Irish Brigade

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

2/4 Hampshire Regiment


11th May.

Only moderate shelling, particularly near A Coy’s positions to report during the morning.

1030 CO visits brigade to see Brigadier.

1730 Conference of OCs at Bttn HQ. Discussion of plan for next ops (Ex Honker) are discussed.

General outline of plan is as follows:

28 Infantry Brigade will cross the river Gari at two points to be known as X and Y Crossings (at 865173 and 865175 respectively. 2/4 Hampshires will be in reserve, holding present positions until advance has been made to Brown Line, when it will cross and advance through 2 Kings, who will have taken Brown – on to Blue, which will have been taken by 2 Somerset LI , and then from Blue, attack Red on the morning of 12 May. If opposition is light, then to exploit on to the final objective, which is Green.

D Coy 2/4 Hampshires will act as ferry coy for the brigade and is responsible for getting all three bttns across the Gari, after which it will rejoin the bttn on Brown.

One platoon A Coy were to assist the REs in building a bridge.

The attack is to be preceded by a terrific concentration of artillery, which will left as leading bttns cross the river.

Evening spent in arranging all details.

2300 Artillery barrage commences; it is to the greatest of the war to date and is a most magnificent spectacle. Bttn stands by ready to move.


12th May.

It became apparent as the night progressed that the attack by 2 Kings and 2 Somerset LI had had only partial success. Under heavy machine gunning, mortaring and shellfire, they got about half way to their objective, where they were pinned.

D Coy bore the brunt of the shelling, being on the river bank all the time, sustaining 26 casualties including 4 killed.

C Coy was sent down in the night to assist D Coy as casualties were taking such a toll.

One section of A Coy covering the buildings of a Class 30 bridge by REs at 866172, all became casualties with the exception of one OR, so another section was detailed to take its place from A Coy. The attack started off in brilliant moonlight after the barrage, the resultant smoke and dust kicked up reduced visibility on the river bank to a minimum.

The CO and 2.i.c. went to the crossings to investigate.

0630 At this time, a very unfortunate think happened. A direct hit by a shell on the RAP control point at 873175 killed the OCs of C and D Coys (Major EC Henley and Major WCTN Way) and three ORs, who with them. Two Brigade Signallers, who were in a different compartment of the sandbagged post, escaped unscathed.

At dawn, the remainder of C and D Coys were withdrawn from the banks to their original positions as no useful purpose could be served by keeping on the banks. Throughout the day, the bttn stood to, awaiting further developments.

0900 CO holds O Group at Bttn HQ and the situation was discussed. During the afternoon, orders were received that 2/4 Hampshires would attack across the river using the same crossings as before.

D Coy were to continue as Ferry Coy, assisted by composite forces of 2 Kings and 2 Somerset LI. The object was to link up with personnel already over the river and consolidate on Brown.

Tanks from 8th Indian Division, who had crossed the river on the left were to come up and assist 2/4 Hampshires to mop up the line as far as Brown.

1730 CO holds conference at Bttn HQ and issues his orders.

2010 However, during the late evening, the plan was changed, as the promised tanks would have been unable to keep the RV.

Alternative orders were issued.

Bttn was to proceed by march route to assembly area at 881192 and come under command of 12 Infantry Brigade, who were establishing a bridge over the Gari, called Amazon bridge at 867182. The bridge will be crossed by 0645 hrs and the bttn is to proceed south, mopping up Brown along the line of Queen Street and assisting 6 BW.

2355 O Group collected by jeep and arrived at Bttn HQ. Orders as above are issued and bttn begins concentration prior to move to SP.

Present positions will be taken over by a composite force of 2 Kings and 2 Somerset Light Infantry. Relief to commence at 0200 hrs.


13th May.

0300 Relief complete and bttn commences to move over the SP at 874172.

0500 Guide party arrives Assembly Area and recce’s route down to Amazon bridge.

0530 Bttn arrives Assembly Area 881193 and prepares to go into action by 0645.

0600 Guides TCP route to Amazon bridge (867182) – bridge still under construction, but passable to infantry. Plan is for the bttn to cross the Amazon bridge to mop up Queen Street along Brown as far as pt 50 (857165).

0645 CO arrives at TCP 1 (872191) to find out situation. However, owing to delays by 6 BW and 2 RF and their support tanks in crossing bridge, bttn did not start to cross until 1330 hrs. In the interval, the guides were caught in intensive mortar and shelling concentrations and one OR (Signals) was killed.

1330 Forward coys commenced crossed bridge in brilliant sunshine and the enemy brought down his usual concentrations of mortars, shells and Nebelwerfers. Casualties were, however, light at this point; about 300 yards across the road, the men took cover they could in shell holes and small ditches, while the CO coordinated the plan with CO 17/21 Lancers (Shermans) and RA rep. Zero hour was fired for 1430 hrs preceded by 15 minutes artillery on the first objective.

Considerable quantities of enemy HF were being put down, but morale was excellent and the men remained unconcerned. Coy commanders walked around encouraging the men.

1415 Artillery barrage commenced.

1430 Shermans started to go forward sweeping the low hills with MG fires and firing at every possible strong point with their 75 mm guns.

Bttn went forward in extended line with fixed bayonets very steadily. Some MGs were inflicting casualties from Square Wood (866178) but attention of tanks was directed and they were silenced by men of 8 Platoon who stormed the position and 73 PoWs.

1445 Tanks unable to cross Ria Piopetto owing to APV with bridge equipment receiving direct hit and blocking the way. Bttn wades the stream and carried on, with the Shermans directing fire on top of the slope for cover, shortly afterwards a message comes to CP that enemy are surrendering on the left and soon long lines of PoWs were seen doubling towards us with arms up.

Resistance on the right was still strong, however, and D and B Coys were pressed forward up the slope near pt 33 (862177) mopping up as they went. Enemy resistance was speedily crushed and the CO decides to exploit further.

A and C Coys on the left in the meantime following the line of the river, doing extremely useful work and experiencing resistance from snipers in the wheat along the river bank. These were dealt with sympathetically.

The ground here was thickly sown with mines of all descriptions and the RAP following up were unfortunate in setting off an AP mine, which made casualties of the whole party. One SB was killed outright and the MO died subsequently after evacuation.

One Platoon, A Coy, also received casualties form a mine in this area.  Pt 38: 857172, was the next objective and this was speedily reached, more PoWs coming in to us in a ceaseless line.

With such success in mind there was no stopping the Hampshires now and the CO who throughout was with the forward troops, decided to push forward and consolidate on pt 50 (857165).

The objective was taken by B coy, who deal with a determined enemy post in a house on the top with grenades and a TSMG. Five enemy surrendered here, but the sixth coming out of his dug out treacherously shot a man of B Coy and was disposed of. Understood afterwards that C Coy reached pt 46 at 862162 before withdrawing to consolidate).

1540 All objectives were now reached and coys immediately began task of consolidating (There was still considerable MG fire coming from the south but the enemy seemed put off his balance as it was quite some time before he started mortaring and shelling our newly won positions. Having established where we were, however he quickly brought down some concentrations of Nebelwerfers, which had little effect.

D Coy were unfortunate this time having their Coy HQ, which was in a captured house, collapse on several men, who were dug out very bruised and shaken.

1615 A patrol of A Coy was sent out to investigate and hold the houses at Petracone (857175) as protection to main body. This was done without incident. CP was established on the track at 861172. 

1700 CO visited all coys and instructed company commanders to send out patrols to the line of Queen Street during the night. The morale of the men was excellent and they were even further cheered when it became known that the bttn had now approximately 200 PoW to its credit. Enemy HE was now on a reduced scale, although MG fire was still coming from the south, making movement very difficult in places. Isolated detachments of 2 Kings and 2 Somerset LI were found at various points, having crossed two nights before previously and these were contacted and ordered by the CO to return over the river again.

A German sniper, who had been overlooked near the river bank, and who was causing trouble, was disposed of by a section of 2 Somerset Light Infantry on their way back.

Coys were now disposed as follows:
A Coy (brought up from river) on pt 38 (857172).
B Coy (on last objective) pt 50 (857165).
C Coy area 861174.
CP at 861172.
D Coy area 861167.

The battlefield was covered with quantities of enemy equipment and quite a number of his dead. Evidences to be seen of the effects of the tremendous barrage in the initial stages of the assault across the Gari. Corpses in various stages of mutilation were near every strong point and it was quite apparent that the Hun had taken a tremendous shaking up, which helped the assault considerably.

The actual attack from the time it was launched until the objectives were reached was a perfect example of a set piece attack, with tanks, artillery and infantry cooperating to the nth degree. One would have thought that the whole show to have been a carefully rehearsed exercise at a battle school. During Phase I, the battalion was under command 12 Brigade.

During this major attack on three enemy strong points, the bttn only received 11 wounded casualties.

Phase II.

2100 2.i.c. arrives at OP.

2130 LO arrives from brigade and tells CO that the next role to play is to be on Blue Line prior to 0530 hrs. This necessitates moving by night with the FUP on Queen Street.

2215 CO holds his O Group at CP and orders are issued for the bttn to advance by compass until general line of road and tank junction at 850171 was reached. Orders to move at 0245 hrs. In the interval, men not on duly endeavour to get as much rest as possible before the next advance.



          

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