Over the following linked pages, the Irish Brigade website reproduces Pat Scott’s account of his time as Brigade Commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade from February 1944 when he took over command from Nelson Russell until July 1945 when the brigade were involved in ongoing security duties across southern Austria.
FEBRUARY – JUNE 1944
“I am taking up the Irish Brigade story from where Nelson Russell left off. I am only too conscious of the fact that it will be quite impossible for me to write this story in anything like Nelson’s brilliant style, which was guaranteed to bring laughter and tears to your eyes on almost any page of it which you read.
I had left the brigade, with rather mixed feelings, to command 12 Brigade on 7th July 1943, and so missed seeing the brigade perform in Sicily and the first part of the Italian campaign. In November, I was switched to the 128 (Hampshire) Brigade, who were operating on the River Garigliano on the west coast of Italy.
Soon after the crossing of the Garigliano in January, I broke my ankle and retired from active operations for what the doctors told me would be about three months. After about three weeks in hospital, I limped off to see the military secretary who lived around the corner, and told him that I was to go to a convalescent depot for about six weeks. I said that, if by any accident of war, the Irish Brigade became vacant, I would be available at once, but it would be at least two months before I would be available for any other brigade.
I had been at the convalescent depot for just twenty four hours when the military secretary rang me up to ask if I would be fit to go back to the Irish Brigade, as it was going vacant. Next day, I saw General Keightley, the Divisional Commander, an old friend of ours from 6 Armoured Division days, and told him that the one thing I really did want to do above all else was to return to the Irish Brigade, but that I would not be able to walk for about three weeks and goodness knows when I would be able to climb the Djebels again. This limitation did not seem to worry him and he promised that we would be the last brigade to do anything, and that if we could be kept out of the mountains we would be, if not I would have to be content to sit at the bottom and let a CO carry on…………….He kept his promise well.”
JULY – SEPTEMBER 1944
“On the first day of July, we started our move back to a concentration area near Rome, where we were to hand in all our transport and give everybody as much opportunity of visiting Rome as we could. Advance parties left in the afternoon and I slipped off about the same time. The brigade was to follow the next day.
The concentration area was on Route 4, about eight miles east of Rome. There seemed to be a certain advantage in establishing my Tac HQ at the Eden Hotel in Rome. This consisted of John McClinton and myself. It proved to be a wise move. We had decided to hold a Brigade Dance in the city, which was to be as far as we could make it, the sort of show that everyone would remember. A lot of preparation was needed, including a good deal of contact with the local Romans. I don’t think we could have ever done it without a ‘pied a terre’ on the spot…”
OCTOBER 1944 – FEBRUARY 1945
“There is not much to be said about Taranto. Its amenities and general attractiveness had not improved since the brigade first saw it about a year before. The first few days we were kept pretty busy sorting ourselves out and getting everything ready to move north. We had a training area, which was used a little, but there wasn’t very much time for this sort of thing. We were told we must get away as soon as possible. We were to be ready by the 25th. There was some talk of a PAD scheme being brought into action, but as there hadn’t been any hostile aeroplanes for 6 months, this didn’t raise great enthusiasm. Air sentries were posted but what anyone did, when the alarm was given, seemed open to question. No one proposed to waste time and energy digging fox holes in that hard unyielding earth if they could avoid it…”
FEBRUARY 1945 – MARCH 1945
“I got back from leave on the 18th January 1945 and found everyone in excellent spirits. Getting away from mountains and mules had done everyone a power of good. The only major change that had occurred in my absence was the departure of Rollo Baker. On 23rd January, this trusted friend of two years standing, gave up command of the 17th Field Regiment to take up an appointment at home. He was so much a part of the Brigade that his departure was a great blow to us. A farewell party was held for him at Brigade Headquarters on the night of his departure and several of his own officers attended. We wish him well and welcome his successor, Rupert Lecky, from Country Carlow…”
BRIGADE AWARDS AND HONOURS
MARCH – APRIL 1945
“On 26th March, we were relieved by 11 Brigade and went back to our billets in Forli, We had been in the line on St Patrick’s Day and we had been promised that we could all get together for a proper celebration during this spell. Unless we could have got back to our more or less centralised Forli billets, it would have been difficult to carry out the ambitious programme that we had in mind. By some hitch or other, the Queen’s Brigade was still in our billets and, for a short time, it looked as if we might be spread about all over the countryside. In fact, if it had not been for the kindly efforts of General Arbuthnott, our Divisional Commander, supported by General Keightley, commanding 5 Corps, it is possible that this is what would have happened. I do not think that it really upset the Queen’s Brigade moving, as it turned out, because they had to go off and learn a bit of amphibious warfare about this time.
The 29th was the day chosen for our St Patrick’s Day party. We invited the North Irish Horse and the 1st London Irish as well as all the members of the Brigade Group to send representative detachments to spend the day with us….”
“We thought that the time had now come for a leisurely move forward into whatever place we were going to settle down for good. We thought there was nothing more to do. We thought the days of sudden moves and quick ‘O’ Groups were a thing of the past. We were wrong.
We discovered that that the German Army Group South East, opposite to the Yugoslavs and the Russians, had not played on the general surrender in Europe, which had occurred in the meantime. Everyone in Europe, it seemed, was laying down their arms with the exception of those “Krauts”, who happened to be disposed just about the very place we were wanting to go to.
There were other complications too…”
“Now in July (1945), we are still in the area of Villach. There have been minor adjustments and there may be others but we hope that we have really come to rest at last. The Skins are still in their barracks in Villach; the London Irish are living in houses spread out along the Ossiacher Lake, the Faughs around the Faaker Lake between the Drau (Drava) and the Yugoslav border. Everything is now quiet and peaceful. The Jugs have gone home, where we sincerely hope they will stay. A few itinerant Bosche are still in the hills and being rounded up by slow degrees…”