Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


1 RIrF – August 1943

1st August.

0415 Bttn moved to new area 596870 in MT.

Bttn’s 3 tonners were afterwards used for ferrying 2 LIR into new area.

2200 Bttns move again to new area 6388 preparatory to moving up to Centuripe the following morning if attack by East Surrey was a success.


2nd August.

0730 Bttn marched up road towards Centuripe.

0810 Leading platoon commanded by Lt Richards came under fire from 560 in village. CO decided to take Bttn round the left flank via the track west of the road to 711. Half way up the track CO found 8 A & SH Bttn HQ, where he was told that the 36 Brigade were all in the area, also the East Surreys, who had not attacked the town the previous evening as was expected. After a brief appreciation of the situation, it was decided that with so many Bttns in the same area, a coordinated was essential and the Brigadier was asked to come up. Bttn was deployed into what cover there was available. During the next few hours, several casualties were inflicted on the enemy by very accurate sniping and excellent shooting of mortars by Lt Broadbent.

1500 Brigadier arrived to coordinate plan. 6 Innisks were to attack the town from the right, while 2 LIR were to take some dominating features on the left thus enabling us to take 711 and get into the town from the east.

1600 CO orders.

By 1945, no success signal had come from 2 LIR and as time was getting short if the attack was to be carried out in daylight, it was decided to carry on.

2000 Zero.

2050 D Coy reported they were on their first objective but not their second. While attacking the second, the Coy Commander Captain W Hanna was killed.

Sgt Brandon’s platoon had had some very close fighting on the reverse slope of the first objective before they finally took it.

Lt OPB Jewell was left in command of the coy and having reassembled the coy on the first objective put in a further attack. From this point on, communication with that coy was lost.

2230 CO ordered C Coy under Captain Clarke to send a fighting patrol to 711 to see if D Coy was there. If so, to occupy it with D Coy. Success signal was two green verey lights.


3rd August.

0021 C Coy success signal. A Coy sent forward to gain further objective in town – Church Hill. Success signal is two green verey lights

0300 Success signal from town.

0545 Command post established at cemetery 711.

As D Coy had already taken A Coy’s objective before A Coy arrived at the cemetery, A and C Coys were both there. D Coy had fired the success signal at 0021.

0600 A Coy went forward to relieve D Coy and B Coy occupied 718.

0630 Bttn, less B Coy who remained on 718, consolidated in the town.

0830 Bttn moved out of the town and a patrol of one platoon under Lt JB Cammiade was sent out to see if the bridge over the Salso was held or not.

1500 Bttn less transport advanced by march route across very rough country until main road was reached to take up positions on near bank of Salso. No transport other than jeeps and carriers could be taken forward owing to a large crater in the road, which was constantly shelled making repair work difficult.

1700 Bttn, less A Coy, were in position A Coy had got lost on the march down the mountain.

Lt Cammiade’s patrol had by now crossed the river and met some opposition. The country was very flat and thickly covered with short bushy topped orange trees. Visibility was never more than about ten yards. The patrol with grenades and T & MGs accounted for at least MG before withdrawing at dusk.

One night patrol was sent out to cover an RE working party, but came under very heavy fire from 3 MGs, while crossing the river and had to withdraw.


4thAugust.

Bttn ordered to establish a bridgehead over the river

1330 CO’s orders.

1500 B Coy on the left and A Coy on the right crossed the start line.

B Coy was held up for some time in the river.

A Coy got across and onto their objective.

C Coy was ordered to go through a Coy and wheel left along the river bank to assist B Coy. This was successful and B was able to get forward.

It was decided by the Brigadier only to hold the short bridgehead

Lt B St Q Power and Captain JS Clarke were wounded in this attack.

2000 Bttn held 684948.

While in this area, Bttn was ordered to push and establish a bridgehead over the Simeto.


5th August.

0100 Bttn advanced. D Coy on the left with Maccarone as their objective, C on the right with order to take 225. Success signals were arranged and the other two coys remained in reserve with Bttn MG, which was to move up to the railway bridge 692952.

0330 C Coy’s success signal went up.

0530 D Coy reported that they had been forced to withdraw. C Coy were still there, but only just over the river and not on 225.

0600 Command post established 700948.

Although C Coy had crossed the river, they had been unable to gain their objective and were held up as the foot of the escarpment. No communication was open to them, and it was difficult to see them owing to the very thick orange groves. A Coy was ordered to assist them and a tremendous fire plan was arranged. A Coy’s leading platoon, under heavy fire, crossed the start line and proceeded down the escarpment into the river bed. A number of enemy MGs opened up on them from the top of the escarpment on the enemy side of the river but led by Lieut McNally and under an effective 3”mortar smoke screen, they managed to get over. From them on, it became a very slow and extremely difficult battle, but they went steadily forward until they reached their objective. From the command post, several Germans could be seen running away from the area, and these provided excellent targets for our MMGs.

1300 Rear Bttn HQ heavily shelled and mortared with the German six barrelled mortar.

Captain CPTD O’Farrell was killed.

1500 Bttn HQ established at the command post. A & C Coys being firmly established on 225, the CO ordered B Coy to sweep along the escarpment from east to west and clear the village while our platoon from A Coy attacked 232.

1600 B Coy crossed the start line. With a string artillery support and in spite of the very heavy fire that they came up against, they gained their first objective. Our A/Tk came into action for the first time and effectively blasted the top story of the house. While B Coy was advancing on their second objective, they were heavily counter attacked, and some of them had to withdraw. The remainder remained in a very exposed position and did what damage they could.

One platoon under Lt Trousdell attacked 232, they met with such heavy MG fire from their right rear flank while completely in the open and from about 30 yards range that at about 1645, they had to withdraw. They reformed, however, and sent a section to clear up the MG post. When this was done, they attacked again, but evidently the section had missed another MG in the same area, they were again forced to withdraw, owing to this, another MG on the objective and some of own shelling, which was falling amongst them. Another platoon from C Coy under … was sent out to the right and with tremendous support from the rest of A and C. Coy’s brens arrived on the objective at about 1800.

1945 One coy from 6 Innisks came under command and was ordered to attack the village with B Coy’s assistance. By 2030, they had reached both their objectives. The attack had been carried out extremely well and the drill used for clearing the houses was excellent. Opposition was less than before. All the objectives were now in our hands and the bridgehead over the Simeto was formed.

D Coy 6 Innisks under Captain McCaldin also came under command and the two Skin coys came under the local command of Major Savage 6 Innisks, C Coy Commander. Major Savage was later killed. D Coy had also gone into the village and gave some valuable assistance to the Innisks when they were attacking the second objective. When the position was finally consolidated, B & D Coys 1 RIrF were withdrawn across the river.

Captain Hayward, Captain JS Clarke, and Lieut Cammiade were wounded during the course of this action.


6th August.

A quiet day. D Coy moved up behind A & C into the south bank of the river. The river afforded excellent facilities for bathing and washing clothes


7th August.

2259 11 Brigade successfully occupied Aderno and were pushing into Bronte.

Bttn concentrated in A & C Coys. Packs and blankets issued to men on arrival of B Echelon.


8th August.

A quiet day spent resting, sorting out and cleaning of weapons for next advance. During this period, enormous quantities of grapes, pears, apples, tomatoes and onions were consumed. Also, there was a spring of cold, beautiful water, which was most welcome.


9th August.

Another quiet day resting. Nothing unusual to report. 2100 BBC News reported the fall of Randazzo. Much speculation amongst officers.


10th August.

CO called to 36 Brigade HQ for recce and conference for forthcoming operation. 38 Brigade to take Mt Albtto.


11th August.

0830 O Group went forward for recce.

1030 Bttn moved up to assembly area just outside Bronte.

1900 CO’s orders.

2030 Bttn left assembly area.


12th August.

0030 Arrived FUP.

0230 Attack according to plan. A Coy on the left, and C on the right got to the foot of their objective without meeting any opposition from them on. A Coy met very heavy opposition from MGs and snipers. The advance up the hill was slow. TSMGs and grenades being the most successful weapons. In spite of the fact that individuals and sections were moving forward winkling out the enemy positions. The success of the attack was largely due to the perfect control kept by the company commanders Major PJ Proctor and CSM Keir. C Coy meanwhile was advancing and reached their objectives with no opposition. To help A Coy, the CO ordered them to swing left and try and reach the top of the hill.

Bttn HQ had by now moved up almost to the road and as it was beginning to get daylight, looked as though they might be caught in the open. Just in time, however, the success signal was fired by C Coy and they were able to move forward to the house half way up the hill after D Coy had recleared the copse and house.

0600 By daylight, the Bttn had consolidated and were digging in. A very unpleasant day was spent under very heavy mortar and MG fire and it was almost impossible to reach the two forward coys owing to sniping and 88mms firing HE.

It was difficult to get the MGs and mortar mules forward owing to sniping.

1600 D Coy went out to clear the village. Snipers and LGs had been firing from it periodically during the day and it was found to be held by about fifteen enemy. Some of these were taken prisoner. They were a very mixed band of survivors of a Para Regiment and Fortress Bttn with a few from an all German Reggio Bttn.

1800 News came from Brigade that the Americans were only a few miles from Randazzo, and had cut the road leading out of the town to the north east. It was thought that the Germans would have to withdraw and the Bttn was ordered to push on to Randazzo as fast as possible.

1930 CO’s orders.

2000 B and D Coys crossed the start line.

2045 B Coy got through on wireless to say they had gained the first objective with no opposition.


13th August 1943.

0130 Remainder of Bttn, with A Coy leading, followed by Bttn HQ. C Coy moved off down the road. When about 3 miles from the final objective, the leading platoons of B Coy under Lieut Bolton ran into an ambush, three were killed and four serious wounded by about 4 MG 34s. The reason why this platoon had got so far ahead was because the main body of the coy had encountered a number of S mines. Major HGC Garratt was wounded. They became so numerous that the CO decided to leave the road. The remaining three miles were over most difficult country. Vineyards with every now and then very high stone walls and terraces. The last mile was over a very open patch of lava, which in the darkness was very difficult to negotiate. It was impossible for mules even to follow up and they were left to follow up in daylight. The rear link also had to be left behind for the last mile. Two miserable PoWs were taken during the advance. At dawn, the Bttn got back on the road and continued to advance somewhat faster. A detour had to be made at one point to avoid running into some shell fire put down by Americans.

0830 Bttn established the road junction 8119.

S and Teller mines were numerous but, with some assistance from Americans who had arrived soon after us, they were cleared.

The Bttn having been 36 hours with no sleep and very little sleep, were by now pretty well exhausted, and the rest of the day was spent resting as 11 Brigade were going through us and were out of contact with the enemy. The Divisional and Brigade commanders both came down during the day to congratulate the CO – for our work the Bttn had done under such difficult circumstances. In particular, the advance from Maletto to Randazzo after a hard 24 hrs fighting.

2000 HQ, S, B and D Coys had to move again as their areas had already been allotted to some gunners as gun positions. They eventually settled down just as darkness was falling.

During these actions, Lieut HCP Hamilton, Lieut JA Finlay and Major HGC Garratt were wounded and Lieut WT Bolton died of wounds. Lieut JA Smith was admitted to hospital.


14th August.

Bttn enjoyed a well deserved rest. Nothing outstanding occurred during the day.


15th August.

Major CC Markes was posted to the Bttn as 2.i.c.


16th August.

Bttn reorganisation in progress.

Captain NW Bass admitted to hospital on Aug 15th.


17th August.

A few parades held during the day. Nothing more strenuous than PT.

Lieuts JR McNally, OPB Jewell and WG Dunn were promoted A/Captains.


18th August.

Nothing to report. A small party was given for all officers in A Coy’s mess. Recce parties were called for to recce the Bttn rest area on the coast.


19th August.

Message from Brigade to say that there were several hundred Germans reported to be in area 8555.

0600 A and D Coys under 2.i.c. set out to deal with them.

1100 Objective was reached and no trace of any enemy could be seen either on the way up or there. It seemed an extremely unlikely place for any German soldier to go to and the party returned home.

2100 Message from Brigade saying 1st rest party of ½ Bttns would leave at 0330 tomorrow morning.


20th August.

0330 With A Coy leading, 1st rest party left. Order of march A, B, HQ and S Coy. Route via Cap Orlanda to Patti.

The journey was very tedious as there was a lot of transport on the road, and at Cap Orlanda, the party was ordered off the road, as the coast road to Messina was reserved for the 51st Division.

1700 ½ Bttn was complete in rest area.


21st/22nd August.

The new rest area proved highly satisfactory to everyone. The troops settled down to three days relaxation. There was an abundance of all types of fruit and a number of vegetables. Eggs and fresh fish were also obtainable. The sea was little more than one hundred yards from the camp and most of the day was spent lying on the beach and bathing, with always a bunch of delicious grapes near at hand. A concert was held on the second night and free ‘vino; was supplied by the PRI. The local inhabitants did not appear to resent our presence at all and even joined into the concert. A limited number of passes were given out to men to go to Patti, the local town where it was possible to purchase at least a few conveniences. Without exception, everyone must have enjoyed themselves and the Bttn well deserved it.


23rd August.

1620 1st rest party returned to Randazzo. It was decided to have Bttn HQ at the rest area and the CO stayed. Bttn HQ moved up today.

1800 A concert by Corps concert party was held at Randazzo for the men left behind. 2/Lt HL Hutchinson joined.


24th August.

1000 2nd rest party ie the other half of the Bttn left for rest area.

While they were away, the Bttn had one or two parades a day but otherwise no strenuous training. Nothing to report.


25th August.

Nothing to report.


26th August.

1800 78th Division concert part give a show for the troops at Randazzo.


27th August.

1200 Received orders that 78th Division would concentrate in present rest area.

1400 Staff Captain came down with orders re move. As much of the Bttn would move on the 28th as was possible and the remainder on the 29th. Afternoon spent preparing for move. Everything was to move on the 28th except A/Tk, QM, ammunition and C & D Coy stores. Transport would be sent back to convey QM etc on 29th. A/Tk moved self contained. Carriers moved under Brigade arrangements on 28th.


28thAugust.

0600 Bttn moved off according to plan.

0930 Bttn arrived in rest area.

Remainder of the day was spent settling in for the first time since we left Bougie in North Africa last December and Bttn officers’ mess was established.

0915 Last of the carriers arrived.


29th August.

The Divisional rest period did not end until the end of the month and training did not start until 1st Sept.

A/Tk platoon and QM etc arrived, which made the Bttn complete.


30th August.

CO went on recce, with Brigadier, of the Bttn training area.


31st August.

Company commanders made recces of training area. CO held a conference to decide what was the best way to utilising them due to the shortage of men available.