Following the withdrawal from the front line in early December, CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan recalls the brigade’s short period of rest and relaxation near to Campobasso, and a rather Merry Christmas before the three battalions of the Irish Brigade were all moved forward again to defensive positions near to Castel di Sangro.
“We said good-bye to our Canadian friends and were taken south beyond Campobasso by TCV to San Marco. It was cold but we were comfortable and billets were allocated to the company. A battalion sergeants’ mess was set up. Because of the attrition caused by constant fighting, the companies were like strangers to each other and the sergeants even more so. E Company was under the temporary command of Lieutenant Wilson. Colonel Rogers had left the battalion and it was now under the command of Colonel Goff with Major Bredin, a regular from the RUR, as his second in command. We did little at San Marco except to get to know each other. New officers appeared, including Lieutenant Nicholas Mosley, the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the imprisoned leader of the British Union of Fascists.
On 23rd December, we moved into Campobasso and E Company were billeted in the cells of a large Franciscan convent. During the evening of Christmas Eve, the monks carried around a harmonium and sang carols at each cell. The Catholics attended midnight Mass, formed a choir and sang the Credo. Our Christmas fare included pork chops. Jim Sadler turned it into a banquet, some of which leaked to the monks.
We remained at Campobasso until 27th December when we were moved into the high Apennines to a location close to the headwaters of the Sangro. The journey through the snow-capped mountains was picturesque but very cold. We crossed the Sangro near to the town of Castro di Sangro and finally arrived at our new base at Montenero, a small, poverty-stricken town. Bttn HQ was set up and most of the village was commandeered. The companies were pushed out to positions high in the mountains at about 5,000 feet. Their shelters were mainly slit trenches and sangars. There were some small bivouac tents used for sleeping near to the positions held by the men. All the rest of their comforts were carried on their backs. The snow was not yet deep but the area was a white wilderness.”