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.
While in the Rome area, men of the brigade visited the Vatican again, this time in more relaxed circumstances than during their visit in June and also spent extended time exploring the delights of the Eternal City. On 8th July, the Brigade Commander arranged a successful ball at the Barberini Palace with over 400 in attendance including the Irish Minister to the Vatican, Dr Kiernan.
Soon after, it was announced that 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers would be disbanded and be replaced within the brigade’s ranks by the Skins’ 2nd Battalion, which would be transferred from the 5th Infantry Division. General Allfrey, V Corps’ commander, later addressed the battalion at Taranto to explain the reasons for their disbandment, a reflection of chronic manpower problems within the British Army. At the same time, the commanders of the constituent Irish Brigade battalions were reordered with Lt-Col John Horsfall taking over 1 RIrF, Lt-Col Bala Bredin returning to the brigade with 2 LIR, and Lt-Col Bobby Shaw continuing his command of 2 Innisks within the brigade
As the month ended, the brigade had started to settle into life at a concentration area in Qassassin with regular leave parties setting out for Cairo, Alexandria and Ismalia. Although circumstances were not ideal with desert conditions of extremely high temperatures, there was plenty of opportunity for relaxation during leave trips – this was short lived as it soon became clear that an early return to Italy would be required.
2nd July: Brigade arrives in the Tivoli area and regular arrangements for leave parties to visit Rome commenced the next day.
8th July: Brigade hold an officers’ dance at the Barberini Palace.
9th July: Announcement of the disbandment of 6 Innisks, which was to be replaced within the brigade by 2 Innisks.
10th July: Brigade entrains from Rome on route to Taranto.
14th July: Lt-Col Bredin takes over command of 2 LIR and Lt-Col Horsfall transfers to command 1 RIrF.
18th July: Brigade convoy sails from Taranto.
22nd July: Arrival at Alexandria.
24th July: Arrival at Qassassin camp.
July 1944 Roll of Honour:
Links to the transcribed July 1944 war diaries:
Day by Day.