Conference hears Irish Brigade Italy campaign stories


Enniskillen Castle

Stories of members of the Irish Brigade in the Italian campaign were told at the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (The Skins) in the Italian campaign conference in Enniskillen on Saturday 11 November.

The event was opened by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Mark Scott chairman of the Inniskillings Museum which hosted the conference. His father Robert commanded the 2nd Battalion of The Skins in August 1944 after the battalion was transferred to 38 (Irish) Brigade to replace the 6th battalion which was dissolved following the battle for Trasimeno the previous June.

Col Scott said his appointment fulfilled his father’s dream of commanding a Skins battalion.

The museum’s curator Maeve Cadden told the conference that its goal was to memorialise the men who served in the regiment which was originally created in 1688, the same year as the Inniskilling Dragoons, a cavalry formation also celebrated at the museum.

“Inniskilling Regiments form an integral element of our town and county’s cultural heritage,” Cadden said.  “Remembrance is at the heart of our existence here as staff and volunteers of the Inniskillings Museum.”

“Our purpose is to commemorate, at their birthplace, the stories and collections of people who served with the Inniskilling Regiments in ways that are engaging, entertaining, and accessible to all.,” Cadden said. “The museum achieves this through our permanent display galleries, volunteer-led publications, website blog posts, events, and education programmes. Our distinction from other museums lies in the unique stories we are afforded the opportunity to tell about the people who served in and with the Regiments through our collection and archives of over 30,000 materials.”

Cadden told the story of the Garigliano Cross, first erected in 1944 in memory of those who had lost their lives. It was damaged in 1945 and underwent restoration at that time and again in 1951. In 1967, it was placed in storage.

In 2000, it was discovered by Major Jack Dunlop MBE, the then curator of the museum, who faithfully conserved the object and in 2001, it became a permanent feature in the museum’s exhibition galleries.

Said Cadden: “Last year, a family who had been aware of the cross’s existence were delighted to discover that their ancestor had been commemorated on the cross and will forever be remembered in our museum galleries.”

David Marshall from Omagh told the story of his uncle David, a Skins acting sergeant who was killed by a mine near Capracotta in the High Apennines on 30 December 1943 (see photograph below). The mine also fatally wounded Captain Joseph Beglin from Dublin whose last words were of concern for David Marshall.

Marshall joined the 6th Battalion of The Skins in Italy in November 1943 after the Irish Brigade had suffered significant levels of casualties during battles near the Trigno river. Captain Beglin had also joined up with the Skins at the same time and the two men had been present in the brigade’s advance from the river Sangro up to the Moro before being taken out of the line for three weeks.

On Christmas Day, the Skins had been sent to Capracotta, a town known for heavy winter snowfall.

Beglin is buried at the Sangro River War Cemetery. Marshall is in the Moro River Canadian Cemetery.

Janice White from Enniskillen shared the story of her grandfather Corporal William Robert White a regular in the 2nd Battalion of the Skins who was killed in action aged 30 on 19 July 1943 during the attack across Lemon bride north of the Simeto River (see photograph of William White with his daughter Marjorie below. With thanks to the family of William White).

He left a wife, a daughter and a son he never saw; Janet’s late father. Janet and her twin sister Jillian had visited their grandfather’s grave twice and seized the opportunity presented by The Peace, Security & Prosperity Conference in Catania in July to pay their respects again. They laid a wreath on behalf of the Skins at the Cross of Sacrifice during a Remembrance Service in the cemetery on 9 July. Janet said she and her sisters plan to visit Sicily again soon.

Roy Robinson, a retired PSNI chief inspector, told the story of his late uncle Robert Robinson who originally planned to join the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (see photograph above). He was told that recruiting for both the Skins and the Royal Ulster Rifles was closed but that a battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers (The Faughs) was being formed at Ballykinlar and had vacancies.

In May 1942, Robinson was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Faughs in Scotland and landed in Algeria in December 1943. Promoted sergeant aged just 19 that spring, Robinson was involved in all the Faughs battles in Tunisia, Sicily and North Africa and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in November 1944. He remained in the army after the war and was commissioned into the Faughs as an officer. Robinson died aged 99 in 2022.

The experiences of the Irish Brigade during the Battle for Cassino were summarised by Richard Doherty, historian and author of Clear the Way!, the definitive history of the brigade in the Second World War.

He noted that the brigade was often regarded as one of the finest infantry battalions in the British Army in the Second World War.

The conference closed with the showing of Part 7 of All My Brothers, a documentary series about the brigade, which focussed on its role in the Sicily campaign in 1943 produced by Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan, sons of  Irish Brigade veteran London Irish Rifles Colour Sergeant Edmund O’Sullivan.


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