Maletto memorial for the men who died in the Irish Brigade’s final Sicily battle


A memorial to men of the Irish Brigade who lost their lives in and around Maletto in north-east Sicily in August 1943 in the brigade’s final battle on the island was formally unveiled on 18 September 2022.

Those listed on the memorial are 18 members of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) and nine members of the 2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles (see more details at the end of this report). It was erected by the Commune of Maletto.

Located on the road to Randazzo, the memorial was unveiled at a ceremony hosted by Maletto’s Mayor Giuseppe De Luca and attended by a delegation from the London Irish Rifles Association led by Colonel Ian Denison OBE.


It is the result of more than three years work by local historian Giorgio Luca and Gabriella Giangreco, a teacher and Maletto Town Councilor, who together championed the idea of permanently remembering the Irish Brigade members who lost their lives in the area on 12-13 August 1943.

Giorgio and Gabriella first made contact with the Irish Brigade website in June 2018 during filming in Maletto for the third part of All My Brothers, a documentary series about the brigade in the Second World War.

The visit was followed by a visit to the town for a reception and conference by an Irish Brigade delegation comprising Edmund and Richard O’Sullivan (sons of London Irish Rifles Colour Sergeant Edmund O’Sullivan who was at the battle of Maletto) and Edward Graham, son of Fusilier Edward Graham who was killed in fighting around Maletto.

Fusilier Graham left a wife and twin sons – Edward and Sydney – whom he never met. In 2017, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission rededicated Edward Graham’s grave in the Catania war cemetery after it was officially identified as his final resting place.

Others named on the memorial include London Irish Captain Joseph Fitzgerald MC, a Dublin solicitor who was killed leading his company on an attack on Sperina hill south of Maletto and London Irish Rifleman James Murtagh MM who died of wounds sustained in the same attack. James Murtagh is buried in the CWGC cemetery in Tripoli in Libya. Joseph Fitzgerald is buried in the Catania CWGC cemetery.

The battle for Maletto followed the Irish Brigade’s advance from beaches near Cassibile in south-east Sicily where it landed as part of the 78th Division on 28 July 1943, its successful attack on Centuripe and the subsequent crossing of the Salso and Simeto rivers.

Maletto was the location of the final German attempt to block the advance of the 78th Division towards Randazzo along the main road around the western side of Etna towards Messina. The Irish Brigade was ordered to lead a further advance to capture the town and the high points to the south and east which overlooked the road to Randazzo.

The operation began with the capture of Monte Macherone by the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. In the early hours of 12 August, the Faughs deployed south of the road and advanced uphill to take Monte Capella. It was quickly captured and the battalion descended down its north side into Maletto. Fighting in the town would continue for most of the morning.

Later that same day, the London Irish attacked uphill to the east of Capella and captured Sperina. Opposition was resolute. Meanwhile, the 6th Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers advanced to capture a high point named Monte Nave east of the Maletto to Randazzo road. The battalion suffered no casualties in its attack.

By the early morning of 13 August, the road to Randazzo was completely clear and men from the Irish Fusiliers were able to make contact with American forces advancing from the west. It was as part of a patrol probing towards Randazzo from Maletto that Edward Graham and three other members of the Faughs were killed.

Following the unveiling of the memorial, the London Irish Rifles Association party participated in the annual Festival of Saint Vincent in Maletto where Pipe Sergeant Gary O’Connor and Piper Gerald Griffin entertained thousands of townspeople with Irish melodies (see below).



The names of the Irish Brigade members listed on the Maletto memorial:

1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

  • James Purnell, 19, son of George and Elizabeth Purnell of Bethnal Green, London.
  • George Jones, 22, son of William George and Margaret E Jones of Liverpool.
  • Thomas Gillis, 23, nephew of Mrs E A Killeen of Liverpool.
  • Samuel Kennedy, 32, son of Thomas and Hannah Kennedy; husband of Sarah S Kennedy of White Abbey, County Antrim.
  • William Jackson, 31, son of John Thomas Jackson and Clara Evelyn Jackson of Lazonby, Cumberland.
  • William Martin, 25, son of William and Jane Martin of Tyldesley, Lancashire.
  • Albert Hamlett, 26, son of William and Sarah Hamlett of Warrington, Lancashire; husband of Gladys Hamlett of Warrington.
  • Reginald Holmes, 22, son of Thomas and Emily Holmes of Belvedere, Kent.
  • Arthur Edwards, 19, son of Arthur Ernest Edwards, and Elsie May Edwards of Copperhall, Cheshire.
  • Henry Dixon, 32, son of Thomas and Elsie Dixon of Walsall, Staffordshire; husband of Ellen Florence Dixon of Delves, Walsall.
  • John Williams, 31, son of Ernest and Lucy Williams of Birmingham; husband of Beatrice May Williams of Birmingham.
  • Philip Lloyd
  • Edward Graham, 31, son of Sarah Ann Graham; husband of Eveline Graham of Acomb, Northumberland.
  • William Bolton, 20, son of Samuel and Sadie Bolton of Belfast,.
  • Thomas Baybutt, 28, son of Mr and Mrs R Baybutt of Orrell, Lancashire.
  • George Roby, son of John Thomas Roby and  Mary Whitfield of Orrell, Wigan, Lancashire.
  • William Cooper, 23, son of William and Sarah Cooper of Meir Heath, Stoke-on-Trent.
  • Henry Garratt, 40, son of George and Alice Garratt; husband of Cynthia E Garratt of Newport, Essex.

2nd Battalion of the London Irish Rifles.

  • James Law
  • Albert Roberts, 28, son of Charles Frederick and Rose Elizabeth Roberts of North Kensington, London.
  • Leo McRory
  • Felix Creaney, 29, son of John and Mary J Creaney of Lurgan, County Armagh; husband of Dilys E Creaney of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.
  • Joseph Fitzgerald MC, 39, son of Michael and Agnes Fitzgerald; husband of Kathleen Fitzgerald of Brackenstown, County Dublin, Irish Republic. BA, LLB.
  • William Roffey, 22, son of Frederick G and Ellen Roffey of Shepherd’s Bush, London.
  • Peter Gregory, 21, son of Thomas and Gertrude Violet Gregory of Wealdstone, Harrow, Middlesex.
  • James Murtagh MM, 31 from Lurgan.
  • John McKee, 28, son of John James Hill McKee and Sarah McKee (nee McFarland); husband of Jane Winifred McKee of Armagh.

The Irish Brigade website would like to make contact with the families of the Irish Brigade members named on the Maletto memorial. Those with information reach us through the contact box below this story.



 

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
edward graham
edward graham
1 year ago

Well done to everyone associated with the erection of this monument, a fitting tribute to some very brave men.

Julie Roughley
Julie Roughley
1 year ago

My Grandad – George Leslie Roby 16.1.18 – 14.8.43

Father John Thomas Roby
Mother Mary Whitfield

From Orrell, Wigan, Lancashire