Return To The Liri Valley, October 2011 written by Richard O'Sullivan.
It was 72 years ago that my father, Edmund O’Sullivan, then working for Hawkes the military tailor’s in Savile Row, was obliged to take the King's shilling, with an initial commitment of 6 months. When he entrained from Villach, Austria in March 1946, he had served 6 years, 4 months and 18 days with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles (2/LIR) and served as CQMS throughout their overseas service with the 38th (Irish) Brigade, which was initially part of the 6th Armoured Division and from March 1943 onwards part of the famed 78th (Battleaxe) Division. His service record included being present with 2/LIR at the battles on the Bou Arada plain, Heidous near Tunis, Centuripe in Sicily, Salso and Simeto river crossings near Mt Etna, Termoli, the Trigno and Sangro river crossings on the Adriatic coast, the Liri Valley, Lake Trasimene in Umbria, and at the decisive final breakthrough the Argenta Gap - Edmund was mentioned in dispatches in July 1945.
To mark the anniversary of my father joining 2/LIR at Liverpool St railway station along with Edward Mayo, a Ford's car worker from Dagenham and Charles "Pip" Ward, a printer from Dartford, I had the absolute honour of spending a joyfully memorable and emotional week in the company of my dear friends, and members of the Associazione Linea Gustav: Damiano Parravano, his girlfriend Marisa, Alessandro Campagna, Benedetto Vecchio and our faithful four legged companion Birillo in retracing my father's personal journey from March to May 1944.
|The view from San Angelo across the Gari towards Mt Trocchio.|
|Mt Cairo from the summit of Mt Castellone.|
|Looking from San Michele across the Rapido valley towards Cassino.|
|Albaneta Farm at the end of the Cavendish Road.|
Following the advance of 2/LIR from their echelon area behind Monte Trocchio, their journey across the Gari river via Congo bridge, bridging the Pioppeto river, and walking to Colle Monache close to Casa Sinagoga, which traced the route of 2/LIR's assault on the Gustav Line strong points on the morning of 16 May 1944.
- my father's dear friend Sgt Edward Mayo MM lost his life here at 12 noon on 16 May 1944.
- speaking to the Sinagoga family and listening to their family memories of the time when their grand parents' were “confronted” by my father's OC Major Mervyn Davies as 2/LIR stormed into their farm.
|Looking towards Mt Cairo and Monastery Hill from near to the Piopetto river crossing.|
Tracing 2/LIR's advance from Sinagoga to Piumarola on 17th May 1944. their forward movement to Aceto and their subsequent rest period at Casa di Fiore from 21st to 26th May 1944.
- speaking to Damiano's uncle who owns the farm at Fiore which 2/LIR used as their HQ, and where they stayed for 5 days during May 1944.
|Casa de Fiore.|
Following the upper Liri valley to Arce and Ceprano and then tracing 2/LIR's cross country journey before their attacks on Hill 255 and San Giovanni, the successful capture of which allowed an unopposed entry into Ripi at the end of May 1944.
- Gazing over the undulating countryside south of Ripi which 2/LIR had to cross without access to road transport or armoured support.
|From San Giovanni towards Ripi.|
Visiting the CWGC cemetery at Cassino to pay the greatest reflective respect to the near 4000 men who lie at peace there - including 148 of my father's comrades from the Irish Brigade.
- placing a picture of my father alongside his pal Eddie Mayo whose photographic image had been identified for me for the first time two weeks before by another of my father's comrades Charles “Pip” Ward, now a sprightly 92 years and 11 months old.
|CWGC cemetery at Cassino.|