The Faughs – Advance to Randazzo


At 530pm on 12th August, Lieutenant Alex Smyth, who was IO at Brigade HQ, arrived with orders that we were to be relieved by the Argylls after dark and were to push on down the road to a point just short of Randazzo. It was anticipated that the rapid advance of the US forces from the west on Randazzo would cause a rapid enemy withdrawal.

 

It was with mixed feelings that these tidings were received; we had been fighting for 24 hours without proper food, there was little chance of a decent meal before moving off and, to our eyes, there appeared to be no signs of any Boche withdrawals. On the contrary, as darkness approached, he put down a most intense fire with everything he had, rendering movement almost impossible.

After dark, the London Irish moved up to their objective, Sperina; and, at 10pm, without having been able to eat their meal, B and D Companies moved off to clear Mortar Corner before continuing down the Randazzo road. By 11pm, to our great relief, a message arrived saying the objective had been reached without opposition and that B Company was pushing on.

Battalion HQ, A and C Companies now moved off, followed by the mules. B Company had a sticky passage; they had not gone far beyond Mortar Corner when they began to run into S mines (a type of anti-personnel mines which jumps 6 feet into the air before exploding and shedding its steel pellets around).

A number of casualties occurred and poor Henry Garrett was hit in the stomach (later died of wounds). The Company pushed on despite this and ran into the Boche rear-guard 2 miles from Randazzo. Here Lieutenant Bolton’s platoon had the misfortune to be caught in an ambush and Lieutenant Bolton himself was fatally wounded as well as two Fusiliers (Edward Graham and Thomas Baybutt).

 

In the meantime, the rest of the Battalion left the road and tried struggling through the lava and vineyards. That night was like a bad dream. The difficulty of walking over lava in the daytime has to be experienced to be believed; at night, it is almost impossible. Still, somehow or other, stumbling over sharp rocks, high stone walls, dense scrub and vineyards, we struggled on.

Dawn found us still on the move but at last, at 830am in the morning, we reached our destination. We found ourselves in a heavy mined area and spent the next few hours lifting mines and making the roads safe. American troops arrived just after us along the other road and, our work being done, 11 Brigade passed through us and on into Randazzo.

The work of the Battalion at Randazzo and on the night advance was highly praised by many in high places and we had the honour, a few days later, of receiving the congratulations of the Divisional Commander from his own lips on a special visit he paid to us.

So ended our fighting in Sicily. Three days later, Messina fell and all resistance ceased. Our 11 days of fighting had been tough and the Boche put up a very stout fight, contesting every inch of ground resolutely. He had certainly earned our respect as a soldier, whatever one may think of his politics and he used the excellent facilities for defence, which the mountains of Sicily offer, to the best purpose.

Of Italian resistance, we saw nothing and the only local soldiery that ever appeared in our vicinity were walking to the homes unarmed. The civilian population showed every evidence of pleasure at the success of our invasion, even to the extent of extravagant gesticulations and descriptions of what they thought of Mussolini and the Italian fighting man. They were most helpful in providing fruit and “Vino”.

The future holds for us, in all probability further stern battles in Italy, our third campaign since leaving home, but we are very proud to have played a vital part, right from the commencement, in the aggressive phase of the war.

The invasion of the mainland of Europe will have begun by the time this story is in print. It will find the ”Faughs” ready and willing, as always, to bear a lion’s share in the struggle and speed up the inevitable collapse of Germany.


Royal Irish Fusiliers, who were killed at Maletto on 12th/13th August 1943;

Fusilier James Purnell

Fusilier George Jones

Fusilier Samuel Kennedy

Fusilier William Jackson

Fusilier William Martin

Fusilier Albert Hamlett

Fusilier Reginald Holmes

Fusilier Arthur Edwards

Fusilier Henry Dixon

Lance Corporal John Williams

Fusilier Philip Lloyd

Fusilier Edward Graham

Read more about Edward Graham here

Lieutenant William Bolton

Paddy Bolton was commissioned on 11th December 1942 and joined the Battalion immediately. After a short while, he was drafted as a reinforcement to the British North African Force in March and was posted to a Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters in which he served until the end of the Tunisian campaign, when he re-joined his Regiment.

He was posted as a Platoon Commander of A Company and during the training period he was always noted for his cheery disposition under all circumstances. His ambition was to lead his Platoon against the enemy but, unfortunately, this was not to be, owing to his posting to B Company, which had lost most of its officers. Nevertheless, he was the head of a platoon of B Company when they were ambushed during the night advance on Randazzo and it was there that he received his fatal wounds.

Our sympathy goes to his family for, during his short period in the Regiment, he showed himself to be a true Faugh and his loss is felt by all ranks.

Fusilier Thomas Baybutt

Others died later as a result of wounds suffered at Maletto

Fusilier George Roby

Fusilier William Cooper

Major Henry Garratt

Henry Garratt was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles on 30th August 1923. He spent most of the first years of his service in the Army of Occupation on the Rhine until going into the RARO on 12th May 1926. On war being declared, he hurried back from the United States of America, where he had been staying and was mobilised with the Royal Ulster Rifles. He served with the Battalion in France and came through Dunkirk.

On his return to England, he was given several Staff appointments, including Staff Captain in a Division and Adjutant of a Corps School. In 1941, he re-joined the Royal Ulster Rifles and was in that battalion for about six months, prior to his posting to the London Irish Rifles, where he spent seven months. He was then appointed 2nd-in-command ITC but volunteered for service abroad and was attached to the Royal Inniskilling fusiliers to await posting as a reinforcement to the British North African Force. He joined up with the Faughs on 26th April 1943 and took over command of B Company, which he commanded until the end of the Tunisian campaign.

During the rest period after the campaign, Henry, as he was known to one and all, by his outstanding personality, soon became a popular figure, not only in the Battalion but also in the Brigade and even in the Division. His magnificent party spirit very soon made itself throughout the Officers’ Mess and he was largely responsible for creating a Fellowship amongst the newly-joined reinforcement officers, who were complete strangers to everybody.

In the Sicilian campaign, he led his Company in three fiercely contested actions and was fatally wounded during the famous advance of the Battalion on Randazzo, which was to prove the last active operation performed by this Battalion in the campaign.

It is now, as this obituary is written, during the rest period after the Sicilian campaign, that his cheerful and inspiring presence is missed by all ranks in the Battalion.