The 11th and 36th Brigades carried on the battle from August 6th to August 11th and pushed the enemy well north of Bronte, but it was now the turn of the Irish Brigade, well rested by their river, to take over the running.
Plans were made for the capture of Maletto, the last town on the way to Randazzo, where it was hoped to join up with the American 1st Division.
A recce down to CO level was carried out on the evening of the 10th.
11th August was spent in junior recces; moving battalions up from the Simeto to a forward lying area immediately south of Bronte; and changing over from MT to Pack Transport.
The chief problem in this attack were
1. The forward assembly areas for Bttns, and their starting lines were in enemy hands.
2. It was impossible to make a close daylight recce; and although the approaches to the left part of the objective could be seen, it was impossible to find out much about the approaches to the right objective, except that they were difficult.
Daylight patrol on the 11th did yield some information, but most of it relayed was to ground that was impassable, rather than approaches, which were possible. However, this was of value.
The 36th Brigade gave real help by offering to capture Maccarone (7613) as soon as it was dark, and cover our forward assembly areas on both sides of the (bogus) lake. They guaranteed that this would be completed by midnight. It was.
The plan was as follows:
Bttns to reach forward assembly areas by 0130hrs
Right – LIR Objective – Sperina.
Left – RirF. Objective – Capella, Pt Maletto, and finally Maletto village.
Reserve – Inniskillings.
Zero – 0230hrs.
Attack supported by Divisional Artillery plus four batteries of Mediums.
(Note: Incidentally our light bombers gave Capella and Sperina a very accurate and heavy dusting from 1845 to 1930 on August 11th).
This attack was rather like the curate’s egg.
The Royal Irish Fusiliers carried out their tasks like a well oiled machine (which they are), capturing Capella and Pt Maletto in the darkness and clearing the village at an appropriate time in daylight.
The LIR had a very difficult approach march – they got behind time; and only 1½ companies managed to get on to the left half of Sperina in the darkness. The remainder of the battalion was eventually collected and a further attack on the right hand of Sperina was launched at 1045hrs.
It was soon evident that the chief trouble would come from the enemy, who were pretty strongly situated between the spurs (7813) and La Nave (8014) and the Inniskillings were dispatched on a long journey to clear up La Nave. It was known that it would take several hours before they could influence the battle.
The LIR attack at 1045hrs was only partially successful, with footings gained on the right lower slopes of Sperina, but under fire from the spur and La Nave.
A good many Uncle Targets on these two areas eased matters and, by 1700hrs, the LIR were at last established on their objective – the whole Sperina feature – the RIrF on their objectives and the Inniskillings within a reasonable distance of La Nave.
At 1700hrs, we took stock.
The Divisional Commander, at the Brigade CP, decided that the enemy’s position was now untenable, that such Germans, as remained in the Spur and La Nave areas, must be chased off and pursued.
It was therefore decided that:
a) The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders would relieve the RIrF at Maletto as soon as possible (this was after dark, as any movement in this area drew heavy MG and mortar fire).
b) One company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers would hold the Maletto feature until relieved by the A & S Highlanders.
c) The RIrF (less one company) to disengage from the Maletto feature as soon as it was dark; form up in the vicinity of Mortar Corner, attack the enemy in the Spur area, pursue him down the road to the vicinity of road junction (817196), and then gain touch with the Americans. The possibility of this battalion taking Randazzo was also borne in mind.
d) The Inniskillings to clear up La Nave and thus protect the right flank of the RIrF.
e) The LIR to hold Sperina with one company and concentrate the remainder of the battalion immediately west of Mortar Corner, and thus be in a position to assist either the Inniskillings or the Royal Irish Fusiliers, if required.
The main thrust was that of the RIrF with an axis of advance on the main Maletto to Randazzo road.
It had the full Divisional Artillery at its disposal.
The task given to the Royal Irish Fusiliers was a hard test, which could only have been entrusted to a few battalions.
This battalion had:
i) Carried out a difficult approach march commencing at 2200 hrs on the 11th.
ii) Attacked at 0230hrs on the 12th.
iii) Fought a hard fight for 18 hours.
It was now required to:
iv) Disengage from a position at 2100hrs.
v) Form up in the dark one mile distant.
vi) Attack an enemy position.
vii) Pursue a retreating enemy for 5-6 miles.
It was considered that this battalion would be able, with everything going well, to attack by midnight.
The RIrF attacked at 2230hrs and reached the road junction (817196) at 0830hrs on the 13th. They would have reached it sooner but for a necessary detour to avoid American shelling.
Contact was soon made with the American 1st Division, who arrived at the road junction about 0930hrs.
Enemy resistance was limited to a few ambushes, but the line of advance was thick with S and Teller mines, which made the going difficult; they were unpleasant companions on a dark night, and took their steady toll from a battalion determined to complete its task.
This was a great performance by the RIrF, and could only have been carried out by a fine, fit, well officered battalion led by an able and determined commanding officer.
The Inniskillings found La Nave unoccupied.
This concluded the fighting of the Irish Brigade in the Sicilian campaign. Total casualties were 25 officers, and 365 other ranks. They were not high considering the duration and scope of operations carried out. The proportion of Company Commanders, though, was very high (5 killed and 5 wounded).