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. Despite this initial assault being largely rebuffed, these forward actions helped to unloosen defensive positions and, with additional support from the County of London Yeomanry (CLY) and the Skins who had to face some bitter street fighting, the brigade was able to take over the village. When the Irish Rifles and the Faughs moved further forward on the following day, there was again some strong counter attacks by Germans in the area, before the brigade were able to reach the River Moro by the morning of 5th December.
At this stage and, after 61 days of concerted front line action, the Irish Brigade was relieved by units of 1st Canadian Infantry Division, and slowly transported south for some much needed rest. Substantial amounts of reinforcements were now required to bring all three battalions back to full strength.
This rest period lasted about two weeks before the brigade started to prepare itself for another spell in the line, this time moving to defensive positions in the mountainous area near to the upper head waters of the River Sangro. Just before Christmas, the Skins were detached from the brigade to come under command of 56 Recce Regiment and later moved to Capracotta, which at 5,000 feet was deep within the high Apennines, and at the end of the month, the Faughs and Irish Rifles moved up to various positions around Castel di Sangro. Starting on New Year’s Eve there was absolutely appalling blizzard conditions right across the region.
The start of 1944 would see the three battalions of the Irish Brigade in varying degrees of discomfort on a wide front with irregular communication links between the various elements of the brigade.
1st December: 2 LIR enter Rocca San Giovanni.
2nd/3rd December: 1 RIrF reach San Vito, and the town is captured with support from 6 Innisks and the CLY.
5th December: The Irish Brigade is relieved by the 1st Canadian Division.
10th December: Lt-Col Grazebrook, Commanding Officer of 6 Innisks, transfers to the War Office in London, and is replaced by Lt-Col Bryar (Kensingtons).
Lt-Col Goff (Kings, Liverpool Regiment) replaces Lt-Col Rogers as Commanding Officer of 2 LIR with Major ‘Bala’ Bredin (RUR) taking over as second in command.
22nd December: 6 Innisks come under command of 56 Recce Regiment before moving later to Capracotta.
31st December: 2 LIR and 1 RIF move to their fixed defensive positions near to Castel di Sangro.
December 1943 Roll of Honour:
Links to the transcribed December 1943 war diaries: