Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


2 LIR – November 1943

1 November

Intermittent enemy shelling throughout the day of area Bridge 631795.


2 November

1900 Commanding Officer called to Brigade HQ. He stopped overnight and temporary command of Battalion fell to Major Gibbs.

Intermittent enemy shelling throughout the day of area Bridge 631795. Some shells fell in E Company’s area 612792 and caused seven casualties, one of them fatal.

1130 Commanding Officer returned from Brigade and resumed command of Battalion.

1400 Orders for attack on San Salvo. 11 Brigade right along the coast to San Salvo station, thence into village. 36 Brigade left along axis of main road. 6 Innisks under command of 36 Brigade 2 LIR to hold bridgehead over River Trigno. 1 RIF on high ground south of the river covering the road from Montenero. 1 Squadron 56 Recce to area 6177. In support of attack, 5 Regiment Field Artillery 3 Regiments Medium Artillery, 46 RTR. 2 Destroyers to shell Cupella 5586 and Vasto 5890. 36 and 38 Brigades support groups to concentrate in area 6478 and commence diversionary barrage on high ground west of San Salvo in order to mislead the enemy.

2130 Enemy put down concentrated artillery barrage on areas 631795, 632791, 624790.


3 November

0200 Diversionary barrage by 36 and 38 Brigade’s support groups commenced. Enemy counter battery work in protest.

0400 Zero hour for attack

1000 Enemy withdrawing from San Salvo. RAF bombing retreating troops. Cupello bombed for the third time within an hour. Our tanks and two Battalions of infantry by-passed San Salvo and are north of the town.

Lieutenant F Lyness relinquished appointment of intelligence officer and Lieutenant J D White appointed.

1050 6 Innisks and 5 Buffs on objectives and the position is as follows: 5 Buffs area 605835 – 606843 with some of our tanks on their left. 6 Innisks area 601828 – 609829 with one Company cleaning up San Salvo.

1100 Andrew (609840) taken by 5 Buffs. This Battalion was being heavily mortared and the enemy were counter attacking with tanks. Our own tanks are going to their assistance. So far 1 Mark IV Tank and 2 anti-tank guns are known to have been knocked out, and many enemy anti-tank guns are known to have been located at 580844 and their mortars SW of San Salvo area 6082, and it seems as if a tank battle is imminent. 1 E S and 36 Brigade transport and tanks are all across the river, the diversion still being OK.

1130 Approx 15 FW 190s bomb gun areas 6778 – 6779

1400 San Salvo station occupied by 11 Brigade.

1530 6 FW 190s bomb same area as before.

1930 Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer to Brigade HQ.


4 November

0900 2 German soldiers identified as belonging to 16 Pioneer Battalion and 1/64 Panzer Grenadier Regiment surrendered to E Company at Farm 621803.

1500 Battalion HQ moved to Farm 633788.


5 November

F Company move from Farm 633788 to 634784 and G Company move from area 628795 to Farm 633788.


6 November

1030 Brigadier at Battalion HQ. 

1100 Vasto and Cupello occupied by a 11 and 36 Brigade respectively.

2100 Single enemy plane dropped 5 bombs towards Termoli.


7 November

0700 Commanding Officers to O Group.

1000 Battalion move by Companies to area 625805 where they embus in TCVs and transported to transit area north of Vasto. Battalion HQ established 580914 at 1200 hrs.

1600 Brigadier at Battalion HQ. Informed us that Castlebordino was occupied by 8 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and 2 Lancashire Fusiliers.

Mobile Bath Unit arrived in Battalion Area and all ranks had the opportunity of having a bath.


8 November

Battalion will move to Brigade concentration area at S Lorenza 5591.

1300 Motor Transport columned moved by road to new area.

1330 Marching personnel move by track to new area. Battalion HQ establish Farm 558916 at 1430 hrs. E Company 559919, F Company 559916, G Company 558916, H Company 556917, S Company 559914.

1500 Brigadier visits Battalion HQ.


9 November

0900 Commanding Officer’s O Group and promotion conference at Battalion HQ. Routine wef 10th Reveilled 0630 – Breakfast 0730 Midday Meal 1230 Dinner 1630 Supper 1900. No Stand to. 


10 November

Settling-in new area.


11 November

Mixed divine service.

Representative football match in afternoon. 2 LIR v 1 RIF. Result 2 LIR 8 – 1 RIF 1


12 November

Route Marches under Company arrangements.

Battalion had use of Mobile Baths up till 1630 hrs.

2100 Commanding Officer called to Brigade.


13 November

Route marchers under Company arrangements.

H Company under direction of Intelligence Section practice river crossing in daylight.


14 November

Divine service for all denominations other than RCs conducted by Lieutenant Colonel (C F Class II) V Pike, 5 Corps. RC services in Chapel San Lorenzo. Representative football match; 2 LIR v 6 Innisks. Result 2 LIR 1   6 Innisks 0.


15 November

Intelligence Section and two pioneers proceed to headquarters. 44 RTR 463928 to make a sand model of area Fossacesia 3904.

Warning order to move (later postponed).

Lieutenant J D O’Rourke rejoined from hospital and took over duties of Intelligence Officer. 


16 November

Intelligence Section and 2 pioneers to HQ. 44 RTR as for previous day.

Warning order for move to new area.


17 November

0130 Motor Transport column move via road Vasto 5890 – to Castlebordino area 4894.

0745 Companies leave San Lorenza areas by march route for new area. Dispositions now E Company Farm 513956 F Company area 456945 G Company area 453927 H Company area 517964 S Company 453936

Battalion HQ 452929. 


18 November

0750 All officers less Major D W Conroy, Captain R G Cockburn and Captain P P Giles attended lecture on sand model at 44 RTR Headquarters.

1100 Major H E N Bredin MC and Bar posted to unit from x(iv) list as 2nd i/c.


19 November

0730 Commanding Officer’s Group. To forward observation post to view ground over River Sangro.

1000 Commanding Officer’s Group assemble at ‘Cloth Model’ (44 RTR) for conference.

1500 Battalion HQ moved from area 452929 to 44 RTR HQ and were allotted tanks.


20 November

0200 Battalion moved on tanks of 44 RTR and 50 RTR. Intention to reach an assembly area below Paglieta.

0500 Tanks of 50 RTR unable to move up slope of R Osento owing to mud (continual rain from 0600-1200).

(Draft 9 other ranks from x (iv) 20/11/43.)

(Undermentioned were mentioned in Despatches for African Campaign:

226616 Lieutenant T W H Wilson

216839 Lieutenant and Quartermaster D Aitkenhead

7008967 Sergeant E Bird

7014676 PLC A North

7014630 Rifleman B Mawdsley

1300 Commanding Officer’s recce group move off to new area.

1400 Battalion move off by Companies to new area. The march was exhausting owing to mud and steep hills.

1800 Battalion established in area Scatozzo about 1 mile south of Paglieta. Battalion HQ 413944.


21 November

1400 Companies remain in area Scatozzo; Battalion HQ move to Farm 413944.


22 November

RAF Mitchell and Kittyhawk bombers bomb and machine gun areas Fossacasia, San Maria and Lanciano throughout the day.


23 November

0200 Our artillery put down several heavy barrages during night to support 2/60 KRRs and Company of 8 Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders moving across River Sangro.

0330 Commanding Officer’s O Group move off from Battalion HQ by jeep for conference at Brigade HQ. Spasmodic heavy showers of rain from 0400 hrs.

2/60 KRRs (4 Armed Brigade) 5 Buffs, 6 RWKs and 8 A&SH (36 Brigade) 2 Lancashire Fusiliers 5 Northants (11 Brigade) in defensive positions on lower escarpment across River Sangro.

AM Enemy lay down fairly heavy artillery fire from possible 15cm guns in front of Paglieta and along river bed.

4 Armoured Brigade have got 10 tanks across the River Sangro. Most of them find it difficult to move across the very muddy ground.

Report from 8th Indian Division says that elements of 2nd New Zealand Division have taken Perano/H/38.

PM Rain has cleared away.

1900 Commanding Officer’s O Group returns from 38 Brigade conference at Castlebordino.


24 November

PM RAF planes attack targets as on two previous days. (very little enemy anti-aircraft fire).


25 November

1430 Battalion moved by march route across country, led by Commanding Officer’s recce group to Castlebordino.

Order of march G, H, E, F Company.

1830 Battalion established in billets in Castlebordino.

2000-2100 Enemy heavy guns shell north and west part of town.


26 November

Battalion bath at mobile bath unit Castlebordino.

PM 1 East Surreys relieve 5 Northampton over River Sangro.

Warning Order from Brigade for move across River Sangro tomorrow.

Army Commander passes through town, gives 250 cigarettes to RSM for Battalion


27 November

Lieutenant J D White MC (immediate)

1400 Intelligence Officer, Intelligence Section and Company Guides moves off by motor transport to recce river crossing and assembly area for Battalion.

B Echelon to move to Castelbordino tomorrow.

1830 Battalion left Castelbordino by RASC transport and debus at Gunners Alley, North of Torino di Sangro/H 4498.

2200 Battalion proceed by march route and cross river by Royal Engineers Bridge 430030 at 2330 hrs.

2200 Barrage goes down on San Maria and Mozzagrogna, supporting 8th Indian Division’s attack.


28 November

0300 Battalion arrive at assembly area below escarpment 400005 behind 8 A&SH. Tanks of 44 RTR also in area.

AM 8 Indian Division enter Mozzagrogna without opposition, but were counter-attacked by infantry supported by tanks and flamethrowers and had to retire from the village. Flamethrowers stated to be mounted on Mark III chassis. It has two pilot jets and an effective range of approximately 60 yards.

III Battalion 146 Grenadier Regiment identified at Mozzagrogna.

Layout of enemy defences on 5 Corps front appears to be as follow:

Guardiagrele H/1898 – III Battalion 146 Grenadier Regiment. Castel Frentano H/2999 – I and II Battalions 146 Grenadier Regiment Lanciano H/3303. A counter-attack force consisting of elements of I Battalion 145 & III Battalion Grenadier Regiments. Mozzagrogna H/3501. 6 & 7 Companies 145 Grenadier Regiment. Road San Maria-Fossacesia thence to coast H/4205 8,9,10,11 Companies 145 Grenadier Regiment.

0600 Intelligence Officer and Company guides go forward on recce for Battalion advanced forming up area. Reach a point within 300 yards of San Maria.

1000 IO’s group returns.

1000 CO goes to HQ of 44 RTR

1200-1300 Very heavy and concentrated artillery barrage on San Maria to support 8 Indian Division attack. Medium bombers over town at the same time. Enemy occasionally shelling approaches and gulleys leading up to San Maria. Two smoke shells near Fossacesia.

During the morning our RAF fighters kept a constant air umbrella over the battle area. Information obtained from civilians 3 German guns and numerous machine gun posts in San Maria area.

1400 2 enemy fighters recce over battlefield area.

1500 About 100 civilians evacuate from San Maria and pass through 6 Innisks lines.

1630 Two enemy fighter planes fly over battle area, drop bombs near RE bridge 425007. Our aircraft bomb and strafe the road San Maria-Fossacesia during the afternoon. Enemy occasionally shelled areas of RE bridges, 425007 and 400020.

1830 Commanding Officer’s O Group attended by Company commanders, IO, Adjutant, Signals Officer and representatives from REs, Ras and Kensington (MMGs)

Information – Battalion to be prepared to move from 0630 hrs 29th

8th Indian Division to take Mozzagrogna tonight. 6 Innisks to San Maria at first light. 2 LIR first objective after success signal from Brigadier is ridge Colli and road San Maria-Fossacesia. 2nd objective – Fossacesia. 1 RIF will then push on from Fossacesia to coast. 11 Brigade to make a mock attack on our right. At the same time 2 NZ Division who are now across River Sangro in strength will push up lateral road to Lanciano.

1830 A diversionary landing will be made at Pescara, with object of doing as much damage as possible. Troops landed will not remain if opposition is too strong.

2300 Artillery barrage supporting 8 Indian Division on Mozzagrogna.

Draft 9 other ranks (from x(iv)) join Battalion.

28/29 F Company as protection company in front of Battalion tonight.


29 November

0530 Artillery barrage supporting 6 Innisks on San Maria.

0630 Battalion ready to move.

Our artillery continuous from 0630-0830 on Colli and road San Maria-Fossacesia.

0730 Brigadier gives word “go” for battalion to move forward. Order of march G F H, Battalion HQ and E Company.

0830 Battalion HQ established at 398012.

0845 6 Innisks take first objective – Bridge 372019 with little opposition.

0920 Tanks are now on ridge supporting 6 Innisks.

0900-0930 12 medium bombers bomb road San Maria-Fossacesia.

0920 Enemy shell San Maria and approaches up to it.

1000 Report from tanks on ridge says that there are so many mines on Colli and area of road that it will be impossible for 2 LIR attack with tanks to come off today. Battalion less E Company remain with tanks and dig in. E Company in reserve to move back behind escarpment.

1030 Enemy 88mm firing from rear road San Maria – Fossacesia cause two casualties in E Company at Farm 398009. Enemy DF of forward edge of San Maria. One shell kills 19 other ranks of 1 Pl of 1 RIF in gully 400012. Enemy continue to shell approaches and gulley leading to San Maria.

1400 6 Innisks send two companies into San Maria to hold village.

6 Innisks to cover REs sweeping mines on Colli.

1400 1 RIF move through battalion position to assembly area just in front of us.

1450 6 Innisks in San Maria. 30 PW taken. Many enemy dead found.

1500 CO to Brigade O Group.

1700 CO returns – G Company to link up with tanks at 1800 hrs. Battalion to move at 0300 hrs 30th.

14 large bomber formations kept at shuttle service throughout the hours of daylight, and blasted away at the enemy. Enemy put in 3 separate counter-attacks on 5 Corp front but all were repulsed. PWs include Poles and Frenchmen.

Battalion casualties for the day were 3 killed and 4 wounded.

Captain P P Giles, and 2 ORs proceed on special duties.


30 November

8 A & SH take up position in San Maria, 6 Innisks on their right.

0330 Bn move to fwd concentration area at San Maria.

0600 Bn HQ est San Maria. Coys in posn along ridge to right of the village.

0610 IO and Int Sec move off to fwd edge of San Maria to contact tanks and G Coy.

0630 REs of Indian Div report to IO that road is clear of mines. Report from 78 Div says that 2 NZ Div have reached 3 miles south of Lanciano A/320030.

0830 Bn move fwd along ridge Colli supported by Arty box barrages. G Coy fwd left with tanks, F Coy left of road, H coy right of road, Bn HQ move behind H coy, E Coy in reserve behind Bn HQ.

0845 Sharp enemy Arty barrage on ridge near San Maria and on lower slopes 376020. (Enemy DF gives impression that he expects attack to come from front of ridge below Fossacesia and not along the ridge from San Maria). Enemy using 6 barrelled mortar (not very effective).

0900 Coys proceeding steadily with little opposition. Tanks on right of road bogged in muddy ground.

0900 C Ob Command group behind H Coy with Battle Patrol mop up Germans remaining in houses etc, passed by Coys. 3 enemy SP suns abandoned on road and one 88mm.

1000 Coys in Fossacesia. About 60 PWs taken so far. Enemy PWs say they were taken completely by surprise. Thought we must have gone from Rocca H/3805.

1130 Bn HQ established in town. Coys in defensive posn in and around the town.

1130 1RIrF pass through Bn in their attack towards the coast. Heavy Arty barrage supporting 1RIrF.

1200 Enemy located in trenches just below Bn HQ. Several of them rounded up. About 150 PW taken by the Bge so far this morning.

1730 G Coy ordered fwd to take Rocca – San Giovanni H/3805.

1830 G Coy report first bridge on road Fossacesia – Rocca intact.

1900 Situation on 5 Corps front. The enemy’s Sangro line has been destroyed after 3 days heavy fighting. The 65 Inf Div and particularly 145 Gren Regiment, which was responsible for the sector from Redicoppe 3399 to the sea, has sustained very heavy losses, including some 800 PWs, of which nearly 500 belonged to 145 Gren Regiment, The complete disintegration of this Regt as a result of the capture of Fossacesia – the Colli ridge 3702. San Maria – Mozzagrogna and Romagnoli has compelled the enemy to provide reserves from elements of 90th Gren Dvi (originally 90 Light Inf Div) and also apparently from 26 Pz Div. A series of unsuccessful counter attacks were launched supported by tanks of 26 Pz Div.

The PWs from 361 PGR state that they arrived in the area of San Vito 3-4 days ago from Venice and were committed almost at once. They were intended to counter attack on the Fossacesia – San Maria front. Identification of PW captured by 2LIR today – 5 & 12 Coys 361 Pz Greb Regt, 2 Coy 56 Arty Regt (90 Lt Div) and 145 Gren Regt I & II Bns.