Irish Brigade

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

1/6 East Surrey Regiment


11th May.

Final preparations for the assault. Lost truck eventually found having met with an accident the previous night. Arrangements made for it to be brought to the river as soon as the assault had begun. Rest ordered for everyone after they had been given orders, their first notification that an attack was imminent.

Amendment No 2 to Ops Order No 1 issued.

Special Orders of the Day received from General Sir Harold Alexander C-in-C, Allied Armies in Italy and General Sir Oliver Leese, Commander 8th Army and read to all ranks.

CO spoke to all ranks of Bttn HQ and attached and wished them the best of luck.

1900 All troops including supporting arms in position in their hides ready to move to the river in accordance with the March Table.

2030 Guides of the Pioneer Platoon were placed out by the IO from Bttn HQ to the Assembly Point and FUP. Boat building parties of A and D Coys left for Assembly Point under command Major WCE Nash.

2100 A and D Coys left their coy areas to march to Assembly Point.

2115 B and C Coys left their coy areas to march to Assembly Point under command of Major GG Maggs MC.

2215 B and C Coys and Bttn HQ and attached ‘married up’ and marched to the assembly area.

2300 Artillery programme commenced. No counter fire by the enemy.

2315 A and D Coys moved down to the river.

2330 B and C Coys followed A and D Coys to the river. Bttn HQ remained in the Barrack area.

2339 Artillery barrage commenced and enemy replied with mortars.

2345 A and D Coys launched boats.

A Coy – The first two boats sunk on being hit by a mortar bomb, which upset the order of boat loads and all boats were swept downstream by the rapid current. All the coy however, got across through very scattered, two boatloads being taken over on the Flying Ferry. All across by 2359 hrs approx under mortar and MG fire.

D Coy – Enemy mortars and MGs harassed the river bank but first 6 boats landed on far side of the river considerably downstream. Enemy boats were swept ever further downstream and only three were found and used, but failed to cross the river, the occupants returning on foot to the original crossing site. Major Spencer launched the two reserve boats, which took the remainder of the coy across.

All across by 0001, though very scattered.

2350 Flying Ferry in operation on A Coy river crossing site. Thick mist, thickened by drifting smoke from barrage, reduced visibility to 10 yards.    


12th May.

0007 D Coy walked into a minefield and suffered heavy casualties. A Coy disorganised and unable to keep up with the barrage.

0010 B Coy commenced to cross river on Flying Ferry behind A Coy as all assault boats had been lost. A Coy under fire from pt 36 and had walked into a minefield.

0015 A Coy still enveloped in fog and pt 36 still in enemy hands. CO ordered D Coy to assist A Coy in the capture of pt 36.

0020 A Coy on the verge of pt 36 but pinned down by heavy fire. C Coy crossing river by Flying Ferry under heavy machine gun fire. B Coy still crossing river.

0030 B Coy across the river without casualties and reorganised on far bank. C Coy commenced to cross. Heavy mist and smoke still hampering movement and control.

0040 B Coy contacted 7 Platoon of A Coy, which was separated from the remainder of A Coy.

0050 Tac HQ ready to cross river by lower flying ferry. Lower flying ferry jammed on enemy side of the river.

0105 Aircraft heard overhead.

0110 C Coy less flying ferry platoon across but out of touch with its platoons.

0130 Lower flying ferry freed and Tac HQ commenced to cross the river.

0150 Tac HQ unable to move from the river bank owing to minefields. C Coy ordered to join A Coy. A Coy moving up south west slope of pt 36.

0155 B Coy pushing on slowly. Heavy MG fire coming from all sides but location impossible owing to fog and mist.

0200 Tac HQ sprayed by MG fire. No casualties.

0215 One walking wounded of D Coy met Tac HQ and informed CO of D Coy’s location.

0220 B Coy attacked MG post on pt 36.

0230 No definite contact made between coys though isolated sections had met.

0255 Major Byrne and 2 sections of D Coy attacked MG post on pt 36.

0300 Situation still confused though bttn appeared to be concentrated in the area of pt 36 after suffering heavy casualties. CO sent Sitrep to brigade. Main HQ moved to river bank but were ordered to wait for the order to cross. All telephone wires to brigade cut and only link being by relay of messages either through Gunner’s sets or via 18 set on carrier and then by 22 set.

0400 Tac HQ moved 50 yards along the river bank and dug in. Casualties now being evacuated by flying ferry.

0430 A Coy dug in on pt 36. B Coy moving forward to pt 63. C Coy trying to contact B Coy. D Coy in area of pt 36.

0430 C Coy ferrying party rejoined the coy.

0440 B Coy about 400 yards short of pt 63. CO ordered them to attack it.

0500 B Coy asked for Bofors fire as an aid to direction.

0505 C and D Coys commenced to dig in on the river bank near pt 36.

0540 Major Byrne and Major Newton led a composite force against pt 36.

0630 Pt 36 reported clear of enemy. 3 PoWs taken by Major Byrne’s force and evacuated over the flying ferry.

0700 B Coy fell back from pt 63 to the forward edge of pt 36 and captured 6 PoWs of 115 Panzer Grenadier Regiment. B Coy dug in 150 yards north east of pt 36.

0730 Whole bttn area subject to heavy and constant shell and mortar fire and harassed by MGs and snipers.

0835 IO sent to brigade to inform them of the situation.

0840 CO contacted to HQ DCLI, who had now crossed the river.

0900 Mortar Platoon ready to fire from home side of river bank.

0950 Carrier Platoon called forward (dismounted) to assist the rifle coys.

1000 Shelling, mortaring, sniping and MG fire continued.

1130 Carrier Platoon reported to Bttn HQ and placed in position in defence of pt 36. Hostile fire continued.

1500 A Coy sighted enemy SP guns about 600 yards to their front. Mortars brought down fire with unknown results.

1730 Brigade informed CO that tanks had crossed the river lower down and were on their way to help.

1945 Tac HQ moved to caves on pt 36 and found three Germans hiding there. They offered no resistance.

2100 Mortar Platoon Sergeant (Sgt Donovan) reported to Bttn HQ to control fire of 3” Mortar Platoon.

2110 Following message received from brigade:
“Own tanks are across the river and advancing north as far as possible. Location not known. All tanks will cross as soon as construction completed. Hold hard present position. DF form a solid ring around you. Every available gun. All DF is SOS and everything can come down at once. Supplies, water, ammunition will come somehow. Guides to Rhine. You have done magnificently. CO 4th Division and Brigade Sunrays intensely proud of you). If you require any information ask me.”

2200 Quiet night with all companies standing to expecting a counter attack. Main Bttn HQ still on home side of river bank as there was no cover or room on enemy side.

B Echelon moved from Grecchi area to area of harbour east of Mignano on Route 6.


13th May.

0500 Very heavy mortar and MG fire over whole area. Visibility still very poor because of mist. CO called for Artillery SOS task as he considered a counter attack imminent. Heavy fire was put down by our gunners and no counter attack materialised.

0530 Amazon (Class 30) Bridge completed by the REs and screened by smoke generators.

0615 Tank LO and troops of tanks reported to Bttn HQ and were placed in defence of pt36.

0800 CO called A/Tk Platoon Commander forward to make recce and ordered his guns to follow.

0900 Heavy mortaring and shelling of bttn area continued.

1230 Mortaring and shelling continued.

1300 Positions now:
A Coy in rear and left flank of pt 36.
B Coy forward of pt 36.
C Coy right of pt 36.
D Coy in small parties with B and C Coys.
Tac HQ in C Coy area on right of pt 36.
Main Bttn HQ on home side of river near bank.
Mortars and MGs in DF position on home side of river.

1500 Bttn re-organised and consolidated in their present positions.

A quiet night.


14th May.

Whole area shrouded in smoke mist. Smoke from gunners screening Monastery Hill and screening the river crossings.

0800 Rations arrived and were distributed by Bttn HQ.

1000 A/Tk guns and 3” Mortars now on enemy side of river in defence of pt 36. CO’s Jeep and Carrier also arrived.

1200 – 1500 Shelling and mortaring continues and brigade asked for counter fire. Three concentrations fired with no effect on heavy shelling. Nebelwerfer firing at 10 minute intervals on Main Bttn HQ.

1730 1 x 15 cwt, 5 carriers, jeep and A/Tk gun burnt out by hostile shelling. Shelling continued throughout the night. Main Bttn HQ prepared alternative positions behind embankment owing to accuracy of enemy shelling and moved into them by night. MG moved to enemy side of river under cover of darkness. Major Nash returned to B Echelon for return to UK.

D Coy disbanded, one platoon going to each of A, B and C Coys.

11 Officers and 141 ORs reported to Bttn HQ as reinforcements.


15th May.

0200 – 0800 Mortaring and shelling of bttn area. Captain Spencer assumed command C Coy and returned to B Echelon to reorganise. A Coy took over C Coy positions. Main Bttn HQ returned Tac HQ took over A Coy positions.

Padre and Lieut Hatt-Cook scoured the battlefield for bodies and Pioneer Platoon cleared paths through minefield to facilitate their evacuation.

A and B Coys salvaged equipment and arms. Intermittent mortaring and shelling throughout the day.

Burials in the bttn cemetery on pt 36 were effected by the Padre.

Carrier Platoon and 50% of MMG Platoon sent back to B Echelon to rest.


16th May.

Intermittent mortaring and shelling though on a far reduced scale to that of the past few days.

1800 – 2000 2 Beds and Herts attacked pt 46 and 50 and after a bitter battle captured both positions. Our A Coy moved forward to take over the Reserve Coy position vacated by 2 Beds and Herts 859183.


17th May.

0300 C Coy reported back from B Echelon and took over positions vacated by A Coy.

0600 A Coy established a PoW Collecting Centre.

0830 White flag appeared on top of Monastery Hill but was disregarded.

0930 3” Mortars supported attack by 2 DCLI on pt 55.

1055 DCLI captured pt 55but withdrew as ground was too open to hold.

1200 Bttn HQ, A and B Coys ordered to be at 15 minutes notice to move.

1300 Bttn R Group moved forward on recce of pt 46.

1600 Bttn established in area of pt 46. A Coy on pt 46, B on pt 58, C Coy remained on pt 36. Area under observation from Monastery Hill, Monte Cairo. Many dead of 2 Beds and Herts in vicinity. Bttn prepared for an attack with tanks but this was cancelled and orders given to dig in.

2300 Bombing attacks by several enemy planes on bridges over river. Some misses being very close to Bttn HQ. No casualties.


18th May.

0300 Brigade OP Order received giving orders for the attack on Cassino.

0500 Monastery Hill in full view, no smoke being fired by the gunners.

0630 C Coy called forward to Bttn HQ.

0700 O Group called, including REs, RA and 19 NZ Armoured Regiment.

0715 Brigade Commander visited bttn and issued orders for an attack with all speed.

0800 Divisional Commander visited bttn.

0850 Bttn moved forward to attack Cassino. A on left, B on right, C in reserve. Tanks and sappers in support. Start Line – railway. Then across 0900 hrs, objectives pt 146 and right of pt 146.

0900 Attack going according to plan.

0905 Leading troops across Route 6.

0910 Attack going well. No opposition except mines and demolitions.

0915 Hotel des Roses and Colisseum clear. C Coy ordered to Colisseum.

0920 Bttn HQ at Colisseum.

0930 Both forward coys pushing on, little opposition.

0945 Objectives captured.

0950 Lieut G Sloan killed by mine, one OR injured.

1000 C coy ordered in the town to clear lower roads.

1030 Tac HQ established Hotel Des Roses.

1230 Main and Tac HQ established at Colisseum.
A Coy at 853208.
B Coy at 855210.
C Coy at 855206.
Bttn HQ at 853199.

1230 Brigade informed us that enemy would shell Monastery area at 1230. Shells landed at 1235 hrs.

1250 Shells landed in Cassino.

1300 Major Maggs, Lieut Hawkins and 2 ORs killed by powerful booby trap.

1400 Bttn moved back to pt 46.

1600 Bttn moved back by march route to area behind Monte Trocchio.

1830 Bttn established in rest area behind behind Monte Trocchio. Major Paskins assumed control of B Coy and Captain Norworthy the duties of adjutant. Beer and cigarettes issued to troops.

Orders received that B Echelon and the bttn would proceed to concentration area at Alife. Move of the bttn later postponed until the following day.



 

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