Battle of Maletto

During the afternoon of 11th August, the battalion moved to an assembly area south of Bronte 772410. Recces were being carried out for a night attack on the town of Maletto and the surrounding features.

The plan was as follows:

8 A & SH to capture Macherone 775413 and ground to the right to make good the battalion Start Line.

1 RIrF to capture Capella 7614 and occupy Maletto at first light.

2 LIR to capture Sperina 7714 and at first light Pt Maletto, 773148.

6 Innisks in reserve.

At 2100 hrs, the battalion left the assembly area and started the approach march to the forming up area position. This proved to be the most difficult operation due to the extremely close country over which the advance took place. On his recce, the CO (Major APK O’Connor) realised that it would not be easy, but it was much worse that he conceived. Thick high walls, rocky tracks, close wooded country with thick undergrowth and innumerable terraces making obstacles and the advance by compass very difficult indeed. In addition, manhandling ammunition, supporting arms and wireless was no easy matter.

Owing to the above, the battalion was split up and by 0400 hrs, two platoons of E Coy and two platoons of G Coy were formed up under the command of Major Lofting. It transpired that the CO was forward with the remaining platoons of these two companies and after speaking with the Brigade Commander, he ordered the attack to proceed. The barrage had ceased an hour previously and as dawn was breaking the utmost speed was necessary.

The platoons advanced towards the objective, first meeting enfilade MG fire from the right flank, but due to the determination and leadership of the Platoon Commanders, all the objectives were reached. Special mention is made of Lieut Seymour and Lieut White’s platoons, who showed great dash and courage.

The enemy on the hill did not show a great deal of fight, thirty seven prisoners being taken. The enemy, however, were in strength, holding the wooded ground to the right rear, enfilading our positions and bringing fire to bear on the forward companies.

At 1030 hrs, F Coy were ready to attack and went across the bullet swept ground to take their objective on the right of Sperina. Here, something went wrong as it was intended that they should sweep round to the right and clear the wood to the right rear en route. The Coy Commander, Major Fitzgerald, understood this and intended to do so. Why it was not done is not known – Major Fitzgerald was killed in the attack. Had this been carried out, the situation should have been cleared up early in the day. In addition, the artillery plan miscarried, the smoke ordered on the objective was not put down and the HE on suspected mortar positions was not forthcoming either, despite a successful shoot on these same targets earlier.

Despite this, the company concerned succeeded in capturing the objective under heavy mortar and MG fire.

Artillery fire was brought down during the rest of the day on enemy positions but only succeeded in neutralising them for short periods, throughout the remainder of the afternoon and evening, the battalion was subjected to spasmodic MG and mortar fire and sniping at any movement in the open. This was neutralised by fire when possible.

The MMGs and 3” Mortars, manhandled up during the night, found difficulty in getting into effective positions in the close country and although some fire was brought down by those weapons, it was not as effective as it should have been. 2” Mortars were invaluable.

Communication was difficult as batteries had run down and none could be supplied to the forward companies. Information was passed back by the CO, who was well forward and unable to get back, to the IO, who was also pinned down with E Coy HQ and from there back to Bttn HQ. Most of the artillery targets were engaged in this way.

By 2000 hrs, all firing had died down and a patrol, commanded by Sgt Oakley, the Pioneer Sgt, was sent out at 2100 hrs to the right. This found the enemy positions unoccupied, but many S mines, one of which was set off but fortunately caused no casualties.

H Coy had been used as carrying company, and although the CO tried from his forward position to see them during the afternoon to clear the right flank, his orders did not get through.

At midnight, E and F Coys were relieved by the 8 A & SH and came into reserve, G Coy remaining in position on Sperina till next day.