Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


War Diaries – 21st to 25th March 1944


21st March

Brigade HQ – VILLA VOLTURNO (N 1884).

Bttns carry out training. Brigade Commander visits battalions.

1500 Brigade warned to move to forward area on the 22nd to take over from 11 Brigade.

Brigade Commander and Bttn O Group move forward to Divisional HQ.

1830 Brigade Commander conference with Divisional Commander.

1900 Brigade Commander O Group with OCs of 2 LIR and 1 RIrF.

2 LIR to take over northern sector from 11 Brigade and from A Squadron 56 Recce.

1 RIrF to take over south sector from 11 Brigade sector held by 1 East Surreys.


1 RIrF.

1445 Message from Brigade:- TAC recce parties incl coys RV railway crossing 988117 1800 hrs.  General move expected midday 22 March.

1600 CO, IO, one Intelligence Fusilier and Coy Commanders (less HQ Coy) left for recce.  Not returning.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather fine am, rain pm. Visibility good. Wind light.

There was a bttn shoot in the morning in which all coys took part. The Battle Platoon won the Bren and Mortar firing competitions.

1330 The Brigadier visited the bttn to discuss future operations.

Football matches were played during the afternoon but were stopped by rain.

Baths were available to coys.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine.

0830 Second in command went forward on recce for future concentration area near Mignano.

0930 Coys send leave parties to cinema at Capua.

1000 FFI inspections.

1230 CO’s office.

1500 CO’s R Group warned to be ready to move forward at 1600hrs.

1600 CO’s R Group move to forward area.

1730 Bttn HQ Guard supplied by S Coy.

1800 Weather – fair.

Ground drying up after heavy showers in the afternoon.



22nd March

Brigade HQ – NEAR TO CASSINO (G 942147).

0530 Brigade Commander and Recce Groups from 2 LIR and 1 RIrF rendezvous with 1 East Surrey HQ.

COs recce coy areas with Coy Commanders.

Brigade Commander has conference with Commander 11 Brigade.

1630 Brigade convoy (2 LIR, 1 RIrF and Brigade HQ) pass SP at Sparinise for Mignano.

6 Innisks, 152 Field Ambulance remain in present locations.

To move to forward concentration areas on night 23/24 March.

1830 Convoy reached Mignano.

1900 Bttns to move to take over position of 1 East Surreys and A Squadron 56 Recce.

Coy 2 LIR, taking over from A Squadron 56 Recce, moves up to TCVs.

Remainder of battalions and all 1 RIrF march from Cox’s Corner (G923150) in battalion area.


1 RIrF.

Move order received from Brigade (Appendix).

1255 Move order issued.

1400 Order for taking up defensive position east bank of river Gari 2716.

1615 Head past Battalion SP. Head past Brigade S.P.

1800 Head at 993122.  Progress forward from there very slow.

2030 Head at DP. (station 923140). Coys marched to respective areas in order A, C, B, D, S, Bn. HQ.  Blankets and stores ferried forward by jeeps and carriers.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather wet. Visibility fair. Wind light.

Normal training was carried out by the coys mainly in the nature of an exercise.

Loading of vehicles was practised as per loading tables.

A bttn boxing competition commenced in the early afternoon but had to be cancelled due to heavy rain.

Greetings were received from HM King.

Coy Commanders were informed that no move would take place before 23 March.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – heavy showers.

0900 Second in command R Group conference.

Bttn warned to move at 1630hrs.

1530 Bttn transport lined up ready for move forward.

Orders of march – F & E Coys; Bttn HQ & HQ Coy; G, H, & S Coys followed by B Echelon.

1800 Bttn arrive at Mignano area and lay up until dusk.

1900 Bttn move forward to take over positions from 1 East Surreys.



23rd March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0230 Relief completed. 214 Field Company RE and 132 Field Regiment RA now in support. 1 East Surreys and transport move out of area.

Brigade locations as follows:

2 LIR HQ 885152 with coys in areas 875163, 868157, 872152 and 876174.

1 RIrF HQ HQ 886146 with coys in areas 871144, 875041, 875136 and 884147.

Main Brigade HQ at 942147.

1805 6 Innisks, 152 Field Ambulance pass Start Line for Mignano.

1930 D Support Group relieves B Squadron Group 1 Kensingtons.

1 troop, 254 A/Tk Battery RA moves into position in support of 1 RIrF and 3 guns in support of 2 LIR.

2100 6 Innisks established in concentration area G 9314. 152 Field Ambulance revert to Commander 78 Division.


1 RIrF.

0200 Relief complete. A, B, and C Coys put out protective patrols.

0900 Patrol warned for night.  One section D Coy listening post 861142.  One section D Coy listening patrol 881136.  Battle patrol (Lt RW Gamble and 9 men) ambush patrol 877132.

1830 18 mortar bombs 874145 (A Coy’s night position, but A Coy had not yet moved forward).  Counter mortar organisation.  Each forward Coy one OP and fourth OP manned by 1 Section.


6 Innisks – BELLONA (1686).

Weather wet. Visibility good. Wind light.

Amendment and insertion to Movement Order No 5 was issued.

0900 Advance party under Second in Command moved off for the new area.

The morning was spent loading vehicles.

1700 The Bttn em-bused and moved off. The civilians were very sorry to see the bttn leave Bellona and even demonstrated with a few tears.

2020 B Echelon arrived at G 9808 and settled down for the night.

2115 The bttn arrived at the new area (G 9214) and all had settled down by 2300 hrs.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0200 Relief of 1 East Surreys completed.

Positions taken over by 2 LIR – Bttn HQ 885156, E Coy 881160, F Coy 878175, G Coy 871159, H Coy 875152. B Echelon in Mignano area.

Standing patrols from E, G and H Coys in areas 869168, 865155 and 863146. F Coy standing patrols in areas 873178 and 868172.

1800 Weather – fine.

1900 Pioneer platoon mine sweeping in areas 876174, 877174 and track 876171 to 877173.

Officer representatives from 4.2” Mortars (Kensingtons), 132 Field Regiment RA, 254 A/Tk and 16/5 Lancers attached to Bttn HQ.

Desultory mortaring and shelling in bttn area during the night.



24th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0630 Reliefs of B Support Group successfully completed during the night. Guns moved into position. One was bogged. Remainder of troop in support of 2 LIR moving into position tonight.

Slight mortaring of coy areas during night. 24 bombs felt altogether.

Patrols during the night made no contact but an ambush patrol from 1 RIrF heard voices at bend in river at 878132.

1000 Divisional Commander visits Brigade Commander. Informal conference regarding future operations.

1430 Eight mortar bombs fall in 6 Innisks’ concentration area. One casualty.

1830 Maintenance convoy moves forward to battalions. Operation in 2 LIR area to protect withdrawal of 120 feet of Kapok bridging material. Standing and listening patrols placed in position. Three guns move into support of 2 LIR counter mortar organisations at respective Bttn HQs of 2 LIR and 1 RIrF coordinated by Brigade Commander. Organisation controlled by HQ 132 Field Regiment RA.


1 RIrF.

0300 Patrol returned NTR except Battle Patrol which had heard voices and tracked vehicles across river.

0545 Eight mortar bombs 880147 (A Coy’s day position – one OR slightly wounded).

0900 Three patrols warned.  All ambush patrols of NCO and 9 men.  One of Battle Patrol 877132.  Two from D Coy to 872140 and 866143.

1800 Six mortar bombs 880149.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.


6 Innisks – G 9214.

Weather fine. Visibility good.

The coys spent the day ‘digging in’ and erecting bivouacs.

0905 Our own artillery registered with smoke in area G 8406.

0910 The CO and IO visited brigade.

0925 Enemy air bursts seen over Pt 277 (9115).

1000 The CO and IO on visit to forward areas.

1105 Enemy shells (2 shells) landed on area 926152.

1210 The CO returned from his recce. An O Group was held to discuss new routine and the situation.

1340 Enemy shelling (2 shells) on area 920150

1345 One more enemy shell landed at 920150.

1350 Spasmodic enemy shelling (942147) near bttn area.

1450 One enemy shell landed 50 yards north of Bttn HQ.

1515 Shelling becomes more concentrated on the bttn area; only casualty was one Sergeant slightly wounded.

Shellrep sent to guns via Brigade HQ.

One of these shells landed on D Coy’s latrines; luckily no one was there at the time.

1530 Intelligence Section recced a route to G901148 for use if the bttn is called upon for counter attack role.

1700 Captain Pollard and 60 men from S Coy proceeded to 953137 as carrying party for Kapok.

Coys informed that aircraft will drop rations to Indians, who will also fire green verey lights.

Second in Command visited the coys.

Intelligence Section carried out a census of all civilians living in the battalion area for the purpose of periodical security checks.

1745 Warming message sent to all coys with reference to covering wind screens of vehicles to prevent reflection whilst moving in Battalion area.

2230 A message was sent out to all coys arranging a wood cutting party of 100 men to leave bttn area at 0500 hrs on 25 March.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine.

1035 Enemy shelling 100 yards west of F Coy HQ.

1800 Weather – fine.

1830 E Coy standing patrol 869169, F Coy standing patrol 867173, G Coy standing patrol 865159 and recce of crossing of River Rapido 862156. H Coy standing patrol 869150 and recce of house at 868149, also location of collection of Kapok bridging left by 1 East Surreys. Pioneer platoon to mine sweep in area 868152.

2305 Kapok bridging collected.

Patrol Cramb encountered a mine on track at 868156.

Casualties – 1 OR killed and 1 OR wounded.



25th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0630 Bttns spent quiet night. 4.2.” mortars fired about four hundred rounds at mortar and nebelwerfer positions during the night. Patrols made no contact during the night but tanks were heard in the San Angelo area (G 8515). It was impossible to discern which way they were going or in which direction.

1000 Counter mortar targets engaged by both bttns during the day. Successful results reported.

1015 Representatives and recce parties arrive from NZ Division Cavalry to recce 1 RIrF area. 1 RIrF to be relieved by them tonight.

1200 Commander 10 Corps visits Brigade Commander.

1530 Battalions report quiet day. No mortaring. Counter mortaring targets engaged by D Support Group at varying intervals.

1945 1 RIrF report 12 mortar bombs fell in forward company areas. No casualties.

Artillery brought down on general area position from which fire was coming.


1 RIrF.

0130 Seven shells area 87114.

0134 Eight shells area 8814.

0300 All patrols back.  NTR except Battle Patrol which at 2100 hrs heard and saw about 20 vehicles with lights about 875124, and at 2130 hrs heard 4 bursts MG fire about 887127.

0900 Received warning order to move night 25/26 to area 9804. Following patrols warned:  D Coy NCO and 9 men ambush patrol at each 866143 and 870136.

Lt RW Gamble and nine men Battle Patrol 877132.  All to return on single white verey light being fired from B Coy area, which they ACK with one white verey light.

1000 Visit by Brigade Commander with reps 2 NZ Cavalry to hand over sector night 25/26 to 2 NZ Cavalry and move to area 9804.

1225 OP No 4 took bearing on flash of Nebelwerfer, target identified and shot up.

1520 OP No 4 again got a flash bearing.

1835 Op No 4 took another flash bearing, target engaged, burst into flames.

1930 12 mortar bombs on A Coy’s night position.  No casualties.  Sound bearing taken and two likely targets engaged.

2000 A Coy relief complete.


6 Innisks – G 9214.

Weather stormy with snow showers. Visibility fair. Wind gale force.

0530 Rations were delivered to the bttn from B Echelon.

0600 Sitrep. Nothing to report.

0800 Hundred men (25 per rifle company) left for woodcutting.

1330 The bttn went to slit trenches in ease of a repetition of the shelling on the 24th and also as practice for alarm posts.

1400 The bttn left the slit trenches and returned to normal.

1430 The CO and Adjutant left to visit B Echelon.

1510 One air burst shell over Bttn HQ area; no damage or casualties.

1530 Two shells fell 600 yards south of the bttn area.

1600 Arrangements were made for a similar party as this morning for woodcutting.

1800 One officer and 60 men went as carrying party for Kapok from forward areas.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine.

0900 Brigadier Scott visited Bttn HQ.

0915 Mist covering bttn area – Coys ‘stood to’ in their positions.

0945 Mist cleared – Coys ‘stood down’.

1430 E Coy reported enemy mortaring reverse slopes of platoon positions on Pieta – Artillery and Kensingtons’ 4.2” mortars informed and fire was brought down by them on targets Drink and Brandy.