Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


War Diaries – 16th to 20th March 1944


16th March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Bttns carry out training. Attacks progressing in Cassino sector. Patrolling during the night by 11 Brigade to make contact. Enemy still holding west bank of River Rapido.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather fine. Visibility good.

St Patrick’s Eve. St Patrick’s Day and St Patrick’s Night was celebrated this year in something more than traditional style. All ranks in the bttn are quite certain that they have never enjoyed themselves so much for a long time. The first visible signs that St Patrick’s Day had arrived was the publishing in bttn orders of the Officers’ and Sergeants’ football teams. The Officers’ team had been selected and been placed by the Sergeants and the Sergeants’ team had been selected and placed by the Officers. The teams and positions were:

Officers: Captain Dicker, Lieut Wilton, Lieut McKenna, Major Murdock, Major Cook, Lieut-Col Bredin, Lieut Myles, Captain Kemp, Captain Brown,  Major Maxwell.

Sergeants: RSM, Sergeant Salt, Sergeant Maguire, CSM Whitfield, CQMS McQuaid, CSM Fenwick, Sergeant Allison, Sergeant Ashworth, CQMS Harper, Sergeant Byrne, Sergeant Goldie..

Reserves: Sergeant Allen, CSM Ford.

Referee: Fusilier Ellis S Company.

Linesman: Sergeant McGinley.

During the afternoon, the Intelligence Office, which was next to the Bttn HQ Officers’ Mess, had been cleared by the Mess Staff in preparation for the party, which had been arranged to take place in the Mess on St Patrick’s Eve and to which all Officers, WOs and Sergeants of the Bttn had been invited. The Intelligence Office was moved into the Adjutant’s Office much to his disgust and concern. Dinner was served ¾ of an hour early that evening and all members of the Mess arrived promptly and all was ready to greet the Sergeants and WOs when they arrived en masse promptly at 730pm. The Officers arrived soon after this and it could quite easily be seen that everyone present was there for the sole reason of enjoying themselves as much as they know how. Lieut Jackson of A Coy was in fine form and was soon the centre of an envious and admiring group. He was singing native war songs and endeavouring to do native war dances. The Orderly Officer was also present but decided that the place was too full and retired to bed where he was woken up every half hour  or so by people by people very anxious of his welfare.

During the evening, the Brigade Commander, the Brigade Major, and the Staff Captain came into the party but did not stay long as they had the other two bttns to visit. The CO was absent from the party for about half an hour while he visited the London Irish. When he returned, he brought with him Lieut Col Dunnill RIrF and his IO. The RIrF IO was rather unfortunate in his choice of parties as before he had been here too long, he was hit on the head with a cigarette tin thrown by the Second in Command Major Maxwell.

Probably, the only event out of keeping with the occasion was the arrival of 28 RASC vehicles under command of Lieut Hill, which were to be used for conveying the bttn out of this area. It need hardly be said, however, that the RASC people enjoyed themselves as much if not more that the members of the bttn did.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – slight showers.

1730 CO’s office.

Bttn HQ Guard supplied by HQ Coy.

1800 Weather – fair.



17th March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Brigade now at a few hours’ notice to move.

0900 RC and C of E Church Services for whole Brigade.

1100 Brigade parade for presentation of shamrock by the Brigade Commander on the occasion of St Patrick’s Day. He read out a personal message from the Divisional Commander, who regretted he was unable to attend owing to battle conditions. The Brigade Commander spoke to the Brigade and then presented shamrock to the field officers.

Brigade Pipe Band played for the remainder of the morning.

6 Innisks had Officers v Sergeants football match. The afternoon was quiet.

In the evening, the officers of Brigade HQ played Officers v 1 RIrF HQ at football.

RASC Band played during the afternoon.

Colonel Davies (Selection Board Committee) arrived to interview COs.   


1 RIrF.

Battalion under four hours’ notice to move wef 0001 hours


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

St Patrick’s Day was started off by the Bttn Pipe Band playing reveille at 0700hrs. The Band led by Sergeant Goldie marched past all Coy areas and started things off in the right spirit.

0800 The bttn was formed up in three composite coys in front of Bttn HQ where they were inspected by the CO before marching off to the Brigade Church Service, which was being held in the LIR area.

0820 The bttn marched off and were rejoined by the RC members and the Pipe Band outside the MT Park. The bttn was piped down to the Church Parade. The Service was taken by both padres while the RCs held a separate service.

After the service, the bttn marched to the LIR football field where the Brigade was addressed by the Brigade Commander who then presented all Field Officers with Shamrock. The three RSMs were also handed Shamrock. The Brigade Commander read out a message, which he had received from the Divisional Commander. The LIR entertained the Brigade Officers right royally with rum, wine, tea and sandwiches.

As soon as the Bands had finished playing, the members of the bttn returned to the bttn area in their own time and congregated on the football field below S Coy, where the Officers v Sergeants football match was to take place.

At Bttn HQ, the Officers’ team was assembling and they were a sight for sore eyes. The CO was dressed in KD shirt, KD shorts, vivid socks, boots and an Italian black cloak and green pork pie pulled down well over one eye, anyone would have been proud to wear. The Second in Command, Major Maxwell, was resplendent in khaki trousers, shirt and a beautiful new veil. The Adjutant, Captain Blyth, appeared on the scene in FMSO complete to the last detail. Capt ‘Badger’ Dicker, HQ Coy, appeared from round the corner on a donkey with Captain Pollard, A/Tk Platoon, riding pillion and holding an aspidistra – not the biggest in the world, but quite big enough. The most prominent feature about ‘Badger’ was his adhesive tape and black eye, a reminder of the party the night before. During the assembly, the Doctor, Captain Brown RAMC, was ‘taken absolutely ill’ and put on a stretcher and carried to the football field. The MTO, Lieut Bradford Myles, was very handsome in the dress of an Arab. He had on a gorgeous gown and a Persil white sheet on his head and a huge stick in his hand. As it was getting dark, it was decided to move off without waiting for the rest of the team, which had gone straight to the field. The members of the team, who had assembled at Bttn HQ were all mounted on donkeys and Cpl Kane, one of the Bttn pipers, was put on the leading one. The party set off, being preceded by Cpl Kane, whose donkey was led by the ‘Myles Wallah’ for the football field. They were cheered on their way, by much laughter and jeers from the men and NCOs and the local population of Italians.

The Sergeants’ team were lined up, ready to start play so the Officers dismounted, that is those that were still mounted amongst which was the CO and the Adjutant, both of whom had had a rather rough passage and took the field.

As soon as the whistle went, two carriers appeared on the Sergeants’ left flank and took up hull down positions in the Sergeants’ goal. The Officers’goal, a few seconds later, was covered with a wild rush and little could be seen of the goalkeeper ‘Badger’.

A special sit down dinner had been arranged for the men in which the cooks excelled themselves. There was plenty of beer and vino available and the men were waited upon by their Officers, WOs and Sergeants. The CO visited all Coy Messes and gave St Patrick’s Day Greetings to them, for which he was heartily cheered. The afternoon was devoted to rest in order to let the ‘good things’ settle.

1900 Nurses from the 2nd General Hospital arrived and were entertained at dinner by the Officers in the Mess. L/Cpl Beasley played the piano and once again, Cpl Kane and Fusilier McGoldrick played the Pipes and gave exhibitions of Irish dancing.

2000 An ENSA party, comprising mainly of a dance band, gave a very good show to the bttn to finish off a very fine day.

The CO received an invitation to attend the consecration of the Bishop of Altamura and Acquavista della Fonti.

St Patrick’s Day Greetings were sent to the following: His Majesty the King, HRH the Duke of Gloucester, The Primates of All Ireland, Am Taoiseach Dail Eireann, General Sir Alan Brooke, General Sir Claude Auckinleck, Sir Basil Brooke, Major RM Vaughan MC, the 1st Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 2nd Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the 5th Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 25 ITC.

Three typescript newspaper stories concerning actions of the bttn at San Salvo and Capracotta.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – cold wind and sunshine.

0800 St Patrick’s Day RC church parade.

0930 Brigade parade for all denominations. Brigadier Scott presented sprigs of shamrock to the officers. Massed Pipe Bands of the brigade gave a performance.

1115 Seven a side football semi finals.

E Coy 2 goals v S Coy Nil.   HQ Coy 1 goal v F Coy 0.

1500 Seven a side football final.

HQ Coy 2 goals v E Coy nil.

CO presented medallions to the winning team.

1730 Bttn HQ Guard supplied by E Coy.

1800 Weather – fine.



18th March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Bttns carry out training. Brigade Commander visits Battalions.


1 RIrF.

18th to 20th March – Platoon Training.

Read – Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather fine. Visibility good. Wind light.

The bttn carried on preparations for the forthcoming move. Kitbags and large packs being handed into Coy stores.

1325 The Brigadier paid a social visit to the bttn.

1730 The CO held his conference to discuss the present situation in and around Cassino and possible future moves of the bttn. We are now on 4 hours’ notice.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – bright and sunny.

0930 Bttn bathing at MBU.

1030 Brigadier Scott visits Bttn HQ.

1730 CO’s office.

Bttn HQ Guard supplied by F Coy.

1800 Weather – fine.



19th March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Church parades and divine services.

Brigade Commander visits 6 Innisks .

Enemy counter attacks in Cassino sector achieved minor successes. 11 Brigade extends Divisional front.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather fine. Visibility good. Wind light.

Today is a day of rest.  New rifles were zeroed on the range.

0930 There was an RC Service in Bellona Church.

1100 The Brigadier and CO attended the C of E service.

In the afternoon, football matches were played between coys.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – bright and sunny.

0930 Voluntary church parades for all denominations.

1730 Bttn HQ Guard supplied by G Coy.

1800 Weather – fine.



20th March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Bttns carry out training. Brigade Commander visits battalion. Bttn warned of probable move on 21 March to forward concentration area.

2 LIR hold inter coy Sports Meeting.  Officers Brigade HQ play Officers 1 RIrF at football. Latter won 3-2.


1 RIrF.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather fine. Visibility good.

Coys carried out normal training, including 30 yards range and section stalks.

Inter Coy football matches were played during the afternoon.

The children of the village have unknowingly paid tribute to the Bttn Provost Sergeant; their games have taken the form of defaulters doubling from one point to another accompanied by a passable imitation of the Provost Sergeant’s manner in issuing orders.

During the day, the Pioneers and Intelligence Sergeant gave demonstrations to all coys on laying, lifting and recording of mine fields.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – bright and sunny.

1230 CO’s office.

1430 Bttn Sport Meeting.

Result – H Coy 11 pts, E Coy 10 pts, S Coy 9 ½ pts, G coy 8 ½ pts, F Coy 6 pts, and HQ 3 pts.

CO presented prices of cigarettes and books to the winners.

1800 Bttn HQ Guard supplied by H Coy.

Weather – fine.