2 Lancashire Fusiliers

11th May.

Brigade Commander addressed all troops. Orders from the Commander in Chief and from the Army Commander were issued to all troops.

Recreation, individual training and admin.

12th May.

Adjutant returns from leave. Day spent in completion of admin preparation for forthcoming operations.

13th May.

All officers and NCOs inspected replicas of full base and wire defences likely to be encountered at the Adolph Hitler Line.

2215 CO called to Brigade O Group.

2300 Bttn O Group assembled and orders issued for TCVs.

14th May.

CO moved off with Brigade O Group at 0800 hrs. Bttn followed under acting 2.i.c. Major Pritchard in TCVs at 0830 hrs. Bttn column was halted near Vairano.

The situation was confused throughout the day and it was not until 1600 hrs after numerous visits to Divisional and Brigade HQs that the CO was able to concentrate the bttn in area 919157 with 132 Field Regiment RA. All transport and TCVs in by 2100 hrs and the battalion settled down being subjected to occasional shelling.

15th May.

Bttn rose at 0500 hrs and moved forward into area 861175 where the bttn concentrated and remained, awaiting orders. The area was extremely congested and the situation forward very confused but fortunately no shelling was experienced. The CO made a recce with coy commanders and returned to bttn area.

At 2215 hrs, he was again called to Brigade O Group and was given orders for bttn attack with tanks from 16/5 Lancers on morning 16th May. Bttn remained in this area for the night. No shelling.

16th May.

0400 Rep from tanks arrived.

0606 O Group and orders are given out as under: Bttn to attack and capture the bound ‘Pytchley’ with right A Coy, Objective: copse 825183. Left B Coy, Objective: copse 824180. C Coy pt 80, 822180. D to move to 825186. Start line Grafton road. Bttn FUP in…..area where find liaison with supporting squadron of tanks to be made. Attack to follow a barrage which opened on line 837181 – 833179 – 826169. Damage being 1000 yards long and rate of advance 200 yards in 12 minutes.

0900 Bttn left FUP and crossed start line on time at 0918. Coys followed up the barrage very close and at 0950 PoWs commenced to come back.

1045 A Coy reported on objective but had suffered several casualties from own shells falling short. A Coy claimed approximately 60 PoWs and at least that number of dead.

1130 B Coy on objective.

1145 C Coy on objective. The advance in general having been opposed by strong MG posts and moderate shelling, mainly from SP guns.

1240 D Coy advanced without much opposition and contacted LIR on their left.

1245 Enemy launched counter attack with 2 tanks supported by infantry on C Coy who were in the process of consolidating. Considerable casualties were inflicted on the coy before the leading tank was knocked out by a PIAT at a range of 20 yard. The remaining tank and infantry hastily withdrew and C Coy completed consolidation without further opposition.

1325 Brigade Commander visited command post and complimented the bttn on a fine performance.

1400 Heavy enemy shelling on command post area. Over 400 shells falling in under 2 hours but no casualties apart from one mortar carrier which was knocked out. At the same time, enemy heavily shelled area 861175 knocking out two portees and inflicting casualties on anti tank and carrier platoons.

1600 Command post moved into D Coy area without incident and all anti tank in for having been taken forward behind tanks.

1900 Liaison Officer from brigade with further orders for attack on 17th May. Bttn remained in area throughout the night having been subjected to occasional shelling.

2300 Rations and ammunition arrived.

17th May.

0430 CO briefed OC D Coy for attack. Attack consisted of D Coy attacking to a high ground 822186 supported by tanks of Lothian and Border Horse. D Coy to move behind barrage.

Remainder of early morning quiet until 0500 hrs when preparation for D Coy attack finally “bottomed out”.

0645 C Coy withdrew 200 yards in order to avoid any casualties from barrage.

0700 Barrage commenced and, at 0708, D Coy moved forward with tanks.

0830 D Coy on objective having suffered some casualties from own barrage. Enemy shelled and Nebelwerfered them for ½ hour.

0930 One PoW sent through.

1115 Brigade Commander visited bttn and warned us to move forward.

Coys moved forward. Dispositions taken up as follows:  HQ 822187, A Coy 820188, B Coy 821195, C Coy 823189, D Coy 818195.

2030 Two more PoWs and B Coy reported successful patrol exploitation to Highway Six. Patrol brought back a German MO.

2359 Food and ammunition arrived successfully. Bttn remained in all round defensive formation which was without incident with exception of an air raid.

Approximate bttn casualties from the 2 days fighting were:

Killed – 0 officers, 20 ORS. Wounded 0 officers, 72 ORs.  Missing – 5 ORs.

Bttn inflicted approximate casualties of 170 – 200 PoWs and at least 100 – 150 killed and wounded and in cooperation with tanks knocked out 2 tanks and 4 SP guns.

Fusiliers Jefferson citation – VC.

For the most conspicuous courage in the face of the enemy and a complete disregard for his own life.

On May 16th 1944, the bttn was ordered to attack a key sector of the positions in depth of the Gustav Line. The objectives were gained but some of our tanks was held up by an anti tank obstacle and the left leading company was held up by an anti tank obstacle and the left leading company started to dig in on the hill without tanks or A/Tk guns with. At this moment, the enemy counter attacked the hill. The first wave consisted of tow Mk IV tanks and 20 infantry. The enemy tanks opened fire on the company from short range and caused a number of casualties. One PIAT group was killed to a man and, in another, several men were wounded. The enemy tanks were advancing fast towards our position and were causing many casualties amongst those holding out in their partly dug trenches. At the critical moment, Fusilier Jefferson, without orders and entirely on his own initiative, seized a PIAT and ran forward alone across the open under heavy enemy fire towards the enemy tanks. He took up a position behind a hedge, but as he could not see properly, he came right into the open and standing up under a hail of bullets, fired at the leading tank, which was then only twenty yards away. It burst into flames and every member of the crew was killed. Not content with this, he reloaded the PIAT and, still across the open, went towards the second tank. On seeing the first tank burst into flames and before Fusilier Jefferson could get within range, the second tank withdrew and the enemy infantry were quickly dealt with. By this time, our own tanks were up and the counter attack was smashed, accounting for a large number of enemy killed.

There is no doubt that this magnificent act of Fusilier Jefferson not only saved the lives of practically all his company, but it was entirely responsible for causing a large number of casualties to the enemy. Furthermore, it broke up a determined enemy counter attack and had a decisive effect on the subsequent operation. His act was in the highest possible order of gallantry and self sacrifice and achieved the results deserved.

18th May.

Morning was quiet. Brigade Commander visited command post at 1130.

1145 News received that Cassino and the Monastery were in our hands and that greatly cheered the troops who were already in high spirits.

Positions were slightly altered to following locations:

A Company – 822912, B Company – 822195, C Company – 819198, D Company – 819193. HQ remained at 822196. A quiet afternoon and no further news until 1700 hrs, when LO from brigade informed us that we were to be relieved by a bttn of 12 Infantry Brigade (4 Division) and then proceed towards Adolph Hitler line in the rear of 36 and 38 Brigades. CO called to brigade at this time and was to be prepared to move early morning 19th May to 790195.

1845 Food and ammunition without incident.

2000 Bttn concentrated having been relieved by the Black Watch of 12 Brigade. Coys locations as under: HQ as before, A and C – 822192, B – 822187, D – 820187.

A quiet night’s rest except for normal local protection precautions.

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