The Faughs in Sicily – Crossing the Salso river


The Salso is a broad shallow river in a valley varying in width from 400 yards to a mile. At the blown bridge where we intended to cross, it was about 400 yards wide and half a mile on the right flank. Both banks are thickly covered with olive and fruit trees, particularly on the enemy’s side. The edges of the valley on both sides is terminated by a steep cliff. At the point where the road crossed the river, there were buildings clustered around, facing the bridge.

The Brigade plan was to cross over on a two Battalion front with the Faughs on the right and the London Irish on the left. This time, A and B Companies were given the leading role of driving the Boche off the opposite bank, whilst C and D Companies were to exploit success and deepen the bridgehead. An artillery barrage was to cover the Brigade front.

 

 

At 1pm, the barrage came down; it proved to be a bit too thin and B Company, under Major Garratt, was soon held up in the river bed by the house opposite. A Company under Major Proctor, however, successfully crossed, disposing of an MG post on the way and established themselves on the cliff top. C Company rapidly followed and was directed to roll up the Boche posts in front of B Company, aided by more artillery fire.

By 5pm, the whole bridgehead had been firmly established and the whole Battalion was across. Poor Bruno Power was badly hit in this attack while leading his Platoon of B Company but we felt somewhat avenged when one we found one Boche post with its entire crew knocked out beside its MG in A Company’s sector, the work of our 3-inch Mortars under Lieutenant Broadbent.

It was an age before we could get our grub forward – the road behind was badly cratered and under shell fire and it was not until after dark that it could be used with any safety. Vehicles could not cross the Salso and the men had to manhandle their dixies a long distance through trees, so it was not until after midnight that everyone was fed. Luckily, there was an odd grape vine or pear tree about and nobody starved.

Patrols were pushed forward to the River Simeto in the darkness and it was shortly reported that the going seemed good.