By midday, the Skins had shot their bolt after a magnificent performance. Theirs had perhaps been the most difficult operation to lay on of those that occurred during the next few days. They were still up against the crust of the Gustav Line and information was very hard to come by. Their flanks were exposed. It was a great tribute to leadership on everybody’s part that that battalion carried out their difficult task so successfully.

As soon as the Skins had finished, the Irish Rifles moved forward behind them to concentrate for the second push.

The Divisional role may well again be stressed here. Our job, besides breaking the Gustav Line, was to cut Route Six beyond the Monastery and Cassino and link up with the Poles near Piedimonte, thereby forcing those German garrisons to pull out or surrender. There is no point in getting a bloody nose against places like that if they can be turned.

Aftermath of the ‘O’ Group – artist David Rowlands.

About 3 o’clock, I got a message from Bala Bredin that all was not well. Rollo Baker and I drove off in our tank to find him. Much to our dismay, we found that Ion Goff had been very badly wounded. He died soon afterwards at the MDS. Ion had handled his battalion with tremendous skill and energy during the past few months, and he had imparted much of this and his own personal bravery to all the lads in the battalion.

When I saw him the evening before, he had been full of confidence and cheer over the part he was to play and looking back on it, it was a matter of considerable pleasure to me that I had congratulated him that evening on all he had done and on the fine state that the battalion was in. His loss was a very sad one and it reflects the greatest credit on the London Irish that in spite of losing this trusted leader on the eve of one of the biggest battles they had ever fought, it, in no way, detracted from the magnificent performance they were to put up the next day. I wish Ion had lived long enough to know about it, but I do not think he ever doubted that it would be otherwise.

Shortly after, I met Bala and John Horsfall arrived to take command of the Irish Rifles.  I was able to put them both into the picture for the next move. Just about this time, John Loveday, commanding the 16/5 Lancers was also killed, which was a very serious loss both to us and to them. He was a very good chap, who I had known well as GI in 46th Division. It was a most unhealthy valley that we were all waiting in and many discouraging casualties occurred there during the day, but there was nowhere else to go.  Not many minutes passed during which something was not landing in among the chaps. Fortunately, they were pretty well dug in.

Click to read more.


Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments