Irish Brigade

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

11 Brigade


11th May.

Day spent in preparation for future move. 38 (Irish) Brigade had meanwhile concentrated in area 033054 and Divisional HQ at 034055.


12th May.

During the night 11/12, the offensive on the Gustav Line between Cassino and the west coast opened. The Brigade Group was put at four hours’ notice to move but this was cancelled until 0900 hrs. During the morning, the Brigade Commander gave an address to all Officers and NCOs of the brigade explaining the general situation and the possible moves of the future.


13th May.

No move of the Brigade Group was ordered for 13 May but the brigade would be prepared to move from 0600 hrs. Days spent in preparation. Only light scale of transport would be employed, the balance being left in the present area for the time being. 


14th May.

At 0600 hrs, the head of the brigade column moved off, halting on route in the area H 0406 for several hours. At 0900 hrs, the Brigade Commander met the Divisional Commander at 922166 and was given instructions that 11 Brigade would follow 38 (Irish) Brigade across the Rapido river in the read off 4 British Division, who were engaged in establishing themselves on the other side. So far, only one bridge in the northern sector of 4 British Division’s front had been used  but during the previous night, another bridge called Congo at 876169 (?) had been built and was now ready to take infantry and light transport. 38 (Irish) Brigade were to start crossing during the afternoon and 11 Brigade were to concentrate in the area which they had vacated at 8917 preparatory to following them.

It transpired that only one bttn of 38 Brigade had crossed the river before dusk and the brigade, therefore, bivouacked the night in areas as follows: HQ 11 Brigade and 5 Northamptons area 8917;  2 Lancashire Fusiliers 918185; 1 Surreys, 11 Field Ambulance and LAD 11 Brigade 947158; 255 A/Tk Battery RA 943160; B Support Group 973145.     


15th May.

During the night, 5 Northamptons moved through 1 RWK in area 835175 on to the start line for their attack towards the main Pignatoro – Cassino road. This start line was still in enemy hands and the bttn consequently had to capture this, prior to continuing ops. On their left, 6 Innisks were advancing towards the main road. 5 Northamptons encountered stiff opposition and heavy shelling but had gained their objective by last light.

Their locations were then as follows: Bttn HQ 847176 with coys at 839181, 835178, 833174, 838176. 2 Lancashire Fusiliers had by this time moved across the River Rapido and were concentrated in area 862173. 1 Surreys and B Support Group remained on the east side of River Rapido in area 864164. 83 prisoners were taken by 5 Northamptons during their attack. They had also been supported by one squadron 17/21 Lancers.


16th May.

Brigade HQ moved across the River Rapido to area 857172. 1 Surreys also moved across the river and went into concentration area formerly occupied by 2 Lancashire Fusiliers, who had moved up on the left of 5 Northamptons. Heavy shelling was experienced by 1 Surreys in their concentration area for a period of four hours resulting in the complete destruction of six vehicles. 2 Lancashire Fusiliers with 2 LIR on their left now continued the attack towards Highway Six, with one squadron of 17/21 Lancers in support.

They had gained their objective by 1140 hrs and were located as follows: Bttn HQ  836178 with coys at 828182, 827131, 823181, 825177. 102 prisoners were taken during this advance. 5 Northamptons now moved to area 839155. Shelling and mortaring continued throughout the day on the advancing unit. By 1700 hrs, the entire valley south of Highway Six was filled with a very thick mist, which resulted in confused reports of counter attacks and infiltration of the enemy from 5 Northamptons. One coy of 1 Surreys was moved up to close the gap on 5 Northamptons’ right between them and 4 Division.     


17th May.

1 Surreys moved up to right of 2 Lancashire Fusiliers and progress forward continued. 5 Northamptons came into reserve. Very slight opposition was encountered. The direction of the advance was now swinging further to the north towards Highway Six with 4 Division on the right and 38 Brigade on the left.

All objectives were gained successfully and by last light, bttns were in position as follows: 2 LF HQ 821186 with coys at 818194, 822194, 820190, 823189. 1 Surreys Bttn HQ 833184 with coys at 826194, 831193, 835186, 829183. 5 Northamptons unchanged except for coy at 831181 now at 836117.

Reports during the day that the enemy were trying to pull of the Monastery that night. Consequently, strong offensive patrols werer sent out across Highway Six in an attempt to link up with 2 Polish Corps, who had been advancing from the north of Monastery Hill. These patrols cut Highway 6 but were unable to link up with the Polish Divisions that night since very heavy fighting had been going on in their sector. During the days’ ops. 2 Lothian and Border Horse had been in support of the brigade. 1 Canadian Division had taken over from 8 Indian Division on the left flank of 78 Division and had rapidly advanced to within three quarters of a mile of the Hitler Line. Enemy aircraft bombed brigade area and the bridges over the Rapido during the night.  


18th May.

Today at 1115 hrs, Cassino and the Monastery were pronounced clear of enemy and our patrols linked up with 2 Polish Corps on Highway 6. The brigade then prepared to pull out and come to the south of 38 Brigade in order that the advance might be continued to the Hitler Line. 5 Northamptons moved to area 786186. 36 Brigade were now the leading brigade of the division and reached Aquino Aerodrome by last light.



       

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