The London Irish at Centuripe/Salso river

On the evening of 1st August, the battalion moved to the foothills of Centuripe in the area 6389. After leaving the Catenanuova to Centuripe road about 633874, no transport was get to the battalion except for occasionally when it was in the vicinity of a road or a track till the end of the action. This fact meant that all food, ammunition, and wireless, except for the rear link, had to man handled forward. Coupled with the difficult country over which the battalion operated, this proved to be the chief difficulty and made the operation a tiring and a tedious one.

At midday on 2nd August, after a recce had been made for an attack on the right, the battalion was ordered to attack positions on the west of the town as a prelude to the final assault by 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF.

The battalion objectives were pt 611 (631921), pt 704 (637920) and pt 703 (643922). At this time, the 6 RWK  were in position on pt 634 (629915) and pt 688 (632915), but it later turned out that they were not in possession of pt 699, a fact which hindered reconnaissance and prevented pt 611 being pointed out to Major Fitzgerald, the Coy Commander concerned.

The battalion moved from its lying up area at about 1300 hrs and reached the assembly area about 628912 after moving across difficult country at 1640 hrs. There, they had a meal while recces were being carried out:

The plan of attack was as follows:

G Coy on the right to capture pt 704.

F Coy on the left to capture pt 611.

H Coy to capture pt 703 moving forward thirty minutes after G Coy had captured pt 704, in conjunction with an attack by the 1 RIrF on the cemetery on their right. Full artillery support was given on pts 704 and 611 from z -15 to z + 5, later switching to pt 703 for H Coy’s attack. Zero hour was 1800 hrs. E Coy was used as carrying coy.

The attack was successful and the objectives captured with little opposition and few casualties, H Coy did not reach pt 703 for nearly two hours after the leading company had gone forward owing to difficulty of country and enfilade MG fire, but C Coy assisted to neutralise it.

F Coy overshot their objective as it had not been pointed out on the ground and actually reached pt 518 (632928) without opposition. It eventually came back and consolidated on the correct objective.

The objectives were consolidated early in the night.

From then, the battalion gave what help it could to the attacks of the 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF. Listening and recce patrols found no enemy on the battalion front during the night.

At 1000 hrs on 3rd August, the battalion was ordered to concentrate just west of Centuripe about 644918. Later orders were received to take up positions north of the town and west of the road to Aderno preparatory to making bridgehead over the River Salso on the next day. Strong fighting patrols to move across the river during the night to get information off the enemy.

At midday, the battalion moved forward through Centuripe and into the wadi north of the town. A convenient route was difficult to discover and the best available one was by no means easy. The battalion transport was unable to help the move forward.

The battalion was in position by 1930 hrs with F Coy on the right about pt 345 (671941), H Coy in the centre about 665941 and E Coy on the left about 660940. G Coy, which was to provide the patrols during the night, in reserve with Bttn HQ, about 662934.

During the afternoon, the Patrol leaders and NCOs from G Coy studied the ground from the commanding feature of pt 620 (658932). At first light, the three fighting patrols, each of one platoon strong, crossed the river.

Patrol A, commanded by Lieut O’Connor, going west of the main road to the bend in the road at 699957 and back via the Railway Station at 695957.

Lieut White, commanding Patrol B, went to the Viaduct at 697964.

Lieut Lyness, commanding Patrol C, went to Carcaci.

The patrols were to discover whether these three places were held and whether the Bridge at 700957 was blown. In addition, they were to discover any enemy posts en route and to gain information as to the ground.

No enemy was encountered but valuable information was gained about the country. During the night, the Brigade Rear Link was damaged by a mule and direct contact with brigade was not established again till 1535 hrs on 4th August. During this morning, small recce patrols were sent forward from F and H Coys to contact the enemy. Sgt Donaghy of F Coy reported two MG posts at 684947 and 686950. In addition, a further recce by the Intelligence Sgt revealed that the River Salso was a few inches deep but that there was no possible crossing for MT on the battalion front.

S Coy moved forward during the early morning and was concentrated in the olive groves about 666935. Its move forward was hampered by enemy shelling and a diversion on the road. In addition, once concentrated movement was difficult off the road south of the river.

By 1130 hrs, orders for the attack to gain the bridgehead had been received. The attack, with a heavy weight of artillery support, was to begin at 1500 hrs. 2 LIR were to attack on the left, 1 RIrF on the right.

The companies advanced behind the barrage, F Coy on the right, H Coy on the left, G Coy followed F Coy and E Coy followed H Coy. Apart from one or two snipers and MG posts from the right flank, there was no opposition and by 1700 hrs, the battalion was across.

Dispositions were as follows:

F Coy about 685951 and H Coy about 683952.

E Coy was moved up to protect the left flank and were in position on a small ridge at 678953. G Coy was in reserve at 684950.

The Brigade Commander then ordered that, if possible, the battalion was to establish itself during the night on the south bank of the River Simeto, in preparation for the establishment of a bridgehead across the river the next morning. In addition, if opposition was light, to try and infiltrate across the river if opportunity offered. G Coy was therefore sent forward at last light taking with it guides from F Coy, who were to lead F Coy forward, if conditions were favourable. No opposition was met and, by first light, G and F Coys were both dug in on the west bank of the river, F Coy on the right at 699959 and G Coy on the left at 697960.