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.
On 8th June, after this period of relative peace, the brigade received orders to move north of Rome. When moving forward, the Irish Rifles were asked to guard Kesselring’s former HQ tunnel complex at San Oreste and were amazed by the cave system, which they explored with great relish. A quite remarkable interlude occurred on the 12th June, when a representative group from the Irish Brigade, led by Brigadier Scott, visited the Vatican to meet Pope Pius and this was described in most vivid detail by Pat Scott.
Meanwhile back at the wars, the Irish Rifles had moved forward to the Civitella area and continued to deal effectively with German rearguard units as they and the Skins continued their advance northwards towards the southern shores of Lake Trasimene and a renewed set of German defensive positions at the Albert Line. Brigade HQ was established in the hilltop village of Panicale, where they had a wonderful view of the billiard table nature of the area laid out before them as the 78th Infantry Division, led by 2 Lancashire Fusiliers, commenced their attacks on the village of Sanfatucchio, which overlooked the eastern shores of the lake.
Whilst the main body of the brigade had been advancing eastwards of Orvieto, the Faughs had been engaged in a variety of independent activity before they joined a 56 Recce advance, known as ‘Battlegroup Chavasse’ that, by 21st June, had brought them to Castello di Montelera overlooking Lake Trasimene’s southern shore.
On the night of 20/21st June, the Irish Rifles were brought forward for a renewed attack on Sanfatucchio and they were to be superbly supported in this assault by a squadron of the 11 Canadian Armoured Regiment. After successfully breaking into the village, the Irish Rifles were involved in hand to hand fighting north of the village near to the church and cemetery of San Felice. During the afternoon, the Skins moved up alongside them onto Pucciarelli Ridge and they were forced to resist several desperate German counterattacks during the night.
Although the Irish Rifles and Skins had established an excellent forward finger thrust position, they were now much weakened. On 24th June, an attack on the villages of Ranciano and Pescia by the Faughs continued to unhinge the wider Albert Line before other units of the 78th Division were brought forward to continue the advance. During this latter period, the Faughs’ CO, James Dunnill, had been captured when his command tank had taken a wrong turning and this had taken him straight into captivity.
Over the next three days, all of the brigade were brought back into reserve. The fighting in the Sanfatucchio area had proved to be some of the fiercest fighting experienced by the Irish Brigade throughout their whole period of war time service. At the end of June, they were readying themselves for a move back towards Rome and looking forward to a much deserved full rest.
Read Brigadier Pat Scott’s descriptions of the battle period near Lake Trasimene and their withdrawal from the line for some much needed rest.
Read CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan’s account of meeting the Pope before his journey continues northwards towards Lake Trasimene.
8th June: Moving forward north of Rome.
12th June: An Irish Brigade group visit the Vatican.
12th to 14th June: Renewed fighting at Pianniccale and Morrano ridge.
15th June: Faughs’ patrols enter Citta della Pieve but are ordered to withdraw.
21st June: Brigade attacks on San Fantucchio and Pucciarelli Ridge.
24th June: Faughs’ attack on Ranciano/Pescia.
26th to 28th June: Brigade go into Divisional Reserve.
June 1944 Roll of Honour:
June 1944 War Diaries: