Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


Crossing of the Salso River

“There was no delay after the capture of Centuripe. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were through the town and in occupation of pts 718 (656924), 685 (661922) and 702 (668924) by daylight and their carriers were feeling down towards the river shortly after. The whole battalion was in contact with the enemy and concentrated in the vicinity of the river by midday.

The remainder of the brigade was assembled and in contact by early evening.

This quick follow up pays a good dividend. The Bosche is often on the wrong foot. In this particular instance, an exposed and open approach to the river was free from enemy interference until after midday. But it requires fit troops to follow up quickly after 36 hours fighting and hill climbing in difficult country.

The following were the chief problems in this river crossing:

–  In addition to 100 feet of the bridge being blown; there was a bad crater at 667928, which was a 12 hour job.

–  No material could reach the river until this crater was fixed, and although he bulldozers were up quickly, it was impossible to work them by daylight, in full view of the enemy, and under heavy shell and mortar fire.

–  Part of the Artillery had to be stepped up to support an infantry crossing.

The following timetable was therefore arranged:

August 3rd

a)  Daylight patrols by infantry to locate enemy posts and best approaches.

b)  RE recces of the Salso.

August 3rd/4th

a)  Night patrols by infantry to scupper located posts and mark out approaches.

b)  RE bulldozing the crater at 667928.

c)  Guns stepping up.

August 4th

AM

a) Plan made for infantry attack, based on information, which would then be available.

b)  Artillery registration.

PM

a) Attack by infantry with very full Artillery support. Ie Divisional Artillery, 51 Divisional Artillery plus Mediums.

The attack went in at 1500hrs. This allowed:

–  Plenty of time for recces and planning, and did not rush the Gunners.

–  Five hours daylight, which gave time for readjustments should things go wrong, as they sometimes do.

The infantry job was quite clear cut. i.e. to give the sappers from dusk to daylight on the crossing. They’d need it.

The Artillery support was effective; the barrage, which commenced on the escarpment being most accurate and, by 1630hrs, the bridgehead was secure, with the Royal Irish Fusiliers forming on the right and the London Irish Rifles on the left.

The Royal Irish Fusiliers met a certain amount of opposition, and a good many stubborn MG 34s and sniper posts had to be eliminated. The LIR had a pretty free run through.

The going here was good, and the “good going programme” was put into operation.

a) The Inniskillings to take over the Salso bridgehead.

b) The RIrF and the LIR to push onto the River Simeto, mop up in between the rivers, and get a foothold on the north bank of the Simeto during the night, if this was possible.

The Sappers worked wonders during the night – the crossing was complete by 0500hrs on 5th August and early morning saw:

i) The RIrF with one rifle company across the River Simeto at pt 225 (707948), and the remainder of the battalion in close contact just south of the river.

ii) The LIR in close contact, south of the river, between the bridge and viaduct (698964), with a company protecting the left flank at Carcaci (6996).

iii) The Inniskillings stepping up to Railway Station area (693955), as the bridgehead was now safe.

iv) Infantry supporting weapons and Anti Tank guns already in, or moving into, position. There was pretty quick work in this department.

v)  A Squadron recce beginning to explore the road between 699957 and Carcaci.

vi)  Recce parties of RE looking at their next crossing.

vii) The enemy rather on the wrong foot, but holding the River Simeto in strength.

There was one more river to cross, but the brigade was suitably disposed for what was becoming a routine operation.”



 

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