War Diaries – 6th to 10th January 1944

6th January


Slight snow fall during the night and road to bifurcation became temporarily impassable.

1000 House to house search of Acquaviva by personnel of Brigade HQ and 88 FSS. A number of undesirables evacuated from the area. No enemy activity.

1 RIrF.

Blizzard continues.  Bulldozer clearing road from rear to Rionero.

1800 Weather clears.  Frost. Routine patrols by forward coys.  R. Sangro 4ft 9ins.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Twelve to eighteen inches of snow fell during the night of 5/6. Snow continued to fall throughout the day, and the bttn went onto rations owing to the reserve getting low, and the difficulty of getting further supplies in under present conditions.

2330 A house caught fire, starting from the chimney, personnel from C Coy and Bttn HQ were called out to assist in putting it out. Investigations showed that the enemy, before evacuating Capracotta, had poured pitch into chimneys of a number of the houses so that fires would occur.

2 LIR.

0645 Dawn Patrol from G Company to local hills. Snowing hard.

0800 E Company to Marsucci. H Company to Twin Tit 057467.

CO & IO with Pioneers and stores follows.

1430 Companies return to Montenero.

1800 Snow clears. Visibility clears. Road cleared for ¾ mile. CO’s verbal orders for operations tomorrow. F Company to observe enemy positions from Marsucci 0547.

7th January


Roads clear – little snow fell during the night.

1230 CRA visited Brigade HQ to meet Brigade Commander and CO 138 Field Regiment, RA, on return from their recce at Cerro.

1710 Two American aircraft dropped supplies by parachute, intended for San Pietro on the enemy side of the River Sangro near Castel di Sangro. No enemy activity.

1 RIrF.

0800 Bulldozer clears road up to Rionero from rear.  Digging party clearing mule track Rionero – road junction 0749.

1200 Twelve shells road junction 0749.  Strafe One fired.

1400 Mule track to road junction 0749 clear.

1800 Bulldozer starts clearing road forward of Rionero.

2120 A Coy relieves C Coy at road junction 0749.

2150 Mules reach B and D Coys with 5 days rations.

Routine night patrols.  Sangro 4ft 6ins.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Preparations were made for receiving supplies by plane. Ground strips were used in the area south of the town and an oily rag set at the base of the code letter, ready to be lit and indicate wind direction (L for Pesco, M for Capra).

0800 100 men left Capracotta with empty packs to collect rations from a dump which had been formed at ‘Half Way House’ (2550).

0930 Further tasks for digging were marked as it was decided that the bright moonlight would make digging possible until midnight.

1130 20 men from each coy with personnel of supporting arms resumed the tasks of clearing the roads west of the town, and a relief system was brought into force to allow the digging to continue until midnight.

1235 DC3s were seen approaching from the south, and were watched expectantly as they probably carried the promised rations. When two of them wheeled round towards Capracotta ground flares and the oily rag and the two planes came in flying very low. The first one released its load over the letter ‘M’ and the second in the area of the monastery half a mile south of the town. The sky was soon filled with the brightly coloured parachutes (14) and on each one was a 200lb hamper containing rations; some of these were damaged on impact. The men standing by started at once to bring the hampers in, and because some of the contents had been damaged all rations had to be taken to the ration store for redistribution. A Coy at Pescopennataro received 10 containers of rations, dropped at the same time as those at Capracotta. The Bttn had been on half rations again today, but now were to go back on to full scale. The rations received for the day were 960 by air and 2000 from the carrying party, including the 1 ES. It was found necessary to reach the containers before the civilians, who found the parachute silk a great temptation. B Echelon at Agnone was also snowed in and had to be supplied by air.

1600 80 men from the 1 ES, who had volunteered to bring rations to us, arrived in Capracotta, each carrying 20 to 30lbs of foodstuffs.

2 LIR.

0600 Dawn Patrol from E Company

0800 F Company goes out to Marsucci to observe and ambush enemy.

1600 F Company reports in.

1800 CO’s verbal orders for operations tomorrow. Standing orders for sentry posts issued.

2000 Mule convoy arrives safely.

2200 Mule convoy returns to Rionero.

8th January


A Thabor of Goums arrived area San Vincenzo during the morning. Roads now completely clear for transport.

0800 112 Medium Battery fired on approximately 6 enemy in area 0855575.

1200 CRE arrived at Brigade HQ.

1620 Coy area bifurcation opened. Strafe target on Scontrone fired by 138 Field Regiment RA, and 112 Medium Battery RA.

78 Division Operational Instruction No 7 (cancelling No 6) received.

1 RIrF.

0200 Bulldozer returns to Rionero having cleared to within half mile of road junction 0749.

0900 Sunshine. Rapid thaw.

1800 Two days rations by mule to B and D Coys.

2100 Road cleared by bulldozer up to road junction 0749.

Immediate award MM to 6977881 CSM J Meehan announced.

T/Capt JP Phelan joined. Capt BL Kentish assumed command C Coy vice A/Capt GL Richards MM.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

The weather was fine, but cold and visibility was good.

0730 Working parties set off according to programme of work issued 7 January.

0800 120 men with 2 officers set off to draw rations from the dump at ‘Half Way House’ (2550).

0900 Right sector Operation Instruction No 1 received.

A copy of 78 Division Admin Order No 14 was received from 56 Recce for information and necessary action. 78 Divisional Operational Instruction No 7 also received.

1000 CO’s conference on ration and digging progress and all non essential stores were ordered to be packed ready for taking back as soon as the state of the roads made it possible.

1120 Ground strips had been prepared as before, and once more the DC3s  came over, circled once, this time the containers were dropped right on the town, three of them actually dropping outside the door of the ration store. A Coy also received rations by air at the same time. Rations received for the day were 1000 by air at Capracotta, 420 by air at Pescopennataro, 1000 by carrying party.

2 LIR.

0600 Road now cleared to Bifurcation.

0615 Dawn Patrol from G Company to Twin Tits 057467.

0800 H Company to Marsucci 057467.

0830 Commando recce patrols leave.

1500 Commando patrol to Steep Hill reports small enemy patrol on Il Monte.

Engaged patrol but enemy disappeared.

1700 H Company and Belgian Commandos patrols reports in Montenero.

2000 Mule Convoy arrives with rations from Rionero. 1 Platoon F Company to Silario for protection of convoy.

2220 Porters bringing more rations arrive. Road cleared OK. CO sends appreciation of situation in Montenero to HQ 38 Brigade. 2 i/c sends appreciation of situation in Montenero from enemy point of view to HQ 38 Brigade. 

9th January


1000 GOC 78 Division and Brigade Commander on recce area Rionero.

1000 House to house search of Cerro.

1015 2 LIR to return all transport less 1 Ambulance and 2 jeeps to B Echelon.

Amendment No 1 to 78 Division Operational Instruction No 7 received.

1715 CO 138 Field Regiment RA and Brigade Commander to Montenero and arrived back at Forli at 2300hrs.

1 RIrF.

1530 Enemy mortared (13 bombs) area 087497 near house occupied by A Coy.  Strafe One fired.

Brigade Admin Instruction dated 7 Jan 44 received.

Intermittent shelling during afternoon 088539 and 088544.  Lt MF Callaghan to hospital.  Routine night patrols.  Sangro 4ft.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather fine but still very cold, visibility good.

0700 110 men moved off with empty packs for rations.

0730 All available men continued digging the mule track.

0945 CO of 1 ES (1 East Surrey Regiment) visited Capracotta to discuss points on the relief.

1000 CO’s conference on road clearing progress.

Captain Kendall rejoined unit and is posted to D Coy as 2.i.c.

1023 Once more, the DC3s came over and dropped supplies and most of the contained dropped within the bttn area, but three of them were carried by the wind to a minefield at the north end of the town, which were recovered by Bttn Pioneers. The aircraft dropped 1100 rations at Capracotta and 420 at Pescopennataro.

2 LIR.

0015 Convoy returns to Rionero with urgent casualties and advance party of No 10 Belgian Commando.

0600 Dawn Patrol from E Company.

0800 E Company go out to Calvario. Commando patrol to Lone House 057477. Officers and NCOs practice skiing under instructions of Belgian Commandos.

1530 1 Platoon E Company go out to 059471 to protect ration convoy coming in tonight.

1630 E Company reports back.

1730 Commando patrol back. NTR.

1800 CO’s O Groups: operations for tomorrow. E Company to Il Monte supported by F Company. To patrol Pizzone road and gain information about enemy.

1900 Brigadier arrives to see CO.

1930 Transport convoy arrives safely. Belgian troops Number 10 Commando leaves for Rionero. Detached from Battalion Command.

2100 Platoon H Company returns to Montenero. Convoy away safely. W/Lt Wessels and W/Lt Bruckmann to hospital.

10th January


0230 Belgian Troop 10 Commando arrived in Forli from Montenero.

0830 Enemy aircraft dropped bomb on house 075496.

1050 Castel di Sangro shelled and strafe target fired on Scontrone and Roccacinquehiglia.

1100 G3 I 78 Division and OC Divisional Signals visited Brigade HQ.

1330 House search of Forli.

1430 CRE called Brigade HQ.

Amendment No 2 78 Division Operational Order No 7 received.

1545 Enemy shelled 1 RIrF positions and our artillery replied with 120 rounds on Scontrone.

78 Division Training Directive No 1 received.

1 RIrF.

0830 Single enemy aircraft dropped bomb 074496 – not near our positions.

1200 Enemy mortared own side R. Sangro 088545.

1800 Six days rations to A Coy. Eight days rations to B and D Coys by portees with chains.

2 LF support weapons and coy cooks brought back from Castel Di Sangro.  Own mortars (2), MMGs (2) and coy cooks taken forward.  Routine night patrols. R. Sangro 4ft.

6 Innisks – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather was still good but cloudy.

0730 Available men of the Bttn were set to work clearing the roads within the town to vehicle width, so that those vehicles still there could be run for short distances after being dug out from the snow.

0930 ‘Right sector’ Operational Order No 1 received. 78 Division Signals OO No 8 received.

1000 CO’s conference on digging progress.

1400 Advance party from 1 ES arrived.

1700 All civilian passes were checked as a number of people were known to have returned to the town. The mule track from Capracotta to Carovilli cross roads (260458) was opened but the track was bad and normal supplies could be maintained.

2 LIR.

0400 F Company to Steep Hill 048438.

0600 G Company to Steep Hill and then to Il Monte 035428. To use as a patrol base and send out recces or raiding patrols to area Pizzone-Alfedena.

1520 One platoon H Company goes out to 059471 to protect expected in tonight.

1540 All companies reported in.

1930 Transport and mule convoy arrives with rations. Remaining detachments of 3” mortars and machine guns arrive.

One platoon H Company rejoins from special duties at Army HQ Vasto.