The Americans, in the meantime, were pushing up the road from Castel del Rio to Sassaleone and Monte Falchetto, side stepping hard to the left. To conform with this, the Faughs, on the evening of the 6th, had taken over the Codronco spur on the left of the Imola road. They were in pretty close contact there and the Germans at the eastern end of this spur were interfering with the American thrust northwards. I had now nothing up my sleeve and so, on the 7th, the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers came up under my command in reserve behind Castel del Rio.
On the same evening, the Faughs launched D Company under Jimmy Clarke, along their spur to clear the enemy out of point 382 and so help the Americans on. They tried three times to get into the houses there but were held up by fierce machine gun fire and the very steep slopes, which had become so muddy and slippery from the heavy rain that it was almost impossible to get up them. They succeeded, however, in consolidating their positions not far short of the objective. During the next day, they subjected the enemy to very heavy shelling and attacked again at 8 o’clock in the evening. They found the enemy had withdrawn with the exception of two men, who had been left out as a listening patrol and didn’t receive orders to go. They gave encouraging stories of the damage inflicted.
In the meantime, the other two battalions had been having a fairly easy time. The London Irish had developed a greater keenness for daylight patrols. Looking towards the Germans one day on my way up to their positions, I was intrigued by what appeared to be a row of white dots moving along the track. Closer examination revealed a patrol, each member which had a large goose under his arm. The London Irish, with commendable forethought, were already collecting their Christmas dinner. A large pig, with ‘56’ – their tactical number – and a Battleaxe painted on it was also reported to be somewhere about on the front, but somehow or other, it saw the red light and made a getaway while the going was good.
On the 8th, our Divisional Commander held a conference to go into the ways and means of achieving our subject – the capture of Imola. The general plan was for us to seize the high ground on the right of the road as far as Monte Taverna and 11 Brigade to drive for Monte Pieve and Acqua Salata on the left of the road, thus turning the Vona del Grosso, with 36 Brigade probably following after them. One obvious snag for this was a gap of between six and seven thousand yards between those two efforts, with the consequent difficulties of artillery support and extremely difficult maintenance routes. The chances of being able to use tanks were remote, owing to the boggy state of the valley and the precipitous going on either side.
On the 9th, we reverted from command of 88th US Division to our own division. Andrew Scott and his guardsmen also came under command of the division, but they had a very tough time on Battaglia and wouldn’t be able to do much in the coming assault. The Americans had had great difficulty in sorting out two Brigadiers called Scott and trying to remember which of them commanded the Guards Brigade and which, the Irish Brigade. General Kendall finally gave it up as hopeless and referred to us as “Brother Andrew” and “Brother Pat”, with our respective commands called after us. All our dealings with the 1st Guards Brigade certainly worked on a very brotherly basis. We had fought with them before in North Africa and had changed places with them when we moved from 6th Armoured Division to the 78th. It was not altogether inappropriate that we should be thus mixed up.
The 8th Argylls were to come under command and also some Canadian tanks from the Three Rivers Regiment – who were old friends of ours – for the forthcoming operations. On the night of the 10th, the Faughs were relieved by the Recce and came into reserve in a rather inaccessible valley behind Monte Carnovalo. This was to be their assembly point for the next task, which was to pass through the Guardsmen on Battaglia and attack in the direction of Monte Taverna. The Argylls and the Skins were to do a flank attack behind the Gaggio, as a frontal attack on that precipitous gorge seemed to be out of the question. The London Irish were to remain on Cappello and were to be used to exploit in whatever direction appeared to be most favourable, probably Monte Taverna. 11 Brigade took over command of the sector on the left of the road, and the Faughs pulled out. 11 Brigade were making plans for their project on the west of the Imola road. I didn’t much fancy the look of our project but I thought the ground on their side looked even worse. Later events showed I wasn’t far wrong.
On the 10th, General Butterworth left the Division and Brigadier Arbuthnott, Commander 11 Brigade, assumed temporary command.
On the 15th, a change of plan was made.