Operation Buckland The Irish Brigade’s last battle

At 1920 hours on 9th April 1945, Operation ‘Buckland’, the name given to 8th Army’s attack on German defensive positions in Northern Italy, was launched. Over the following 16 days of constant assault, Allied Forces secured a comprehensive victory and were able to cross the mighty Po river. On 2nd May 1945, all German forces in Italy would be forced to surrender.

Over the following pages, we shall be adding various Regimental and personal narratives of this period with particular focus on the Irish Brigade’s part in securing the 8th Army’s advance through the strategically vital Argenta Gap.

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan in 1945

By 25th April, the Brigade’s war had largely come to an end, offensive actions had been completed and their role was to support ‘mopping up’ operations before they advanced northwards to take up peacekeeping duties in southern Austria.

Very few men had completed the long journey all the way up to the Po river from Algiers, where the Brigade had landed nearly 900 days previously. CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan was one of those men and would later recall the last few days of war for the London Irish Rifles:

“We had arrived at the Po.

During the last days of the offensive, we had passed a most distressing sight. Beautiful draught horses had been shot dead and lay bloated and stinking. The Germans had killed them rather than let them live and remain for us. Most had been commandeered from the unfortunate Italians, who had lost so much.

Their beautiful country had been destroyed all the way from Sicily to the Po and occupied by aliens from all over the world. The south bank of the River Po was an extraordinary scene.

The Germans, trapped by the river, had abandoned everything. Many had even tried to swim the Po to escape and many died as a result. The carnage of war continued relentlessly as if it were now on a form of autopilot.

The company rested by the side of the Po while the Royal Engineers set about bridging its mile width. I arranged a campfire and some Canadian beer and hot rum toddy. Corporal Howarth was, as usual, master of ceremonies….” 

A meticulously researched full account of the final battles of the Italian campaign can be found in the recently published book, ‘Victory in Italy’, written by historian Richard Doherty.

Day by Day Narrative.

9th April 1945.

10th April 1945.

11th April 1945.

12th April 1945.

13th April 1945.

14th April 1945.

15th April 1945.

16th April 1945.

17th April 1945.

18th April 1945.

19th April 1945.

20th April 1945.

21st April 1945.

22nd April 1945.

23rd April 1945.

24th April 1945.

25th April 1945.

Unit Accounts.

78th Division – Final Offensive in Italy.

38 (Irish) Brigade – Brigadier Scott’s Narrative.

2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles – The ‘Kangaroo’ Army.

11 Brigade – At Argenta Gap.

5th Battalion, The Northampton Regiment – The Battle of Argenta.

2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers – Night Advance through il Quartiere.

1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment – The Battle for Lungurella.

5th Battalion, East Kent Regiment – The Buffs at Benvignante.

8th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – By a Platoon Commander.

1st Battalion, Princess Louise’s Kensington Regiment – The Final Offensive in Italy.

The Queen’s Bays – Operations of ‘A’ Squadron with 1 RIrF over the River Santerno.

The 10th Royal Hussars (PWO) – Portomaggiore to the River Po.

48th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment – Over the Santerno and the advance to Conselice.

The 9th Lancers – Advance to the River Po, 24th/25th April 1945.

Headquarters Royal Artillery, 78th Infantry Division – The breakout and the follow through.

17 Field Regiment RA – In Action against the Argenta Gap defences.

132 (Welsh) Field Regiment RA – Diary Entries, 16th to 19th April 1945.

64 (Glasgow Yeomanry) Anti Tank Regiment RA – Glasgow Yeoman try out their new SPs.

Royal Engineers, 78 Division – The Advance from the Senio to the Po.


Sources/Useful Links:

The 78th Division in the Final Offensive in Italy, 1945.

The Irish Brigade in Italy and Austria, Brigadier TPD Scott, July 1945.

War Diaries of the Battalions of 38 (Irish) Brigade, April 1945.

‘Victory in Italy’, Richard Doherty, 2015.

NZ Official History – The Assault on the Senio River.

NZ Official History – Gatecrashing the Santerno Line.

The Tiger Triumphs – Eighth Division Punches the Hole Again.

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