War Diaries – 28th November 1943

Brigade HQ – TORINO.

0500 Bttns nothing to report.

0900 Brigade informed by Division that Indian Division troops counter attacked in Mozzagrogna and forced off objective. Own tanks were unable to advance on San Maria road due to large crater. Locations: 6 Innisks 403003, 2 LIR 401007, 1 RIrF 405016.

Brigade Intelligence Summary issued.

1730 Situation on Brigade front at last light see Sitrep.

1800 Gully 402012 reported mined and some S mines at foot of escarpment.

1900 3 CLY reported 45 tanks over river, 44 Royal Tanks 41 and 50 Royal Tanks 37.

2105 Intention night 28/29 November. 4 Armoured Brigade with in support 38 (Irish) Brigade and 8 A & SH advance at first light to seize and hold San Maria thence advancing astride road San Maria – Fossacesia destroying all enemy up to the sea.

1 RIrF.

0230 Arrived under escarpment 408022 approximately at 0230 hrs.  Barrage supporting the Indian Division’s attack on San Maria still at height.  Later learnt that attack had been halted at Mozzagrogna 3600.  Dug protective slit-trenches and awaited orders. Area strewn with “S” mines, but no casualties.

1100 CO to Brigade at 1100 hrs for additional orders.  Coy jeeps arrived with petrol burners and coys obtained some hot tea.

Fusilier Herbert Carey, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert Samson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Alex Smyth, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – RIVER SANGRO.

0045 Bttn crossed F bridge and continued by route march to lying up area, via the junction 421032, arriving at 0200hrs.

0200 Coys were shown into allotted areas and Bttn settled down to rest.

A Echelon arrived at lying up area at same time as the Bttn.

0600 IO and four men went out to recce approach to proposed start line for next day’s attack.

The gully leading north west from 390997 was chosen as the approach but it was found not to be possible to use it as the 17 Indian Brigade in this area had met with some reverses and were not far enough forward to allow the Bttn to use San Maria as a start line.

1030 San Maria was bombed and strafed by our own close support planes.

1400 Enemy planes came over the area and bombed and strafed the gun lines east of the Sangro.

1430 A heavy artillery barrage, lasting for two hours was put down on the enemy positions in the area of San Maria and R. Li Colli. 3601- 3702.

1730 IO and two men went forward to recce a new start line on top of the escarpment for a dawn attack on the next day, and a suitable area was found at 393003.

1830 O Group conference, attended by reps of all arms supporting the attack.

Blankets and rum issued, and Bttn told, by officers, details of proposed attack at dawn.

2 LIR.

0300 Battalion arrive at assembly area below escarpment 400005 behind 8 A&SH. Tanks of 44 RTR also in area.

AM 8 Indian Division enter Mozzagrogna without opposition, but were counter-attacked by infantry supported by tanks and flamethrowers and had to retire from the village. Flamethrowers stated to be mounted on Mark III chassis. It has two pilot jets and an effective range of approximately 60 yards.

III Battalion 146 Grenadier Regiment identified at Mozzagrogna.

Layout of enemy defences on 5 Corps front appears to be as follow:

Guardiagrele H/1898 – III Battalion 146 Grenadier Regiment. Castel Frentano H/2999 – I and II Battalions 146 Grenadier Regiment Lanciano H/3303. A counter-attack force consisting of elements of I Battalion 145 & III Battalion Grenadier Regiments. Mozzagrogna H/3501. 6 & 7 Companies 145 Grenadier Regiment. Road San Maria-Fossacesia thence to coast H/4205 8,9,10,11 Companies 145 Grenadier Regiment.

0600 Intelligence Officer and Company guides go forward on recce for Battalion advanced forming up area. Reach a point within 300 yards of San Maria.

1000 IO’s group returns.

1000 CO goes to HQ of 44 RTR

1200-1300 Very heavy and concentrated artillery barrage on San Maria to support 8 Indian Division attack. Medium bombers over town at the same time. Enemy occasionally shelling approaches and gulleys leading up to San Maria. Two smoke shells near Fossacesia.

During the morning our RAF fighters kept a constant air umbrella over the battle area. Information obtained from civilians 3 German guns and numerous machine gun posts in San Maria area.

1400 Two enemy fighters recce over battlefield area.

1500 About 100 civilians evacuate from San Maria and pass through 6 Innisks lines.

1630 Two enemy fighter planes fly over battle area, drop bombs near RE bridge 425007. Our aircraft bomb and strafe the road San Maria-Fossacesia during the afternoon. Enemy occasionally shelled areas of RE bridges, 425007 and 400020.

1830 Commanding Officer’s O Group attended by Company commanders, IO, Adjutant, Signals Officer and representatives from REs, RAs and Kensington (MMGs).

Information – Battalion to be prepared to move from 0630 hrs 29th

8th Indian Division to take Mozzagrogna tonight. 6 Innisks to San Maria at first light. 2 LIR first objective after success signal from Brigadier is ridge Colli and road San Maria-Fossacesia. 2nd objective – Fossacesia. 1 RIF will then push on from Fossacesia to coast. 11 Brigade to make a mock attack on our right. At the same time 2 NZ Division who are now across River Sangro in strength will push up lateral road to Lanciano.

1830 A diversionary landing will be made at Pescara, with object of doing as much damage as possible. Troops landed will not remain if opposition is too strong.

2300 Artillery barrage supporting 8 Indian Division on Mozzagrogna.

Draft 9 other ranks (from x(iv)) join Battalion.

28/29 F Company as protection company in front of Battalion tonight.