Major Desmond Woods – From Termoli to Trasimene

Captain Desmond Woods MC joined the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles in early October 1943 and immediately became OC of H Company and was then promoted to Major. He would serve with the battalion for eight months before he was wounded in June 1944 near Lake Trasimene.

For his actions at Casa Sinagoga in May 1944, Major Woods was awarded a second Military Cross to add to the MC awarded to him for his service with the Royal Ulster Rifles before the war. Although medically discharged from the London Irish Rifles, Major Woods would become a Training Major for the Gruppi Cremona who fought with the 8th Army in northern Italy.

Desmond Woods’ audio recorded accounts of the period with the Irish Brigade was transcribed by Military Historian, Richard Doherty, and are reproduced over the following pages by kind permission of his son, Adrian:

“The 38th Irish Brigade was part of the 78th Division. It consisted of three battalions – the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the London Irish Rifles. The London Irish Rifles was a Territorial Battalion but the other two were regular battalions. The Irish Brigade had fought with distinction in North Africa and also Sicily and had arrived in Termoli in the Adriatic Sector of Italy which is north of Bari. The Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Nelson Russell and eventually, at Cassino, Brigadier Pat Scott took over from him. Harry Rogers of the Irish Fusiliers was commanding the London Irish when I joined.

Now, the London Irish had very few regular soldiers among its officers; they were mainly TA officers – they were affiliated to the Royal Ulster Rifles and I was one of the few regular officer to serve with them and I arrived to join the battalion at Termoli. Now what lay ahead was a slogging campaign through Italy – a series of river lines, wadis and mountains ideal for defensive battles and Field Marshal Kesselring, who was the German commander, was an absolute master at the defensive battle – for instance, a machine gun sited on a hill could make a whole company deploy and the Germans were very expert at blowing bridges – they didn’t leave many intact; they made a very good job of them.

Well, I reported and was told to join H Coy and I was to remain with that company for a period of slightly less than a year, never missing a battle with the company until finally wounded at Lake Trasimene, which was well north of Rome….”

Part I – Adriatic Campaign

Part II – Preparing for Cassino

Part III – The Liri Valley

Part IV – Trasimene