1st January

Brigade HQ – FORLI DEL SANNIO (H1443).

Heavy snow fell during the day, wind reached blizzard strength. All areas have work parties out and Italian civilians also employed clearing the snow. Communication by line and wireless broken down.

1327 Request sent to 78 Division for bulldozers to assist snow clearance. Relief of 2 LF at Castel di Sangro commenced at last light.

1 RIrF.

During the night Battalion took over positions Castel di Sangro – Rionero area from 2 LF.  Owing to the blizzard, the two coys 2 LF at Castel Di Sangro and the one at pt 1004 unable to withdraw.  For same reason, the 2 LF standing patrol (one platoon) at road junction 0749 not relieved by us.  Extremely difficult weather conditions.

0230 Unsuccessful attempt by one platoon C Coy to relieve 2 LF platoon at road junction 0749.

0730 Attempt repeated. Again unsuccessful.

1000 2 LF coy from pt 1004 reach Rionero.

1030 Platoon C Coy reach road junction 0749, relieve 2 LF standing patrol.  Owing to blizzard no communications with brigade or coys.  Line parties out.

1100 Message from A Coy (relayed by D Coy) ‘Position untenable.  Trenches full of snow, which is 4 ft. deep in many places’.  CO orders A Coy move to buildings near road junction 0749.  Attempts to clear roads of snow with shovels and available wooden snowploughs futile.  Bulldozer on its way up from Isernia but progress very slow.

1230 A Coy occupy houses 089495 and 074495.  Standing patrol at road junction 0749 (one platoon C Coy) under command A Coy.

1700 Blizzard stops.  Snow 2 ft 6 ins with drifts as much as 6-7 ft.

1800 Attempt to get rations by mule to A Coy fails.  Mules unable to get through drifts. Line parties out to repair breaks caused by weight of snow.

6 Innisks– CAPRACOTTA.

Mule train to A Coy at Pescopenntaro still held up owing to the depth of the snow drifts. The patrol that had left Castel del Guidre at 1630hrs 31 December had still not returned. A ration truck from B Echelon became snowed up when only two kilometres from Capracotta, and the driver after some difficulty, was able to get into the village to report the whereabouts of his vehicle. The weather remained fine but cold and rum was issued at night. Oil, low cost test was used on weapons and anti freeze and graphite grease available.

2 LIR.

1500 Standing patrols established on perimeter at all entrances to village.

1800 Commanding Officer’s orders:- orders for defence of Montenero given out and alarm posts to be manned. Congratulated Captain Danloy commanding the Belgian Commandos on the excellent and cheery way they assisted the companies in from the hills.

Special Order of the day by General D W Eisenhower on his leaving the Mediterranean theatre.

 2nd  January


No snow fell during the night. Work on roads progressing.

0645 2 LIR recce patrol to 044475 and 032462. No contact.

1310 One coy 2 LF arrives at Forli. Enemy shelled at Castel di Sangro during the afternoon.

No casualties. Operational Instruction HQ REME 78 Division No 50 regarding inspection of small arms received.

1 RIrF.

1100 Line communications to coys open.

Day spent clearing mule track to A Coy using available troops in Rionero and civilian labour.

1500 Rations to A Coy (2 days) and B and D Coys (1 days) by mule, thus supplying all till incl 4 Jan.

1700 Road back from Rionero now cleared by bulldozer which moves through town to tackle road forward from Rionero.

1745 Two coys 2 LF leave Castel Di Sangro.

2100 Coys 2 LF from Castel Di Sangro reach Rionero and after meal and rest leave by TCV.

2300 Depth of R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.  Defensive patrols by forward coys.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

1000 Daylight brought no further news of the patrol, which went to Castel del Guidre and a patrol of one Polish officer and two civilians went out, on skin, to try to locate them. They failed to do so, as wind had caused the snow to cover the tracks they had made.

1100 An attempt was made by another ski party to get through to Pescopennataro; this party succeeded. A further ski party, composed of civilians (16) went out to the snow bound ration truck, two kilos away taking with them their big ruck sacks, which hold fourteen loaves and making two journeys, they were able to be able to bring in the complete load. All available men were employed throughout the day in digging, communication paths; platoons to coy HQ and coys to Bttn HQ.

2 LIR.

0800 Weather cleared up during the night. Visibility good. Weather fine and clear.

0545 Patrol from Belgian Commandos goes out to nearby hills at 040415 for local protection.

0800 One Platoon H Company goes out with mules to bring in remaining 4.2” mortars from their positions on the hills.

1000 Commanding Officer’s Orders:- gives out in detail his orders for the defence of Montenero.

F Company to take up positions north of the town.

G Company cover Eastern approaches.

H Company cover Western approaches.

E Company and Belgian commandos as a mobile column.

1300 G Company patrol leaves

1345 Patrols from E and F companies leave.

1600 G Company patrol reports in.

1630 E Company patrols reports in.

1800 Commanding Officer’s Orders for operation next day:- F & E Companies to go out to salvage stores. Belgian commandos to destroy (illegible section). Protection patrol out first light to nearby surrounding hills to be known as the Dawn Patrol.

1930 Three Italian agents report in. Gave little information.

Machine gun posts pinpointed and gave general impression that enemy was on the ground south of the Sangro and equally impeded by the snow.

Italian labour was impressed during the day to clear road of snow from Montenero to Rd June 076497.

3rd January


No enemy activity during the day. Roads clearing and snow melting.

1130 GOC 78 Division arrived at Brigade HQ, proceeded with Brigade Commander to Rionero.

1 RIrF.

0600 Bulldozer stuck in drift 2 miles forward of Rionero. No line communication to forward coys.  Lines probably cut by bulldozer.

1400 Line communication with A Coy

1530 – 1600 Enemy shelled road junction 0748 – sixteen shells.

2100 C Coy less one platoon (already at road junction 0749) relieved A Coy, which went into reserve at Rionero.  Detachment Carrier Platoon (dismounted) reinforced B, C, D Coys. Two days rations to B and D Coys. Bulldozer was dug out and worked all night accompanied by working party with shovels.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

0830 Liaison officer from Troop 10 Polish Commandos, and a Polish Sergeant started out with a mule to try to get supplies to Pescopennataro by this means. This was not found possible as the high wind had caused the snow to drift too deeply for mules to get through.

1030 Cpl Key, one of the last patrol, came into town accompanied by the people from the farm, where he and three other members of the patrol had taken shelter.

1100 Polish officer and Sergeant set off again for A Coy on their own, and got through on their skis – A Coy reported that their digging progress had taken through one and a half miles from the Agnone road.

1500 Tasks were allotted to coys for clearing road to Capracotta.

2 LIR.

0830 E & F Companies go out to original positions in Alto and Calvario to salvage stores.

Patrol of 1 Officer and 30 men from Belgian Commandos leaves.

1115 Five shells at eastern outskirts of Montenero.

1130 Platoon of F Company report their area being shelled.

1245 F Company reports mortaring on hill slope to left flank of Alto. Companies believe they have been spotted by the enemy.

1400 Road from Montenero cleared of snow as far as 100478.

1415 Belgian Commando patrol reports in.

1630 All companies in Montenero. All stores from E & F companies brought in except tentage. F Company two casualties because of shellfire.

1800 CO’s Orders:- for operation tomorrow:

G Company to old position on Il Monte to salvage stores.

Perimeter protection as usual.

Road clearance to continue all night with Italian labour.

Convoy protection tonight from Belgian Commandos.

2000 Mule convoy with supplies arrives in Montenero. Road not cleared in time but mules got through OK.

4th January


0005 C Coy 1 RIrF report accidental killing one and wounding one of Belgian Troop 10 Commando, who were on patrol in their area and whose activities were suspicious.

0645 Road situation much improved.

1020 Twenty shells landed in Montenero.

1255 Enemy patrol 30 strong observed area Montenero.

Area 049434 shelled by 138 Field Regiment, RA and again at 1600hrs when patrol re-crossed River Sangro.

Direction on Snow Clearance Policy.

1 RIrF.

0400 Bulldozer having cleared to within 1000 yards of road junction 0749 returned to Rionero.

0900 Visit by Brigade Commander. Artillery policy:- Owing to nature of ground enemy and own guns sited well back and generally unable to reach each other. Artillery duel likely to take form of mutual shelling of each other’s infantry positions.  To discourage this, our guns will NOT shell enemy infantry positions except when movement is observed.  Whenever enemy shells our infantry positions or what they may think to be our positions, our guns will reply on known enemy localities at rate

1000 Arranged with gunners that when enemy shell our positions we will call for Strafe One – on Scontrone 0349 by 502 Field Battery; Strafe Two – on Rocca Cinquemiglia 0956 by 112 Med Battery

1206 Enemy shelled 088534 (seven rounds).  Strafe Two fired.

1730 Bulldozer renewed snow clearance and cleared up to road junction 0749.

2000 Rations by mule to B and D Coys – 4 days. Rations by MT to C Coy – 6 days. Routine defensive patrols by forward coys to watch approaches and test depth of R. Sangro (5ft).

Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Digging parties left for allotted tasks. This proved to be a difficult job as the wind was constantly causing the snow to drift back, into the channels being dug.

1000 Six Italians left Capracotta for B Echelon, at Agnone, with dispatches. These men returned in the evening carrying rations.

2 LIR.

0515 Dawn Patrol from H Company to Rocky Hill and Top Point 0443.

0800 G Company go out to Il Monte. E Company to Steep Hill 043438 in immediate support. F Company to take up additional positions on wooded saddle 040455.

0910 Ten shells land on track 044446 as G Company pass this point. As shelling was so accurate, patrol from Belgian Commandos dispatched to Marsucci to observe and find out whether enemy OP is established there.

1230 Commando patrol observes enemy, strength about 1 company on top of Marsucci 0547. DF fire brought down scatters enemy.

1630 Five shells on outskirts of village.

1930 CO’s O Group: all companies now in Montenero. Convoy expected through tonight with rations and supplies. Plan for protection bigger than usual as enemy who was in Marsucci during early afternoon might have disappeared in area of Bifurcation.

H Company to 056466 Belgian Commandos to go through and clear area west of road.

2040 Mule convoy report in. No interference.

2100 Companies go out to positions. Same area. RTR.

5th January


No enemy activity during the day.

1515 Brigade Commander to Rionero to visit 1 RIrF.

78 Division Operational Instruction No 6 received.

Protective patrols in bttn areas by night. Roads now usable, snow threatens but situation under control.

Owing to snow and blizzard during our relief of 11 Infantry Brigade and roads becoming impassable, the ration situation became acute by 1 January. Forward areas had doubled their strengths and reserves soon ran very low. Until the roads could be cleared the only communication was by mule. The mule situation was also difficult owing to the changeover of 573 Pack Company with 2 Italian Pack Company. After 3 nights work – day work was not possible in the forward areas as the enemy overlooked the whole area – roads forward were cleared for jeeps and portees and 7 days rations were delivered to forward areas. All available personnel were put on snow clearance, including Italian civilians. Strict traffic control was enforced as the roads were only cleared sufficiently for single way traffic. To prevent any further difficulty, it was decided that all forward areas should hold 14 days reserve – later increased to 21 days. Forward troops were not equipped for snow warfare. They had only one battledress and boots do not stand up to snow for very long. A request for 78 Division was put forward for a supply of snow clothing. Evacuation of casualties was mainly by sledge or mules fitted with cacolets.

1 RIrF.

0100 Blizzard starts again.  All roads and tracks covered by dawn. Line communications to forward coys and brigade constantly broken during day.

1730 Impossible to get rations forward to forward coys. Routine patrols during night by forward coys.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Three Intelligence Sections set out to mark route of mule track to Pescopennataro but this was not possible as snow was falling and wind was at gale force cutting visibility to nil. Owing to this bad weather, the digging tasks allotted to coys had to be postponed.

1100 A civilian from a farm near Castel del Guidre came into Capracotta to report the finding of Sergeant Sullivan (Patrol leader of the patrol 30/31 December), who had died from exposure. He was found sitting in a drift and tracks indicated that he had crawled the least two or three kilometres before he died. Snow continued to fall all day and in the afternoon the snowfall increased and the temperature dropped.

2 LIR.

0030 Companies report visibility reduced to 30 yards.

0300 Two parties arrive with supplies. Road now cleared.

0645 Dawn Patrol from G Company

0800 F Company sent out 2 platoons to 057487.

1100 Transport with supplies expected through at 1300.

1230 Battle Patrol in jeeps to high ground half way along Montenero road.

One platoon H Company to 003470 for convoy protection.

1600 Snowing slightly all day. Road now blocked. No transport coming through. Troops withdrawn. Night protection – perimeter posts.

1800 CO’s orders for operations 6th. To build patrol base on Marsucci 0547 with strong protection out.

2230 E Company Patrol returns.