Major Desmond Woods at the Trigno river

Major Desmond Woods MC joined 2 LIR after the battles near Termoli and was almost immediately leading a patrol forward from Petacciato to guard a newly built bailey bridge over the Trigno river.

“Well, to cut a long story short, the Irish Brigade, as it approached the Trigno… the Germans must have got wind that we were coming and there was the most almighty bang and up went this bridge over the river Trigno. I picked up my platoon that I’d left there near the Trigno and we proceeded down as near to the Trigno as we could get. It was then a matter of digging in and staying put. We dug slit trenches on our side of the Trigno and battalion headquarters set up its position and we were there for a period to see what the lie of the land was like before any attempt was made to get across the river.

Now, the Germans started sending over shells and they seemed to have one very large gun. A shell used to come over, a very large one at that, about every twenty minutes throughout the day and this really did get on one’s nerves after a time but they kept it up. Then it was decided that an attack would be launched on a place called San Salvo, which was on the far side of the river. I didn’t have to take part in this but two of the other companies did and they didn’t have a very successful attack. In fact, they didn’t actually make it and they were brought back again.

Now, one evening I was told that I was to send a platoon to guard the Bailey Bridge that they had managed to erect across the Trigno and I was to have my platoon in the riverbed fairly adjacent to the bridge. I wasn’t a bit happy about this as the place was riddled with s-mines and teller mines. I said that I wanted the place swept by the Royal Engineers that were working at the bridge with mine detectors before I put any of my men there. I was told that they were far too busy working at the bridge but some of the battalion pioneer battalion would do that job. So, anyway, they did come down with their mine detectors and we swept into an area where I was going to put the platoon and laid out some white tape – a tape leading into the position and then three tapes leading off to where the sections were going to have to go.

I then came back and I briefed the platoon commander that I was going to send to do this job and told him that he would have to be very careful indeed because there were a lot of mines about and he would stick to the tapes that had been laid. So as just it was beginning to get dusk, he moved off to get into his position and, after a while at ‘Stand To’, I decided that I would walk around and see how that platoon were getting along. And I must say that I was quite near the position where it was, when there was a most almighty bang.

One of the men had moved to the side of one of the tapes and he had caught his foot in a trip-wire which had been attached to two teller mines and I’m afraid a complete section was blown to smithereens. It was a most appalling thing and I shouted for everyone to keep absolutely still. We got the men out very quietly along the tapes – the rest of the platoon that was there – and I got through to the battalion headquarters and I said that I wasn’t keeping the men any longer in that position that night and I would guard the bridge from a position not much nearer to it but which was perfectly adequate.

This was a very unpleasant experience and it didn’t do the morale of H Company any good at all at the time.”


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