A group of London Irishmen recently re-traced the movements of 2 LIR to the exact point where they had concentrated on the afternoon of 15th May 1944 as they prepared for an attack against German forces along the Gustav Line.
At about 2pm that day, an artillery strike hit the battalion’s ‘O’ Group that was assembling in the area causing a numbers of casualties including the deaths of the battalion’s CO, Lieut Colonel Ion Goff, and John Loveday, the CO of their armoured support regiment 16/5 Lancers.
As a result of this attack, the battalion immediately came under command of Major (later Lieut Colonel) John Horsfall, and a hastily re-convened ‘O’ Group, with Brigadier Pat Scott and Lieut Colonel Bala Bredin, CO of 6 Innisks in attendance, confirmed updated plans for an attack from 6 Innisks’ forward positions at pt 86 (Grafton Line), on the Cassino to Pignatoro road, towards Casa Sinagoga and this was later set for the morning of 16th May 1944.
The area, known informally in 1944 as ‘Happy Valley’, was now found to be a mix of uncultivated land and lines of vines. The views northwards towards the Cassino massif were obscured by morning mist but the vista opened up suddenly and it was soon clear how the area could have been targeted from high points right across the wide Liri valley.
Notes of personal testimony written by CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan and John Horsfall were read out to the group as they reflected on the events of that afternoon. A re-imagining of the reconvened ‘O’ Group, which had been painted by war artist David Rowlands, was brought forward to convey further evocative details of the scene as it had been described to the artist fifty years later by both John Horsfall and Bala Bredin.
All in all, a quite remarkable visit that movingly paid full tribute to the London Irishmen, who had fallen on the afternoon of 15th May 1944.