War Diaries – 29th November 1943

Brigade HQ – TORINO.

0515 1 RIrF report in outskirts of Mozzagrogna covering RE work in road San Maria.

Brigade plan; 6 Innisks to take Ridge Li Colli (3702) then San Maria with tanks to be relieved by 8 A & SH when San Maria secure. After relief, Plan Charlie.

0935 50 Royal Tanks reported on Ridge Li Colli and 6 Innisks taking over and consolidating. Enemy shelling and mortaring from Fossacesia area.

1035 Enemy DF on San Maria. 6 Innisks having some trouble on left flank and asked for support. Tanks have encountered many mines but will go to 6 Innisks assistance when cleared.

1045 Tanks reported at 385035 and to have taken PoWs. Enemy shelling forward slopes San Maria.

1130 6 Innisks reported at 367015.

Brigade Intelligence Summary issued.

Lieut A Roy 265201 RCS appointed Signals Officer, 38 Brigade vice Lieut R Laming RCS admitted ADS.

1450 6 Innisks reported in San Maria and mopping up. 50 Royal Tanks reached rd San Maria to Fossacesia Great number of mines and road bad.

1700 Situation at last light see Sitrep.

1 RIrF.

0330 Bn “stand to” owing to continuous Vickers MG fire on right flank.

0545 At 0545 hrs Bn formed up and moved to a position 1000ft behind 2 LIR.  The majority of the Battalion obtained cover in a long gulley.

0900 At approx. 0900 hrs two shells from an SP gun landed in the gulley killing 19 incl. Lt A Mel Smyth and wounding twenty seven including the MO, Captain WL Lang.  At 1400 hrs the CO received orders to move up to R.L.COLLI 3702, which 6 Innisks had captured after 5 hrs fighting.  Intention: to form a firm base on their right flank.

1630 At 1630 hrs the Battalion moved up and was dug-in by 1900 hrs.

1900 Very little shelling interrupted the men who got a night’s rest.  Location 383022.

Fusilier Albert Stallard, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Lindsay, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant Albert Fawcett, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal Arthur Lawrence, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Walter Allen, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert Mainwaring, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ernest Lewis, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Reginald Petford, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Noel Church, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Finlan, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ernest Ashton, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Thomas Crossley, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Raymond Danks, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal George Robinson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frank Heppenstall, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – RIVER SANGRO.

0345 Bttn roused and preparations were made for move to the top of the escarpment.

0445 Bttn moved off and took up positions on start line, B and D Coys forward. A Coy, Bttn HQ, C Coy.

0555 Barrage from supporting artillery (smoke and HE) started and tanks from 3 CLY moved up and Bttn started in following order:

One squadron tanks, B and D Coys, second squadron tanks, A Coy, Regimental HQ tanks, Bttn HQ, C Coy, reserve squadron tanks.

Bttn was able to get as far as the foot of R. L Colli without being fired upon, but once the enemy became aware of our presence, MGs and artillery opened up with heavy fire.

Travelling in the tanks were Brigadier Currie of 4 Armoured Brigade and Brigadier Russell of 38 (Irish) Brigade.

1000 A tank obstacle was met and infantry (B and D Coys) went forward alone while engineers of 4 Armoured Brigade made a crossing.

Coys with tanks were now in close contact with enemy defences, Coys after having passed through a thickly laid minefield which temporarily held the tanks up. Bttn HQ moved up (also through the minefield) to a ruined house at 388029, having been sniped at on the way.

1150 A mule carrying tools which was following Bttn HQ trod on a mine, which exploded, killing the mule and injuring the muleteer.

The CO needed tank support to help a coy deal with an obstinate M/G post and permission was obtained for ranks to take a chance and cross the minefield to get to the ridge.

The first tank to move went over a mine, which blew the track off, and the Bttn pioneers went to their assistance and made a gap 50 yards wide in the minefield, lifting 54 Italian box mines in doing so.

While this battle of the ridge was going on, A Coy and one squadron of tanks went forward through D and B Coys and then turned left towards San Maria (3601) and established themselves on the ridge overlooking the town.

There was some trouble with snipers and MGs but late in the afternoon, tanks and one platoon of A Coy entered the town capturing 24 prisoners.

C Coy was brought up to the right rear of D Coy.

1430 Bttn HQ moved up to site of enemy strong point at 378026. Up to this time, 17 PoWs had been cleared from 2/145 Regiment but now more were coming in, and with A Coy’s 24 the total was brought to 45 (2 officers, 4 NCOs and 39 ORs).

1530 Coys were now consolidating and enemy was shelling fairly heavily, trying mainly for tank harbours. His Nebelwerfers were used from time to time.

1730 Bttn HQ and one coy moved 600 yards further south to 376021 making room for 1 RIrF to come in on our right and so continue the push the next day in conjunction with 2 LIR.

At this place, a further 24 PoWs were brought in (1 Major and 23 ORs) making the total bag for the day 69.

Our own casualties for the day were 1 officer (Lt Feirn) and 8 ORs killed. One officer (Capt Hodgson) and 29 ORs wounded. One OR missing.

Fusilier John Roberts, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Leonard Broadley, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Joseph Smith, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Leonard Frater, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Thomas Feirn, attached to Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Brown, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Arthur Flewers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal William Nicholas, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant John O’Neill, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0530 Artillery barrage supporting 6 Innisks on San Maria.

0630 Battalion ready to move.

Our artillery continuous from 0630-0830 on Colli and road San Maria-Fossacesia.

0730 Brigadier gives word “go” for battalion to move forward. Order of march G F H, Battalion HQ and E Company.

0830 Battalion HQ established at 398012.

0845 6 Innisks take first objective – Bridge 372019 with little opposition.

0920 Tanks are now on ridge supporting 6 Innisks.

0900-0930 12 medium bombers bomb road San Maria-Fossacesia.

0920 Enemy shell San Maria and approaches up to it.

1000 Report from tanks on ridge says that there are so many mines on Colli and area of road that it will be impossible for 2 LIR attack with tanks to come off today. Battalion less E Company remain with tanks and dig in. E Company in reserve to move back behind escarpment.

1030 Enemy 88mm firing from rear road San Maria – Fossacesia cause two casualties in E Company at Farm 398009. Enemy DF of forward edge of San Maria. One shell kills 19 other ranks of 1 Pl of 1 RIF in gulley 400012. Enemy continue to shell approaches and gulley leading to San Maria.

1400 6 Innisks send two companies into San Maria to hold village.

6 Innisks to cover REs sweeping mines on Colli.

1400 1 RIF move through battalion position to assembly area just in front of us.

1450 6 Innisks in San Maria. 30 PW taken. Many enemy dead found.

1500 CO to Brigade O Group.

1700 CO returns – G Company to link up with tanks at 1800 hrs. Battalion to move at 0300 hrs 30th.

14 large bomber formations kept at shuttle service throughout the hours of daylight, and blasted away at the enemy. Enemy put in 3 separate counter-attacks on 5 Corp front but all were repulsed. PWs include Poles and Frenchmen.

Battalion casualties for the day were 3 killed and 4 wounded.

Captain PP Giles, and 2 ORs proceed on special duties.

Read the battalion’s account here.

Rifleman John Swift, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal William Fife, London Irish Rifles.