The Irish Rifles’ advance

At four o’clock we had to start back for the wars and fetched up late that evening to find the Irish Rifles at it. They had already waded into battle and seized Civitella by 330pm. They got into the village without opposition other than shelling, to find the Bosche in strength just outside on several dominating ridges. Their objective for the next day was Pianicciale. They spent the night on the build up for the next day’s battle and in patrolling. Bill Gentle, with a patrol from F Company, had a severe clash.

Here follows the Irish Rifles’ account of the 13th June:

“At dawn, H Company began the attack on Agliano supported by very heavy concentrations from our 3 inch mortars, Shillelagh’ 4.2s, Anti Tank Platoon, all our Vickers’ guns. Mike Everleigh’s Besas and 75s, the 105s of the RHA, one regiment of Mediums and last but not least the 17th Field. Everything that could harbour Bosche was shot to pieces. Those that survived, fled. G Company then attacked La Terre through H Company with similar support. After G Company’s attack, the Bosche was seen withdrawing all over the place and provided many very fine targets.

In all, between thirty and forty were killed and large numbers of casualties were soon evacuated with German SBs going about with Red Crosses. About twenty prisoners were taken over two days. One AFV was destroyed – claimed by the Anti Tank Platoon. Also, a large number of the team who opposed us on retreating to Castiglione were put in the bag by our armour already there. Our own casualties were five wounded. This was a very comfortable battle for Bttn HQ, which was in the Bishop’s Palace at Civitella, which had a bird’s eye view of the whole battlefield.”

The Irish Rifles has such a good job of their morning’s work that in the early afternoon, I was able to order the Skins and a squadron of the 3rd Hussars to come up on their right flank and consolidate about Castiglione before dark. Some of 56 Recce Regiment and some tanks got into it first and the Skins were able to then move in without opposition. The brigade, consisting of John McClinton and myself, was established there about the same time. The remainder of Brigade HQ came up during the night.

During this day, I got the Faughs back under control. They were not sorry to collect themselves together from their various detachments.

That evening, I ordered the Skins to take up the chase again towards Tordimonte, leaving Castiglione at 0530hrs next day. The Irish Rifles were to collect themselves and follow the Skins passing through Castliglione at 0700 hrs. Tanks were to lead the party on this day. The Skins’ got on well and soon after eleven o’clock, I met John Kerr and ordered them to cross the River Paglia and from a bridgehead on the other side, while the Irish Rifles were to come up behind them to Tordimonte, the Faughs coming up in the rear of them. By three o’clock in the afternoon, the Skins had formed a strong bridgehead.

By two o’clock, it was obvious that the enemy was on the move and on the move pretty quickly. We would have to get a move on to catch them up. The General, therefore, ordered me extend the bridgehead. We extended it in no ordinary manner. The Irish Rifles were to occupy the hills commanding Route 71, two or three miles north of Orvieto and about four miles beyond the Skins.

At this time, the Irish Rifles’ HQ was in Tordimonte Castle, a very fine place indeed. They had had a hard two days of it and had been on the move since before daybreak. Previously, I had given them a more limited objective to the left of the Skins and when I arrived there, I was just in time to administer their departure.

Their original objective would have allowed them to retain this fine castle for their Battalion HQ and when I altered their orders to this much more ambitious move they were convinced that the only reason for it was that I had taken a fancy to the castle myself. I certainly had. I had cast an eye over it earlier that day before the Irish Rifles got there. However, nothing daunted, the Irish Rifles set off.

Here is their account of the day’s activity.

“The battle was resumed the next day, the 14th, and we were on the move by 5am and, at 10am, were established in a Duke’s Castle at Tordimonte, which the Germans shelled persistently causing several casualties. It had a very fine cellar, which later was to provide wine for the entire battalion. Needless to say, Brigade HQ already had covetous eyes on it so we didn’t stay there long. The stage was then set for the battle of Morrano – a ridge ten miles ahead, which was a dignified start for the operation and the show started at 2pm.

S Company, complete with Desmond Fay’s platoon of E Company, led the ball and by 430pm had the six pounders, Vickers and 3 inch mortars in action with the tanks on Morrano Ridge. Paul also busied himself strafing the roads and transport with considerable effect. There was a considerable amount of AP fire, but it gradually subsided as we built up fire supremacy. Shillelagh and his 4.2s were also very soon in action, so soon in fact and so close that they drove us out of our command post – not content with this, they completed the job by setting it on fire. By 6pm, the battalion was in position having marched twenty one miles that day with all its weapons and ammunition. Patrolling was active during the night and over the whole period, sixteen paratroopers and others were collected and about fifteen killed. Mike Everleigh and his tanks also did very good work in this show, having already fought one battle alongside the Skins earlier in the day and then came along to join us.

Paul Lunn Rockliffe immediately rejoined us at Civitella having emerged from hospital in record time and hitch hiked back.

The hitherto ‘Silent Service’ – the Anti Tank Platoon incidentally fired over a thousand rounds these few days. It was said that RSM Girvin had an apoplexy when the ammunition return reached him.”

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