London Irish commanding officer Ion Goff remembered

Lieutenant Colonel Ion Goff, who was killed by shellfire in the Liri valley on the afternoon of 15 May 1944 during the fourth battle of Cassino, was the only commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) to have been killed in action during its 30 months of campaigning in Tunisia and Italy, when it formed part of 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade.

The Irish Brigade website is deeply grateful to Mary Whitty, Ion Goff’s niece, who shared family memories and a previously unpublished photograph of his wedding day, and also to Lancing College for further detailed background.

Ion Malise Goff was born at Billingshurst in Sussex on 7th February 1902, the younger son of Ewen Cameron Robert Goff and Ellen Clara of “The Grey House” Lewes in Sussex and was educated at Dorset House School, Littlehampton and at Lancing College from September 1916 to December 1918.

Ion Goff entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1920 and in the following year was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment before being promoted to full Lieutenant two years later. He was than appointed as an Instructor at the Army School of Signals at Maresfield and Catterick, and served in that capacity for three years until June 1928, following which he was sent to India as Adjutant to the Hampshire Regiment at the end of 1931. After being promoted to Captain in October 1932, he was transferred to the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment and entered the Staff College in Camberley where he stayed from January 1936 until the end of 1937. After this, Ion was promoted to Brigade Major in September 1938 and was posted to the Malta Infantry Brigade, where he stayed until 1940.

In 1940, Ion married Dorothea June Taylor in Kensington, just before he was posted as an Instructor at the Staff College in Haifa in 1941 and then served in Libya and Baghdad – Major Goff was Mentioned In Despatches in August 1943 from this time in the Middle East theatre.

Later the same year in December, he was appointed as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles in December and commanded the battalion in the Cassino sector from March 1944 until his tragic death in the Liri valley.

The London Irish Rifles’ war time history provides a moving reflection on the impact that Lieutenant Colonel’s Goff’s death had on the battalion:

“Losing their Commanding Officer at the commencement of what was likely to be one of their toughest battles was a great blow to the battalion. Lieut Colonel Goff, throughout the previous few months, had handled the battalion with tremendous skill and energy. He had imparted much of his own personal ability and bravery to the men he commanded, and his loss was a sad one. It reflected the greatest credit on the 2nd Battalion that in spite of losing their trusted leader on the eve of a vital battle, it in no way detracted from the magnificent fight they put up. Lieut Colonel Goff never doubted it would have been otherwise.”

Ion Goff is buried at Cassino CWGC Cemetery and commemorated at the Royal Military College Sandhurst Memorial.

The Irish Brigade web site co founder, Richard O’Sullivan says:

“We are delighted to provide more detail about Ion Goff’s life, including his time whilst serving as CO of 2 London Irish Rifles, as it is only fitting that his memory should be properly preserved.

I’d like to thank Mary and Hamlyn Whitty especially, who I met for the first time recently during the 70th anniversary commemorations in Italy, for providing so much background to Lieut Colonel Goff’s life…It is at Cassino, of course, where Mary’s uncle is buried alongside a number of his comrades.”

Quis Separabit.

Nec Aspera Terrent.


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