War Diaries – 16th to 20th July 1944

16th July

Brigade HQ – TARANTO.

0600 Heavy baggage of Brigade HQ, 6 Innisks, and 2 LIR are loaded on to one lighter. Lighter to remain there until the next morning when it will report to ship transporting the brigade.

1 RIrF.

Orders received to move on 17th.

6 Innisks – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm.

0630 Heavy baggage with party under command of Captain PS Anderson left for port.

0930 Brigade Church Services were held for all denominations.

After the church, the Commanding Officer spoke to the bttn on security and also gave a few words of advice for the benefit of personnel who had not been there before, on the customs and habits of the people likely to be encountered in the Middle East.

In the evening all kit, less bedding was packed up and stacked, ready for loading onto vehicles early on 17th July.

2 LIR.

0600 All heavy baggage transport to docks for loading.

0900 RC and CE church parades.

0930 Bttn FFI inspection.

17th July

Brigade HQ – TARANTO.

0600 Light baggage party left for Oil Jetty, Taranto.

1230 Marching personnel left transit camp to march down to Taranto. Picked up by transport in Taranto and taken to Oil Jetty, Taranto.

1600 Marching personnel arrive Oil Jetty, Taranto.

1630 Embarkation commences on HMT Banfora. Brigade HQ first, 6 Innisks second and then 2 LIR. Whole piper piped aboard by pipes of 2 LIR. 1 RIrF sailed on the HMT Ponttanic and were separated from the rest of the brigade.

1 RIrF.

0800 Berthing party moved off.

1500 Bttn moved off.

1630 Embarked on MS Durban Castle.

6 Innisks – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm.

0630 Reveille; and blankets were rolled and added to the baggage to be taken to the port.

0730 Baggage was taken to the port and handed over to the Baggage Party for loading on to the lighter with other ‘hold’ luggage, less large packs, which was laid out for personnel to give up as they marched past.

0945 Berthing Party of 1 officer and 3 ORs left for the port, where they went straight on to the boat and arranged coy areas on the mess decks allotted.

0950 CO met CO of 2/4 Hampshires and exchanged views with him.

1230 Bttn left camp and marched to Taranto, passing on the way troops of 56 Division, who were coming into Italy.

1510 Bttn em-bused at the Governor’s Palace in Taranto and were taken to the Oil Jetty wharf, approximately three miles outside Taranto.

1550 Bttn arrived at the jetty and commenced taking up packs.

1630 Embarkation started and everybody was shown to their allotted places on the boat and very soon afterwards, everyone was established as comfortably as was possible on a troopship that was carrying surplus to normal capacity.

The ship did not sail that night and everyone spent a quiet and uneventful night.

2 LIR.

1500 Bttn move by march route to docks at Taranto.

1700 Bttn embarked on troopship Banfora.

18th July

Brigade HQ – TARANTO.

1200 Convoy left Taranto. As we sailed away from the quay, the piper played on the Boat Deck. Land in sight all day.

1 RIrF.

1300 Sailed.

6 Innisks – AT SEA.

1000 The bttn, in conjunction with other units travelling on the same boat, was allotted AA gun duties.

1400 The ship sailed and joined the convoy, which kept within sight of land for the rest of the day as it sailed towards the toe of Italy.

1500 Personnel on the boat were shown to ‘Action Stations’ and ‘Boat Stations’. Great interest was shown in the Russian ex prisoners of war, who were travelling on the same boat and experiences were exchanged and also knowledge of home countries, through the aid of one or two interpreters.

The night was quiet and uneventful and a calm sea ensured that even the worst sailors had a restful night.

2 LIR.

1300 Convoy sailed

19th July

Brigade HQ   – AT SEA.

0800 Off Catania. Mount Etna sighted.

1315 Action Station Alarm. No contact with the enemy.

1600 Out of sight of land.

1 RIrF.

En route in convoy.

6 Innisks – AT SEA.

The weather was bright and warm and the sea very calm.

Early morning found the convoy steaming down the east coast of Sicily and the sight of Mt Etna brought back memories of hard fighting to many of the bttn.

1400 ‘Action Stations’ was sounded owing to an enemy reconnaissance plane which flew over the convoy.

No action resulted from this and the ‘All Clear’ was sounded soon afterwards.

The remainder of the day was quiet and uneventful and all ranks were enjoying the calm voyage, lying on the decks most of the time sunbathing.

2 LIR.

At sea.

20th July

Brigade HQ – AT SEA.

1400 Land sighted. The shore of North Africa. A quiet day. A perfectly calm sea.

6 Innisks – AT SEA.

Weather still fine and warm.

1000 Ship rounds.

Usual routine was carried out during the day. In the evening, an impromptu concert was held by S Coy and the Russian troops on the S Coy deck. Russian and Irish songs were an unusual mixture but were enjoyed nevertheless by all present.

2 LIR.

At sea.

1100 CO’s lecture to all officers and NCOs on probable future moves.