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.
On 3rd November, the “rested” 6 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (6 Innisks), along with 5 East Kent Regiment (5 Buffs) from 36 Brigade, and with support from 44 Royal Tank Regiment (44 RTR), renewed the assault on San Salvo and this proved successful overcoming robust German defensive actions.
The 78th Division continued to move forward and, on 9th November, the Germans withdrew to the north of the Sangro river, with the attacking forces being able to make an unopposed crossing. However, heavy rain in the middle of the month meant that the Sangro river became a raging torrent, which allowed defensive positions to be enhanced across the river plain and prevented an immediate attack on the vaunted German Winter Line.
Following two weeks of patrolling across the Sangro by units of 78th Division, and after several attempts to build bailey bridges to support the bridgehead troops, the V Corps’ plan to break the Winter Line commenced on 27th November, with 8th Indian Division leading the attack on the ridge top village of Mozzagrogna. This initial attack, if successful, would be quickly followed up by the Irish Brigade with 4 Armoured Brigade support, and they would jointly attack the ridge (Li Colli) overlooking the Sangro river and move eastwards to the coast and “roll up” all the German forces holding the area.
The attack by 8th Indian Division on Mozzagrogna was initially successful but they were then driven back by a sharp counterattack. On 29th November, 6 Innisks, with the support of 44 RTR, renewed the assault and successfully secured a firm base for the second part of the Corps’ plan. On 30th November, following a heavy artillery barrage, 2 LIR attacked towards Fossacesia with the County of London Yeomanry (CLY) in support and achieved their objectives by early afternoon with minimal levels of casualties. This advance was immediately followed up by 1 RIrF, who moved along the ridge with 46 RTR support, and were able to completely overcome all the German defensive positions in the area. By nightfall, 1 RIrF had progressed well beyond Fossacesia and 2 LIR were poised to enter Rocca San Giovanni on the road to San Vito.
The advance north towards the Moro River would continue in December.
Read CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan’s memories of the crossing of the Sangro river and the attack on Fossacesia.
3rd November: 6 Innisks join 36 Brigade in a successful assault on San Salvo.
29th November: 6 Innisks, with support from 44 RTR, establish a secure position on Li Colli, at Santa Maria.
30th November: 2 LIR successfully attack Fossacesia, with support from CLY, and 1 RIrF move forward with 46 RTR towards the Adriatic coast.
November 1943 Roll of Honour:
November 1943 War Diaries: