Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


Point 622

The attack described below on Pt 622 and Butler’s Hill – named after our Commanding Officer – is probably the most difficult yet undertaken by the Bttn. It involved, however, only two companies strong on Butler’s Hill and D Coy on Pt 622, supported by three Churchills of the North Irish Horse, and heavy Artillery support. I will describe D Coy’s attack first.

Pt 622 was a rocky crag on a ridge running between Butler’s Hill on the left and the already famous Tanngoucha on the right. It offered no cover at all from the attacker’s point of view, but for a well “blasted in” enemy, an excellent defensive position. After a heavy barrage on the ridge and known enemy positions, D Coy crossed the start line at zero hour (1230). The Coy, with a fighting strength of only thirty, went forward in two groups, an assault group of about ten men under Lieut Haywood and a support group with all the available LMGs under the company commander, Lieut Sillem. Covering fire from D Coy’s and the Skins’ LMGs kept enemy MGs on Point 622 and accurate sniping from a rise on the right pinned them down about 100 yards from their objective. The sniping accounted for five of the assault group (fatal casualties). This cut off Lieut Haywood and Corporal Swain from the main body. The Coy Commander, while trying to place an LMG to help the assault, was killed by an enemy mortar. The tanks, which were to support the Coy on the left flank, were unable to deal with the position due, it seemed, to the difficulty of observations: sniping made it impossible to open the turret. At this stage, the Skins, seeing what was happening, put down a heavy smoke screen with their 2” Mortars, enabling a forward movement to be made. Lieut Haywood and the remains of the assault group, now only four men, availing themselves of this cover, managed by a succession of grenade and tommy guns exchanges, managed to gain a foothold on the crag under the enemy MG position.  A white flag was hoisted by the enemy and CSM Fincham came forward with the Support Group, took prisoners and consolidated the position. Sixteen prisoners were taken. Our casualties were five killed and four wounded. For this action, Lieut Haywood was awarded the MC and Corporal Swain the DSO.

A Company’s attack on the left proved if anything more difficult than the operation just described. The objective Butler’s hill was a small grassy feature about 800 yards in front, strongly held by a Bosche position. Its strength lay in the fact that all approaches to it were swept by fire from the rocky features on either flank, on the one hand Pt 622, already described, on the other, “Snipers Ridge”.

Another grave difficulty faced the Bttn for A Coy, which was selected for this attack, was already holding a forward position and was liable to come under direct MG and Mortar fire as soon as movement outside its trenches was seen. However, no other Coy was situated any better so the difficulty had to be overcome. It was decided that A Coy should get out of its defensive position and form up for its attack under cover of the preliminary bombardment.

The artillery concentration came down as arranged.  A Coy formed up without mishap and moved off well under control with the three Churchills moving into their fire positions. Little Bosche fire came down for the first few hundred yards and for a time, and it almost seemed that the objective would be gained without much trouble. Just, however, as the Coy reached a point some three hundred yards from its objective, very heavy cross fire from the enemy posts on the flanks came down pinning down the Coy, and causing a number of casualties. A number of shells and Mortar bombs now began to fall and things became distinctly unpleasant. Capt McDonald, the Company Commander was severely wounded and the commander devolved on Lieut Carr, the only other officer .