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.
While the 8th Army sent their armoured forces overland, a Commando force had been able to take over the town of Termoli and were then joined there by units of 78th Division. With the initial news of the landings being positive, the brigade headed out to sea on the morning of 5th October, only to arrive that night at Termoli in the midst of a major German counter attack on the bridgehead. As the three battalions arrived in the harbour and deposited the men of the brigade onto the quayside, they were subjected to heavy shell fire, and it was later confirmed that 16th Panzer Division, who had recently arrived in the area, were preparing to drive the attacking forces back out to sea.
Despite this unpleasant surprise, the brigade were immediately able to join the defence of the bridgehead perimeter in support of 36 Brigade and elements of 11 Brigade and, on the morning of 6th October, attacked northwards with 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF in the vanguard and supported by tank units of the Canadian Three Rivers Regiment. In support, 2 LIR were able to gain ground on the right hand side of the brigade’s successful advance and by the end of the day, the whole bridgehead area was secure.
Due to this near setback at Termoli, the Army Command ordered a consolidation period before further onward movement, and only allowed a single battalion move by 2 LIR to occupy the ridge of Petaciatto on the night of 19th/20th October. Following this successful manoeuvre, the brigade continued probing patrolling activity before moving across the Trigno river into a small bridgehead area north of the river, which they held for several days despite its exposed position
After several days of preparation, the Irish Brigade was ordered to attack the strongly held hilltop town of San Salvo, which was two miles to the north of the Trigno. Despite Brigadier Russell’s request for a postponement due to the adverse weather conditions, the attack went in as planned on the night of 27th/28th October. In parallel, the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers attacked the railway station near to the coast.
One of the most difficult days for the Irish Brigade ensued as the attack on San Salvo was thwarted by strong German defensive action. The CO of the Faughs, Lt-Col Beauchamp Butler, and the second in command of 2 LIR, Major Arthur (Kevin) O’Connor, were both killed as well as 44 others from the brigade.
The end of October saw both 1 RIrF and 2 LIR being withdrawn from their front line positions for much needed rest and to reorganise, while 6 Innisks joined up with other units of the 78th Division in expectation of a further attack on San Salvo.
5th/6th October: Brigade arrives in Termoli. Major HEN Bredin joins 1 RIrF as Second-in-Command.
6th October: Attack to secure Termoli bridgehead.
18th/19th October: 2 LIR captures Petacciato ridge.
27th/28th October: Unsuccessful attack on San Salvo, Lt-Col Butler CO of 1 RIrF is killed.
28th October: Major J Dunnill takes over command of 1 RIrF.
October 1943 Roll of Honour:
Links to the transcribed October 1943 war diaries: