Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


War Diaries – 26th to 31st March 1944


26th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0115 Adjutant 1 RIrF reports relief progressing satisfactorily.

0300 All marching personnel 1 RIrF now clear. Command of sector passes to 2 NZ Division Cavalry. They revert under command of 38 Brigade.

0515 Report on vehicles ditched received. Carrier held up convoy of vehicles. Majority are clear of area now.

0900 Recce parties 21 NZ Bttn arrive to recce area 2 LIR preparatory for take over tonight.

1000 Lt-Col Dunnill, representing the brigadier, and Brigade LO go to HQ 4 RTT at Caira G 845249 to recce positions preparatory to taking over their positions.

1900 Convoy TCVs move forward to Control Point to pick up 2 LIR on relief.

Lt-Col Dunnill returns, having recced positions 4 RTT and also visited the Commander 3 Algerian Division.

2035 6 Innisks move from present location G 9314 to concentration area G 9911 by TCVs.

2340 Relief of 2 LIR by 21 NZ Bttn now complete. Take over satisfactory and quiet. No enemy interference.


1 RIrF.

0200 Relief complete. Coys moving away by coy groups.

0500 Rear party arrived new location 989053.


6 Innisks – G 9214.

Weather fair and cold. Visibility poor until 0800hrs then good. Wind strong.

0500 The rations arrived from B Echelon.

0600 Sitrep. Nothing to report.

0800 A party of 1 officer and 130 ORs left Bttn HQ for rendezvous at 988 117 for woodcutting.

0830 Coys tested weapons, making their own arrangement and precautions in coy areas.

1100 The Brigadier visited Bttn HQ to discuss some points on future operations and instructions received for a move to 9911 tonight at 1900hrs.

1130 A warning order was issued to all coys on move.

1400 The CO holds a conference re move and arrangements made for the bttn to em-bus at Cox’s Corner (923150).

1600 B Echelon commenced move to 9911 to rejoin the bttn. Move was completed by 1900hrs.

1700 IO leaves with coy guides to arrange transport at Cox’s Corner.

1800 IO returns with the news that the A/Provost Marshal will not allow a concentration of transport at Cox’s Corner and alternative arrangements were made for the bttn to em-bus by coys (Platform system) at road – track junction 929152 at quarter hour intervals starting at 2200hrs. Order of march to be D, HQ, A, B, C, S Coys.

The move went smoothly with no further trouble and the first coy reached its area in 9911 by 2300hrs.

Captain Irwin MC is attached to C Coy.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0255 H Coy patrol mortared at 868146. H Coy area (876153) also mortared. 100 bombs landed. G Coy, 15 platoon area (874156) mortared, 20 bombs landed. No casualties. E & F Coy patrols report no contact with the enemy.

Slight showers of rain during early hours of morning.

0400 CO and an officer from the 21 NZ Bttn advance party went round all the coy areas.

0700 Weather – fair.

1800 21 NZ Bttn (4 NZ Armoured Division) arrive to relieve 2 LIR.

2200 Relief completed. Bttn back to area 885126 (Mignano area).



27th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0030 Code Word Gurnet passed to 78 Division. Control of San Angelo sector passed from 38 Brigade to 5 NZ Brigade.

0400 D Support Group relief complete and now in concentration area G 9413.

0140 Move of 6 Innisks complete.

0800 Brigade HQ moves to area G 987118.

Orders received for relief of 4 RTT by 38 Brigade. Takeover to be in three phases, one battalion per night. 6 Innisks to relieve II Bttn on night 29/30 March, 2 LIR to relieve I Bttn on night 30 Mar/31 Mar. Brigade HQ to move 31 Mar/1 Apr.  1 RIrF to relieve III Bttn 1 Apr/2 Apr.

1400 Recces of B Echelon areas and Admin areas carried out.


1 RIrF.

1230 Warning order received for move to Mt Castellone area (8324).

Admin and rest.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.


6 Innisks – G 9911.

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

0100 The bttn is complete in its new area (9911). Bivouacs were set up, tea and rum was issued.

The day was spent in attending to personal and admin points.

0900 Woodcutting parties were sent out.

The IO went on a recce of routes to the expected new area (8324)

1100 The Bttn Pipe Band played at Bttn HQ for three quarters of an hour.

1415 A warning order was issued for the bttn to move on the 28th.

1800 The CO attended a conference at Brigade HQ.

1830 A demonstration on loading of mule pack was given by the RSM.

2130 An O Group conference was held and details of the move were discussed.

Baths were available to A & B Coys during the day.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine but very windy.

1200 CO’s conference. Bttn warned for probable move to forward area north west of Cassino.

1300 Second in Command and QM on recce for new positions for B Echelon in forthcoming move.

1400 FFI Inspections.

1800 Weather – fine, but strong wind blowing.



28th March

Brigade HQ– NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0720 Situation report NTR. Bttns report quiet night. No shelling.

1000 6 Innisks move by TCVs to lying up areas San Michele G 9023. Reserve Coy and B Echelon move to San Pietro G 9715. To lie up night 28/29 March and move forward to take over position II/4 RTT on next night


1 RIrF.

Admin and rest.


6 Innisks – G 9911.

Weather fine and cold. Visibility good. Wind fresh.

0100 From 0100 to 0600, Bttn HQ were busy making route cards, traces etc in preparation for the move on the same morning.

0530 Movement Order No 7 and route cards were issued.

0620 One officer and 3 NCOs left as recce party for San Michele (907226).

0700 The bttn was roused and all preparations for the move were made.

0900 One officer, one NCO per Coy and the Provost staff left as advance party for San Michele.

0930 RASC Transport (TCVs and baggage) arrived in coys’ areas.

1000 Bttn em-bused, less D Coy, each many carrying greatcoats and full battle order. The rest of the bttn’s blankets and essential stores followed on in RASC transport. Tentage and large packs were left behind at B Echelon.

1015 The bttn passed over the SP.

1200 A Echelon is established in area San Michele (G 907226).

1215 The bttn de-bused at G 907226 in the area San Michele after an uncomfortable journey over bad roads. The clear view of the Monastery caused great interest for most of the bttn.

1300 An O Group conference was held by the CO. It was decided that the bttn should remain in its present location until the following evening, instead of going on to Portella (G 8924) as previously arranged.

During the afternoon, preparations were made for the move of the advance party. Trailers were brought for Jeeps and loaded up.

1715 The bttn advance party under the command of the CO left in Jeeps. The party consisted of CO, IO, all the Coy Commanders, Coy reps, and the Signals Sergeant, who was to get the layout of lines and exchanges of the 4 RTT. Cpl Fielder (Intelligence) travelled with this party as an interpreter.

1815 The advance party was met by two French guides at Portella ((G 8924) and was guided over the Rapido Valley to their positions on Monte Castellone (G 8323) arriving at the HQ 4 RTT (835230) at 2010.

The journey took so long owing to the necessity for waiting for darkness before crossing the Rapido Valley, this being under enemy observation and subject to very heavy fire.

2010 OC 4 RTT explained to the CO that the layout and positions of his bttn and said that they had not done many patrols owing to the fact that his bttn comprised mostly of new and young reinforcements, who had been them a few weeks.

2120 Coy Commanders and reps were guided out to opposite numbers of 4 RTT.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine, but wind still strong.

1000 Bttn bathing at MBU.

1730 CO’s conference regarding future move.

1800 Weather – strong wind still blowing.



29th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

1000 2 LIR em-buses at Mignano for lying up area San Michele 908224.

1400 Brigade HQ moves to San Michele 908223.

1900 Recce parties from 2 LIR move off to HQ I/4 RTT to recce area and positions on Monte Castellone 8324.

1915 6 Innisks less one coy and all stores on jeeps and mules move off to take over forward positions from II/4 RTT area Pt 706 G 828231. Relief completed by 0145 hrs. Remainder of night quiet. Desultory shelling.


1 RIrF.

Admin and rest.

Movement order No 4 issued.


6 Innisks – SAN MICHELE (G 907226).

Weather fine. Visibility good. Wind fresh.

0400 The Bttn Support Group, MMGs and 3 inch Mortars arrived in the area of 4 RTT.

0700 The bttn aroused and preparations made to go forward for the pending move. Blankets and greatcoats were rolled into bundles.

0730 Guided by the IO (4 RTT), the CO and IO (6 Innisks) visited the forward positions of 4 RTT.

0900 B Echelon and D Coy commenced to move to new area San Pietro (G 9715).

1200 B Echelon and D Coy complete in new area.

1200 The CO held a conference with the Coy Commanders to discuss the moving in and changeover of their coys. The changeover had to be completed by 0200 (30 March) so as to allow the French time to cross the Rapido Valley in darkness.

1400 The Adjutant called a conference to tie up the final details of the bttn to move to 4 RTT positions.

1400 IO 4 RTT handed over the usual documents of the area to the IO 6 Innisks.

1530 C of E Church Service was held.

1600 The CO allocated dugouts etc to Bttn HQ.

3 Inch Mortars (6 Innisks) changeover with 4 RTT completed. 2 MMGs relieve 2 French MMGs in the reserve area.

1800 Coy stores were sorted into mule loads and made ready for loading.

1815 Mules arrive and are allocated to coys. Some of the muleteers would not take the loads already made up and these needed to be untied and repacked, which entailed quite a bit of additional work on the last minute in the diminishing light. This accounted for a slight delay in the starting of the last two coy mule trains.

1830 Mules were loaded and ready to move off.

1900 The bttn moved off to take up the positions occupied by the French troops. The order of march being: A, B, Bttn HQ, C Coy, which proceeded by route march via Portella (G 8924) – Caira (G 8425) –Monte Castellone.

1900 French guides arrived at the HQ and with our Coy Commanders set out to meet the bttn.

1930 Two MMGs and ammunition were loaded onto eight mules supplied by the French and moved off to relieve the 2 French MMGs in the forward Coy areas.

2230 The first coy arrives at 4 RTT HQ on Monte Castellone


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine, but strong wind still blowing.

1000 Bttn prepare to move to new area.

1200 CO’s conference. Bttn HQ divided into ‘forward’ and ‘main’ HQs. H Coy to be LOB.

1500 Main body of bttn to move forward to concentration area at San Michele. B Echelon with S and G Coys and main Bttn HQ to move under orders from Major Lofting.

1600 Advance elements of B Echelon established in area San Pietro. Draft of two officers and 26 ORs arrive at advanced B Echelon from hospital.

1800 Weather fine. Bttn recce area party in forward area.



30th March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0445 Brigade Commander, IO and SO leave San Michele for HQ 4 RTT G 845247.

1000 1 RIrF em-bus at Mignano for lying up area near San Michele.

1840 2 LIR leave San Michele for forward positions on Monte Castellone 8324 to effect relief of I/4 RTT. Enemy patrols engaged by left forward coy I/4 RTT just before relief commenced, Slight enemy shelling and mules found it difficult going up the slopes of Castellone (G 8324).


1 RIrF.

Admin and rest.

1500 Recce party leaves.

1530 Main body moved.

1700 Recce party arrived San Michele 9023 and awaited darkness.

1800 Main body arrived San Michele and settled down in bivouacs.

1830 Recce party forward with guides from III/4 RTT.

1930 Recce party reached Battalion HQ III/4 RTT 841245.  Coy commanders went to coys with their opposite numbers:  B Coy area 840251, D Coy area 830250, C Coy in reserve area 847260, A Coy in reserve at CAIRO 84224.  D Coy to have 2 MMGs under command, remainder MMGs and all 3” mortars area 843247.


6 Innisks – MONTE CASTELLONE.

0200 Two shells fell in Bttn HQ area, one of which wounded Major Kendal (OC S Coy). With his evacuation, we lose the last of the officers since the day it was formed.

During the day, D Coy erected a wooden bridge across a gully in S Coy area. Pioneers organised baths and Coy personnel did their washing.

Weather fine. Visibility good. Wind light.

0210 The changeover with 4 RTT is completed.

The coys’ locations being as follows: A Coy 828231, B Coy 822227, C Coy 835230, Bttn HQ at 835230.

0300 CQMSs arrived back from the bttn to A Echelon.

0430 The bttn ‘stand to’.

0800 Work was started where possible to clear up the bttn area, which had been left in an untidy condition. This had to be carried out very carefully owing to enemy OPs on our flanks.

0930 The Brigade Commander of 11 Brigade visited B Coy.

0945 The CO visited B Coy.

0955 A and B Coys’ positions heavily shelled (HE and smoke) and continued until 1035.

The morning was taken up moving all A Echelon personnel and coy dumps to a fresh position in this area to make room for 1 RIrF, who started arriving from 1400hrs onwards.

D Coy were entertained by the Pipe Band from a nearby hillside.

1400 C of E Church Service was held by personnel of B Echelon and D Coy.

During the afternoon, A Echelon prepared loads of mules which was much easier as only essential items were needed ie rations, water etc. They were once again assisted by RASC Jeeps and trailers for taking up the supplies.

1815 A Section of the Battle Patrol started on a patrol to Phantom House (827226)

1845 The bttn ‘stand to’.

1855 A member of the patrol (Cpl Delaney of ‘Delaney’s Corner’ North Africa fame) stood on a mine (French) and was killed, after which the patrol returned to Bttn HQ.

2320 Rations arrived from A Echelon.

2330 MMG fire and grenade throwing started on the FDLs of A Coy. Apparently, a patrol of eight Germans rushed the left position of the right flanking bttn where they worked to the rear of our A Coy. Sharp exchange of fire and grenades took place.

The only casualty suffered by A Coy through enemy action was Fusilier Thornbury. Sergeant McWilliams and Cpl Bryan (stretcher bearer), both of A Coy were killed by a mine. Fusilier Wilcox (A Coy stretcher bearer) did good work in bringing them in and was himself wounded while doing so.

The forward coys are having difficulty over food arrangements. They have not had a hot meal or drink of tea since arriving in the new positions.

Captain DJ Griffiths rejoined the unit from hospital and is posted to D Coy as second in command of the coy.

Baths were available to D Coy during the day.

Died on this Day:

30th March 1944 – Corporal Henry Bryan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

30th March 1944 – Corporal William Delaney, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

30th March 1944 – Sergeant Robert McWilliams, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY).

0700 Weather – fine.

1000 Main body of B Echelon with G & S Coys and main Bttn HQ arrive San Pietro.

1815 Mules arrive in bttn area (San Michele–504228) and are loaded ready for move. French guides arrive.

1830 Bttn ready to move. Order of march – E & H Coys, Bttn HQ and F Coy.

1840 E Coy cross start line. Coys and Bttn HQ follow at 5 minute intervals.

2100 Several shells landed near bttn column, area road junction 866246.

2330 Bttn arrived in new area (Caira–845250) to relieve 1 Bttn, 4 Regiment Tiralleurs Tunisiens, 3 Algerian Division.



31st March

Brigade HQ – NEAR CASSINO (G 942147).

0045 Enemy patrol attacked left forward company 6 Innisks. Own troops invited to surrender in good English. Patrol about 8-10 men beaten off. No casualties to either side.

0310 2 LIR relief completed. Command of sector passes to HQ 38 Brigade and 78 Division assumes command of sector north of Monte Cassino.

0410 Right coy 6 Innisks heavily mortared. Slight mortaring and shelling during day.

1930 1 RIrF leave San Michele to relive III/4 RTT in positions west of Caira 8424.


1 RIrF.

1925 Marching troops left San Michele guided by IO (returned for purpose) with one platoon from rear coy to be dropped off at all turnings.

2240 All marching troops past track junction 844242.

Died on this Day:

31st March 1944 – Fusilier Leonard Hawkes, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – MONTE CASTELLONE.

Weather wet and foggy, Visibility poor. Wind light.

0500 Exchange of fire and grenade throwing took place periodically throughout the night along the FDLs of A & B Coys.

0515 The CO visited B Coy to view the scene of the night’s activities. Loss for the night – 1 OR wounded.

0800 Owing to carry difficulties, water supply is limited and one bottle of water was issued to personnel of the bttn for washing, drinking etc.

1400 The CO visits forward positions and the forward positions of the 2 LIR, which is our right flanking bttn. Taking advantage of the weather, very heavy mist, he also visited the OP in A Coy area.

1630 Hot meals cooked in reserve areas are taken up to A Coy. This is being done owing to the impossibility of cooking in their area because of the constant enemy observation.

1830 A Section of the ‘Battle Patrol’ leaves Bttn HQ to patrol ‘Phantom House’ (828226).

1845 The bttn ‘stand to’.

1930 Rations and water reach the bttn most nights between 1930-2100hrs.

2000 Rum was issued.

2230 The ‘Battle Patrol’ returns after seeing and hearing the enemy in his FDLs.

Otherwise nothing to report.


2 LIR – IN THE FIELD (ITALY). 

0120 F Coy relief completed – 836243.

0255 H Coy relief completed – 828235.

0310 E Coy relief completed – 830243.

Small scale attack on French left forward coy prior to E Coy’s relief.

0330 Bttn HQ established area Pt 446–837238.

0700 E Coy report four dead Germans and one dead Frenchman in their area (bodies probably 10 days old).

0814 F Coy report several enemy shells landed in area between their position and Caira.

1530 Enemy shelling over wide area between Caira and Bttn HQ. Two shells landed in Bttn HQ area. No casualties. Six shells in area 845239. Shelldrake informed.

1800 IO and guides from coys leave Bttn HQ to meet mule trains at Caira and escort them to coy areas.

1830 IO requisitions 20 mules from French troops in Caira to take Mortar and M/G ammunition to H Coy’s area and afterwards to collect coy stores, which were dumped on road above Caira by muleteers on previous night.

1900 CO and battle patrol to see our own dispositions and lie of the land in that area.

1930 Patrol Timothy out.

2000 Six enemy shells in area of road and valley 846254.

2030 Enemy shelling eastern end of Caira and south west slopes of Fucciata (8424)

2100-2200 Sporadic enemy shelling of valley from 842257 to 853252.

2155 6 Innisks report enemy patrol moving towards H Coy from 827228.

H Coy and gunners informed.

2215 H Coy report one VMG out of action, Eight enemy mortar bombs on house–845247. One OR F Coy wounded.

2223 Patrol Timothy returned. One man missing. Met enemy patrol 30 – 40 strong.

2240 VMG being sent up to bttn by Captain Cockburn.

2245 CQMS Prudhoe (HQ Coy) arrived at Bttn HQ with mule train.

2300 Two enemy airbursts in gully below Bttn HQ. Shelldrake informed.

2345 Patrol Titus (1 & 4) out.

Spasmodic enemy shelling of area between Marino (8525) and Fucciata (8424).