We include the month by month details of the journey of the Irish Brigade from their arrival at Syracuse in Sicily during July 1943 to the time of the brigade’s advance to final victory in Northern Italy at the end of April 1945.
In the monthly guides, you will find a summary of key actions and dates, links to the transcribed brigade and battalion war diaries, personal narratives, and further links to recent photographs taken at the CWGC cemeteries in Italy.
The Irish Brigade spent most of July 1943 in continuing intensive training at Hammamet, and then moved to Sousse in preparation for embarkation. The 78th Division had been earmarked as the reserve division in support of 8th Army’s northerly advance from their landing beaches towards Messina……
The start of August 1943 saw the Irish Brigade being brought forward from Catenanuova to support a 78th Division wide assault on the mountaintop town of Centuripe, a key element of the strongly held German defensive positions to the west of Mt Etna and which controlled the only lateral road around the volcanic mountain from Catania……
The Irish Brigade spent the first half of September continuing to recuperate near to Patti on the north coast of Sicily. A variety of training schemes was undertaken by officers and men at both battalion and brigade level, and a large intake of reinforcement drafts of men and officers joined all three battalions……
FROM TERMOLI TO THE MORO
At the start of October 1943, the Irish Brigade arrived in Barletta expecting a period of low intensity activity before they might be ordered to go into action…..
Following the devastating set back for the Irish Brigade at San Salvo, the start of November 1943 saw both 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (1 RIrF) and 2 London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) re-building their strength with reinforcement drafts being brought up to join both battalions……
At the start of December 1943, the Irish Brigade continued its advance northwards, first to Rocca San Giovanni with 1 RIrF and 2 LIR taking the lead. On 2nd December, two companies of the Faughs, under Major Jimmy Clarke, pushed ahead behind enemy lines towards San Vito, and a patrol led by Lieutenant Day entered the village, and, despite a German defensive onslaught, caused major disruption in the town…..
WINTERING IN THE APENNINES
The Irish Brigade spent January 1944 in various positions across the 8th Army’s defensive front in the Apennines of central Italy…..
By early February 1944, all three battalions of the Irish Brigade had been finally relieved from their defensive positions in the high Apennines and were able to withdraw for a rest period and undertake further training before being moved westwards, along with the rest of 78th Infantry Division, to join up with the New Zealand Corps to form part of 5th Army Reserve….
CASSINO FRONT AND TRASIMENE
March 1944 would see the Irish Brigade, along with the rest of 78th Division, in full readiness to exploit any breakthrough of the Allied Armies into and along the Liri Valley. In preparation for this, the brigade spent the first part of the month taking part in extensive river training exercises on the Volturno river….
During the the first few weeks of April 1944, all three battalions of the Irish Brigade continued in their defensive positions on the slopes of Monte Castellone. Both 6 Innisks and 2 LIR were situated near the 771 metre summit with an excellent view down over the badly damaged monastery on Monte Cassino, while 1 RIrF were on the lower slopes near to the village of Caira…..
At the start of May 1944, the Irish Brigade began intensive training exercises near to their rest area at Formicola including practising river crossings over the River Volturno and taking part in joint infantry/tank attack manoeuvres with 16/5 Lancers from 6th Armoured Division….
At the start of June 1944, the Irish Brigade spent several days resting in the Ripi area, while they awaited further orders. It was here that they heard the news that Rome had been liberated on 4th June and another ‘D Day’ had occurred in North West Europe on 6th June….
AT REST IN ROME AND EGYPT
After more than three months of intense front line action, early July 1944 saw the Irish Brigade travelling southwards, initially for two weeks of relaxation in the Tivoli area, before en-shipping for Egypt and arriving at Qassassin Camp, near the Suez Canal, at the end of the month…..
During August 1944, the Irish Brigade continued with a much needed rest period in Egypt. At the start of the month, they were informed that their expected move to Palestine had been cancelled and, on 7th August, they moved from Qassassin to Sidi Bishr on the north-eastern outskirts of Alexandria…
During September 1944, the Irish Brigade travelled back to Italy, initially to Taranto and then northwards to an area near San Marino where they prepared themselves to enter battle again with the 8th Army…..
MONTE SPADURO AND WINTER IN THE MOUNTAINS
During October 1944, the Irish Brigade took part in a series of bitterly fought encounters during a period when they came under command of 5th Army in support of an advance towards Bologna. Determined German resistance had emerged at the Gothic Line which formed an almost impenetrable defensive barrier that impeded the plans for an advance onto the plains of northern Italy before winter….
During the early part of November 1944, the Irish Brigade spent time reorganising themselves with each battalion having an opportunity to get back to Castel del Rio for a few days of much needed personal maintenance. For the front line units, the period continued to entail extensive patrolling activity in the most difficult of terrain in cold and very wet weather with the first snowfalls arriving on 10th November….
The start of December 1944 saw the Irish Brigade still awaiting firm orders for the planned divisional offensive in support of an 8th Army wide assault and a regular pattern of patrolling and intermittent shelling and mortaring exchanges continued. On 13th December, 36 Brigade’s attack went in, but due to determined German defensive actions and some appalling weather, this quickly came to a halt and the Irish Brigade were not in fact required to launch their own attack….
During January 1945, the Irish Brigade continued with front line duties near San Clemente with two battalions forward and one at rest in Castel San Martino throughout the period. Early in the month, a Battle Patrol from 2 LIR had notable success in a raid on Casa Tamagnin, which had been much fought over during the previous few weeks. Despite the wintry conditions, nightly patrol activity continued for all three battalions….
February was a quiet month for all three battalions of the Irish Brigade. Both the Faughs and the Skins had been withdrawn from their winter front line positions near San Clemente at the end of January with the Irish Rifles being eventually relieved on 4th February….
THE SENIO FLOODBANK AND ARGENTA GAP
The Irish Brigade spent March 1945 both in and out of the line as the spring time warmth continued to dry the ground and the imminence of coming battle, perhaps the final one for the brigade, was clear to all….
The start of April 1945 found the Irish Brigade still at Forli but keenly aware of the imminence of the 8th Army’s attack on German defensive lines south of the River Po……
The end of a long journey had come for the Irish Brigade but, soon after the final surrender in Europe, they were ordered into southern Austria to take up a different role as peacekeepers in a chaotic post war period of disarming previous foes and organising flows of refugees.