Irish Brigade

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

29th March 1944 (excerpt)


After censorship restrictions were lifted, Lawrie was able to describe the days from October to December 1943 when the Faughs advanced from Termoli to the Moro River.


29.3.44

My Dearest Olive, 

Certain censorship regulations have been relaxed and I am now allowed to give you the address of certain places at which I fought, up to a given date. We landed at Termoli at the beginning of October after having first set foot on Italian soil at Taranto and then came up through Bari to Barletta.  We left Barletta one morning and went up the coast in small boats. It had been anticipated that we would land at Termoli to find the town in our hands but, as we came nearer the town, it was surprising to find it being shelled.  The CO, 2 i/c, Adjutant, Dennis Dunn, Denis Hayward and I were in the Captain’s wardroom having cocoa when all of a sudden a Commando Sergeant burst in and said ‘The Bosche are counter attacking and half the town is in their hands’.  Quite a dramatic moment good enough for the films.

Well, the CO decided to land and in the pitch blackness with shells bursting around, it was quite an exciting experience, especially as they were by this time ranging on the harbour and one ship had already been hit and was sinking. We got ashore and got up to a building near the harbour. No one knew what was going to happen next but eventually the Companies were guided to various positions and we occupied a large building on the outskirts of the town. The following morning, we were heavily shelled and mortared. I felt as cold as the proverbial cucumber and then Dennis Dunn was sent for, to attend an “O” Group and afterwards I received orders to withdraw the Coy to another point. I have already described to you how the Germans almost cut us off and he was firing at us as we crawled down a ditch.  Then came the famous battle of Termoli which will live as one of our great days. The Canadian tanks that supported us said we were the finest infantry battalion they have ever worked with. We came under a good deal of shelling and small arms fire but it was not too bad.

The next big affair was the advance on the River Trigno at night which apart from the hard going was fairly comfortable with only one Coy getting really involved. “B” and “C” Coys crossed the river and took up positions in the woods on the other side and then followed seven of the most uncomfortable days in my life, with continuous shelling and mortaring, and a number of casualties which culminated in the night attack on San Salvo on Oct 27th, a battle which I will never forget and which I think I have already described sufficiently well. John was subsequently buried in Termoli beside our late CO. The following day was hell and that night we were withdrawn across the river and I was evacuated to hospital. 

The next big affair was the battle of the Sangro.  We lay up waiting for several days, crossed the river one night, lay up on the other side for two days and then went into a big attack.  It was very easy meat, and the whole thing was a magnificent example of Montgomery’s planning. A feint frontal attack was made and we swung in from the left and took the Germans by surprise. Two days were spent mopping up and then two Coys were involved in a daring attack on San Vito and after the “Skins” had taken the town, we had a gruelling night march forward which culminated in our taking a position on a ridge near the river Moro with 2 days very confused and bitter fighting….



 

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