Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


Hill 255, 29 May 1944

Major Mervyn Davies, OC E Company recalls his company’s successful attack, during the night of 29th May 1944, on Hill 255, which was five miles to the west of Ripi.

“At the end of May 1944, the battalion crossed the Melfa river from Ceprano and got into Isoletta Wood.

On 29th May 1944, the battalion took up a leading role, with E Company in the lead. We went forward along a country road with a point section. The company’s ‘O’ Group was with the HQ of the leading platoon. With us was Alan Parson, the FOO, and it was due to his splendid map reading that we made steady progress in sunny weather through up and down country with scattered woods.

For the first five miles, the only incidents were that we found an abandoned piece of Italian artillery, which seemed to have been booby trapped, and we saw and heard some Nebelwerfer shells landing well to our right. At about 4pm, the leading men, still on the country road, came under machine gun fire. Desmond Fay, in command of the leading platoon, was magnificent and rapped out “battle drill” orders for “right flanking” as if it were an exercise. I could not see where the fire was coming from, but there seemed to be two machine guns on high ground to our immediate front and 200 yards or more away. Desmond, with the attacking flank, got stopped and it was evident to me, about 200 yards behind them that some of his men were hit. Parsons told me that his wireless set was out of touch with his guns (or they were on the move – I do not remember), so that one was faced with attacking without support.

Happily, at this stage, Colonel Horsfall arrived and immediately decided on a night attack with artillery support. We brought in our wounded. In due course, I was presented with a beautifully written fire plan for a 20 minute barrage at about midnight. Unfortunately these details reached us so late that the only orders effectively given to the platoon commanders were ‘charge for the place where you see the shells landing now.’ We got to the top of the high ground in pitch darkness. The Germans fired as we came up but the ground was so steep that most passed over our heads.

The Germans ran as we arrived. We killed one and had, ourselves, no casualties. The Germans evidently had transport at the bottom of the slope behind them and we heard them drive off. I picked up a Luger and the name of the hill within the company, from then on, was ‘Luger Hill’.

CSM Kelly DCM was my CSM on this occasion because Charnick, my regular CSM, had been wounded a few days before. Fay was in command of 7 platoon and I think P Sargood commanded 8 platoon, while Sergeant McNally was in command of 9 platoon and was, as ever, a tower of strength.

We stopped the rest of the night on the hill and the next day joined up with 3 Hussars for the advance to Ripi.”



 

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