War Diaries – 4th December 1943

Brigade HQ.

Brigade TAC HQ established first light 365091.

0445 1 RIrF patrol reported strong enemy patrol area 3512. Standing by on DF tasks 6,8, 4 area 345310.

0600 6 Innisks nothing to report.

0605 1 RIrF reported location 356127. Patrols forward to river report about 10 enemy guns area 355130. Action being taken. Bridges 345118 and 361122 blown.

0745 1 Canadian Division infd 1 RIrF and 2 LIR established 357126 – 345105 across.

44 Royal Tanks moving now.

0800 1 Canadian Division RE request exact size of demolitions bridged.

0830 2 LIR reported left coy engaging enemy with troops.Enemy loosening up. Snipers on left flank. PoW from 90 PG Division taken. Locations changed rapidly.

0835 2 LIR reported recce troop trying crossing. Bridge still blown. Canadian Division may move up now.

0900 2 LIR reported forward troops over river. Ordered to find out if bridge blown.

1 RIrF reported 20-30 enemy encountered 0800hrs at 354124 whilst coy moving forward.

0915 Tanks report bridge 3311not blown.

0918 RE will take 3 hrs to make road passable for MT.

0937 2 LIR report high ground on their right still held by enemy in dug positions. 1 RIrF doing well and joining C Squadron 56 Recce Regiment in coastal area.

1035 2 LIR informed that tanks and artillery at present are unable to give support as all support required on the right flank. CO 2 LIR thinks that the situation requires more tanks than he has at his disposal. CO told to make plan without more support.

1100 214 Field Company report road ok for vehicles 1100hrs.

1113 2 LIR report total PoW identified 90 PG Division.

1118 1 RIrF reported situation warm. CO estimated only 30-40 enemy. Would like to make certain alterations to make position tight.

1207 1 RIrF say they cannot find tanks but can hear them in the distance.

1210 RA report U targets  on 323113 and 326134 fired.

1240 Location CO 2 LIR 348105.

1255 C Squadron 56 Recce Regiment reported reaching road bend, moved down Lanciano track. Shelled and shot at by unlocated MG, now looking for it.

Brigade Command informed C Squadron 56 Recce Regiment Commander that 6 Innisks on way and will eliminate MG.

1305 2 LIR captured 2 PoWs identified as 2 Coy 361 PGR.

57 Field Regiment fired U target 322115.

1340 Location 2 LIR 341105

1350 56 Recce Regiment liaising with tanks. Unlocated A/Tk guns suspected south of river preventing further progress. Other routes almost impossible.

1400 57 Field Regiment reported the following artillery available if registered; 2 Batteries 57 Medium Regiment, two batteries 98 Field Regiment, 2 Canadian Field Regiments.

1405 Brigade Command reported to Brigade main HQ that bridge over Moro blown and moving to place known by Command 4 Armoured Brigade.

1430 1 RIrF reported all arrangements made. Going on right near sea to lie up much as possible while light lasts.

1500 1 RIrF reported tanks and 2 coys getting on well but not quite sure where they are expected to finish. Enemy fire stopped. Special patrol mopping up. 2 LIR reported RAP at 351105 carrying to ambulances at 361101

1530 57 Field Regiment U targets 307105 and 328117.

1545 1 RIrF reported pretty heavy counter attack down coastal road area 358124. One platoon overrun at approximately 1525hrs. Brigade Command sending tanks down valley .6 Innisks forming backstop and one coy 6 Innisks going between 1 RIrF and sea. 1 RIrF firm and confident.

1610 1 RIrF reported tanks and battalion on objective counter attacking with a platoon and have occupied ridge again. Infiltration on left held and counter attack dispersed . Vickers’ MGs used.

1613 6 Innisks informed 1 RIrF coy on way.

1620 57 Field Regiment reported U target area Torre 319110 C Squadron 56 Recce Regiment reported no specific blind shoots. Ordered by Brigade Command to stay outside of present position until dark and then return behind 6 Innisks.

1715 1 RIrF reported all coys except coy 6 Innisks in position. 5 PoWs taken.

1735 C Squadron 56 Recce Regiment location 353116.

1900 1 Canadian Division informed Brigade that 3 Bttns Canadian troops concentrated at 330087, 334097, 363117.

2045 RA DF tasks: Tinker 341124, Taylor 341128, Soldier 344134, Sailor 350135.

2100 RA Canadian Division request ok for HF tasks on 330120-323142 at 2200 – 0500hrs agreed.

1 Canadian Division RA requested two HF targets in coastal area. Replied all ready laid on with OC 57 Field Regiment nearest target 330157.

2340 All bridges over River Sangro unusable. Evacuation of casualties by DUKW only from Fossacesia station. River Sangro rose 6 feet in last two hours. Last light Sitrep 0040/5 Dec..

1 RIrF.

0130 At 0130 hrs, head of Battalion reached area 356127.  Coys consolidated in fairly close formation with Battalion HQ in HO 35612

0300 At approximately 0300 hrs, a local patrol from D Coy contacted a fairly large enemy patrol – no casualties either side.  By dawn it became obvious that the enemy was still holding ground east of R. Moro and B & C Coys were instructed to push forward to ground overlooking the R. Moro.  In doing so, quite determined resistance was met & Major JE McNally MC was wounded. Major RLC Wood took command of B & C Coys but was killed by a mortar bomb.  Major DEH Hayward MC & Capt. GL Richards MM sent to assume command of B & C Coys respectively.  Battalion given 1 Squadron tanks to clear high ground but no contact was made with them until the evening.  Enemy counterattacked all day, but after a re-disposition was made of Battalion, these were beaten off & 20 POWs were taken.  C Coy 6 Innisks placed under command.

1800 B & C Coys launched final attack with tanks & captured high ground overlooking R. Moro.  A Coy moved forward & consolidated with B & C Coys.  During whole of the day the line of supply & evacuation was under fire from snipers, who were ultimately disposed of.  Captain RE Wilkin wounded in the chest leading a mule train of ammo & supplies.  Battalion received these mules during darkness – at no time during this action did the Battalion go long without food.  Casualties for day’s fighting 1 & 5 KIA, 2 & 29 wounded.

Major Richard Wood MC, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ronald Lane, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Bertram Rhodes, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal Arthur Aston, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Scarsi, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ernest Watson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Alfred Cooper, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Stanley Henderson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks.

The other two Bttns of the Brigade moved up and went forward of the town to the line of the River Moro.

Bttn pioneers lifted 46 Teller mines from area of railway in 3611.

0940 CO was called to a conference at Brigade HQ and on his return the Bttn received orders to move forward to area of ridge 3411 to protect left flank of 2 LIR and 1 RIrF.

1400 Bttn left San Vito in the following order D Coy (riding on tanks), C Coy, Bttn HQ, B Coy, A Coy. The RIrF on our right flank were having some trouble with M/G posts and some bullets were just clearing the road along which the Bttn was travelling.

1630 Bttn was established with Bttn HQ at 345114, B and D Coys, with supporting weapons at Apollinari (3310) under command of Major Little A Coy remained in the same area as Bttn HQ and C Coy went under command of 1 RIrF, who were expecting a counter attack to develop.

2100 News came through that the Canadian Battalions were to take up positions on our left flank and guides were sent out to meet them and guide them through our Bttn area.

2 LIR.

0100 H Company’s patrols report enemy between 350105 and the river.

0200 G Company and Command Post move forward to join E & H companies.

0400 Companies make contact with enemy. Enemy patrols around with automatic weapons reported by companies and 1 RIrF to be on our right.

0600 1 RIrF reported north of San Vito supported by tanks. During the advance in the night there were still a considerable number of enemy who remained undetected and at first light the task of clearing them out began.

0700 1 squadron of 44 Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) arrive to assist battalion in clearing area.

0830 Battalion was established on the high ground overlooking the Moro as follows:

Battalion HQ established at 348112.

E Company – 337100.

F Company – 343108.

G Company – 340113.

H Company – 338109.

6 Inniskillings now in San Vito.

Trouble was experienced on the right flank and F Company supported by tanks cleared the area and were then established at 344117.

1200 Commanding Officer reports to the brigadier that the attack ordered across the river Moro would be difficult owing to strength of battalion (about two platoons per company) and the difficulty of engaging the enemy with artillery and mortar fire because of the ground. The commanding is ordered to make up best plan he can while situation is being reviewed higher up.

1300 Bridge on River Moro is blown.

Company positions shelled and mortared spasmodically throughout the day.

1315 Intelligence officer and six other ranks of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to recce positions with a view to the battalion taking over from us.

1400 22 prisoners of war brought in. Identified as belonging to 361 Panzer Group (50 Panzer Group) Division.

1730 H Company report three guns firing from about two miles north of their positions. Artillery lay down UNCLE target. Result – extremely accurate. MMGs and mortars brought up to support forward companies. The battalion is now firmly established along the line of the river Moro, although very tired.

1900 Battle patrol go out to area of bridge to observe and shoot any enemy. They spent a quiet night.

2000 Message – battalion to be relieved tomorrow.

6 Inniskillings and 2 Canadian battalions move up into position on the left flank of the battalion.

T/Captain G Fitzgerald (RUR) joined from x(iv) List.

Rifleman John Smillie, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Joseph Morris, London Irish Rifles.