lake Trasimeno that will review the progress of the 8th Army's advances, including that of the Irish Brigade's, during June and July 1944.
Janet Kinrade Dethick, author of the book “Trasimene Line, June – July 1944”, which is being republished during the early part of 2013, is leading a full day tour commencing in February 2013.
Further tours would take place on the first Saturday of each month up to June and then from September to November. It should also be noted that the tour will be free of charge but donations to the Royal British Legion would be appreciated.
Edmund and I hope to join Janet on one of her tours – it should prove to be a most illuminating experience in a beautiful part of Italy.
|Lance Corporal Arthur Webb fondly remembered by his sister.||10:14 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Windsor, December 2012.
Gill Marshall has recently written to us at the Irish Brigade web site about her mother’s brother, L/Cpl Arthur Webb, who served with 2 London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) in Italy.
“My uncle Arthur James Webb, Army No 7017676, died in January 1944..... My Mum says that during the night a load of Germans ‘parachuted down’ and killed all the people in the camp except one - an officer. Not sure whether this is correct. Are you able to tell me anymore about him please? ”
We do know that L/Cpl Webb was killed near to Montenero, in the high Italian Apennine mountains on 19th January 1944, when at 0830 after some initial mortaring, a group of Germans skied down the mountain and attacked E Coy, 2 London Irish Rifles. 5 men in total were killed in the attack, 13 others wounded and a further 29 went missing and became POWs.
The men killed that day with L/Cpl Webb were Rifleman Luke Bradbury, Rifleman James Cullen, Rifleman Ronald Smith and Rifleman Christopher Slelvin.
Gill went onto say in her note:
“I have attached a picture of my uncle.... You will see he is with another soldier but do not know who he is, perhaps you recognise him from photos, as he does look familiar but I don't know whether it is from your website or simply because I have had the photo for a while. Uncle Arthur is the one on the right, the shorter of the two with his shirt tucked in.
My mother used to speak so fondly of him..When his wallet was returned, it had a photo of my mum in it. “
Arthur Webb continues to be fondly remembered by all of us.
|Private Kenneth Chinn ACC.||7:02 AM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, December 2012.
Bryan Chinn wrote to us recently from his home in Staffordshire about his father Private Kenneth Chinn who died on 1st December 1943 near to the River Sangro. Private Chinn was a member of the Army Catering Corps and was attached to 6 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in North Africa and Italy.
It was said by the men of the Irish Brigade that their catering teams were often able to produce marvels of culinary delight even in the most inhospitable of locations near to the front line, and we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the remarkable service of these men who were often at the sharp end in support of their respective infantry battalions.
Bryan told us in his note:
“I have little knowledge of my father's service record except that I was told that he died when he stepped on a land mine.
My last memory is of him departing in uniform, and I then remember clearly the day my mother received the news that he had been killed. We were at that time living with my grandfather as my mother had given up our home in Derby.
My mother and other family members could not afford to visit his grave, but I visited the Sangro River cemetery in 1993 and laid two wreaths, one for our family and one from our local British Legion."
Kenneth Charles Chinn was born in Littleover, Derby in 1914, one of five brothers and two sisters.
|CQMS Roy Prudhoe caught with his boots on.||7:03 AM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, December 2012.
Christine Allford, the daughter of Roy Prudhoe, who served as CQMS HQ Company of 2 London Irish Rifles, recently wrote to us at the Irish Brigade website.
In her note, Christine told us:
“My father was Roy Prudhoe who served with the London Irish Rifles in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War. He died in 1963 when I was 11 years old and therefore my knowledge of his life in the army is limited and I was interested to find out more when I found the website. I know very little about the North African / Italy campaign unfortunately, but found your father's memoirs fascinating...I was amazed to see that my father was fondly mentioned several times and there is also a photo of him in Tunisia in 1943.”
CQMS Prudhoe was Mentioned in Despatches in January 1945 as a result of his outstanding period of service over the preceding months.
One particular memory of Roy Prudhoe that was recalled by his fellow CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan perhaps does not illustrate the extent of their administrative capabilities:
“St. Patrick’s Day 1945 had passed but Brigadier Scott again ensured that the brigade could celebrate it properly out of the line. It paraded in Forli town square on 29th March and shamrock was distributed. A limited supply of the sacred plant had been sent from the London Irish Welfare Officer in London. To supplement it, fatigue parties were sent out the day before the parade to pick anything vaguely green. This was mixed with the shamrock, solemnly blessed by Father Dan Kelleher and distributed to the brigade by the officers. I received a mixture of weed and grass.”
That afternoon, the London Irish had an officers versus sergeants rugger match. I did not join in, as the last time I almost lost all my teeth. The sergeants paraded in all sorts of weird gear. Roy Prudhoe wore a dispatch rider’s crash helmet...The sergeants produced two Panther tanks stolen from the park of captured German vehicles, whilst the officers retaliated by having our Army Co-operation Squadron dive bomb the match with smoke bombs. By this time, most clothes had been torn off and Prudhoe was left only with his boots and crash helmet. The Italian ladies watching seemed to be appreciative.”
Christine concluded her note by saying:
“Your father, through his writing, comes over as a very gentle man with a very cheeky sense of humour, which is how I remember my father!”
We are sure that Roy and Edmund are still enjoying a good chuckle together.
|Do you recognise these London Irishmen ?||7:34 AM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, December 2012.
In the midst of the travails of a bitterly cold winter in the mountains of central Italy, it is good to find a photograph of four London Irish officers relaxing and which is believed to have been taken during January 1944 in the Montenero area.
The faces are familiar but the names are proving a little more elusive. If anyone can help us to put names to any of the four men, we would love to hear from you.
We would like to thank Alessandro Teti again for sending this fantastic photograph to us.
|Battle of Termoli, October 1943.||7:06 AM, Dec 15 2012|
Perry Rowe, the co author of the recently published photo history “The Battle of Monte Cassino, Then And Now”, is currently writing an article on the battle for Termoli, which took place in early October 1943. Termoli was a most momentous engagement for the 8th Army, and the Irish Brigade distinguished itself during the culmination of the battle.
Perry would be very interested in any photographs held by the readership of the Irish Brigade web site, particularly any that would aid in locating the precise area where the tank battles took place. Other memories or accounts would, of course, be gratefully received.
If anyone has any photographs or personal accounts, please contact us at the Irish Brigade web site and we shall be pleased to put you in direct contact with Perry.
|Rifleman Sid Belcher recalls November 1942.||10:16 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Cannock, November 1942.
Sidney Belcher, a 94 year old veteran of the Tunisian campaign who served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) spoke to the Irish Brigade website this week and remembered the time when 2 LIR were about to depart for Algiers in November 1942, and also recalled the period of bitter fighting in the Bou Arada area during January and February 1943.
“One good memory that I have from that time was when I was walking along the dockside just before boarding the Duchess of York, and being chased by a telegram messenger boy and being informed that I had just become an uncle. ‘It’s a boy’, the telegram said.”
Sid, a rifleman with the Carrier platoon, also recalls the time when the battalion was based in Scotland during the autumn of 1942, and when, just before they departed for Algeria, he was approached by 2/Lt Rodney Cockburn: “I had my arm in a sling from a training accident, but our platoon commander came up to me and told me: ‘you’re coming with us – I know you don’t want to miss this’. Little did I know how this decision would change my life”.
It certainly did change Sid’s life as he was taken prisoner during the German assault on Stuka Ridge on 26th February 1943, just to the west of the Goubellat to Bou Arada road. He was interned first in Italy and then in Austria before he was finally released by the advancing American forces in May 1945.
“Although I’m now 94 years of age, those times remain extremely clear in my mind – two men that I clearly remember are ‘Griff’ (CQMS Denis Griffin who died at Bou Arada), and George Charnick (CSM Charnick later received a DCM and American Silver Star)”.
Sid Belcher wrote an amusing memoir about his time with 2 LIR and his time in captivity in “Another Feather in Me Cap”.
The last word must belong to Sidney Belcher: “Although I’m not as mobile as I used to be, I’m still driving and I would love to join the next London Irish Rifles event." And it is quite possible that he will.
|70th Anniversary of the Irish Brigade's landing in North Africa.||10:22 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Windsor, November 2012.
To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 38th (Irish) Brigade landings in North Africa as part of the British 1st Army, the Irish Brigade has commenced a month by month guide to the actions of the brigade following their journey from Algiers to Austria.
The guide will include a summary of the movements of the Irish Brigade, and links to detailed narratives of the campaign and the official war diaries.
To read the month by month guide, click on this link and read each month's guide as it is added.
As a further aid to understanding the North African campaign, click here for a link to a contemporary documentary account of the British 1st Army's battles in Tunisia.
|Walter Samuel Winn.||10:22 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Windsor, November 2012.
We have received a note this week from Brian Winn, whose father, Walter Samuel Winn, served with the 2nd Bttn London Irish Rifles in Tunisia and Italy.
In his note to us, Peter told us:
“Sadly my father passed away in 1977. I did go to a couple of reunions in the early 1970s in London. I remember he had a good mate called Ted Moss but I don’t know whether he’s still alive.
My dad was in a couple of outfits and he said that he was a dispatch rider and later on a brengun carrier driver. He was so proud.. I wonder if any of his old mates are still alive.”
Perhaps Ted Moss’s family is around to make contact with us, and in turn with Peter.
|Photo from Montenero - Jan 1944.||10:26 AM, Jan 26 2013|
Windsor November 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site has recently received a remarkable photograph taken by German forces just after a surprise attack on 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles near to Montenero in the high Italian Apennine mountains on the morning of 19 January 1944.
The photograph was sent to us by Alessandro Teti, who lives in Castel di Sangro, near to the scene of the attack.
Who are they? This photograph was taken by a German soldier after 29 members of E Company of 2 LIR were taken prisoner near Montenero on the morning of 19 January 1944. Ski-mounted troops attacked E Company's patrol positions not long after day-break. Their attack was preceded by a mortar bombardment. The prisoners taken on that day were marched through the snow and into prison. Can Irish Brigade website readers identify any of them?
After some preliminary mortaring, a group of Germans on skis came down from nearby mountains and attacked E Company. During the assault, 5 London Irishmen were killed. 13 others wounded and a further 29 went missing and were later confirmed as having become POWs.
Rifleman Luke Bradbury, Rifleman James Cullen, Rifleman Christopher Slevin, Rifleman Ronald Smith, and L/Cpl Arthur Webb were killed in the attack, and are buried and memorialised at the Sangro River and Cassino CWGC cemeteries.
|Fusilier Reginald Petford is remembered with pride.||11:13 AM, Nov 29 2012|
Moseley, November 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site was recently contacted by the The Moseleians Association, who are researching background to Fusilier Reginald Petford, who was killed, with 18 other men from the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (1 RIrF), on 29 November 1943 near to the River Sangro. Fusilier Petford was twenty seven years of age at the time of his death, and had been married for several years to Eva May from Moseley in Birmingham. It is believed that Reginald was originally conscripted into the Royal Army Pay Corps but transferred to the Faughs in 1943 as extremely heavy casualties in all the infantry battalions in Italy continued to mount up.
We have now been able to provide details of the tragic circumstances regarding the death of Fusilier Petford when a shell from a German self-propelled gun landed in a gulley where two companies from 1 RIrF had assembled. As well as the nineteen men killed outright, another twenty three men were wounded as a result of the shelling. It was one of the most difficult days for the battalion during the whole war time period.
And as a further result, the Moseleians were able to contact the son and daughter of Reginald Petford, and their family joined the Association for their Service of Remembrance in Moseley on 10th November 2012, which paid respect to former pupils who were killed during the First and Second World Wars, 96 of whom were killed during the 1939-45 period.
The Moseleians Association represents former pupils and staff of Moseley Secondary Grammar, Moseley Modern, College Road Senior and Moseley School.
|Remembrance Sunday, 2012.||8:23 PM, Nov 14 2012|
Camberwell, November 2012.
A blazingly sunny day, more akin to September than November, was the perfect backdrop to the parade and Service of Remembrance held at Connaught House in honour of the 1700 men from the London Irish Rifles (LIR) who died during the two World Wars. Over 300 of these men died, while serving with the 2nd Battalion LIR as part of the Irish Brigade in Tunisia and Italy.
The LIR’s 'D' Company, including some members of Vimy Company returning from Afghanistan, the Regimental Association and detachments of the Army Cadet Force displayed a fine fleet of foot on the parade ground accompanied by the LIR Association's Pipes and Drums.
Owing to illness, Major General Purdon was not able to attend, but Brigadier Mooney ably stepped in to inspect the hundred and fifty, who were on parade.
Reverend David Longe conducted the service in the Drill Hall and spoke most movingly about his great, grandfather Reverend Maurice Peel MC (and bar), who was killed in France during May 1917.
We will remember them all.
|Field of Remembrance - 8th Nov 2012.||8:26 PM, Nov 14 2012|
Westminster, November 2012.
The Duke of Edinburgh was present at Westminster Abbey when he viewed the thousands of poppy crosses that had been planted by the Royal British Legion in memory of the fallen from two World Wars.
During his hour long walk around the two hundred or so plots, the Duke stopped to talk to veterans of the British First Army, with whom the Irish Brigade served from November 1942 to May 1943 and chatted briefly to veterans and Regimental Association members from the Skins, Faughs and London Irish Rifles (LIR).
Veteran of the 2nd Battalion, LIR, Charles Ward, now 93 years of age, was on hand, and reminded us that it was 70 years this week since he boarded the Duchess of York in Greenock bound for Algiers, which was the starting point for 30 months of front line service for the Irish Brigade.
A cross denomination service was held afterwards at St Patrick's Chapel in Westminster Cathedral.
A most moving day of Remembrance for all those able to attend.
|Lance Corporal Charles Carroll, 1 LIR.||11:21 AM, Nov 29 2012|
Windsor, October 2012.
The family of Lance Corporal Carroll recently contacted us via the London Irish Rifles web site to seek to learn more about the circumstances of his death on 6th April 1945, whilst serving with the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles (1 LIR). Charles is buried at the Argenta Gap CWGC cemetery in northern Italy.
On reviewing his army number, it would appear that L/Cpl Carroll had originally been conscripted into the Royal Berkshire Regiment before transferring to 1 LIR (which was in the same brigade) in early 1944.
Alison Bailey, the niece of L/Cpl Carroll said to us in her note:
“We have a long and intimate connection with Argenta resulting in Argenta women marrying Englishmen and living and having families over here and myself marrying an Italian (all the blessed result of his death in Italy....). Good came out of it."
"We know he was involved in undercover Norway raids (as a Commando) then fought across the North African desert, crossed to Sicily, must have been at Anzio...then fought up Italy, fell ill in winter 1944 and was not really strong again for “the last push”. The tragedy was that he met an old school friend and went for a drink in Argenta the night before and forgot his helmet for the dawn raid across the Reno River to the rice factory. We have been there..."
It would seem that L/Cpl Carroll’s death occurred when 1 LIR crossed the Reno in advance of the main attack of the 8th Army towards the River Po, and which eventually achieved final complete victory in Italy. 1 LIR’s first main objective that morning was a rice factory, a known enemy strongpoint, and the attack was successful despite the battalion suffering heavy casualties, including the tragic loss of L/Cpl Carroll.
A most gallant soldier movingly remembered by his family:
“He did not think he would survive the war and in a way did not think anything could equal his experience with his comrades. We have the letters. He had a strong Christian faith – he wrote about “someone walking with him..My mother never really recovered from hearing about his death after the end of the war. However, he was a ‘true soldier’ and he had guns on his wall at home, all his life. We are very proud of him..”
|The people of Castel di Sangro fondly remember men of the Irish Brigade.||2:55 PM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, October 2012.
Alessandro Teti has written to us at the Irish Brigade website about the time during December 1943 to February 1944, when the three battalions of the Irish Brigade were based at Castel di Sangro and in the surrounding mountain area. He is currently writing a book about the impact of the war time period on the people of Castel di Sangro during that most difficult of winters.
Alessandro recalls the town's memory of the time when the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers (1 RIrF) were based in the town itself, and despite the difficult circumstances for both military and civilians, they were made most welcome. Richard Doherty’s book “Clear the Way” notes that Brigadier Russell suggested Major Jimmy Clarke, OC, D Company was involved in "virtually talking over the running of Castel Di Sangro."
Alessandro also said in his note to us:
“Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the Castel di Sangro battle when the Canadian West Nova Scotia Regiment (WNSR) fought their battle with the German 1st Fallschirmjäger Division, and we are organizing an event for November 2013. It would be beautiful to invite veterans or relatives...
If you are in contact with any Castel di Sangro or Montenero or Rionero veterans or relatives, please inform them!!”
Although not many veterans will be able to take up this kind offer, we do believe that their families would wish to send their best wishes to the town’s people of Castel di Sangro and belatedly thank them for the hospitality provided to their family members all those years ago.
One thing we do know for certain is that CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan will be there in spirit, perhaps with a mule or two to remember those quite dreadful treks through the deep snowdrifts around Montenero in January 1944.
|Liri battlefield walking guide published on Irish Brigade website.||1:44 PM, Oct 16 2012|
Windsor, 11 October 2012.
The Irish Brigade website is delighted to upload a detailed walking guide to the Irish Brigade’s Liri valley battlefields for the period 14-17 May 1944, a decisive time during the battle for Cassino in which the German’s defensive Gustav Line was finally broken after almost four months’ fighting.
The guide was researched, written and edited by Irish Brigade website co-founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan following a detailed tour of the area in August 2012. They acknowledge the support of their nephew David O’Sullivan and of their companions during the walk: Damiano Parravano and his partner Marissa. The guide is dedicated to the memory of Edmund and Richard’s father Edmund (Ted) O’Sullivan, E Company colour sergeant during the Liri battles and his comrades in the Irish Brigade.
Irish Brigade battlefield walking guides provide contemporary visitors detailed and accurate information about the brigade’s involvement in some of the major battles of the North African and Italian campaigns during the Second World War. They are based on map references and other details contained in the war diaries of the brigade's battalions and within brigade and divisional records, eyewitness accounts, some previously unpublished, and books about the history of the Allied campaigns in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy. The guides also contain up to date photographs of key points across the brigade's battlefields.
The first Irish Brigade Battlefield Guide, which covers the brigade’s involvement in the two battles of Bou Arada in January-February 1943, was uploaded on the Irish Brigade website earlier this year.
The Liri battlefield walking guide covers:
“The connected battles over three days in May 1944 constitute one of the most important periods in the history of the Irish Brigade’s campaign in Italy during 1944,” says Edmund O’Sullivan. “It took place at a turning point in the war for Italy and set the scene for the capture of Monte Cassino itself by the Polish Corps on the morning of 18 May.”
“We discovered that you can complete the entire walk from the start point at the bridging point on the River Gari to Piumerola in about four hours,” says Richard O’Sullivan. “Parts of the battlefield have been unrecognisably altered in the past 68 years but most of it looks like it did during the fighting. The setting is lovely but it’s easy to imagine how challenging it was for the Irish Brigade and its support formations in May 1944.”
You can find the Liri valley battlefield guide here.
|Fusilier John Leathem||2:56 PM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, October 2012.
Trevor Leathem has written from Canada to the Irish Brigade web site to try to discover more detail of the war service of his father, John Leathem, who served with the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers from 1941 to 1945. It is believed that he became a Prisoner of War (POW) in Italy during the late spring of 1944.
In his note to us, Trevor said :
“He enlisted on 19th June 1941 at Ballykinlar in the North of Ireland, later seeing action in Italy. At some point, he was wounded and sent to North Africa to recover before rejoining his unit. I know he was taken POW in the following year somewhere between Cassino and Rome and spent the rest of the war in camps in Italy and Germany. My information shows that he was in Stalag VIIA in Germany.
He was reluctant to talk about his experiences and out of respect for him I never pushed him on his memories.”
It’s clear that the best way to discover the full detail of Fusilier Leathem’s service with the Faughs, and the exact dates of his capture and imprisonment would be to apply for his war time military records from the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), but through a process of immediate discovery, it can be confirmed that he was shipped to Italy for active service in September 1943, and then may have been wounded that autumn during the savage battles along the Adriatic coast. The date of his capture by the Germans may have been during the battles in the Liri Valley, but this could only be confirmed when his records are received from the MOD.
As always, we are delighted to discover another story, however incomplete, about one of the very fine men who served with the Irish Brigade.
|Awards and Honours gained by men of the Irish Brigade||9:48 PM, Nov 16 2012|
Windsor, October 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site continues to update the detail of honours and awards gained by men of the brigade and it provides truly humbling reading.
Whilst serving with the Irish Brigade, there were totals of :
DSO - 10.
MC - 67 (6 with bar).
DCM - 16.
MM - 123 (2 with bar).
Mentioned in Despatches - over 300.
A number of other awards were gained including American Silver and Bronze Stars.
|Colin Gibbs - a most remarkable man.||2:40 PM, Oct 16 2012|
Windsor, September 2012.
The Irish Brigade website was particularly delighted to receive a letter from the family of Major Colin Gibbs MC, who served with the 2nd Battalion, London Irish (2 LIR) for most of the war time period. After the war, Major Gibbs continued a close association with the London Irish Rifles until the time of his death in 1983.
In his note to us, his son, Michael Gibbs, said: “I find it absolutely amazing... that 29 years after my father sadly passed away.. I have finally found out what my father did to earn the MC. I had repeatedly asked my father about his experiences with the LIR but other than a few incidents on the lighter side of life he would say nothing. I am hungry for any and indeed all the information I can find out regarding my father."
Of course, this is a sentiment shared by many families of veterans from that era.
Colin, having joined the LIR in April 1939, was adjutant of 2 LIR at the outbreak of war, and was in attendance when 20 year old Edmund O’Sullivan signed his attestation papers at Liverpool Street on October 18 1939, and impressed the young conscript as was recorded later in Edmund’s memoirs:
“Captain Gibbs, who was in charge of the reception party, was ready to receive me at his desk which was a blanket-covered table. He was very tall and correct but very pleasant, particularly as I meticulously addressed him as: ‘Sir.’ He questioned me about my background and my work. I told him I worked for Hawkes of Savile Row. ‘The regimental tailors!,’ he declared. I had never seen Gibbs’ name on any order so I assumed that he, like so many others, could not afford our high prices.”
Major Gibbs was OC G Company for some part of the battalion’s period of training in the UK, and O'Sullivan recalled in his memoirs the methods which helped make 2 LIR a formidable fighting formation.
"We had many long and exhausting route marches," O'Sullivan wrote. "Captain Gibbs would then put us through arms drill. We cursed him but learned from his batman Doug Brewer that Gibbs' boots were often filled with blood. We realised his sole purpose was to train us so that we would not be cannon fodder when our time to fight came."
Gibbs was appointed OC E Company and joined the 2 LIR in its journey to Algiers in November 1942. Over the next two years, and in various positions, he served with great distinction during all the battalion’s campaigns in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy.
As OC F Company in June 1944, Major Gibbs was awarded an MC for his actions in the Irish Brigade’s advance north of Sanfatucchio near to Lake Trasimeno. A most remarkable citation was written by Lt-Col Horsfall:
"Throughout the Italian campaign, Major Gibbs has been commanding F company. At all times, he has led his company with great skill and personal courage and his whole company reflect his personal conduct.
The achievements of F company in the Battle of Sanfatucchio from 21st to 24th June '44 were notable. In the initial attack Major Gibbs had the task of seizing the high ground (in the) rear of the enemy strong points prior to the assault. This difficult job they did in the face of stiff opposition. Major Gibbs personally led the assault on one group of houses which were cleared with bomb, smoke and small arms. After this, the company was pinned down by fire from many MGs short of their objective. Major Gibbs realised that if he could not get on, the whole attack with H company on the right would be in jeopardy. He rallied his men and personally led them on until they got to grips with the enemy killing many and capturing others. After three hours of hand to hand fighting, crawling up ditches and through the corn they had stormed their objective. Major Gibbs was then ordered to attack the S.(San) Felice crossroads. This he did and came under fire immediately from S.Ps and about a company of Germans in that area. Major Gibbs worked his troop of tanks round the left in enfilade and as soon as they open fired, charged with one platoon through the corn. The platoon commander was killed and seventeen of his men hill, but they never stopped and slew many Germans at point blank range and survivors surrendered. If this attack had not succeeded the whole Bttn position and H company holding the cemetery would have been in great danger.
Major Gibbs’ conduct the next day was of (a) similar pattern, he organised his depleted coy admirably and broke into a number of most important buildings on the heels of the enemy. Within an hour he successfully resisted a violent counterattack calling down mortar fire on his own position owing to the closeness of the range. His company was engaged with the Germans at 100 yards range all that night and the next day and the next night. During that time, they accounted for eleven Germans. (On) The morning of the 24th June when the Irish Fusiliers continued their attack, Major Gibbs was given the option of pulling out as his position was within 100 yds of the barrage opening line. This he refused to do and at zero hour under the barrage was engaging with the enemy with everything he had including A.Tk weapons. This effort made the task of the attackers here a much easier one.
Major Gibbs' personal conduct throughout has been most gallant and his men never flagged with his cheerfulness to keep them going in spite of their trying and prolonged ordeal aidless."
Following the conclusion of the Irish Brigade’s part in the battle near to Lake Trasimeno, and 2 LIR’s withdrawal to Egypt, Major Gibbs was moved to corps reserve in August 1944, and a much-needed period of rest and was then reassigned as a staff instructor.
Lt-Colonel Horsfall perhaps provides the most vivid and moving testimony of the outstanding attributes of Colin Gibbs:
“...I asked our padre (Harry Graydon) whether or not he thought that Colin could keep up his present form indefinitely, pointing that he had been embattled for longer than most of us could remember and the last six weeks must have drained most people to the dregs. One of a CO’s responsibilities was to anticipate the mental and spiritual fatigue that overtook most of our star characters eventually...Harry said immediately that my remarks were applicable to most mortals but that he thought that Colin was unique, and the only thing that would ever break up his mental and moral granite was to deprive him of F Company.”
Quis Separabit.Read More
|Captain Michael Tasker, 2 LIR.||8:28 PM, Nov 14 2012|
Windsor, September 2012.
John Tasker, the son of Captain Michael Tasker, contacted us recently with some questions about his late father’s service with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles (2 LIR).
In his note to us, John, who lives in the United States, told us that his father had died last year at the age of 91 years, and went onto say:
“My father never talked much about the war as most of his generation was prone to do. We looked on the internet while he was alive, but, until recently, could not find clear, informative historical facts about his Brigade. I only wish we had found the site while he was alive. I know he would have been very interested. My father was mentioned as a Lieutenant and I believe he ended with the rank of Captain. To make a long story short I would be interested in any information regarding my father and the London Irish Rifles. “
By reviewing the battalion’s war diaries and Michael’s service record, it is clear that after joining up in November 1939, he had been commissioned into the West Yorkshire Regiment before being posted to 2 LIR during January 1943. He served with both G and H companies in Tunisia before leading the Anti Tank platoon in Sicily and then temporarily being OC S Company during the latter part of 1943 and early 1944. While in Egypt in September 1944, Lt Tasker was hospitalised and was only able to return to the battalion at the end of November 1944. He again was medically downgraded and left the London Irish for good in December 1944, and returned to the West Yorkshire Regiment where he regained his captaincy, and completed his war time service in Naples. After 6 years and 8 months, Captain Tasker returned to civilian life in Leeds in August 1946.
Quite remarkably, Michael met his future wife while serving in Italy and they were married in Naples in March 1946. John Tasker confirmed the circumstances of his parents’ romance:
“My mother was a refugee (from Greece) and I assume that she was given work at the headquarters as her profession was listed as clerk (when they were married). The photo of my parents' wedding is gone, but I have a clear picture in my mind of my father in uniform walking with my mother with military standing on both sides.”
We would now like to raise a glass to the memory of Captain Michael Tasker.
|Sydney Swift remembers his fallen comrade Horace Savage.||7:34 PM, Sep 18 2012|
On 24th July 1943, Lance Sergeant Sydney Swift, a section leader within 9 Platoon, 1 London Irish Rifles, buried his comrade Rifleman Horace Savage, after he had been killed along with two other men, Rifleman Edwin Pearton and Lance Corporal John Biggs, near to Fosso Bottacetto just to the south of Catania.
However, it was not until last year that Sydney became aware that only two of the three men were later exhumed and buried at the Catania war cemetery. A total of 47 men, serving with Commonwealth Forces, were killed on 24th July 1943 in Sicily, and Rifleman Savage is the only one not to have been buried at Catania.
The three London Irishmen were killed when a 16-man patrol was sent out towards high ground near to Catania to make contact with the Germans. L/Sgt Swift and a stretcher bearer recovered a mortally-wounded Rfn Savage and carried him back to a dressing station 400 yards away, where he died a few minutes later.
Sydney, who is now 95 years of age, recently contacted the London Irish Rifles Association (LIRA), and can clearly recall the events of that day:
‘The men had been mown down by machine gun fire and Savage had been shot. Two stretcher bearers were told to recover him but one of them was too frightened so I went. The Germans were very fair and didn’t fire on us and allowed us to bring Savage back to the ambulance. He was in a lot of pain and was delirious.
I put a marker on the grave. He must still be there. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has told me that if a body is discovered, they can arrange for a proper burial and a headstone. Somebody needs to go and find him for that to happen. He needs a proper burial and proper grave.’
Peter Francis, of the CWGC confirmed: ‘If a set of remains was discovered and proved to be a Commonwealth serviceman, they would be presented to us for proper burial. We would then mark the grave and care for it.’
LIRA has pinpointed the exact location, where Rifleman Savage and his comrades fell, by using the 1943 war diaries and war time maps and superimposing them onto modern day maps. As can be imagined, the area has been extensively developed since 1943 and there is now an industrial zone close by, and it is clear that further investigating the area will require some sensitive close coordination with all the relevant authorities.
Rifleman Savage was 26 years of age at the time of his death and at that time, his parents lived in Drumcondra, Dublin, but it is not known where any living relatives might now live.
We can only hope an appropriate outcome will be achieved to complete this most moving story.
A video clip from ITV News with an interview with Sydney Swift can be found by clicking here.
You can also read 1 LIR’s war diaries for July 1943, and the circumstances surrounding the attack near Fosso Bottacetto by clicking here.
|Raglan remembers Lt Charles Sutcliffe.||11:39 PM, Sep 03 2012|
Windsor, September 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site has been contacted by Dr Brinley Morgan, who is writing the story of all the men of the village of Raglan, Monmouthshire who died while serving during the Second World War.
Dr Morgan told us in his note: "I am researching Lt Charles Francis Sutcliffe, who was killed on 5th January 1943, whilst leading 18th Platoon, 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers...his father (who was born in Naas) was a doctor in Raglan after the war".
Charles, known as "Chug" within the battalion, died during the first few weeks of the Irish Brigade's campaign in Tunisia, after being mistakenly fired upon by pickets of his own battalion. A tragic death for a most gallant man.
Dr Morgan went onto say: " I believe, where possible, every lost serviceman or woman should have a named recognition on a memorial in our towns and villages. Lt Sutcliffe may not be so recognised and I will try to have him named on our Raglan one, since it has been bequeathed to us."
The Irish Brigade web site would like to send our best wishes and support for Dr Morgan's endeavours to raise awareness of the actions of Lt Sutcliffe and the rest of the Royal Irish Fusiliers within the fine village folk of Raglan.
|Remembering Charles Reidy.||5:57 PM, Aug 28 2012|
Windsor August 28th 2012.
We have been contacted by the daughter of Captain Charles Reidy, who served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles, and who was seriously wounded during the battalion’s action on Stuka Ridge near to Bou Arada on 26th February 1943.
Gemma Utting, who currently lives in New Zealand said in her note to us:
“My sisters and I are the five surviving daughters of Charles James Reidy. He served with 'G' Company.
Charles Reidy certainly did go onto do great things:
Before the war, Charles Reidy had been educated at Stonyhurst College, and was one of four Reidy brothers who played for London Irish in the 1930s. He was the London Irish vice-captain in the 1936-7 season and later that season won his first and only full cap for Ireland as a second row forward against Wales in Belfast (Ireland won 5-3).
After the war, he went to Cambridge University (whilst staying in the army in the Education Corps) where he won a half blue in discus throwing. Charles Reidy was one of the most prominent figures in the development of the hammer event in the UK in the 1940s and 50s, and he used hammer throwing as a means of helping him regain strength into his upper body, arm and leg muscles. In 1943 he built the world's first cement circle in order to maintain his physical improvement with a better quality, more consistent throwing surface. By the end of the 1940s the cement circle was more commonly in use, but it was not until 1953 that a cement circle was used at the White City.
"I am writing to ask if there are other ways to connect with the families of the men who fought in WWII? Are there lists of G Company men, for example?
A remarkable story – a remarkable man.
|Lance Sergeant Ramsell MM.||5:07 PM, Aug 28 2012|
Windsor - August 27th 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site has been recently contacted by the son of L/Sergeant Leonard Ramsell who served with honour with 6 Inniskilling Fusiliers in Tunisia during 1942/43. Leonard was awarded a Military Medal during the attack by the Skins on Djebel Tanngoucha on 22nd April 1943, and King George VI presented the MM to him during his visit to North Africa in June 1943.
Lance Sergeant Ramsell's MM citation reads as follows:
"In the face of fierce machine gun fire from the front and both flanks L/Sgt Ramsell was the first man to reach the feature and proved an inspiring example to the remainder of his platoon.
Four hours later, the enemy counter attacked the Coy position with two Coys supported by the fire of 15 automatic weapons from positions on either flank, which dominated the position.
Since the attack on these two features had failed the positions gained by B Coy was no longer tenable and after fierce resistance, during which three out of the four Coy Officers were killed, the Coy was ordered to withdraw.
Sgt Ramsell, who had taken over command of the platoon, was ordered to cover the withdrawal of the remainder of the Coy. He personally fired a Bren gun with great effect until all his magazines were empty. He then continued to fire with a captured German machine gun until all his ammunition was exhausted.
During the final phases of the German counter attack, Sgt Ramsell was wounded in the head, face and arms, but in spite of this he remained at his post and was the last to leave the position.
This NCO has constantly displayed a high standard of leadership throughout the campaign and has throughout been a great source of inspiration to the company."
The Skins successfully successfully captured Tanngoucha three days later, and this was a major factor in the final Allied breakthrough to enable the capture of Tunis in May 1943.
|Son of Skins’ hero visits place where his father won an MC in June 1944.||2:58 PM, Dec 15 2012|
Pucciarelli, 6 August 2012.
The son of 6 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Major Percy Hamilton has visited the site of the fighting where his father won an MC during the Battle of Trasimeno on 22 June 1944.
David Hamilton, who lives in Berkshire, joined the Irish Brigade battlefield walk team on a detailed investigation of the ground that the brigade attacked during the battle. It involved taking the San Fattucchio ridge and other strong points in the area as Allied forces encountered a major German defensive line east and west of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, north of Rome.
David recalled that his father, a Dubliner who volunteered to join the British Army as a private, rarely spoke of his wartime experiences. He was a lieutenant and acting commander of C Company of the Skins when the battalion was ordered to take the hamlet of Pucciarelli on high ground to the North East of San Fatucchio, which had been taken in intense hand-to-hand fighting by 2LIR on the morning of 21 June.
The fighting for Pucciarelli was extremely bitter and involved tackling German forces holding stone houses and other strongpoints in and around the hamlet and then repulsing strong German counterattacks.
Hamilton’s MC citation reads:
"On the 21 Jun 1944, the Battalion went through 11 Infantry Brigade to launch an attack on the strong, and well defended TRASIMENO Line – the objective being the village of PUCCIARELLI.
In this action, C Coy commanded by Capt Hamilton was largely responsible for the success of other Coys by assisting them on to their objectives; this being attained by the resourcefulness and untiring work of Capt Hamilton who did not once consider his own personal safety in the constant liaison necessary to make his task possible.
He afterwards led his Coy in a determined assault on a group of houses WEST of the village still very strongly held by MG posts, in order that he himself might take up positions there and so protect the flank of the Battalion.
At first light on the 22 Jun 44 the enemy made very strong efforts to move C Coy from this position by launching a powerful counter attack, which nearly succeeded. It was chiefly the courage and determination of Capt Hamilton – coupled with the cheerful confidence he showed, as with total disregard for his own safety he visited all positions in turn and inspired his men to the extra effort which finally decimated the enemy force to such a degree that the remnants were forced to retreat in disorder."
“It is fantastic to be here for the first time, retracing the very ground that my father and his comrades trod all those years ago” said David Hamilton.
Photo taken from Pucciarelli to the north-east over Lake Trasimeno. On 21 June, the village was held by German forces.
The Irish Brigade battlefield walk team comprising Irish Brigade website co-founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan, was joined by Janet Kinrade-Dethick, a locally based historian of the 8th Army battles near to Lake Trasimeno during June and July 1944. Kinrade-Dethick was able to provide expert insights on key incidents during the Irish Brigade’s assault on San Fattucchio and Pucciarelli including
- 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles’ (2LIR’s) attack on San Fatucchio on the morning of 21 June,
- 2LIR’s capture and defence of the San Felice church and cemetery north of the town and
- 6 Skins’ attack on Pucciarelli village.
The walking team was also joined by Hamish Ferguson, who lives in Vaiano east of San Fatucchio, and is leading efforts to commemorate the suffering and sacrifices of British Army formations in the area during World War II, and the O’Sullivans’ nephew David Rodger, a native of Culmore in Northern Ireland.
|Liri Valley battlefield walk - August 2012.||1:32 PM, Oct 16 2012|
Piumarola, 1 August 2012.
The Irish Brigade battlefield walk team today completed a walking tour covering the line of advance of 38 (Irish) Brigade on 14-17 May 1944 during the fourth Battle of Cassino, through what was once the mightily powerful Gustav Line in the entrance of the Liri valley. Now included on the web site here.
The walk encompassed:
- The site of Congo bridge, which was used by all three battalions of the Irish Brigade when they crossed the River Gari on 14/15 May.
- The site of the Pioppeto River bridge which was used by the battalions of the brigade before their attacks on German strongpoints north of the river on 15 May.
- De Vendittis and Tamburrini hills and Point 86, the site of a critical tactical victory secured by 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (the Skins) on 15 May.
- Sinagoga hamlet and Colle Monache, taken and held by 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2LIR) in a decisive battle on 16 May.
- Cerro hill and the Tartari and Tarquino hills, taken by the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers (the Faughs) on 17 May, and
- Piumarola village, taken by the Skins in the final assault on a Gustav Line strong point.
The Liri valley battlefields in May 1944 were the location of some of the hardest fighting that the Irish Brigade was involved in during World War II. The brigade suffered a total of more than 300 casualties out of a total fighting strength of 1800 men. Casualties included the commanding officer (CO) of 2LIR, Ion Goff, who was killed on 15 May; the CO of the Skins, Bala Bredin, who was wounded by shrapnel in both legs in the early phases of the attack on Piumarola; and more than half a dozen company commanders and dozens of NCOs and other ranks. Formations supporting the brigade’s assault including 16/5 Lancers, who also suffered significant amounts of casualties, with more than a dozen of their Sherman tanks being knocked out by German anti-tank fire.
“The walk covered a total of 11 kilometres and involved crossing open countryside and a series of streams in the heat of the summer,” says Irish Brigade co-founder Edmund O’Sullivan. “It helped us understand, in a small way, how challenging it must have been for the battalions of the brigade to cover the same ground when they advanced under constant enemy shelling, mortar bombardment and machinegun and rifle fire during the fourth battle of Cassino 68 years ago.”
Operation Diadem was launched at 11pm on 11 May 1944, and involved attacks along the whole length of the western end of the German Gustav Line from Gaeta Bay to the Monte Cassino massif itself, and about 250,000 Allied troops were involved. The battle was deemed over when the Polish Corps captured Monte Cassino monastery on the morning of 18 May.
The Irish Brigade battlefield walk team comprised Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan, co-founders of the Irish Brigade website, and sons of Edmund (Rosie) O’Sullivan, who was Colour Sergeant in E Company of 2LIR at the time of the battle. They were accompanied by David O’Sullivan, CQMS O’Sullivan’s grandson, and also joined by Damiano Parravano, a representative of the local Gustav Line Association history research group, and his partner Marissa.
“This was a deeply pleasurable, if extremely tiring experience,” says Richard O’Sullivan. “It was also a marvellous, educative walk that allowed us, in a most personal way, to understand the challenges that the Irish Brigade faced and overcame in May 1944. Every step we took honoured the veterans of these battles, and also allowed us time to pause to remember those that didn’t return and those that have since been lost. It represented a small tribute on behalf of the family and friends of them all.”
The Irish Brigade website will soon publish a detailed Practical Guide to the Irish Brigade Battlefields in the Liri Valley during Operation Diadem.
View of the Gari close to where Congo bridge was built on 14 May 1944. Monte Trocchio, where the Irish Brigade concentrated before their attack, can be seen about 800 metres beyond the river. All three battalions of the Irish Brigade moved across the area to cross Congo bridge. 6 Skins was first across on 14 May and was followed by 2LIR and 1 Faughs. The Gari at this point is about 20 metres wide but required a 100-foot bridge in 1944.
|Battlefield Guide - Bou Arada, January/February 1943.||7:30 PM, Aug 27 2012|
Windsor, July 19th 2012.
The Irish Brigade website is delighted to add the first of a series of battlefield guides for visitors to be able to follow the detailed movements of units of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in Tunisia and Italy during 1943, 1944 and 1945.
This first guide is one showing details of the area to the north of the Bou Arada plain where the brigade fought difficult battles during January and February 1943.
It has been researched from a recent visit to the region by web site co founders Edmund and Richard O'Sullivan.
|Combined Irish Regiments' Parade - Whitehall||10:33 PM, Jul 14 2012|
London, June 17th 2012.
The annual parade of the Combined Irish Regiments' Association was attended on Sunday by about 300 veterans and current serving men of existing and disbanded Irish Regiments. Members of the Irish Defence Force contingent of the UN forces also attended the parade for the first time.
|1st Army Association at the National Memorial Arboretum||10:33 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Alrewas, May 24th 2012.
On a scorchingly hot afternoon, a service of remembrance and plaque dedication was held at the UK National Memorial Arboretum to commemorate the 1st Army's campaign of Nov 1942 to May 1943 in Algeria and Tunisia. 150 member of the 1st Army Association, including 21 veterans, were in attendance at the service, which was conducted by Father John McIver at the Millenium Chapel and Mediterranean Campaigns' garden area at the Arboretum, which is located in Alrewas near to Burton-on-Trent.
The 1st Army Association was founded in 1990 by Major John Dickson and its fantastic work is continued by his family. Contact details for them can be obtained by writing to us at the Irish Brigade web site.
|Names added to the Irish Brigade's Roll of Honour||12:00 PM, Jun 24 2012|
Windsor, May 2012.
Following the Irish Brigade web site co founders' recent visit to Tunisia, we are honoured to add 13 more names to our Roll of Honour, which commemorates the men, who fought and died whilst serving with 38 (Irish) Brigade.
The following men have been added to the roll of honour:
L/Cpl WH Harrison, 6 Inns, 19thJanuary 1943.
Fusilier H Haywood, 1 RIrF, 18thJanuary 1943.
Fusilier I Henry, 1 RIrF, 16thApril 1943.
Fusilier T Hesketh, 1 RIrF, 22ndApril 1943.
Captain HE Hooper, 6 Inns, 20thJanuary 1943.
Lieutenant PGR Mahony, RUR attached to 6 Inns, 23rdApril 1943.
Rifleman R Mannall, 2 LIR, 22ndApril 1943.
Fusilier W McNamara, 1 RIrF, 13thJanuary 1943.
Fusilier J Murphy, 6 Inns, 22ndFebruary 1943.
Corporal FC Notley, 6 Inns, 23rdApril 1943.
Lance Corporal M Schofield, 1 RIrF, 23rdApril 1943.
Captain E Spencer, 6 Inns, 18thJanuary 1943.
Fusilier R Turkington, 1 RIrF, 20thJanuary 1943.
|Frederick Gilligan MM is fondly remembered by his family||10:06 PM, May 10 2012|
Windsor, May 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site has been recently contacted by the family of Sergeant Frederick Gilligan, who served in Italy with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and was awarded a Military Medal (MM) for his actions during the final battles in Northern Italy. Tragically, Frederick was killed whilst taking part in peacekeeping duties in Austria during October 1945, and before he received confirmation of the award of his MM.
His great nephew Stephen Gilligan told us in his note:
“Frederick, (known to us as Fred), was one of four orphaned children. Two brothers, Fred and my late grandfather, George William, went to the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) in Dublin as boys in 1918. Fred entered the Royal Irish Fusiliers and George went into the Royal Tank Regiment.
Fred left the army in 1938 and went to work at the GWR locomotive works at Swindon, and then re-enlisted in August 1939, serving (with the Royal Innskilling Fusiliers) in France (BEF), Madagascar, India, Iraq, North Africa, Italy and Austria.”
Frederick’s MM citation states:
“On the morning of 17 April when forming up for an attack in a group of houses, Sgt Gilligan’s platoon was subjected to a heavy enemy barrage but Sgt Gilligan wandered around his platoon, not bothering about any cover for himself. In this area, each house was a strong point and the area was swept by enemy small arms fire but Sgt Gilligan moved about the battlefield oblivious of bullets. Several times he cleared enemy from positions on his own. Later in the day, a strong point was attacked by this platoon. The platoon consisted of three machine guns and one SP gun. The post was in the open and covered from both flanks by enemy fire. The platoon got within 50 yards of the house but owing to enemy defensive fire casualties were heavy and the final assault was impossible. The platoon was ordered to withdraw but Gilligan refused to leave his wounded until the stretcher bearers had evacuated all his men.”
In his note to us, Stephen went on to say:
“My grandfather, George, served constantly from 1918 and throughout the second war, leaving the army in 1949 as a Warrant Officer. He had been mentioned in despatches for an action in Normandy. It was obviously a huge shock for George to lose his brother after both of them had served through the entire war. I have a copy of a newspaper cutting from the Swindon Gazette in November 1945 which is about Fred’s award of the Military Medal: however he was already dead by the time it was published.
I heard different stories about Fred, one that a German killed him, another that he was shot by a guard after answering him in German! It would be wonderful if you could find any information on what actually happened to Fred.”
|Brigadier TPD Scott relaxing with his driver, Oliver Ellwood||10:36 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Windsor, April 2012
The Irish Brigade web site is delighted to have been contacted by the family of Oliver Charles Ellwood who served as Brigadier Pat Scott's driver during the North African and Italian campaigns.Oliver Ellwood's son in law, Dr Norman Rogers, also enclosed a couple of photographs and explained to us:
"The top photo we think is my late father-in-law’s friend standing by the Brigadier’s car, but are not sure. Oliver is on the right. However the bottom photograph has a caption written on the back of it stating that my late father-in-law (Oliver Charles Ellwood) is on the left and sitting next to him is TPD Scott. Oliver was the Brigadier’s driver during North Africa, the Sicily landings and the landings at Salerno, Italy, and was also present during the bloody battle of Monte Cassino. Oliver told us how he liked the Brigadier and that he used to drive his family and children around as well - apparently, they were very prone to car sickness.
All I can tell you is that Oliver never talked about the battle of Monte Cassino as he lost most of his closest friends there. He really never talked about the war and we guess he just wanted to forget the trauma of it all and return to normal family life. However he did relate much about the eruption of Vesuvius at that time as they marched through Naples. When he was alive we did want to take him back to Italy and with my mother-in-law, but he just refused to go. He did talk about one remarkable chance of fate. He was shot by a sniper’s bullet which penetrated his back pack, but was stopped by a metal framed photograph of my wife, Susan, which he carried with him throughout the war. Susan was five when he returned home.
Oliver was in the Irish Fusiliers, and was born and lived in Cheshire, so we are not sure how he became to be in the Irish regiment!"
|Bernard Robertson - Bren Gunner, 2 Inns||10:47 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Windsor, May 2012.
The Irish Brigade web site has been contacted by the son of Bren Gunner Bernard Robertson, who served with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers between March 1944 and September 1947.
In his recent note to us, his son, Alan enclosed photographs of his father and explained:
"He transferred from the Royal Ulster Rifles and was a Bren Gunner. I only have a couple of photographs of him from this time, one pictured in a Bren carrier named 'Garigliano'. I do remember him saying that the carrier was named after a river crossing that they had just completed - Dad is the one standing up in the right of the carrier and would be 20 when this was taken. His service number at the time was 14609178. and when later he transferred to the Royal Engineers, he was given a different number, 22235793, in line with the modern British Army."
|Chasing ghosts on Hills 279 and 286.||3:00 PM, Dec 15 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. April 2012.
The failed attack on Hills 279 and 286 during the first battle of Bou Arada on 20/21 January 1943 was the worst setback for the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles during the Second World War and probably the biggest defeat suffered by any part of the Irish Brigade during the conflict. More than 40 officers, NCOs and riflemen were killed and there were a total of 200 casualties in less than 24 hours. This was about 40 per cent of the battalion’s fighting strength at the start of the attack. A visit in March by the Irish Brigade website was designed to honour those who suffered and died on that day. But it also brought home to Irish Brigade website co-founder Richard O’Sullivan why the battalion’s first major action of the war ended in disaster.
“Hills 279 and 286 are part of a gentle ridge running north-east from the Goubellat to Bou Arada road,” O’Sullivan says. “It is surrounded by miles of open ground and overlooked in all directions by loftier high-points. Hill 286 is made of impenetrable sedimentary rock and was largely without cover of any kind, as it still remains today. People thought before the attack that the hills were indefensible and that theory was proven during the London Irish’s attack.”
The attack on 279 and 286 was part of the cut-and-thrust battle between Allied and German forces in the first two months of 1943. The most strategically important spot was the town of Bou Arada, which sits on a railway line to Tunis and an east-west highway. The German goal was to capture this transport channel, turn the allied line from the south and roll it up. The allies’ objective was to stop this happening.
The summit of Hill 286 looking to the north-east in April 2012. On 20/21 January 1943, German forces held the hills in the distance. By around 7am on 20 January, F Company was holding this position and some elements including its commanding officer Captain Ekin had advanced down into the lowland. Ekin was wounded and F Company suffered heavy casualties from German machine gun, mortar, artillery and tank fire. Note the lack of top soil covering the hard sedimentary rocks of which the hills is made. It made it impossible for the London Irish to dig in.
|Memories of war stirred by visit to Stuka Farm battlefield, now at peace.||6:38 AM, May 10 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. April 2012.
An irregular ridge that runs west for almost two miles from the Goubellat-Bou Arada road to the Djebel Rihane massif was the location of the last major confrontation between the Irish Brigade and German forces seeking to break the Allied defensive lines in early 1943.
A view west along Stuka Ridge towards Djebel Rihane in April 2012. The hill in the centre of the photograph is Hadj Hill, where E Company was based at the start of the German attack and then driven off. The hill was recovered on the morning of 27 February. Terence "Spike" Milligan, then a signaller with the 56th Heavy Artillery on Stuka Farm ridge, was subsequently mentioned in dispatches for his constancy and courage during the attack.
Today, the ridge – which centres on a group of buildings that the brigade named Stuka Farm because of the regularity and intensity of dive-bombing attacks in this period – offers a pleasing spot to consider the charms of the Tunisian countryside as well as the contours that shaped the battle on 26 February 1943. It provides an uninterrupted view over the Goubellat plain which lies about 300 feet below the line of the ridge; an alternative perspective of Grandstand Hill to the east and a better understanding of why the German attack was initially so successful.
The area -- largely held in January-March 1943 by the Irish Brigade -- covers a total of more than 20 square miles. It was defined by the ridge upon which Stuka Farm sits: the north-south Goubellat road to the east, the road between Bou Arada and El-Aroussa to the south and – to the west -- the stretch of the C49 road linking El-Aroussa to Medjez el-Bab beyond the Djebel Rihane. It includes the whole of Djebel Rihane, then -- as now -- a largely uninhabited and forested mountain rising to about 3,000 feet above sea-level.
The ridge itself is divided into more than a half-dozen individual high points separated by deep, wooded gulleys. In February 1943, practically all of it was held by the companies of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles.
H Company was on the high-point closest to the Goubellat road; F Company was in and around Stuka Farm; G Company held Castle Hill, an isolated high point that extended into the Goubellat plain, while E Company was based on Hadj Hill, the highest of the four points and the closest to Djebel Rihane.
E Company platoons had also been posted to three further high points to the north-west, west and south-west of Hadj. Battalion HQ was sited on a separate hill south of Hadj.
E Company colour sergeant Edmund (Rosie) O’Sullivan was an eyewitness to how the battle started. The London Irish were recovering from losing almost half their fighting infantrymen and officers on Hills 286 and 279 on 20/21 January.
“The men who now comprised most of E Company were poorly trained and not a patch on their predecessors,” O’Sullivan recalled in his memoirs All My Brothers. “One early morning, I inspected the forward position of 7 platoon on Hadj hill. It was dark and raining and I searched for the two sentries of one section. Finally, I saw a bren gun muzzle poking out from a pile of blankets and groundsheets. After removing a couple of layers, a voice shouted: ‘Halt! Who goes there?’ I rebuked him and said: ‘If I’d been a Ted, you’d be dead!’ (a Ted was short for Tedeschi, Italian for German). I did not report him but had a quiet word with Jimmy White (who was the platoon’s sergeant) about his sentries.”
“It had been decided that 24 February was to be a no transport day when any vehicle seen on the road would be strafed. There were no defined lines and both sides often used stretches of the same roads and tracks. As I could not use transport and had NAAFI rations for 9 platoon, I commandeered a donkey. Riding without a saddle, I rode to Flat Top hill carrying a box of cigarettes, confectionery and other comforts that I would sell to the men. I had no thought of enemy patrols. A few days later, we would find evidence of a German patrol in the area. They had probably seen me on my donkey but resisted the lure of a haul of about a couple of thousand cigarettes and 30 assorted bars of confectionery. I had been very lucky.”
The view from Stuka Farm ridge to the north-east. The ridge about 1,000 metres distant is Grandstand Hill. The line of trees marks at its foot marks the route of the Goubellat-Bou Arada Road. On 25-26 February, Germans attacked up the ridge and held parts of it until forced out in counterattacks by the Faughs and the Skins.Read More
|“Rommel met my father”: Tunisian historian provides an alternative perspective on the war for Tunisia||10:37 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. April 2012.
In an interview at his home in Tunis earlier this month, Mr Nouredine Dhouib told the Irish Brigade website that the majority of his countrymen continue to have mixed feelings about the war between Allied and Axis forces in their country during the period November 1942 to May 1943. After a career in engineering, Mr Dhouib now undertakes detailed research into modern Tunisian history and has a special interest in the country’s struggle for self-determination and independence.
He explained that post war research suggests that an estimated 60,000 Tunisians died during 1942 and 1943, mainly from malnutrition and disease due to the disruption of normal economic activity across Tunisia’s most populous and fertile areas. There were also instances of atrocities committed against the civilian population during the conflict. A large number of Tunisians were conscripted into forced labour units by the Germans and the majority of the country’s Jewish population was held in detention centres and some deported by the Nazis to concentration and extermination camps in Europe. As we had discovered during our visit to the Bou Arada area, to this day, there also continues to be civilian deaths caused by unexploded ordnance (see news item below).
Nouredine noted that attitudes amongst the Tunisian people to a seminal moment in their country’s history were complicated by widespread opposition to French domination of Tunisia. At that time, it was technically an independent state but was, in effect, part of France’s North African empire which encompassed Morocco and Algeria. At the time, many regarded the Germans as agents of liberation from French rule and this sentiment was exploited to varying degrees of success by the German occupying forces.
Nouredine’s father, a Tunisian nationalist, lived in a town close to the Libyan border, and met the celebrated commander of Germany’s Afrika Corps Erwin Rommel during his retreat from Libya into Tunisia. He said that his father shook Rommel’s hand and said that “he welcomed his enemy’s enemy”, and that his father would recall that Rommel’s response was in the form of “a half-smile”. As a result of this meeting, he was later accused by the French colonial authorities of sharing "intelligence with the enemy", and spent more than six months in prison, in terrible conditions, suffering torture, and under threat of a death sentence. He was ultimately acquitted by a military court after favourable evidence was introduced by a French settler.
At the end of 1942, there were more than 100,000 French settlers and a similar number of Italian residents living in Tunisia, and Nouredine said that Tunisians were also wary of Italian intentions in light of their occupation of Libya since 1911 and its bloody suppression of an independence movement in the 1920s. It was widely feared that Mussolini hoped to annex Tunisia to create a new Roman African Empire.
Tunisia gained full independence in 1956 and provided a refuge for nationalists fighting French rule in Algeria. At the time of the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, the leader of Tunisia’s independence movement Habib Bourguiba, later to become Tunisia’s president, was being kept in detention by the Vichy French government in Lyons after being originally imprisoned in April 1938. He was released during December 1942 and transferred to Italy by the Germans in an attempt by them to court favour with the Tunisian people, but Bourguiba was favourable to the Allies and wanted the question of independence to be left until the end of the war.
After the liberation of Tunisia by the Allies in May 1943, the French authorities returned from Algeria and decided to dethrone the Sovereign Moncef Bey because of alleged collaboration with the enemy, but in reality this was due to the fact that the Bey had been supportive of the nationalist movement in Tunisia. 10,000 Tunisians were arrested by the returning French and between 100 and 300 were sentenced to death and executed. French North Africa, which had attached itself to the Vichy Government, had actually opposed the Allied landing forces in Algeria and Morocco and, with only a few exceptions, allowed Axis forces to land in Tunisia without offering resistance. The returning French authorities also attempted to re-arrest Habib Bourguiba and his companions, and it was only through the direct intervention of the American consul, Hooker Doolittle, that they were finally set free.
Concluding our conversation, Mr Dhouib expressed the hope that the meeting would allow a better understanding of this chapter in the history of Tunisia, and would stimulate continuing research into the less well known elements of the Tunisian campaign of 1942/1943.
|The Irish Brigade and Hitler plotter faced each other in Tunisia in 1943||1:59 PM, Jul 19 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. April 2012.
Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the leaders of the plot to assassinate Germany Fuehrer Adolph Hitler in July 1944, was for more than two months a prominent figure leading the German forces opposing the Irish Brigade Tunisia in 1943.
On 1 February that year, Von Stauffenberg, then 35, was appointed chief of staff of 10th Panzer Division, a formation of the German army that had been deployed in Tunisia in November 1942. He replaced the previous chief of staff who had been killed with 10th Panzer Division commander Wolfgang Fischer when the car they were in drove over a minefield laid by the Italians that had been badly marked.
The 10th Panzer Division had previously participated in the battle for Poland in September 1939; the battle for France in May-June 1940 and the Barbarossa campaign in the Soviet Union.
Von Stauffenberg, a cavalry officer from Bamberg in Bavaria and who had refused to join the Nazi Party, previously served in the German army during those campaigns, which is when he had heard about the mass murder of civilians. He had started making contact with German officers and civilians opposed to Adolph Hitler in the summer of 1942.
On 7 April 1943, Von Stauffenberg was strafed by British fighters near Mazzouna on the southern Tunisian front. He was seriously wounded, losing his right hand, two fingers of his left hand and his left eye. After recovering from his wounds, Von Stauffenberg was given staff positions in Berlin. From September 1943 onwards, he became involved with plans to assassinate Hitler. The unsuccessful attempt on the Fuehrer’s live was made during a conference involving Hitler in the Wolf’s Lair complex in Eastern Prussia on 20 July 1944. A bomb in a briefcase -- left in the conference hall by Von Stauffenberg -- detonated, but Hitler escaped. Von Stauffenberg immediately flew back to Berlin to lead the coup against the regime but news that Hitler was still alive demoralised his fellow-conspirators and allowed the regime to rally its supporters. Von Stauffenberg and four other conspirators were taken prisoner around midnight. One committed suicide and the other four, including Von Stauffenberg, were shot at about 1am on 21 July.
You can read more about Claus von Stauffenberg here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claus_von_Stauffenberg.
|Moving visits to Tunisian war cemeteries.||9:14 PM, Apr 08 2012|
Windsor 8th April.
During their recent visit to Tunisia, Irish Brigade website co-founders, Richard and Edmund O’Sullivan, were able to visit four of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemeteries at Massicault, Beja, Oued Zarga and Medjez-el-Bab.
Richard said “We were honoured to have this opportunity to visit the final resting place of these brave men, and found it very emotional walking through these peaceful grounds and view many familiar names, including some who were close friends of our father, Edmund.”
Around 350 men from the Irish Brigade are buried and named on memorial panels in the war cemeteries of Tunisia, and despite recent political upheavals within the country, all of them continue to be kept in immaculate condition by locally employed CWGC staff.
Richard further explained, “During our visit, we were able to thank the staff involved in the up keep of the beautifully kept cemeteries, and the staff members were able to convey their deepest respects to us for the men who were not able to return to their families. For staff here, they had previously only seen rows and rows of names and it was fantastic that we were able to provide some background detail about some of the men who lie at peace here.”
As part of our wish to treasure the memory of the men of the Irish Brigade, we are gradually building up a photographic data base of all those brigade members, who are buried in North Africa and Italy and hope to add tull details of this over the coming weeks.
You can view the full Irish Brigade roll of honour here:
|Gunpits and wire: Grandstand Hill bears the marks of Irish Brigade battles of 1943||1:06 PM, May 09 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. 6 April 2012.
Gun pits and barbed wire on Grandstand Hill north of the Tunisian town of Bou Arada are engulfed each spring by wildflowers and mountain lavender.
So it was easy to forget during the Irish Brigade website’s visit to the ridge at the end of March that this was the setting for bitter fighting between the brigade and German Panzers and paratroops in early 1943.
“Grandstand Hill has a special place in the records of the brigade and particularly for the 1st Battalion of Royal Irish Fusiliers which held much of it between 12 January and 22 March 1943,” Irish Brigade website co-founder Edmund O’Sullivan says. “It was critical in ensuring the German Army did not breach British Army lines and outflank the entire allied expeditionary force at that time.”
Anglo-American landings in Morocco and Algeria started on 8 November 1942. The Irish Brigade, then part of the 6th Armoured Division, landed in Algeria in phases with the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) eventually arriving on 10 December. British units meanwhile had dashed into Tunisia, an independent Arab state under Vichy French protection. The Germans had responded swiftly to the invasion, occupying Vichy France as soon as the Allied North African operation began and German paratroopers were landed in Tunisia on 9 November.
Quicker to build up its forces and benefiting from effective air cover, the German army with its Italian allies repulsed the initial Allied dash to Tunis. After an all-out assault was contained, the Allies withdrew to a line that ran roughly north to south through the town of Medjez el-Bab on the Mejerda River by the end of December.
German and British forces then moved to take over land to the south of Medjez and the Irish Brigade was deployed to the village of Goubellat on the main road south of the town in early January.
“In that first week of January, though we did not then appreciate the point, we were as children playing with fire,” John Horsfall, then a major and commanding officer of D Company in the Faughs, wrote in his book The Wild Geese are Flighting, published in 1976. He said that the Germans had by then had the main elements of four high-grade divisions plus elite paratroop regiments. This was combined as the 5th Panzer Army under the command of General Juergen von Arnim.
The 10th Rifle Brigade were first to move on to Grandstand hill, a two-mile ridge rising to more than 1,000 feet to the east side of the north-south road from Goubellat to Bou Arada. The hill commands superb views over the hills to the east, the Goubellat plain to the north the open ground towards Bou Arada and Djebel Rihane, the largest mountain in the region to the west.
The Rifle Brigade countered an initial German advance to the Goubellat Road on 11 January. The Faughs took over part of the hill on 12 January and initially shared control of it with the Rifle Brigade.
Allied high command pressed for further aggressive action and the 6th Inniskilling Fusiliers (Skins) were dispatched at dawn on 13 January to take Two-Tree and Three-Tree hills about two miles north-west of Grandstand across a featureless plain with no tree cover. The Skins were repulsed and suffered 100 casualties that day.
Under pressure from UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, 1st Army Commander General Sir Kenneth Anderson ordered a fresh Irish Brigade attack on the hills to start on the morning of 18 January. Horsfall says in his book that Anderson was unaware that three regiments of paratroopers, two Jaeger (rifle) regiments plus other German units had been deployed in the area. “They had the rest of the 10th Panzer Division to back them, which at the time was at full strength,” he wrote.
The attack plan called for a single Irish Brigade battalion – the Faughs – to rise from their trenches and foxholes on Grandstand Hill and advance towards Two Tree and Three Tree Hills across the ground covered by the Skins five days earlier.
Horsfall wrote that Lieutenant-Colonel T P D Scott, then commanding officer of the Faughs, said that if the attack had gone ahead, it would have probably led to the end of the Irish Brigade: the Skins had already been savaged, the Faughs would have been outnumbered and encircled and the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles, then based west of the Goubellat road, would have faced the full might of the 10th Panzer division. Horsfall speculated that this would have exposed the southern flank of the allied armies to a German armoured thrust north. The consequences could have been disastrous.
Horsfall wrote that the fatal plan was never implemented because the Germans struck first. “…by the mercy of Allah, before the first orange glow appeared in the eastern sky (of 18 January), and before the Irish Brigade could expend yet another battalion against those sinister little hills standing there silhouetted, General (Wolfgang) Fischer took matters in to his own hands and unleashed his formidable infantry upon us.”
Part of the attacking German force ran into Skins’and Faughs’ positions on Grandstand and was repulsed. Historians say the balance of the day was shifted by the effective use of 72 guns deployed by the 17th Field Regiment of the Royal Artillery, which had arrived the day before.
The Faughs counterattacked in the late afternoon of 18 January. The Germans withdrew leaving Grandstand and other land held by the Irish Brigade still in its possession.
The battle of 18 January was the hardest on Grandstand Hill, though the ridge would continue to be contested for more than two further months.
Events on that day were however to be overshadowed on 20/21 January by the final major Irish Brigade action during the 1st Battle of Bou Arada: the attack on Hills 279 and 286 by the London Irish Rifles.
“Grandstand is a superb spot to study the locations of Irish Brigade battles in the Bou Arada area in January and February 1943,” says Irish Brigade website co-founder Richard O’Sullivan. “We found the hill at peace and looking lovely this spring, but the landscape’s so unchanged that it’s easy to imagine how events unfolded at that time.”
|Scars of war still linger in Heidous amid the Tunisian mountain battlefields||11:06 AM, Sep 05 2012|
Windsor, Berkshire. 6 April 2012.
Rusting German barbed wire and a building destroyed 69 years ago this month at Heidous, 50 miles east of Tunis, are vivid reminders that the remote mountain village was at the heart of one of the Irish Brigade’s toughest battles during the Second World War.
Finally up to sufficient strength, allied armies launched the final assault to break the German and Italian defensive ring around the Tunisian capital in early April 1943. The Irish Brigade, then part of the 78th Infantry Division, was given the task of capturing German strong points on a string of east-west peaks rising up to 2,000 feet about 5 miles north of Medjez el-Bab, the region’s principal town straddling the Mejerda.
The assault started on 7 April with brigade attacks on Jebel Mahdi and Jebel Kachbia. That task completed, and after rest, the brigade was ordered on the evening of 15 April to seize highpoints east of Jebel Mahdi surrounding Heidous, which lies about 1,400 feet above sea-level.
After fighting for days in a landscape highly advantageous to defenders, the brigade took the final high points – notably Tangoucha, Point 622 and Butler’s Hill on the afternoon of 25 April. Heidous finally fell at 620pm on that day.
Heidous today supports a farming population of probably no more than 100 people. The road north from the Mejerda valley is asphalted though a section about half a mile from the village has been undercut by water streaming from surrounding peaks. It looked during a visit by Irish Brigade co-founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan as if it were about to collapse, and leaving their car behind, they climbed the rest of the hill to Heidous on foot.
The original village was constructed on a rocky outcrop about 50 feet above the surrounding ground. At its heart is a ruined temple that villagers suggested dated to before the Islamic era, which came to area in the 7th century. The original village provides an excellent viewing point to Jebel Bettiour to the north, Jebel Tangoucha to the south-east, other highpoints held by the Germans in 1943 and over the Mejerda valley. German barbed wire is still evident at locations where it was first laid. A ruined stone building without a roof was said by the villagers to have been destroyed during Irish Brigade attacks.
For the 2nd London Irish Rifles, Heidous stirs powerful emotions. After sheltering on the north side of Bettiour, the London Irish tested the village’s defences on 18 April with an initial F Company patrol. The battalion’s full attack began at 815pm on 22 April with F and G Company advancing on the village. The struggle went on for almost 12 hours and E Company was sent in to reinforce the attack. By dawn, it was evident that German machine gun posts were still intact and fire from surrounding high points made continuing the attack impossible. The London Irish were withdrawn behind Bettiour soon after 8am. By this point, F Company had been reduced to just 27. A total of nine London Irish were killed on 22/23 April and several times that number had been wounded. Those wounded in the attack continued to die after the battle. G Company Commander Maurice Thornton, 36 years old and an Oxford University Graduate, was hit in the legs by machine gun fire and taken prisoner, and died from his wounds on 13 May.
A total of 123 Irish Brigade members died between 6 April and 2 May 1943, about 12% of its total World War II losses.
It was decided no further attacks on Heidous should be attempted until the surrounding high points were taken. The London Irish captured Heidous unopposed at 615pm on 25 April. It took until the start of May to suppress all German resistance on the brigade’s front.
London Irish E Company Colour Sergeant Edmund (Rosie) O’Sullivan recorded his memories of finally entering Heidous after it had fallen in his book All My Brothers. “… E Company scrambled down from Bettiour and I followed immediately with my mules,” he wrote. “It was eerie making our way by the light of the fires still burning in Heidous. As we entered it, all was silent and we passed lines of three or four dead London Irishmen led by an NCO with their weapons in front of them. I saw a sergeant leaning back against the wall of a hut. I did not recognise him. He had no head. We had taken Heidous, home to the villagers who had scratched a living from the bare soil. It could not have been strategically important as it was only a small mound on the rear slope of Bettiour.”
Contemporary visitors leave the village with more mixed emotions. “Visiting Heidous and seeing Bettiour and Tangoucha made us understand the almost impossible objectives the brigade was set in this battle,” says Edmund O’Sullivan. “The main peaks are on top of eroded cliffs and movement in surrounding valleys can be monitored easily from these positions. Heidous itself is a natural fortress where the defenders sited machine guns and artillery. It is therefore unsurprising that the brigade nicknamed Heidous as “Hideous”. The place is in fact a beauty spot, but you can only appreciate that when there’s peace.”
|Ordnance on Grandstand continued to kill years after the war||2:56 PM, Apr 08 2012|
4 April, 2012. Windsor, Berkshire.
During their recent visit to Tunisia, Irish Brigade web site founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan learnt that grenades and other explosives continued to kill and injure people on Grandstand Hill, a strategic highpoint held by the Irish Brigade during the period January to March 1943, for many years after the war in Tunisia ended.
During their recent visit to Tunisia, Irish Brigade web site founders Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan learnt that grenades and other explosives continued to kill and injure people on Grandstand Hill, a strategic highpoint held by the Irish Brigade during the period January to March 1943, for many years after the war in Tunisia ended.
"We met a man named Mohammed Bramar who broke down in tears when he heard we were researching the course of the war of 1942/43 in Tunisia," said Edmund. "He told us that his son, Jamaleddine, who was 10 years of age, had been killed in 1990 when he picked up a live grenade that then exploded."
Richard and Edmund were shaken and saddened by the story, evidence that the suffering of the brigade in Tunisia during the war found tragic echoes among the civilian population long after the conflict finished. Tunisians, who live in the area said that it took many years for dangerous material left by the Allied and Axis forces to be cleared and that the process was often left incomplete. It is said that the Tunisian Army performed a full clean up of mines, unexploded bombs and other war detritus in the late 1980s/early 1990s, although it would have been almost impossible to make all areas completely safe. Visitors to Grandstand, a high ridge rising to over 1,000 feet and which dominates the main road north of Bou Arada, will still find British Army barbed wire which was laid down almost 70 years ago.
Grandstand had been taken over by 10 Rifle Brigade during their initial dash into Tunisia. and the Irish Brigade took over the positions on the hill on 12 January 1943 and it was then held by units from 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers and 6 Inniskilling Fusiliers until the end of March 1943. During that time, the hill was subject to a major German attack on the morning of 18 January, which was repulsed. The hill was subsequently the subject of regular sniping, mortar fire, shelling and air attacks. The brigade was obliged to use explosives to construct trenches in the impenetrable rock from which the hill and neighbouring highpoints is made. Remnants of machine positions and the principal trench constructed in 1943 can still be seen today.
|Irish Brigade website founders complete Tunisia battlefield visit.||2:03 PM, Jul 19 2012|
Windsor 3rd April 2012.
Irish Brigade website founders Edmund and Richard O'Sullivan have completed a five-day visit to Tunisia to locate and report on key Irish Brigade World War II battlefields and pay their respects to more than 350 Irish Brigade members who died in bitter fighting in the country during the period December 1942 to May 1943.
Their tour encompassed trips to:
* Grandstand Hill north of Bou Arada, which was held by the brigade from 12 January until 22 March 1943,
* Two Tree Hill and Three Tree Hill, scene of a brave but unsuccessful attack by the 6th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 13 January 1943,
* Hills 279 and 286 where the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles were repulsed and suffered severe losses on 20-21 January 1943,
* Stuka Farm Ridge and the neighbouring area, site of a strong attack on brigade defensive positions by Germany's 5th Parachute regiment on 26-27 February 1943,
* Beja in western Tunisia where elements of the Irish Brigade were based in March and April 1943, an
* The 10 peaks mountain range north of Medjez el-Bab where the brigade broke German defensive lines in April 1943.
The O'Sullivans also visited four Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries where the majority of Irish Brigade members are buried and located places in Tunis the brigade passed through and visited during and after the capture of the Tunisian capital in May 1943.
"This was an extraordinary and unforgettable experience that involved seeing places engraved in the history of the regiments that made up the brigade and the memories of Irish Brigade veterans and their descendants," says Edmund O'Sullivan. "Visits to where the brigade fought and so many died in the two battles of Bou Arada and the mountains north of Medjez el-Bab shed light on the nature of the campaign it was involved with, the fearful challenges it faced and the reasons why about a third of the brigade's casualties in World War II were inflicted in six dramatic months in 1942-43."
The O'Sullivans, who were in Tunisia between 28 March to 2 April, say they were impressed by the glories of Tunisia's springtime countryside and the friendliness of the Tunisians they met, including some with stories about how the war affected their homes and families. World War II barbed wire and other items left by about 500,000 British, Commonwealth, Indian, American, French, Italian and German soldiers who fought in Tunisia can still be seen on the brigade's battlefields.
Richard O’Sullivan went on to say, "We had a fantastic few days in Tunisia, and received wonderful hospitality throughout our visit. We were greatly moved by our visit to the battlefield areas, where my father and his comrades spent a very unpleasant few months in the winter / spring of 1943, and where many of their friends lie at peace. For our visit, the weather was excellent and the countryside in full bloom, which is in stark contrast to the experiences of those young men, who were here 69 years ago. Our visit has made us more determined than ever to continue to treasure the memory of those who suffered so greatly during those most difficult times."
The O'Sullivans were accompanied on their battlefield tours by Eileen Byrne, a reporter and researcher based in Tunis and the daughter of former London Irish Major Eugene Byrne. "We are deeply grateful for the assistance and hospitality Eileen so generously provided during our stay," says Edmund O'Sullivan. "Our ability to see so much was largely due to her efforts and support."
A full account of the O'Sullivan's Tunisia visit, including detailed reports about Irish Brigade battlefields and photographs, will be published on the Irish Brigade website soon.
|St Patrick's Day - 2012.||3:40 PM, Jun 26 2012|
Camberwell - 18th March 2012.
On a bright Sunday morning in South London, the combined ranks of the London Irish Rifles Association (LIRA), the LIR's D Company, London Regiment, and the LIR's Army Cadet Force received traditional shamrock from their new Honorary Colonel Major General Sir Sebastian Roberts KCVO OBE. Major General Roberts had previously been Colonel of the Irish Guards.
Notable visitors to Connaught House this year were North Africa 2nd Battalion veteran Charles Ward and his wife Margaret, who were guests of LIRRA. It was the first time that Charles had visited the regimental Headquarters of the London Irish Rifles.
|An Italian winter's day||9:51 AM, Feb 22 2012|
Monte Cassino - February 2012
Some exceptionally cold conditions are affecting southern Europe ths winter. But despite this, members of the Gustav Line Association continue to explore the mountains to the north of the Liri Valley, and our friend Damiano Parravano sent us this wonderful wintry scene, which was taken two weeks ago.
In his note accompanying the photograph, Damiano told us "please see this nice view of the Abbey of M. Cassino, taken from my home this morning. It's the coldest winter that I can remember. M. Cairo is under a snow storm! In the afternoon I'll try to reach the mountain area at north east of M. Cassino, and would like to take some pictures of the battlefields." You can view some more of Damiano's photographs here: www.flickr.com/photos/39921598@N03/6830468111/
|In memory of Major Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile||1:22 PM, Feb 22 2012|
Newcastle, New South Wales - February 2012.
The family of Major Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile recently made contact with the Irish Brigade web site to share some remarkable personal papers and photographs from the time that he served with 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers in Sicily and Italy.
Peter Fry, the partner of Valerie, Lawrie and Olive Franklyn-Vaile's daughter, wrote to us from Melbourne, and on a recent trip to Australia, the Irish Brigade web site's co founder Richard O'Sullivan was privileged to be able to read through the personal letters that were sent by Major Franklyn-Vaile from the front line in Italy to his wife at home in England.
Major Franklyn-Vaile was wounded in the assault on San Salvo by the Faughs, and commanded C Company at the time of his tragic death on the morning of 17th May 1944 near to Piumarola.
After reading through the letters, Richard commented : "The letters are an extremely moving testament to the courage and heroism of the men of 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers. Lawrie was well regarded by all the serving men and officers within the battalion, and these letters show an unbelievable level of human empathy in the middle of such a dreadful conflict." In reaction to reading some of the letters from the time of the attack on San Salvo, Peter Fry puts it more succinctly "it must have been absolute hell there!"
Peter is currently compiling all the personal papers of Lawrie, and hoping to be able to publish these at a future date. Further details of Major Franklyn Vaile's service can be found here
|Captain Percy Hamilton MC||10:58 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Windsor - February 2012
The son of Captain Percy Hamilton MC, who served with 6 and 2 Royal Innskilling Fusiliers in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Austria, has contacted the Irish Brigade web site and has sent us some detailed background about his father's service with the Skins.
Captain Hamilton joined the Royal Ulster Rifles in October 1940, and rose from the rank of acting unpaid corporal in early 1941 to be commissioned into the Skins just before the battalion left for Algeria in Nov 1942 before being promoted to acting major during 1944. Percy received his Military Cross for his part, as OC of C Company, in the battalion's assault on Pucciarelli Ridge during 21/22 June 1944 - an action that secured the Irish Brigade's position in the area west of Lake Trasimeno.
David's brother recalls their father's description of his actions at Pucciarelli that led to the award of his MC, when over a pint (or two), he had told his son; "If I had known then, what I know now, I wouldn't have behaved like a bloody 'eejit !" Those who owed lheir lives to the courageous actions of Percy Hamilton and his comrades may well have described those events in quite a different way.
|Major BA Tebbit 2 LIR||9:49 AM, Feb 22 2012|
Windsor February 2012
The grandson of Major Brian Anthony Tebbit has contacted the Irish Brigade web site seeking to find out more details about his grandfather's war time service. James Doyle said in his note to us "I am trying to piece together his story now before the last of the family disappear."
We were able to provide some background to Major Tebbit's role, as OC of G Company, in the very difficult circumstances encountered by 2 London Irish Rifles in their assault on Hill 286, near to Bou Arada on 19/20 January 1943. He had only recently taken over command of G Company after Captain Grant, the former OC, was captured in December 1942. During the German counter offensive on Hill 286, Major Tebbit, along with so many others, was critically wounded and took several months to recover from his injuries.
In his note to us, James added: "His family (including my mother) were living in Ireland during the war, and he returned there after recovering from his injuries. The story goes that he was pretty badly shell shocked and was blind for about 3 months. He never spoke about his experiences to anyone I have met."
Following the end of hostilities, Tony Tebbit (as he was known to the family) spent time in Ireland, and California before settling in South Africa, where James met him for the first time in 1992. Tony died in 1994.
The Irish Brigade web site founders, Edmund and Richard O'Sullivan, will be visiting Tunisia in March and whilst there shall pay their respects to those men who fought so bravely at Hill 286 in January 1943.
|Fusilier Martin Alexander McKee||9:50 AM, Feb 22 2012|
Windsor Feb 21 2012
The great nephew of Fuslier Martin McKee recently contacted us on the 68th anniversary of his death at the time of the crossing of the Garigliano river. Fusilier McKee is buried at Minturno war cemetery and although included on the CWGC web site as serving with 6 Royal Innskilling Fusiliers, he was actually serving with 2 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as part of 13th Infantry Brigade at the time of his death.
|2 LIR in action near the River Senio||9:51 AM, Feb 22 2012|
Windsor Jan 17th 2012
The Irish Brigade web site have been contacted by James Marcantonio, the son of Sergeant Marcantonio who was photographed throwing a grenade by Pathe News near the River Senio in the winter of 1944/45.
Web site co-founder Richard O'Sullivan said: "This photograph had been included in the official history of 2 LIR, London Irish at War, but we believe that this is the first time that a name has been linked to the photograph. Our thanks are due to the Marcantonio family for sharing this very evocative picture with us."
Sergeant Marcantonio, who is believed to have been in E Coy, was wounded in the attack on Monte Spaduro, and James Marcantonio still has the letter sent by Lt Mosley to the family describing the action when his father was wounded.
|War Diaries now complete.||9:51 AM, Feb 22 2012|
Windsor 9th January 2012.
To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the formation of 38 (Irish) Brigade in January 1942, we are pleased to confirm that the complete day to day war diaries of the Irish Brigade, and its three component rifle battalions have now been uploaded to the Irish Brigade web site.
Web site co-founder Richard O'Sullivan said today: "Although quite a laborious task, it was really important to ensure that the complete war diaries are available on the web site, and this lays a firm platform for future historical research and sharing of personal memory. There are a few months of diary that are difficult to read and the next stage of work will be to transcribe all the diaries to allow the clearest reading of the actions of the brigade during the period November 1942 to May 1945.
Over the next three and a half years, there will be many opportunities to reflect on the 70th anniversaries of the Irish Brigade's actions in North Africa and Italy, and our web site will continue to bring you updates on events and feedback associated with the brigade's historic journey from Algiers to Austria."
|John Field||9:51 AM, Feb 22 2012|
The Irish Brigade web site has been contacted by Mark Field, the grandson of John (Jack) Field who served with 1 London Irish Rifles in the Middle East and Italy. The photograph below was one sent by Jack to his family, believed to be in either 1942 or 1943.
Jack was born a hundred years ago this year and died in 1979 and his grandson would be very interested if any veterans or their families had any recollection or memory of his grandfather.
If you or your family knew Jack, please contact us here at the Irish Brigade web site.
|London Irish veteran recalls Tunisian battle in 1943||11:08 AM, Sep 05 2012|
Aylesbury - November 2011
Veteran of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles Charles Ward, now aged 92, has spoken to the Irish Brigade website about his experiences as a platoon sergeant during battles on the Tunisian front in the Second World War and the major setback that the battalion suffered in its attack on Hill 286 in January 1943.
Charles, known as Pip to his comrades, was conscripted into the London Irish Rifles on 18 October 1939, a member of the same cohort of recruits as legendary E Company sergeant Edward (Eddie) Mayo MM (Click here to read about Eddie Mayo). A printer working in London before the war, Ward was surprised to find himself in an infantry battalion with a strong Irish connection. He had been born in Yorkshire, moving to Kent in the mid 1930s and had no one from Ireland in his family, he says.
Ward retired five years ago after a successful second career as a market gardener, and now lives in Aylesbury with his wife Margaret, whom he first met in Algiers in 1943. He left the London Irish after suffering a knee injury in the spring of 1943 and transferred to the communications unit of SOE, where his future wife was also employed, and they became engaged in Italy during the following year and married in the spring of 1946.
But that was after the bloody battle for Hill 286.
Its memory still moves Ward: “It was crazy really,” he tells the Irish Brigade website about the battle. “You knew …the enemy would throw everything at you.”
When Charles recently returned to Tunisia, he was appalled at the number of London Irish riflemen, NCOs and officers buried at the Medjez el-Bab Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery, many of them killed on Hill 286 (click here to find how to find the Medjez el-Bab cemetery).Read More
|Irish Brigade campaign in Sicily||3:17 PM, Nov 29 2011|
29th November 2011
The Irish Brigade web site is pleased to add a set of narratives, including detailed maps, which describe the campaign in Sicily during August 1943 as described within the brigade's offical war diaries.
|In memory of Corporal Norman Clements||3:17 PM, Nov 29 2011|
Windsor November 27th 2011.
The Irish Brigade web site would like to honour the memory of Corporal Norman Clements who served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy from 1943 to 1945 and passed away on Thursday 24th November 2011.
His grandson Noel Clements said in a note to us: "My grandfather told us so many stories and as I have served myself in the Royal irish Regiment, I feel that I should pass this news on as another Skin has passed away. The funeral will be on Monday and will be a very sad day. Faugh a Ballagh!"
|Field of Remembrance - Westminster Abbey||2:17 PM, Jun 21 2012|
London November 13th 2011
A visit today to the Field of Remembrance plots for the three battalions of the Irish Brigade proved to be a very moving experience for the Irish Brigade web site's co-founder Richard O'Sullivan.
Richard said: "I visit Westminster Abbey every year to lay a few additional crosses for members of the Irish Brigade who lie at peace in Tunisia and Italy. A small personal gesture, but it is so important to maintain the continuity of memory for future generations."
|Major General Purdon takes the salute of the London Irish Rifles||2:20 PM, Jun 21 2012|
London Nov 13th 2011.
On a ravishingly beautiful autumnal morning in south London, the President of the London Irish Rifles Association took the salute today at a Remembrance Day parade of over 200 veterans, current serving members of D Company the London Regiment, and the Regiment's cadet force.
Major General Purdon, who is now 90, joined the Royal Ulster Rifles at the outbreak of war in 1939 before undertaking active service with the Army Commandos. He was captured during the raid on St Nazaire and after several escape attempts found himself in the infamous Colditz castle. After his repatriation in 1945, he led a most distinguished post war military career.
The Remembrance Day parade and service provided a most moving and evocative morning of reflection to honour all those who did not return to their loved ones.
|War diaries of the Skins and the Faughs.||12:00 PM, Jan 17 2012|
During the coming weeks, the Irish Brigade will be delighted to be able to add full details of the war diaries of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and the 6th/2nd Royal Innsikilling Fusiliers covering the period of their front line service with the 38th (Irish) Brigade from November 1942 to May 1945.
The Irish Brigade website co-founder Richard O'Sullivan says, "Although there are extremely fine written narratives available (particularly John Horsfall's and Richard Doherty's books), which describe the progess of the Irish Brigade through North Africa, Sicily and to final victory in northern Italy, the impact of the original war diaries can add great immediacy to the day to day experiences of the men who served with these three fine battalions. We have previously included the full 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles' war diaries in our web site, and I have now have been able to photograph the other two battalions' diaries from the National Archives, Kew to add to the collection."
Look out for the full war diaries of the 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from November 1942 to August 1944), and 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (from August 1944 to May 1945) as they are gradually added over the coming weeks.
|The Irish Brigade website founder visits Cassino battlefields||10:56 PM, Jul 14 2012|
The Irish Brigade website retraces the full route of the Irish Brigade in the spring of 1944 during a visit to Italy by co-founder Richard O'Sullivan.
Richard re-traced the Irish Brigade's progress from their introduction to the Cassino front in March 1944 to the breakthrough into the upper Liri Valley at the end of May 1944.
As with previous trips conducted by the Irish Brigade website, the visit was coordinated with local historians Alessandro Campagna and Damiano Parravano, who both live in the Liri Valley and have detailed local knowledge of the battlefield area.
Richard says of his visit, "I've gained a greater perspective of the time spent by my father, Edmund, and the rest of the Irish Brigade during those difficult months when they lived on Monte Castellone, took part in the decisive assault on the Gustav Line, and led the advance to Ripi.
I would also like to take a further opportunity to pay personal thanks to the Italian people, who never fail to make visitors to the area extremely welcome."
|Eddie Mayo recognised at last.||10:55 PM, Jul 14 2012|
A London Irish Rifles hero, who died in the attack on the Gustav Line during the battle of Cassino on 16 May 1944 has been identified among photographs posted on the Irish Brigade website.
Charles Ward (see story below) reviewed the photographs, which had been provided by the son of RSM George Charnick DCM, and confirmed that Sergeant Edward Mayo MM (who had previously been unidentified) was the tall, fair headed sergeant in several of the photographs.
Edward Mayo joined the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles as a conscipt in October 1939 along with Edmund O'Sullivan, and they served together in E Company between Nov 1942 and May 1944. Edmund was colour sergeant and Edward was a platoon sergeant when he died. Before the war, Edward Mayo worked in the Ford factory in Dagenham, and was married with one son. He was a star recruit and quickly promoted as his charisma and bravery was recognised. He received the MM for bravery during the Battle for Heidous in April 1943, and was wounded twice during the campaigns in North Africa and Italy before his death.
On 16 May 1944 in the assault on Colle Monache (code named Pytchley), Sgt Mayo led his platoon along the road to Singagoga where he was killed with several others as a result of an artillery blast after the successful capture of all their objectives. OC, E Company, Major Mervyn Davies MC, provides the following eye witness account "The men of Mayo's platoon buried him there and then. Before we moved on the next day, they had put a cross on his grave. On the cross were the words 'Sergeant E.Mayo. The finest sergeant that ever breathed.'..."
The Irish Brigade website would very much like to make contact with any members of Sergeant Mayo's family. Can you help?
|Charles Ward remembers with pride||10:52 PM, Jul 14 2012|
Aylesbury, 5 October 2011.
Exactly 72 years after enlisting with the London Irish Rifles at Liverpool Street railway station in London, Charles "Pip" Ward spoke to the Irish Brigade web site this week and shared details of personal diaries that he maintained from December 1942 to February 1943 during the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles' (LIR's) campaign in Tunisia.
Charles vividly recalled the battles on 19th to 21st January 1943 near Bou Arada when over 50 per cent of 2nd LIR's rifle companies were killed, wounded or captured, a traumatic period for the battalion. Charles was then serving as a platoon sergeant with G Company and was part of the misguided battalion assault on Hill 286. In his diary he described the ordeal during the night of 20/21 January as "Hell let loose again...."
Charles and his wife Margaret were recently able to visit several of the war cemeteries in Tunisia to pay their respects to fallen comrades and friends, a most poignant occasion after over 60 years. Many of those resting at peace in Africa had joined up with him and “Rosie” O’Sullivan in October 1939.
After serving with 2nd LIR for 3½ years, Charles joined the cipher section of SOE, where he worked for the next 2 years being based in Algiers, Bari and Athens. It was while serving with SOE that he met Margaret – they recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary together in Buckinghamshire. Charles, now a sprightly 92 year old, intends to march again with 1st Army veterans in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday and Margaret will march with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANYs).
“The discovery of Pip’s story is one of the most exciting moments in the history of the Irish Brigade website,” said Irish Brigade website co-founder Richard O’Sullivan. “It is a unique record from the perspective of a conscript and non-commissioned officer of the first three-and-a-half years of the history of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles. I would like to express the sincere best wishes of our family and all those who venerate the memory of the Irish Brigade to Charles, Margaret and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”
O'Sullivan said that the Irish Brigade website will provide further details of Pip’s memories in future postings.
Do you know an Irish Brigade veteran?
Do you have a memory of an Irish Brigade veteran?
Send it to the Irish Brigade website and share it with the world and forever.
|The Football of Loos returns to the London Irish Rifles Regimental Museum||2:19 PM, Jun 21 2012|
|Irish Brigade website publishes Second World War histories of the London Irish Rifles||11:10 AM, Sep 05 2012|
Derry City, Northern Ireland, 28 December 2010.
The Irish Brigade website today uploads further historic documents detailing the achievements of the London Irish Rifles and the 38th (Irish) Brigade during the Second World War.
The Irish Brigade website has uploaded the text of The London Irish at War: A History of the Battalions of the London Irish Rifles in the Second World War. This comprises separate accounts for the 1st Battalion of the London Irish Rifles, which served in Sicily and Italy, and for the 2nd Battalion, which was part of the 38th (Irish) Brigade. It has also added selections from the War Diaries of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles.
“These are unique documents,” says The Irish Brigade website co-founder Edmund O’Sullivan. “Their presence on The Irish Brigade website will help ensure they are available to the largest potential audience, including veterans’ associations and schools. The website’s aim is to locate in one place as much information as possible about the history of the Irish Brigade in World War II. These documents make a considerable contribution to the achievement of that goal.”
|Irish Brigade commander's history added to The Irish Brigade website||11:17 AM, Sep 05 2012|
London, 27 December 2010.
An eyewitness account of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in Italy in 1944-45 written by its commander during this period TPD Scott was today uploaded on The Irish Brigade website.
"Scott's account was written during the Italian campaign" says The Irish Brigade website co-founder Edmund O'Sullivan. "It is a historic document that sheds fresh and fascinating light on what it was like to serve in the brigade during some of the hardest battles that the British Army fought in the Second World War."
Scott's report has been scanned and uploaded to allow readers to use the document as it was originally produced. The report includes detailed maps of key battles including the Irish Brigade's attack on the Gustav Line on 15-16 May 1944 and its subsequent attack on the Hitler line and of the Battle of Trasimeno which began on 21 June 1944. The report can be accessed by clicking on "Irish Brigade in Italy March 1944 to March 1945".
Scott, who was an officer in the Royal Irish Fusiliers before the outbreak of World War II, temporarily commanded the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles in Tunisia in 1943. He returned to the brigade in March 1944 and was its commander until the end of the war.
|A Skins hero remembered||11:02 PM, Dec 26 2010|
London, 26 December 2010. The life and bravery of one of the heroes of the Irish Brigade has been rediscovered following the launch of The Irish Brigade website in the autumn of 2010.
Sergeant John Geoghegan, a native of Ashford in County Wicklow, volunteered to join the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Skins) following the outbreak of war between Britain and Germany in September 1939. Geoghegan was one of thousands of young Irishmen who served in the British Army with great bravery and distinction in World War II and made the ultimate sacrifice in the struggle with Nazi Germany.
Geoghegan’s story was told in a letter to The Irish Brigade from Kathleen Gregory, a retired nurse who was his fiancée at the time of his death on 21 April 1945. This was less than three weeks before the end of the war.
“He was so incredibly brave,” Mrs Gregory wrote. “We were all so proud of him.”
Geoghegan became a member of the Skins’ 2nd battalion, which was formed for wartime action. The 2nd Battalion was part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and Belgium and participated in the BEF’s fighting retreat to Dunkirk in May/June 1940.
After refitting and reinforcement, the 2nd battalion left the UK in 1942 as part of the British Army’s 5th Infantry Division. It was originally destined for the Far East, but plans were changed and the division served in North Africa, Syria, Iran, India and Madagascar. It was then transferred to the Mediterranean theatre in time for the invasion of Sicily in August 1943.
After the German army was driven from Sicily, the 2nd battalion -- as part of the British 8th Army -- participated in the allied campaigns on Italy’s Adriatic Coast. It was transferred to the west coast and joined the battle for Anzio in early 1944. Elements of the 2nd battalion fought in the battle of Cassino. The 2nd battalion replaced the Skins’ 6th battalion in the Irish Brigade in August 1944.
Geoghegan was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in the battalion’s attack on the German Gothic Line on 23/24 October. He led his section in a successful bayonet charge. Geoghegan was wounded in the arm but refused to be evacuated until the objective was taken. His MM citation said: “The behaviour and bearing of L/Sgt (lance-sergeant) Geoghan has always been a byword in his platoon and on this occasion an example of the finest traditions of leadership."
Promoted to sergeant, Geoghegan was killed in the Irish Brigade’s advance against German lines in the Battle of the Argenta Gap, south of the River Po. This was the final battle in the Italian campaign before the Germany Army in Italy surrendered on 2 May 1945. The war in Europe ended on 9 May.
“It was a dreadful tragedy for such a close-knit family and John is never forgotten,” Mrs Gregory said in her letter. Sergeant Geoghegan’s grave is in the Commonwealth Graves cemetery in Argenta. Further details of his service in the 2nd Battalion of the Skins can be found on They Shall Not Grow Old page of this website: http://www.irishbrigade.co.uk/pages/they-shall-not-grow-old.php. Sergeant Geoghegan’s entry is number 1,023.
After the war, Mrs Gregory, a widow who lives in Dunstable, Befordshire, married Stanley Gregory, a World War II veteran. She and her husband worked on development projects in Nigeria and Kenya.
|Irish Brigade website posts roll of honour details||11:15 AM, Sep 05 2012|
London, 26 November 2010.
The details of Irish Brigade soldiers who died in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy during the Second World War have been posted on The Irish Brigade website. The names, rank, regiment, place of burial and age at death have been listed on the They Shall Not Grow Old page of the site.
“The brigade was dissolved 63 years ago and the number of surviving veterans is dwindling,” says The Irish Brigade website co-founder Edmund O’Sullivan. “We can no longer rely on human memory for information about the brigade and that is why creating a permanent electronic memorial is so important.”
The Irish Brigade website was established in September 2010 following research by O’Sullivan and his brother Richard, sons of Edmund O’Sullivan, Colour Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles during the brigade’s campaigns which began in Algeria in November 1942 and ended in southern Austria in May 1945.
The They Shall Not Grow Old section of the site is based on the seminal work by Richard Doherty, author of Clear The Way! A History of the 38th (Irish) Brigade 1941-47 and other histories of Irish commanders and units in the World War II. This has been supplemented by information garnered from The Commonwealth War Graves database and visits to Irish Brigade battlefields in Sicily and Italy. The Irish Brigade website has also drawn on official histories, eyewitness accounts from members of the brigade and stories passed on by their father, who died aged 90 in May 2009.
“We want to remember the men who died as individuals with families and lives before the war,” says O’Sullivan. “The traditional military memorial serves a wonderful purpose but leaves you wondering who these young men were and who they left behind. Our goal is to post biographical details of all the 1,050 Irish Brigade members who died in the war and we are particularly interested in hearing from the friends and descendants of the riflemen and fusiliers, the most junior ranks in the brigade. The officers are often well remembered, but the common soldier is sadly often overlooked. The Irish Brigade website wants to remedy that.”
Riflemen and fusiliers account for two-thirds of the roll of honour.
O’Sullivan says that his father’s memoirs – A London Irish Family at War, which is also posted on the site – brings colourful characters who died during the war back to life in the mind of readers. “Sergeant Eddie Mayo, MM, who died on 16 May 1944 was a close friend of my father, who regarded him as a genuine hero and a gentleman,” says O’Sullivan. “Others include Dennis Griffin, an army boxing champion killed in Tunisia, Frederick Brooks – a fellow colour sergeant who my father remembered forecasting his own death – and Major Arthur O’Connor, the London Irish Rifles second-in-command, who my father escorted into the Sangro river bridgehead the night he was killed by German shells. There are many others The Irish Brigade website would like to hear about and we welcome any details that people know or remember.”
The Irish Brigade website is also interested in stories about the men who survived the war.
“Since the website was launched, we have received requests for information from people who want to know about their fathers, uncles and grandfathers,” says O’Sullivan. “Now that there are so few eyewitnesses left, the thirst for information is, if anything, stronger than ever. The Irish Brigade wants to help meet that need.”
|The Battle of Graveney Marsh||2:17 PM, Jun 21 2012|
Whitstable, Kent, 26th Sept 2010. A commemoration of the 70th anniversary of what has been described as the "Battle of Graveney Marsh" has been held near the exact spot where on 27 September 1940, members of the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles disarmed the crew of a downed Luftwaffe Junkers 88. The battle was the last fought on British soil.
On what was described as the coldest September day for seven years, and after marching for half a mile behind the London Irish Rifles' regimental pipes and drums, 30 current members of “D” (London Irish) Company The London Regiment, 50 of their army cadets, and 60 members of the London Irish Regimental Association, paraded in front of the Sportsman Inn in the coastal hamlet of Seasalter to mark the occasion. Major General Corran Purdon, President of the Regimental Association, who won the Military Cross for the famous raid on St Nazaire and was imprisoned in Colditz, reviewed the parade and this was followed by a short service of commemoration conducted by Reverend Dugg.
The event also commemorated the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Loos when men of the London Irish Rifles had famously kicked a football towards German trenches, and then held the position against the heaviest odds.
In the summer of 1940, the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles was deployed on coastal defences but as the threat of invasion by the Germans eased, their task changed to capturing any enemy aircrew brought down in the Kent countryside. On 27 September, a Junkers 88 bomber was attacked by Spitfires over Faversham, and crash landed on Graveney Marsh, which was seen by elements of “A” Company who were billeted in the Sportsman pub at Seasalter near Whitstable.
When their commanding officer Capt John Cantopher arrived at the hostelry to inspect the men, it was explained that men had been sent to the downed aircraft, but at that point, sounds of machine gun fire could be heard in the distance. When approaching the aircraft, the London Irishmen had been fired on by the German crew and in response had laid down heavy rifle fire on the aircraft. It was only then that the enemy air crew decided to surrender.
As the prisoners were being taken away, Captain Cantopher overhead one of the Germans say that 'the aircraft would go up anytime now”and ran back to the Junkers to disarm it. With that, he dashed back to the aircraft, located an explosive charge under one of the wings and threw it into a dyke, saving the prized aircraft for British engineers to examine. For this act of bravery, Captain Cantopher was awarded the George Medal.
Members of Captain Cantopher’s family including his sister also joined the commemoration.
|London Irish trenches found on Cassino battlefield||8:46 PM, Dec 05 2010|
Sinagoga, 12 September 2010 What might be the only surviving trenches from the 2nd World War dug by riflemen of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles during the climax of battle of Cassino in May 1944 have been found on the battlefield this summer.
A single line of entrenchments close to the hamlet of Sinagoga in the Liri valley south of Rome was pointed out by Franco Sinagoga, on whose land the trenches were dug more than 65 years ago.
“This was an exciting new discovery and one that really brought home the significance of the battle for the London Irish Rifles and the Irish Brigade at a turning point in the 2nd World War,” says Edmund O’Sullivan, son of 2nd Battalion E Company Colour Sergeant Edmund O’Sullivan who was an eyewitness to the battle for Sinagoga on 16 May 1944.
Franco Sinagoga and his family have previously found German barbed wire and empty British Army ammunition boxes left behind after bitter fighting for the hamlet as the Irish Brigade and the 8th Army’s 78th Division chased the German rearguard towards Rome.
The battle for Sinagoga, one of the most bloody battles involving the London Irish during their campaigns in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, began at 9am on 16 May 1944 with a massive bombardment of German positions in Sinagoga, which sits on a hill with commanding views over the areas the Irish Brigade had advanced the previous day. The 6th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers had advanced out of the River Rapido bridgehead on 15 May to the road between the town of Cassino and Pignataro.
All the battalion’s four companies attacked Sinagoga, driving out German defenders after a bitter fight in which the London Irish suffered several dozen casualties. They included F Company Corporal Jimmie Barnes from County Monaghan, who was killed whilst attacking a German artillery position and unsuccessfully nominated posthumously for a Victoria Cross. Barnes is buried at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Cassino town.
The London Irish, commanded by Major John Horsfall MM, then held Sinagoga and the surrounding areas against strong Germany counterattacks from across the valley of the Piopetto, a stream that bisected the battalion’s axis of advance. Further heavy casualties were sustained but the London Irish repulsed the attacks and advanced a further half mile towards Piumerola, a village that was also held by German defenders. They included E Company Sergeant Eddie Mayo, MM, and Corporal Edward O’Reilly, MM, who were killed by German nebelwerfers. Both are also buried at the Cassino cemetery.
“Huge damage was done to Sinagoga during the fighting, but the Sinagoga family has shown us extraordinary warmth and friendship since we first made contact with them in the summer of 2008 during a trip from Sicily retracing the route of the Irish Brigade in 1943-45,” O’Sullivan said. “One result is that the London Irish visit to the region to mark the Cassino battle in May 2009 included a march along the road to Sinagoga following the axis of advance of the London Irish in 1944.”