1 RIrF – December 1943

1st December.

Captain TB Cammiade MC admitted to hospital.  Captain DF Thomason arrived from LOB personnel to act as IO in his absence.  Morning spent resting and recovering booty from the deep dug-outs and entrenchments in the area.

1400 At 1400 hrs, the Battalion moved to area north of the road east of Rocca 3805.  Battalion HQ 385055.

1700 At 1700 hrs, the CO received orders for the advance to San Vito 3611.

2200 At 2200 hrs, the CO gave out his orders.  Lt. MER Pattinson to hospital.

2nd December.

0100 A & D Coys moved off along track running to demolished bridge 4008.

0400 At 0400 hrs, C Coy & Battalion Command Group took same route.

0515 It ultimately transpired that A & D Coys had reached 373110 at 0515hrs where they made a firm base and sent a patrol under Lieut Day into San Vito

0545 At 0545 hrs, cheers & shouting of “Inglese” were heard followed by shooting.  The patrol had been lead into the town by a local.  They had gained the square in the town before contacting Germans and had received a great welcome from the populace.  They took several prisoners before they were observed by two armoured cars which opened fire on the patrol.  Great confusion was resultant in the town, in which ten of the patrol escaped & laid up – Lt Day was seriously wounded & is now posted as POW.  Eight others were captured.  This patrol must have had a terrific effect on the German forces defending the bridge 3607 against the 2 LIR

0900 At 0900 hrs, Adjutant received a delayed report that forward coys were making good progress over very difficult ground and had reached approx 378108.  Command Group in HO 405085.  C Coy area high ground 399086.  B Coy still in area 408077.  Adjutant’s  Group then moved to Command Group & B Coy was ordered on to high ground 400080.  It ultimately transpired that A & D Coys had reached 373110 at 0515 hrs where they made a firm base & sent a patrol under Lt Day into San Vito.

1100 A & D Coys remained in area 372113 all day and were counter attacked determinedly at approximately  1100 hrs and 1300 hrs.

1300 Captain OFB Jewell and Lt Fricke were wounded in this latter action.  Both attacks were driven off with a very satisfactory ratio of casualties.  Apart from these formed attacks, infiltration by the enemy took place all day and at one time they were cut off by fire from the remainder of the Battalion.  The FOO, Captain Evans, 26/17 Field Regiment, gave valuable assistance throughout the course of the action.  At first dusk, Major JS Clarke, D Coy, ordered both coys back from the lip of the gully & prepared to spend the night at 376108.

2100 At 2100 hrs, he received orders from the CO to withdraw to area station 398093 and C Coy plus 1 platoon B Coy, moved up to high ground 390095. The Battalion was then out of contact with the enemy.  Casualties for this action – Nil and 10 killed, 2 and 10 wounded, 1 and 9 missing.  Captain NW Bass rejoined from hospital.

3rd December.

No contact all day.  2 LIR still fighting at first light at bridge 368075 until 6 Innisks went through with armour and occupied San Vito 3611 by 1500 hrs.  CO ordered B & C Coys forward to area 372112 prior to going to Brigade at 1600 hrs.

1600 Battalion HQ to 393097.  Just a forward coy had reported in position at approx 1900 hrs, Adjutant was ordered by CO on 22 set from Brigade to prepare Battalion for move to high ground 3512  NW of San Vito.  Coys warned and lined up on coast rd in following order of march:- B,C,D,A,Bn HQ.

CO arrived back at 1930 hrs and the Battalion moved off.  Road cratered four times before Battalion arrived on High Ground NW of San Vito 3512.  This made carriage of gunners & Battalion rear link sets difficult, although mules were employed for batteries.  Great silence during advance impossible and no contact was made – probably owing to size of our force & smallness of likely posts.

4th December.

0130 At 0130 hrs, head of Battalion reached area 356127.  Coys consolidated in fairly close formation with Battalion HQ in HO 35612

0300 At approximately 0300 hrs, a local patrol from D Coy contacted a fairly large enemy patrol – no casualties either side.  By dawn it became obvious that the enemy was still holding ground east of R. Moro and B & C Coys were instructed to push forward to ground overlooking the R. Moro.  In doing so, quite determined resistance was met & Major JE McNally MC was wounded.  Major RLC Wood took command of B & C Coys but was killed by a mortar bomb.  Major DEH Hayward MC & Capt. GL Richards MM sent to assume command of B & C Coys respectively.  Battalion given 1 Squadron tanks to clear high ground but no contact was made with them until the evening.  Enemy counterattacked all day, but after a re-disposition was made of Battalion, these were beaten off & 20 POWs were taken.  C Coy 6 Innisks placed under command.

1800 B & C Coys launched final attack with tanks & captured high ground overlooking R. Moro.  A Coy moved forward & consolidated with B & C Coys.  During whole of the day the line of supply & evacuation was under fire from snipers, who were ultimately disposed of.  Captain RE Wilkin wounded in the chest leading a mule train of ammo & supplies.  Battalion received these mules during darkness – at no time during this action did the Battalion go long without food.  Casualties for day’s fighting 1 & 5 KIA, 2 & 29 wounded.

5th December.

0200 During the early hrs, two patrols went out under Lt EL Gibbon & Sgt Tristham to recce width & depth  & approaches of R. Moro.  This they did – dimensions 20 x 4, approaches steep with a 12’ slope.  Major HN Holmes to hospital.  Quiet day except for intermittent mortaring of any movement.

1530 At 1530 hrs, a Recce party arrived from the Edmonton Regt, 1 Canadian Div, who were to relieve us during the evening.  Coy dispositions shown to Canadian Coy reps.

2100 Battalion relieved by 2100 hrs & proceeded to old area Rocca by march route.  Casualties Nil & 1 KIA.  Nil & 1 wounded.

6th December.

Spent the day cleaning up & resting.  Recce party under command Major NW Bass sent to Castelbordino – slight delay owing to Sangro bridges being down.

7th December.

0900 33 TCVs arrived & Battalion moved to Castelbordino 4894 at 0900 hrs.  Arrived 1800 hrs to find bivouacs erected & every man under cover.

8th December.

1000 At 1000 hrs, CO left for Castelnouvo 9433, new location, with Padre, Captain H Grayden MC. Orders for Battalion to move.

9th December.

0035 Battalion moved off embussed at 0035 hrs.  Convoy travelled very well.  Arrived Castelnuovo at 1400 hrs where Recce Party had obtained billets for whole Battalion.

10th December.

Battalion settled into new billets.  CO’s inspection & slight adjustment of billet allocation.

11th December.

As for 10 December.

12th December.

Officers’ leave commenced.  Captain JK Brown & Captain GL Richards first to go.

13th December.

ORs leave to Campobasso started – 35 vacancies.  Lt GMJ Chambers joined from Brigade HQ.

14th December.

Commencement of slight training – drill, weapons, PT.

15th December.

Local recreation in form of 60 vacancies for cinema at Lucera.  Major DEH Hammond MC to allied school of infantry.  Lt NW Gamble joined from hospital.

16th December.

6 NCOs to Naples on leave.

17th December.

Captain WH Lang, RAMC, RMO wounded 28 Nov 43, died of wounds at 19 CCS.

18th December.

Captain JK Brown and 2/Lt RE Hogan, MM assumed duties of Adjutant and OC D Coy during absence on leave of Captain. BDH Clarke and Major JS Clark.

20th December.

Following immediate awards announced – Major PJ Proctor (deceased) – MC, 7011135 Sgt W Jackson (deceased) MM, 7017402 Fusilier R Gallagher MM.

21st December.

The following officers joined the Battalion: Captain BL Kentish (attached A Coy), Lts N Plymen (posted to B Coy), CR Titterton (posted to D Coy)

22nd December.

Captain TB Cammiade rejoined from hospital.

23rd December.

Captain BDH Clark and Major JS Clark returned from leave.  Following officers joined:  Major DRT Dawson (assumed command A Coy), Lt BD Room (posted to C Coy).

24th December.

1730 Verbal warning ordered received for move to Castel Petroso NOT before 1030 hrs 27 Dec. 43.

26th December.

1530 Brigade movement order received.

1930 Battalion movement order issued.

28th December.

1010 Battalion moved in accordance with movement order.

1400 Battalion HQ, HQ, A,B, C Coys reached destination.

1900 D and S Coys reached destinations.

Locations Battalion HQ and HQ Coy Castelpetroso 2828.  A,B,C Coys S. Angelo 3128. D and S Coys S. Maria 3027.

29th December.

2100 Verbal warning order for move to area Rionero 1145.

30th December.

0830 CO, IO, Officer rep per Coy left for Brigade conference at Forli 1448.

1000 Conference with reps 11 Brigade. Battalion will take over from 2 Lancashire Fusiliers (2 LF) in area Castel Di Sangro 0853, road junction 0749, Rionero 1145 during night 31 Dec/1 Jan 44.

1130 Coy reps returned to coys with message for O Group to RV at Rionero 1145 at 1700 hrs.

1400 CO and IO arrived Rionero, saw rep 2 LF and saw billets in Rionero.

1700 O Group arrived Rionero.  Orders for take-over from 2 LF.

1800 Coy commanders returned to coys.  CO and IO to Castel Di Sangro to see CO 2 LF.

2000 CO and IO returned to Rionero.

31st December.

1000 Battalion movement order issued.

1200 Z for move announced at 1345 hrs.

1400 Head of convoy passed SP 15 mins late owing to failure of TCVs to report to D Coy at proper time.

1430 Sleet turning to snow as convoy advanced into mountains.

1545 Fourth and subsequent vehicles of convoy erroneously turned off towards Forli at road junction 150412 owing to failure of IO (Capt. TB Cammiade) to post a DR at the turning.  Subsequent confusion sorted out by 1700 hrs.

1700 Snowing heavily by now.  Blizzard developing.  Move forward continued by coy groups but road proved impassable to vehicles.  Unit vehicles left on road.  Troops debussed and marched from one mile south of Rionero.

1900 Blizzard at height.

2300 Battalion takeover complete except for standing patrol at road junction 0749.