War Diaries – 11th to 15th May 1944

11th May

Brigade HQ

0400 All three bttns, 152 Field Ambulance and 16/5 Lancers reported in concentration.

1700 D Support Group, remainder of 152 Field Ambulance, 254 A/Tk Battery RA, 214 Field Company RE, 280 LAA Battery RA passed SP for concentration area.

2000 All units reported in position in concentration area. Brigade Group now complete.

Locations as follows: Brigade HQ H 070062, HQ 6 Innisks 079065, HQ 2 LIR 075065, HQ 1 RIrF 070066, D Support Group H 075060, 254 A/Tk Battery RA 0603, 214 Field Company H 0603, B Squadron 16/5 Lancers 071043.

2100 Brigade Group now at one hour’s notice to move. All units warned. Recce parties at immediate notice to move.

Opening phases of Cassino battle commenced with terrific artillery concentration barrage.

1 RIrF.

0003 Head past Bttn SP.

0300 Arrived in concentration area 066066.

0430 All vehicles in bttn at 4 hours’ notice.

1930 Bttn at 1 hour notice as from 0900 hours 12 May.

6 Innisks

Weather fair and warm. It was a quiet day and news from the battle was eagerly sought by all. Platoon of REs arrived with the bttn for mine clearing work when we went forward. New maps and codes were issued and points discussed so that there should be no mishap. Sgt RT O’Connor is appointed to a commission in the rank of 2/Lieut.


0040 Bttn move.

0340 Bttn arrive in new area. All vehicles to be camouflaged and bivouac areas set up before 0600hrs.

1330 Bttn parade for lecture by Divisional Commander and Brigadier.

1400 Coys advised on forthcoming operations by lectures and use of large scale and model.

12th May

Brigade HQ

0900 Brigade Commander visited Divisional Commander at Divisional HQ to find out possible future operations and where the brigade is likely to be committed, once 4th British Division and 8th Indian Division have completed their tasks.

Nothing definite could be given except a general area of possible operations.

Brigade Group now at four hours notice to move.

1 RIrF.

1000 Divisional Command: division to have follow up role.

1100 Bttn at four hours’ notice.

Read Lawrie Franklyn-Vaile’s letters.

6 Innisks

Weather fine and warm.

0900 Bttn was ordered to be at one hour’s notice to move and everything apart from essentials was packed.

News from the battle front showed that two bridges were established and two squadrons of tanks were already across.

1230 The bttn was informed that the one hour’s notice had now changed to four and it appeared unlikely that we should move today. Inter-coy football matches were arranged and coys told that all ranks were to do one hour’s PT each day.


BBC announced that the 8th and 5th Armies had launched an offensive against the German Gustav Line running from Cassino to the sea. The attack began at 2300 hrs 11/5/44.

0700 CO’s recce party at immediate notice to move forward. Main body of bttn at one hour’s notice and bttn rear party at four hours’ notice.

1000 Baths at MBU.

CO visits Brigade. CO’s recce party now at one hour’s notice and main body at four hours’ notice.

1600 No anticipated move before 0530 hrs on 13th. Bttn then at four hours’ notice.

1730 Brigade IO visits Bttn HQ to inform CO and Coy Commanders of latest progress by Allied Forces on the Cassino sector.

1945 Brigadier visits Bttn HQ.

13th May

Brigade HQ

Brigade still at four hours’ notice to move. Preparations made for move at short notice.

Light scale transport to be taken forward.

1800 Warning order received. Brigade to move to lying up area this side of River Gari tomorrow, preparatory to crossing the river the same day.

1 RIrF.

1200 Received Brigade 0367. B Echelon to be brigaded and to remain in present area.

2000 O Group Orders for movement to lying up area east of River Rapido. Intention to follow up and force a gap through bridgehead made by British 4th Division. Method and order of march LIR with Squadron of 16/5 Lancers followed by 6 Innisks followed by this bttn.

2100 TCVs arrived and companies packed and ready to move at 0500 hours.

First recce parties warned to stand by for “early” move.

R Group warned to move one hour after 1st recce party.

6 Innisks

Weather warm and sunny. Another quiet day with football matches and games taking up most of the day.

In the evening, the bttn were informed that it would be moving early 14 May 1944 to pass SP at 0330 hrs.

Details for the move were finally fixed and, after the necessary preparations were made, everybody settled down to as much rest as possible.


1700 Bttn “off notice” to move.

2005 Bttn warned for possible move forward at 0400 hrs on 14th.

2045 CO proceeds to brigade for O Group. Bttn to move at 0400 hrs on 14th by transport to brigade concentration area south of Monte Porchio.

Intention : 78 Division to move across River Rapido and attack in a  northerly direction towards Route Six, west of Cassino at first light on 15th and to link with the Polcorps. The Polcorps objective is Monte Trocchio (8816). 38 Brigade to lead divisional attack.

14th May

Brigade HQ

0315 Brigade recce parties leave to recce lying up area this side of River Gari.

0415 Command Group and recce parties leaving.

0430 Brigade Group em-bused in TCVs leaves for forward concentration area.

Brigade Group now consists of 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, 214 Field Company, D Support Group (1 Kensingtons), 152 Field Ambulance, 254 A/Tk Battery, B Squadron 16/5 Lancers.

0930 Congo bridge across River Gari now reported ok. The fact that this bridge was not completed in time delayed the battalions in marching to a concentration area across the River Gari.

1000 LO in charge of recce parties looking for concentration areas on far side of the River Gari report that they are only suitable for troops and jeeps. Better areas will have to be found for heavy essential transport.

1115 6 Innisks leave present area to cross River Gari.

1345 Brigade Commander’s verbal orders: 6 Innisks to make good the report line Grafton between G 834174 and G 834169.

2 LIR to concentrate on the left between G 834169 and River Pioppeto 834163.

1400 2 LIR move forward to cross River Gari and are established by 1530 hrs.

Tac Brigade HQ and transport 2 LIR move forward to cross the River Gari.

Tac Brigade established 860167.

The attack by 6 Innisks did not go in at 1800 hrs as planned as the subsidiary objectives to be gained by 2/4 Hampshires (4 Division) were not taken due to heavy casualties. 1 RWK were thought to be on Massa de Vivo 845179 but even this would not help the attack by 6 Innisks materially.

This plan was laid on quickly without the complete knowledge of the Brigade Commander and without adequate support and it is not unnatural that it did not succeed in the face of determined opposition.

2100 1 RIrF now across River Gari and established in concentration area just behind Brigade HQ.

2130 Prisoners taken by 6 Innisks. Identification 6 Coy 741 Jaeger Regiment.

1 RIrF.

0300 First recce party to report at 884163 to meet brigade rep to recce lying up area.

0330 R Support is 2nd recce party to brigade to recce lying up area across Rapido river at 866168 at 0800 hours.

0500 F Group moved in TCVs with one carrier and a 15 cwt per company.

0930 F Group arrived at 884163.

1100 New area across river at recced at 862168

1855 F Group moved across Rapido river.

1930 F Group arrived in area 862168.

2000 Unit transport and supporting weapons arrive and lie up as brigade reserve.

6 Innisks

Weather fine. Haze in the morning, which helped operations.

0400 Bttn left the concentration area for a position across the River Rapido with light scale transport only. B Echelon remaining at the concentration area and rear details still at Formicola.

1000 On arrival at DP, it was found that the REs had not quite finished the bridge across the river and a delay of three hours was caused.

1300 Bttn marching personnel moved off, crossed the river and went to a lying up area approximately one mile forward.

1355 One of our tanks crushed a jeep against a bank while passing, smashing it completely.

From here, the plan was to cross the River Piopetto with our tanks and continue through a series of objectives westwards, the Brigade then turning north to cut Route Six between the 72nd and 75th Eastings.

The bttn was unable to proceed with this plan owing to the Hampshires failing to take pt 73 842173 and the bttn took up positions while the Hampshires formed a plan for a fresh attack. The positions taken up were: Bttn HQ 853171 and coys at 854172–855171–854170–853171. The River Piopetto was found to be impassable to tanks owing to the soft banks – one tank became bogged and caused the river to swell.

The Hampshires were to arrange bridging for the night of 14/15 and the bttn remained in a defensive position for the night with the intention of carrying on the next day.

Patrols were sent out to gain knowledge of the country beyond the river.


0330 Bttn em-bused.

0400 38 Brigade moved off.

Order of march: 6 Innisks, 64 A/Tk, 2 LIR, 17 Field Regiment, Brigade HQ and 1 RIrF.

0715 Bttn arrive in area 8816. Bttn established in farm 883163. Bttn HQ transport remains at brigade (892159). CO visits Brigade HQ and then proceeds to recce forming up area on far side of River Rapido accompanied by the IO and Captain Fitzgerald.

0930 Recce group returns.

1000 6 Innisks move across the River Rapido.

1430 CO’s O Group.

Information: 13 Corps’ troops – 4 Div on right, 8 Indian Div on left have gained about 2000 yards during the morning and all have held their gains except 1 RWK on right flank of 4 Division

Intention: Bttn will move to forming up area across the Rapdio by march route via Ace Route, where they will wait for the Bttn F transport. They will then move to a further concentration area. 6 Innisks on right, 2 LIR on left will attack across P Cantoni and dig in on objective when taken. Supported by Derbyshire Yeomanry, 16/5 Lancers and 17 Field Regiment.

1500 Bttn move across Rapido via Congo Bridge (865166). Bttn HQ established at 859158.

1600 Brigade O Group.

Intention: 2/4 Hampshires, supported by NZ Tank Brigade, to attack high ground 845180. 6 Innisks to go through their positions to high ground further north and 2 LIR with then go through 6 Innisks to P Cantoni. 2/4 Hampshires to move at 1800hrs.

1800 Part of Bttn F Echelon arrives.

1910 Bttn ready to move.

1915 Bttn attack postponed. Tanks supporting 2/4 Hampshires broke bridge at 849174 and became bogged.

2000 Remainder of F Echelon arrive, together with Bttn supporting arms. CQMSs bring up hot meal for bttn.

Exchange of password when link up with Polcorps is made: Polcorps – Brat, 13 Corps – George.

2030 Bttn takes up all round defence positions for the night.

Brigadier’s O Group. Intention: Brigade attack with 2/4 Hampshires to be carried out on morning 15 May, when engineers have built another bridge at 849174.

15th May

Brigade HQ

0245 Two coys 6 Innisks advanced on to Massa Venditis 843168.

0500 Two coy sat 837167 meeting heavy opposition.

0545 Two coys now on Massa Venditis 843173.

0700 Commander 11 Brigade arrives at Brigade HQ.

0730 Divisional Commander arrives at Brigade HQ.

Plans made to secure the next report line (Pytchley). Grafton to be held by 78 Division between 837179 and 827167. 5 Northamptons (11 Brigade) on right, 6 Innisks (38 Brigade) on left.

78 Division to attack Pytchley on a two brigade each with one battalion forward. 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry to guard right flank.

1200 6 Innisks now secure Grafton. Their attack was supported by B Squadron 16/5 Lancers. Enemy identification – 115 PGR.

Enemy tanks and anti tank guns were knocked out during the advance.

Heavy shelling for remainder of day. Many other enemy identifications revealed by prisoners taken by 6 Innisks. Shows enemy’s efforts to bring everything into this valley to stem our advance.

2030 2 LIR now concentrated area 838169. Lieut Colonel Goff 2 LIR very seriously wounded. Casualties to Brigade fairly heavy during the day.

2100 Divisional Commander arrives and CRA.

Plan made to continue the advance with 2 LIR and 2 LF.

Heavy barrage laid on. Attack to commence at 0900 hrs.

1 RIrF.

No move. Bttn still in reserve. Skins advance and take objective Grafton.

6 Innisks

0330 Owing to brigade informing us that the bttn objective (road at 833174) was to be taken by 0600 hrs, D and A Coys moved off and crossed the river at 0345 hrs, reaching Vendittis (8417) without meeting much resistance.

0445 B and C Coys then went through but were held up after a short distance by MG fire.

0500 Bttn (Tac) HQ then moved off to Vendittis being shelled on the way but suffering no casualties.

0545 C Coy pushed on to 834169 where they reported being held up by tanks. Consequently, Brigade HQ were again told of the urgency of getting a bridge across the river completed.

0800 Bridge completed and B Squadron 16/5 Lancers were guided up to Tac HQ at Massa Di Vendittis 8417.

Then the Squadron and Troop Commanders were brought forward to Massa Tambourini (8316) where a plan of attack was formed – tanks to attack MG posts and pill boxes and remain in hull down positions until two coys followed up. This would be repeated until the final objective was reached, the two remaining coys establishing a firm base in the area of Vendittis with the A/Tk guns and other supporting weapons.

0830 An MG post, which was harassing forward positions, was taken on by 2” mortars. This position continued to cause casualties. They also fired with a 5cm mortar and one bomb fell among a platoon HQ, injuring all but one men.

The CO tried to get into position from where he could pick off the enemy with a rifle, but they were too well covered.

0855 Our tanks now came into action on the right with C Coy following and dealt with the MG positions.

0900 Tanks came up on the left also with B Coy following.

Platoon Commanders of MGs and Mortars were instructed to follow close behind the battle with their weapons so that consolidation could be effected as soon as possible on reaching the objective.

0910 The tanks considerably heartened the infantry who were seen moving in good order, firing as they went and getting straight into the enemy positions.

An A/Tk gun was reported by the forward tanks and infantry went forward and, after concentrated fire from tanks, dashed in and put it out of action.

0935 This produced three prisoners from 33 Recce Unit.

0940 CO went up to forward troops to see how they were getting on.

Stretcher bearers did extremely good work in bringing in casualties from forward positions.

0955 Seven more PoWs came in from 115 PGR and 33 Recce.

1050 Situation cleared and two coys assaulted positions just short of the final objective, the CO remaining in front of the assault throughout. From these positions were brought thirteen more prisoners with one officer.

1130 B Coy reported having reached track junction 833174 and were being fired on by MGs.

1140 Our own propaganda leaflets were seen falling over the Bosche lines.

1153 D Coy, accompanied by tanks, moved forward to a position on B Coy’s left, one of the tanks running over a mine, which broke a track. This tank was subsequently shot up by an enemy SP gun and destroyed.

1210 Bttn was on its final objective. Support weapons were sent forward to assist in consolidation. Main Bttn was moved up and positions were now as follows: Bttn HQ 834172, B Coy pt 86 833179, D Coy 831172, C Coy 832171, A Coy 833170. MGs were covering front and left flank.

Two German tanks were seen and engaged by our own tanks.

1215 Two sections of Bttn Pioneers cleared a way round the knocked out tank, using mine detectors.

1310 D Coy complained of our own shells falling in their area, believed to have been gunners of 6 Armoured Division. 16/5 Lancers were informed and it was stopped.

1415 CO required by CO 16/5 Lancers in order to tie up plan of 2 LIR, who were to pass through our positions. The CO was not available and the IO went on the Squadron Commander’s tank to the conference.

Heavy shelling of the area started in which the CO of 16/5 Lancers and the CO of the LIR were killed.

The tanks dispersed then and the CO 6 Innisks visited 2 LIR later.

1400 5 Northants passed through on our right.

1640 Our close support fighter bombers dropped bombs very close to bttn position but caused no damage.

1830 2 LIR started off through our lines. Total bag for the day was 53 PoWs and seven 75 mm guns (A/Tk), also some SPs plus numerous articles of infantry equipment. Our own casualties were 2 officers killed (Lieut MG Milner and Lieut BK Jackson), 2 officers wounded (Lieut R Phillips MM and 2/Lieut WV Baxter) and 9 ORs killed and 50 wounded.

B Squadron 16/5 Lancers went back to an organised harbour after having arranged to stay in the rear of the bttn for a counter attack role.

1900 Food was brought up to the bttn position already cooked.

Heavy and concentrated artillery fire during the night caused more casualties, nebelwerfers playing a prominent part in the enemy barrages.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier G Bainbridge, Unit: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harry Southworth, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Ellison, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Brian Allen, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Johnston, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Maurice Milner, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers attached from the Middlesex Regiment.

Fusilier John Cormican, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Arthur Moore, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Elliott, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal George Rollins, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal David Milligan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


0800 CO leaves in his carrier to recce forming up area north of stream 849174.

0900 Intelligence Sergeant and 1 OR recce stream for crossings.

Information: 6 Innisks have passed through 2/4 Hampshires and have advanced beyond their objective. 11 Brigade has crossed river Rapido. 5 Northants concentrating in area of track 855178.

0900 Considerable enemy Nebelwerfer activity. Firing concentrations into valley west of bridge 849174.

1245 Bttn move off by march route to concentration area.

Bttn objectives: Building 821179 and cross roads 819186.

First objective – H Coy right, F Coy left.

1400 Enemy heavy shelling and mortaring of bttn concentration area 840168 during afternoon.

1630 CO’s carrier hit. CO wounded and 3 ORs slightly wounded. CO died of wounds. Major Phillips wounded.

1700 2.i.c. goes forward to take over command of bttn.

1730 E Coy report enemy tanks on track 829173.

Bttn suffer heavy casualties from heavy enemy mortaring.

Lieut E Lovatt wounded. H and F Coys attack postponed.

1940 CO and IO go to brigade for conference.

Enemy aircraft dive bomb area forward of H Coy.

Died on this Day:

Sergeant Harold Henshaw, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Patrick Flynn, London Irish Rifles.

Company Sergeant Major Frank Wakefield, London Irish Rifles.

Sergeant William Roberts, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Charles Williams, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman  Bernard Lee, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Herbert Hutt, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Francis Trotter, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Robert Jackson, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Christopher Dean, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal  Thomas Spain, London Irish Rifles.

Lieut Colonel Ion Goff, London Irish Rifles, attached from Kings (Liverpool) Regiment.

Lance Corporal Raymond Harrison, London Irish Rifles.