Brigadier Russell continues his narrative of the Irish Brigade’s journey from Algiers to Austria and this third element describes the period from September 1943, when the Brigade arrived on the Italian mainland at Taranto, until December 1943, when they advanced to the banks of the Moro river just to the south of Ortona.
The first part starts with the period at rest on the North coast of Sicily.
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“Our fighting in Sicily, which finished on 14th August, left the Brigade half way up the slopes of Mount Etna between Randazzo and Maletto. As we were several thousand feet above sea level, the nights were cool and pleasant but it was not a particularly inviting part of the world.
The outstanding characteristic of the countryside was lava dust – a fine, reddy, brown, penetrating the dust, which seemed to get everywhere, In fact, looking back on the Sicilian Campaign, my chief recollection is dust – dust everywhere. Driving, walking and living in clouds of dust surrounding by soldiers covered in dust from head to foot, with eyes blinking out of dusty faces.
Everybody, therefore, thought thoughts about the blue Mediterranean, with its pleasant sands and green trees and made plans for good spots on the coast. As there were many thousand American and British troops thinking the very same thing, and as there were few roads, mostly out of commission owing to demolitions, it was going to be quite a problem to get there.
However, by some form of knavery – which I think incurred a slight reprimand, but was well worth it – our Division shortly found itself strewn along the northern coast of Sicily, in pleasant surroundings.
The Brigade was based at Tindari, a very perfect spot and for the next five weeks, a good time was enjoyed by all….”