The Faughs reach Route Six

The Faughs’ job, as I have said, was to capture ‘Fernie’. At the same time, as this was taking place, the Lothian and Border Horse were to operate on our left flank with their Shermans and strike out on our left front through and well beyond Piumarola.

(NA 15027) Original wartime caption: Tanks in battle positions while Monte Cassino is bombed and shelled. Copyright: © IWM.

I give you the Irish Fusiliers’ own account of the next few days:

“At midnight 16th/17th May, we moved up to the FUP behind the Irish Rifles FDLs. Here we met Lt-Colonel JH Coldwell-Horsfall MC, who had just assumed command of the battalion after the unfortunate death of Ion Goff. There was no doubt that he was pleased with his chaps, who had attacked magnificently after a very sticky start.

C and D Companies, Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile and Jimmy Clarke, were to lead beneath the colossal barrage, with B Company, Dicky Richards, and A Company, Jack Phelan from the UDF, in reserve for the next bound. At 0700hrs, the barrage came down and in went the forward companies supported by a squadron of Shermans of 16/5 Lancers.

Poor Lawrie was killed within fifteen minutes of the battle beginning and his loss undoubtedly affected his men, who had learned to adore this commander, and who so completely gave himself to the well being of his men. However, the first objective was taken and consolidated with all supporting arms within two hours, and even the Adjutant moved up, so the rifle companies felt that things must be getting pretty safe by now. A and B Companies then went through at about midday and fought all afternoon until securing key points, which practically dominated Route Six – the sole remaining escape road for the enemy in Cassino.

Jack Phelan had good cause to be thankful whenever he looks at his map case. This, he was carrying between his arm and chest when it was lacerated by a burst of MG 34, which failed to tear his denim and chipped the lens of his field glasses. Or perhaps I should say when he looks at Neville Chance’s map case, because Neville was rightfully the owner of this battle scarred piece of equipment.

D Company followed up behind A Company and eventually consolidated in a group of building whence by night, they sent a patrol under Lieut JV Baker to disrupt the traffic on Route Six. This Jimmy Baker did, with considerable success and our mortars thoroughly enjoyed a night shoot. The Army Commander has since told us that our brigade’s attack through the Gustav Line and up to Route Six undoubtedly hastened the departure of Heydrich’s parachutists in Cassino and the Monastery – some of whom we caught, in any case. One was a lad of eighteen, a stretcher bearer, who was highly delighted at being captured, because up in the hills, the Poles and the parachutists didn’t go out of their way to take PoWs.” 

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