Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


2 LIR – August 1943

1 August, Wednesday

1600 Battalion moves down from the hills to almond groves west of Catenanuova.

1900 Battalion warned to move for probable night attack on Centuripe if attack by 1 East Surreys is unsuccessful.

2100 Battalion moved by march route to concentration area in hills below town of Centuripe and was in position by 0230 hrs. Proposed battalion attack was cancelled and commanding officer went to Brigade for further orders.

2 August, Thursday

1200 Warning order: Brigade to attack and capture Centuripe and the surrounding features.

1 RIF and 6 Inniskillings to capture the town.

2 LIR to capture Pts 661, 704 and 703 (639) towards the rear of the town.

1300 Battalion moves to forming up position behind forward companies of 6 RWK on Pts 610 and 668 (6291), Italy, Sheet 269-1 NW, 1/25000.

1700 Commanding Officer’s orders for the attack: F Company to capture Pt 661, G Company to capture Pt 704. H Company to Pt 703. E Company in reserve as carrying company. Battalion HQ to be established on Pt 488.

1800 F and G Companies moved forward into the attack and after very little opposition were established on their objectives by 2000 hrs.

2000 H Company moved forward to attack pt 703 and after clearing small pockets of resistance in the way of snipers and machine gun posts were in position by 2100 hrs.

2100 Battalion locations were as follows;

F Company pt 661 632921. G Company Pt 704 637920. E Company Pt 644920.

E Company and Battalion HQ Pt 688 632915.

3 August, Friday

1000 Battalion moves to concentration area about one mile west of Centuripe.

O Group moved forward Pt 620 658932. Intention of 38 Brigade to occupy foothills north of Centuripe leading down to the River Salso.

1700 Battalion moves through town and down through hills to positions one mile from River Salso. E Company 661391; F Company 668941; G Company 667937; H Company 663943.

Battalion HQ established 664837 (Sheet 269-1 Italy 1/50,000).

2100 Patrol Programme for night 3/4 August.

Patrol A (Lieut O’Connor) to patrol to R June 659957.

Patrol B (Lieut White) to Viaduct 697964.

Patrol C (Lieut Lyness) to go to Carcaci 690965.

All three patrols left at 2100 hrs and returned at approx 0500 hrs. They made no contact with the enemy but gained valuable information with regard to the topography of the land over which the battalion was due to advance. Close wooded groves, many terraces and small houses showing signs of recent Germany occupation. The River Salso was fordable and the Bridge at 700957 was blown.

4 August, Saturday

0900 Small patrol recces River Salso for possible motor transport crossing. None available.

E Company arrive in almond grove East of Battalion HQ at 667936. They were shelled whilst arriving down the road from Centuripe. No vehicles were damaged but the Carrier Platoon sustained a few casualties.

1100 Recce patrols from F and H Companies cross River Salso. Enemy machine gun posts identified.

1200 Commanding Officers’ orders for the forming of the bridgehead across River Salso.

F Company right; E Company left followed by G and E Companies respectively.

1500 Artillery barrage commences prior to battalion attack. Companies begin to move forward and advance just behind the barrage. All objectives were successfully taken, only one or two positions being encountered and these mainly from the right flank where the 1 RIF were doing a similar task in forming the Brigade bridgehead.

1700 All companies on their objectives.

E Company 676959; F Company 686953; G Company 682950; H Company 680954.

1900 Battalion HQ move across river and established at 678953.

2100 G Company moves forward and take up positions on the South bank of the River Simeto.

2300 F Company move forward and take up positions on the left of G Company.

5 August, Sunday

0400 F and G Companies dig in and established along river bank.

0600 E Company move forward to left flank at Carcaci.

0700 Battalion HQ and H Company move to Railway Station at 695958.

0800 E Company established with 9 Platoon on the river bank on the left of F Company. 8 Platoon supporting them and 7 Platoon and Company HQ at Carcaci.

For the remainder of the morning, G Company and the forward Platoon and E Company engaged the enemy across the river with machine gun and rifle fire and the forward companies were shelled and mortared in their positions.

0900 E Company contact the Canadians on our left flank and the general picture is clarified.

1015 E Company report force of about 50 Germans attempting to infiltrate around the left flank of the battalion.

1100 The Brigade Sp Group arrive and engage these enemy with heavy mortars with considerable accuracy causing heavy casualties. As enemy retreats across open country from the hills they are engaged with MMG fire causing them to retreat in disorder well beyond the river.

1300 Commanding Officers’ orders for the attack to form the bridgehead across the River Simeto.

1 RIF on the right

2 LIR on the left of the main Centuripe-Aderno road.

6 Innisks to enlarge the bridgehead once situation is established.

F Company right; H Company left; G Company in support.

E Company and Battalion HQ remain present location.

1500 Artillery barrage commences prior to the attack.

1530 F and H Companies move forward. Great difficulty was experienced clambering up the steep sides of the far river bank and there were only three places in which the companies could get up this forming bottlenecks which had to be crossed. The forward platoon of F Company suffered casualties in the initial stages including the Platoon Commander Lieutenant H G Allen, who was killed.

The other two platoons of F Company worked their way round to the right flank and after fairly heavy fighting took up positions about a hundred yards forward of the river bank where they had the best fields of fire.

H Company on the left had similar difficulties. The leading Platoon managed to gain some ground in front of the river and when it was help up the remaining platoon moved right handed to gain their objective. This they did 16 Platoon sustaining heavy casualties including the Platoon Commander Lieutenant A G Howells, who was killed.

1730 These two forward companies held their positions for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, but were unable to exploit them for the remainder of the afternoon and evening due to the number of snipers who infiltrated forward.

2000 At dusk, G Company moved across the river to assist the forward companies and also brought them reserve ammunition and supplies. Mortars and MMGs are manhandled across the river.

The enemy retired that night to the hills around Aderno.

Two companies of 6 Innisks crossed the river to enlarge the bridgehead.

2200 Situation on Battalion front established as follows:

F Company 703958; G Company 701962; H Company 703961.

E Company and Battalion HQ remain present location.

Topographical note: When the battalion left the assembly area near Catenanuova and moved into the hills on August 1st, there was no period when normal transport, except an occasional jeep when we were in the vicinity of a track, was able to be brought forward to the battalion during the next six days of fighting. Mules were not available and so during the time the battalion fought at Centuripe and forged the two bridgeheads across the Rivers Salso and Simeto, everything had to be carried on the man. All supplies, if the jeeps were unable to bring them forward, were carried by the reserve company and also they had to manhandle the 3” mortars and MMGs and the Brigade Rear link.

Coupled with the difficult country over which the battalion operated, this proved to be the chief difficulty and made the operation a tiring and tedious one.

W/Lieutenant R G Allen (RUR) killed in action.

W/Lieutenant A G Howells (Beds & Herts) killed in action.

6 August, Monday

0900 Lieutenant Lyness commanding 14 Platoon recce area forward of company positions. They managed to patrol as far forward as 784966 towards Aderno and located enemy MG posts and snipers. They gave covering fire and smoke to a similar patrol of 6 Innisks whose leading section was pinned down and unable to withdraw.

1800 Heavy fire from German six-barrelled mortars fall in battalion areas. No casualties.

2359 Artillery barrage commences preparatory to attack on Aderno by 11 and 38 Brigades.

Battle Report 1-5 August Attached as APP “A”

Battle Report, Advance of Battalion on 1-6 August Attached as APP “B’

7 August, Tuesday

0400 16 Brigade enter Aderno without opposition.

2 LIR with Squadron 50 RTR and “C” Squadron 56 Recce advance up road to Bronte.

0900 Battalion HQ moves to area 698960 (Sheet 269-1, Italy 1/50,000)

Present position of battalion as follows:

E Company Carcaci area: F Company 702958; G Company 702962; H Company 703961.

H Company and “B” Echelon move to area Railway Station at 695958.

Battalion rests after six days strenuous action.

8 August, Wednesday

1000 5 Northamptons reported in Bronte.

Battalion rests all day.

9 August, Thursday

Battalion rests all day.

10 August, Friday

1400 Battalion warned to move and concentrate across River Simeto.

1430  Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer report to 36 Brigade HQ for orders. Probable night attack on Maletto, advancing forward of 11 and 36 Brigades.

1600 Battalion HQ and S Company move across river.

Battalion HQ established 706960. E Company 707959. “B” Echelon remain present location.

11 August, Saturday

0600 Commanding Officer goes to Brigade for final orders.

0800 Commanding Officers orders: General administrative details and gives outline of 38 Brigade attack on Maletto and surrounding features. Battalion to be ready to move as from 1200 hrs.

1500 Battalion moves by transport to concentration area 2 miles South of Bronte.

1700 Major A P K O’Connor assumes command of the battalion due to the indisposition of Lt-Col Rogers. He gives out his orders for the attack, recces having been carried out during the middle of the day.

Right – 2 LIR to attack Mount Sperina 7714 and then clear hill behind called River Valetto 7714.

Left – 1 RIF to attack Capella 7614 and then at first light to clear the town.

6 Innisks in reserve.

8 A & S H (Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) to occupy Mount Macherone 7513 by 2359 hrs to make good the Brigade Start Line.

Order of companies: E and G Company forward, supported by F Company. H Company in reserve. Vehicles remain south of Aderno in battalion’s previous location. All supplies by mules.

1830 Intelligence Officer and Intelligence Section report to 8 A & S H to move forward with them in order to recce positions for the battalion FUP (forming up point) and Start Line.

2100 Battalion leaves concentration area on approach march to Start Line.

This was discovered at the last moment to be the most difficult operation due to the exceptionally close country over which the battalion had to advance. On his recces, which were exceptionally limited, the Commanding Officer realised that it would not be easy but no one could conceive the difficulties of the country over which the battalion eventually passed.

Thick high walls, rocky tracks, close wooded country with thick undergrowth and many terraces all making innumerable obstacles for the Company Commanders who were trying to advance on a compass bearing. Although mules were available, the situation did not permit them to be brought forward to the battalion and in any case the mules would never have been able to get through that close country. All stores, MMGs and mortars had to be dumped about two miles and carried through this shocking country by the reserve company. Again, during the actual advance of the battalion, the Brigade Rear Link had to manhandle forward with all its batteries as also were the FOO’s wireless sets.

12 August, Sunday

0200 Mount Macherone and positions to the right occupied by 8 A&SH without opposition.

0230 Artillery barrage commences to support 38 Brigade attack on Capella and Sperina.

0400 2 Platoons of E Company and 2 Platoons of G Company arrive at Start Line.

0500 Major Lofting in command of this force attack Western end of Sperina and join up with the remaining platoons of these two companies who had somehow gone a little way forward with the Commanding Officer.

0730 E and G Company on the objective. They had met very heavy enfilade fire crossing the road which ran parallel to the objective and although gaining their positions were unable to exploit them or dig in due to the MG and mortar fire coming from the right rear of the Sperina.

Special mention is made of 8 and 14 Platoons who showed great dash and courage clearing the machine gun and sniper posts on the hill. The enemy did not show quite as much fight as he might have done and were quickly killed or rounded up. 37 prisoners were taken in all.

0800 It was now realised that force of the enemy were still occupying positions on the right rear of the Sperina feature. The Commanding Officer ordered that F Company when they were ready would occupy the right hand edge of Sperina, clearing this opposition on the right on their way.

1030 F Company advance towards the enemy opposition and come under heavy fire. They engage. It was then that something went wrong. F Company suddenly switched their advance and made straight for their objective on Sperina. The Company Commander had realised his orders and why the original plan was not carried out will never be known – the Company Commander was killed leading his company across the bullet swept ground which led to Sperina.

For the remainder of the afternoon, the battalion was subjected to machine gun and mortar fire and little movement was possible due to the vigilance of the enemy machine gun crews and the well concealed snipers.

Artillery fire was brought down on enemy positions throughout the whole day and counter battery work only succeeded in neutralizing the enemy for short periods.

2000 Most of the enemy fire had died down by this time.

2100 Patrol from Pioneer Platoon recces right flank of the battalion and finds enemy positions unoccupied. “S” mines are encountered and one was set off, fortunately causing no casualties.

2330 E and F Companies relieved by 8 A&SH and move into reserve.

G Company remain on Sperina.

1 RIF having gained their objectives during the day pass through our lines moving up the main road to Randazzo.

A/Major J Fitzgerald killed in action.

W/Lieutenant j St Maur-Sheil wounded in action.

13 August, Monday

0300 11 Brigade pass through battalion area moving up road to Randazzo.

0700 Sit Rep:  RIF one mile from Randazzo.

6 Innisks at 7812.

11 Brigade enter Randazzo with the Americans.

Roads and town heavily mined.

2 LIR remain present location.

0900 Lt-Col Rogers re-assumes command of the battalion.

1600 G Company return to battalion area from Sperina.

1700 Battalion locations as follows:

E Company 777135; F Company 774136; G Company 775135; H Company 778136.

Battalion HQ 772135.

S Company to move into area 753133 on the following morning.

The total casualties of the battalion in the Sicilian Campaign were –

3 Officers killed and 1 wounded.

21 OR’s killed, 50 wounded and 15 missing.

14 August, Tuesday

Battalion rests all day and companies reorganise stores etc after the battle.

1400 RE (Royal Engineer) detachment clear mines in battalion area. Large belt of minds discovered across track leading from battalion area to the main Maletto-Randazzo road.

15 August, Wednesday

Lt-Col Good and Major Brookes 1 LIR, visit the battalion.

Battalion rests.

W/Lieutenant T C Caborne joins battalion from X (iv) list.

16 August, Thursday

Battalion rests.

American troops reported on outskirts of Messina. Forward elements of the 5th Army advancing swiftly and are a few miles from the town.

T/Major A P K O’Connor admitted to ADS.

T/Captain J P Delaney (RUR) admitted to ADS.

17 Americans enter Messina, followed by forward elements of 8th Army. End of all resistance in Sicily.

18 August, Friday

Battalion rests. Major Stopford and Major Gibbs, 1 LIR, visit the battalion, Arrangements made to convey parties to visit the each battalion.

19 August, Saturday

Company training and leave periods commence. E Company, G Company, half HQ Company and F Company move to coastal rest area near Patti. Established in area 8850 (Italy Sheet xxx 1/100,000).

20 August, Sunday

Church services. No training.

Battalion Training Instruction and Programmes of Work issued.

Lessons of the Sicilian Campaign. (letter to 38 (Irish) Inf Bde.)

21 August, Monday

Company training.

W/Lieutenant J D O’Rourke (RUR) admitted to ADS.

Captain L J Samuels (RAMC) admitted to ADS.

22 August, Tuesday

Major J D Lofting assumes command of the battalion vice Lt-Col Rogers on leave.

Company training.

First leave party to the coast returns to the battalion.

23 August, Wednesday

Remainder of the battalion – F Company, H Company and second half of HQ and E Companies move to Rest Area on the coast. Established same location.

24 August, Thursday

Company training.

T/Captain G Fitzgerald (RUR) joined battalion from X (iv) list.

T/Major A P K O’Connor (KOYLI) joins battalion from X (ii) list.

T/Captain M Tasker admitted to ADS.

25 August, Friday

Company training.

26 August, Saturday

Lt-Col Rogers returns from leave and resumes command of the battalion.

27 August, Sunday

Battalion less E Company and QM warned to move to new location at Rest Area on coast. Companies already in the Rest Area warned to remain in their present location.

W/Lieut E Daly (RUR) admitted to ADS.

T/Major D W Conroy (RUR) admitted to ADS.

28 August, Monday

1130 Battalion less E Company and QM arrive in new battalion location. Battalion HQ established 8859×3.

29 August, Tuesday

1030 Remainder of battalion arrives.

Battalion now fully concentrated and established as follows:

E Company 884503; F Company 883503; G Company 882503; H Company 881503;

Battalion HQ at 884583.

S Company 885498.

30 August

Company training recommences.

W/Lieut Barker (S Staffs) joins battalion from X (iv) list.

31 August

Company training. 2i/c and Company Commanders recce battalion training area.