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Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


Intelligence reports – January 1944

31st December 1943 to 3rd January 1944

Enemy activity

The enemy has not been particularly active during this period owing mainly to the weather conditions.

However, on December 31st at 1700hrs, an enemy patrol approximately 40 strong engaged G Coy on Il Monte 0342. The patrol was driven off suffering one casualty.

The following information has been obtained from our own patrols during this period.

  1. Working parties of Italians have been observed in the Scrontone area clearing snow. Considerable movement in this area.
  2. Since the heavy fall of snow, there has been no sign of traffic on the Alfedena – Barrea road.
  3. On 3 January, a sergeant of the Belgian Commandos was in Alfedena. He reported that there was no sign of enemy activity or of any civilians. Considerable demolition by the enemy has been made in the town.
  4. Suspected enemy patrol bases at 052502 and 026450.
  5. Suspected enemy OPs at 046520, 003444 and 013476.
  6. Viaduct 044501 blown.
  7. Road block and mines at road bend 016486.
  8. Two bridges on Pizzone – Alfedena road blown – MRs 027421 and 034473.

A certain amount of enemy shelling has taken place. Any movement by day in this area is liable to be shelled.

There appears to be no reason to suppose that the enemy dispositions here have altered recently and there appears to be every reason to suppose that 576 Regiment is still in the line in this area.

The two patrols which have infiltrated since 31 December obviously knew the ground very well and were therefore not a new unit.

Own Troops

31 December – Coys were in position on the following hills-

F Coy – Alto 044475.

E Coy – Calvario 035463.

G Coy – Il Monte 035428.

H Coy, Bttn HQ and Troop No 10 Belgian Commandos in Montenero.

These had been taken over from 5 Northants.

The CO accompanied by the FOO and the OC Belgian Commandos visited E and F Coys during the day. It started to snow early in the morning and continued all day. It started to snow early in the morning and continued all day. It was becoming deeper and deeper and coys reported three feet at 1600hrs.

It was at this time that G Coy reported a sharp engagement with an enemy patrol forty strong. Due to blizzard conditions, very little could be seen and the patrol was eventually driven off after an hour’s fighting. G Coy had one man killed. Casualties to the enemy are believed to be one.

As the evening drew on, the Coys reported increasing snow. A Commando patrol went out to guard the maintenance route and the mules are expected tonight.

Two jeeps attempting to get to the Bailey Bridge were blocked. No supplies were able to get through.

1st January – At 0700hrs, the forward coys were warned to leave their present locations and return to Montenero.

Guide parties went out to assist the coys in. It was still snowing and blizzard conditions were prevalent. Snow was thigh deep in most places and the going extremely difficult.

The forward coys were in Montenero by 1500hrs.

Standing patrols were established at entrances and around the perimeter of the village.

2nd January – Situation Report: Nothing to report. Visibility good.

Italian labour impressed to clear road from Montenero and Bailey Bridge.

Dawn patrol from the Belgian Commandos went out to Lone Tree Hill (054463) and Rocky Point (051460) and remained in position all day.

One platoon H Coy went out to bring in mortars belonging to 1st Kensingtons, who were unable to bring them in during the blizzard.

Order for the defence of the Montenero is detailed:

F – North.

G – East.

H – West.

E & Belgian Commandos as mobile reserve.

During the afternoon, patrols went out as follows:

G – Along road to Il Monte. Reached as far as 049432. Nothing to report.

F – To Twin Tits 057467. Observed tracks by hut at 057476.

F – To west of Twin Tits. Nothing to report.

E – To Lone Tree Hill area. Saw movement at hut 057476. Nothing to report.

Three Italian agents, sent over in enemy lines, report in at 1930hrs. Interrogation produced little result.

3rd January – F and E Coys returned to their original forward positions to salvage stores.

Patrol of two officers and thirty men from Belgian Commandos went out to destroy what is believed are enemy base at 055476. Small hut with signs of German occupation was discovered and successfully demolished. Patrol observed for some time and then returned. They were shelled slightly on leaving the objective.

H Coy and Montenero were shelled slightly during the latter part of the morning.

Road from Rionero cleared as far as 100478 by 1400hrs and Italian labour worked on for the remainder of the day and night.

Road not cleared in time. Mules arrive with rations about 2000hrs. Belgian Commandos acted as night protection for this convoy.

4th January.

Enemy activity.

Enemy used the Narsucci 0547 as an OP during the morning with a strong protective screen of approximately 60 men. Later retired due to artillery fire

Shells landed in the following areas during the day.

0900hrs – 10 shells in Pylon area at 047438.

1630hrs – 5 shells on outskirts of village, 3 to south, and 2 to the west.

The road from Alfedena – Railway Station is not mined, but is cratered in two places. Enemy gun positions to north of the road in area 008485. Sited well under feature to the front so that all our own shelling is over the target. OP for these guns believed to be on C Bellaveduta 0147. Guns all sited in Barrea area. Location unknown.

Own Troops.

Mules and supplies arrived safely, protected by strong screen in area 0647. Enemy believed to have disappeared into his area from Cle. Narsucci not discovered.

Night quiet. Visibility during night reduced to 30 yards.


5th to 6th January

Enemy activity

Enemy has been quiet during these past two days and is probably held up by the steady falls of snow. No shelling has occurred in the battalion area during the past two days.

Own Troops

5th January – Local protective standing patrols went out as usual at ‘Stand To’ and remained in position on hills at 0547.

F Coy sent out two platoons at 0800hrs to 057467 to protect north of town. At midday, a jeep patrol with SS Platoon went to the high ground dominating the Montenero – Bailey Bridge road and one platoon E Coy was sent to 063470 to protect ration convoy expected through about 1400hrs. The weather deteriorated, visibility became reduced and the battalion was warned about 1600hrs that no supplies would get through due to the state of the roads. Coys were withdrawn from forward positions and standing patrols once more took over the defence of the town.

6 January – Local protective patrols as usual at ‘Stand To’ to hills at 0547. Remained in positions all day. Local operation for today was an attempt to establish a patrol base in the hills immediately behind Cle Narsucci 0547. E Coy took up positions on the right edge of Narsucci supported by H Coy, who were in position at 061475. TAC HQ with pioneers and mules followed up, carrying timber and stores to build a shack on the lower slopes of Narsucci. The weather had been bad at the beginning of the operation and snow was deep and falling fast. In consequence, progress was slow. As it was impossible, due to blizzard conditions, to ascertain that any one site was really secure from enemy observation, it was decided to hide the stores and build the base on another day when a good secure site could be selected.

Coys returned to Montenero by 1500hrs and local standing patrols once more took over the defence of the town.

Italian labour was impressed to clear the Maintenance route and were working all day. Progress from half to three quarters of a mile.


7th January

Enemy Activity.

No enemy movement of patrols seen.

A certain amount of MG fire was heard on the far side of the Sangro in the Alfedena sector, but no positions could be pinpointed and nothing was seen.

Own Troops.

As usual the dawn patrol recced the heights immediately north west of Montenero and remained on Rocky Point (051460) and Lone Tree Hill (054463) throughout the day.

At 0850hrs, F Coy went out to Narsucci to hold the line of observation and to ambush any possible OP parties who might try and come up into that area and observe Montenero.

At 0830hrs, three recce patrols from No 10 Belgian Commandos went out to the following hills to observe:

  • Calvario 035463.
  • Wooded Saddle 044449.
  • Steep Hill 048438.

None of these patrols, nor F Coy, observed any movement during the day.

F Coy definitely established that the enemy had been in the habit of using Narsucci as an OP. There were signs of small shelters on the top.

Tracks in the snow were also seen in the area 0450.

Two Spitfires were active over the Alfedena sector and a certain amount of Light AA went up, seeming to come from the Barrea area.

Mule convoy came through with rations and supplies safely.

Quiet night. Freezing hard. Bright moon.


8th January

Enemy Activity.

An enemy patrol was observed by a patrol from No 10 Belgian Commandos in the area east of Il Monte 0442. The Belgian patrol advanced as far as possible under cover and closed to within 500 yards. They fired on an enemy patrol, who appeared to be inspecting tentage left behind by G Coy when they came off Il Monte on 1/1/44. The enemy was five strong. No casualties on either side.

No movement observed again today in Alfedena or Scontrone believed to be at 039504. Many tracks in snow in this area.

Own Troops.

Dawn patrol from G Coy went out to Twin Tits 057467 and then onto Lone Tree Hill 054463 and Top Point 049461. Remained in position on two latter hills all day. Nothing to report.

H Coy went out to Narsucci area. Established OP at 058475 with FOO. Except for enemy patrol, all above enemy information was gleaned from this OP.

Three recce patrols from the Belgian Commandos, each one and three, went out at 0830hrs to following hills. Tasks – to observe and gain all available information. One to Pt 1142 (035472), one to Calvario (035463) and the third to Steep Hill (048438).It was this third patrol, who had the engagement with the enemy patrol. They could not close with the enemy as they disappeared immediately fire was opened up on them, also the Belgian patrol had insufficient rifles and the s now held up progress.

The FOO fired his guns at the Blown Bridge 034482 and other targets in the Alfedena sector but no enemy movement was seen.

All patrols and coys reported in by 1700hrs and local standing patrols took over the defence of Montenero.

To protect ration convoy and Maintenance route, 1 platoon of F Coy was dispatched at 1530hrs to area 053471. Another platoon to be in reserve just north of Montenero.


9th/10th January

Enemy Activity.

The enemy has been quiet again during the past two days on the battalion front. However OPs with the forward companies’ supply the following information.

Considerable track activity in snow on Bellaveduta 0147 and MG posts believed to be in area 018476. Tracks running due north from Scontrone and above deep valley behind the village.

Track running north east from east corner of village ending possibly at the road at 034493. The road, itself, is under snow and not cleared.

MG fire was heard in the late afternoon seeming to come from the Bellaveduta area.

OPs on Steep Hill and Il Monte saw figures about six in number in Pizzonebut could not identify them from the distance. Practically no track activity in Pizzone area.

From Italian civilian sources (unconfirmed).

German patrol in area 030485 last night.

German positions in deep valley immediately behind Scontrone. This seems to be confirmed the amount of track activity running north from Scontrone.

Pizzone is not occupied but there are enemy positions on Alto 0239.

The track activity seems to confirm that the enemy has positions on Bellaveduta and is quite active there. As reported before he uses it as an OP.

Own troops.

9th January – E Coy went out to Calvario (035463) to recce new positions and establish OPs. Most of the enemy information was gained from this OP. Commando patrol went out to area of Lone House at 057477 but saw nothing.

10th January – G Coy went out to Il Monte to be in position by dawn supported by F Coy on Steep Hill. G Coy sent a small patrol to farm at 036418 but no sign of enemy movement.

All information gained about enemy is contained in enemy paragraph.

Appreciation of Situation by OC, Montenero

7th January 1944.

  1. Object – My object is to hold Montenero as a base for which offensive operations can be carried out.
  2. Factors – Ground
  3. Line of observations – the village of Montenero lies in a hollow and is badly overlooked from north, west, south and east. It is therefore desirable that the line of observation is kept clear of many OPs.

To the north, this entails holding hill features close in to the village, which had been named ‘The Tits’ but on all other flanks, it is necessary to go out a distance of 2 to 3,000 yards. This produces an extended front in view of its wooded and highly broken nature would require large numbers of troops to hold in detail. This line of observation is in itself largely overlooked from the enemy side of the Sangro and Rio Torto. This limits daily occupation to small OPs supported by strong all round defended localities on the reserve slopes.

  1. Extent of front – this extends from Montenero station on the right to exclude Alfedena in the centre to exclude Pizzone on the left. A distance of eight and a half miles. There can, therefore, be no question of holding a front. Certain key points must be selected for the retention of control of which is essential to the safety of Montenero. Such points are the highest points and track and road junctions. The following are important in this respect – Alto, Calvario, Banchette, Wooded Saddle, Steep Hill as they command the lesser features, which the enemy might use for OPs. Other ground will have to dealt with by fire, observed whenever possible.
  2. Broken nature of the ground – although there is a main range more or less surrounding Montenero, it is not entirely mountainous and embraces a high number of large spurs running out into the Montenero basin as well as isolated knolls and large and small hills. It is ideal country for the well trained hardy mountain troop, who is able to move quickly and silently in hilly country. It presents considerable difficulties to the ponderous and slow ordinary infantryman. With training and experience, the latter, however, improves rapidly but unless he is provided with specialised equipment will always be at a considerable disadvantage.
  3. Tracks – These in the main follow the lines of the valleys crossing the main range by well defined saddles, but they are difficult for mule transport even in good weather and soon became impassable in the snow. They are few and hardly any laterals crossing over the spurs, which divided the valleys. Consequently lateral movement was slow and possible only for troops on their feet. These tracks, too, lay, themselves open to ambush tactics and is therefore advisable to move protective detachments across country making use of the ridges and so obtain command of the track up which any formed body of troops has to be moved.
  4. Time and Space – From Montenero up to the line of observation, it takes approximately one hour under good conditions to the nearest point on the north and over two hours in the south. On the other hand, the enemy can, from his positions, get up in nearly every case quicker and generally twice as quick as we can. This is a further strong consideration in favour of having troops permanently out of the line of observation.
  5. Weather – Except in winter, there appears little to stop troops living in bivouac areas up on the line of observation and it would probably be possible to ignore Montenero itself, except in so far as it provides good facilities for maintenance. In winter, however, once the snow starts on the line, life on the line of observation is insupportable for more than a night, unless proper weather proof shelters have been built. Unless this has been done, the whole force must concentrate in and make use of the shelter of Montenero. But when so doing, the commander must be aware of the risks he is accepting and have a local defence scheme that can be operative in a matter of minutes. On moonlit nights with hard snow conditions, raids in force from Alfedena and/or Pizzone areas are perfectly feasible. Furthermore, it may be necessary to fight daily to regain control of the line of observations.
  6. Except at Alto, there appears to be little difficult in the construction of concealed semi weather proof brushwood shelters. Ample timber is available and deep re-entrants exist, which would be difficult to hit with artillery shellfire and hard to locate with mortars. Alto is bare of trees and it may be found possible to use the local rock and stone combined with mud to make a reasonable shelter. Even with shelters of the Woodman’s hut type or rough dry wall variety, the winter climate is sufficiently vigorous to make frequent changeover of forward coys essential. Trials would be necessary but two to three might be found to be the maximum that troops, without special equipment, could stand.
  7. Relative strength – According to intelligence reports dated 15 December, the enemy has 11/576 Infantry Regiment at Scontrone and 1/578 at Pizzone. He therefore has considerable numerical superiority, and were he to be in a really offensive mood, it would be difficult to prevent Montenero being cut off from the rest of the brigade area. So far, there have been no indications of this probably due to both administrative difficulties of maintaining large bodies of troops on our side of the Sangro and to the general strategic situation in which the Germans are generally on the defensive. It does mean, however, that the enemy can patrol in strength and has a bigger turn over than we have from which to find fresh troops.
  8. Enemy and our tactics – So far enemy tactics have been confined to the very bold employment of small OPs right close up to Montenero itself and to patrolling in parties of approximate strength 60 to 90 to pick up any isolated parties of ours that he may encounter. So far, he has been particularly successful in this line of action, and as he has the advantage in time in reaching the line of observation each day, considerable cunning and patience will be needed if he is to be caught off his balance and damaged seriously. On no account should individuals or small detachments be allowed out of supporting range of our own companies. Therefore, except for small detachments of specially trained and equipped troops such as Commandos, our basic unit for both offence and defence must be the company, supported by all artillery, MMGs, and mortars that can be made available. When companies have to go out of supporting distance of the bttn, then they in turn should be supported by a company or equivalent sub unit in an intermediate position. This is heavy on manpower but appears the best course to adopt, although it also limits the area, which can be covered effectively in any one day’s operation.
  9. Administration – Montenero lies at the end of an attenuated road Line of Control, the last eight miles of which is practically open to enemy observation by day. The last three miles are also liable to enemy intervention by night. This means that maintenance will normally have to be carried out by night, unless thick weather prevails by day, and that much maintenance by night will demand a degree of close protection on the last three miles of the maintenance route. This is an additional strain on troops, who are already carrying out a full day’s work clearing up a sector of the forward area. Whenever it is possible to maintain permanent coy posts in the forward areas, this threat to the maintenance route is to some extent reduced, but this is once more compensated by the fact that there would then be fewer troops in Montenero available for their protection duties. In winter, this maintenance route and also the ones to forward coy areas are liable to be blocked by snow for several days on end.
  10. Adequate reserves are therefore necessary for both Bttn HQ and the coy areas. It is suggested that seven days with a working margin of four is sufficient for Bttn HQ, while coys should hold three plus a working margin of two. The same applies to ammunition.
  11. Evacuation of casualties is also a difficult problem in winter as although the road can be cleared up to jeep standard in a matter of two to three days to make it capable of taking ambulances, would take considerably more. Additional kit and equipment and good billets are therefore required for the RAP.
  12. Courses – There can be only on course for us. That is to prevent the enemy having full use of the line of observation around Montenero and then harass him on his side of the Sangro.

For the enemy, there are several. In his present positions, north and west of the Sangro and road Alfedena – Pizzone, he is holding a very comfortable reverse slope position complete with obstacle, provided he can retain control of the line of observation. To date, he has been content to do so.

He might try to evict us from Montenero and hold it himself. Although he has sufficient strength to attempt this, he would gain little if he tried to stay in Montenero. This village is even more exposed to shelling from the east that from the west and would be in full view of our OPs on the Rionero ridge.

Our eviction and partial destruction would give him control of the line of observation, which is in dispute at present and might easily attempt it.

It is doubtful if he would attempt to stay in Montenero for the added reason of difficulties of maintenance across the lines of observation. And this further would make it difficult for him to put in a sustained attack lasting over twenty four hours.

Therefore, his most likely course of action seems to be a continuance of his present tactics with the probability of a moonlit raid on Montenero itself.

Plan.

  1. In general terms – In winter, use the buildings of Montenero for shelter and, by active patrolling in strength, attempt to keep the enemy too frightened to come up the large extent of high ground, which overlooks the village. As soon as the weather becomes reasonable, select areas of the observation visible to Bttn HQ but defilated from the enemy observers on the far side of the Sangro. In these coy areas, build shelters and prepare shelters and prepare positions for all round defences making use of wire, mines and so on. Use these coy areas as bases from which our own and Commando patrols can keep the enemy under close observation and can carry out raids against selected targets.
  2. In detail – Construct four coy base areas along the line of observation at:
  • Wooded Saddle.
  • Steep Hill.

Occupy two of these at any one time, but ring the changes between them.

From these coy areas, patrol forward and laterally both by day and night and so prevent anything but the smallest enemy detachments from getting up onto the line of observation.

From these coy areas, keep such close watch on the enemy forward location so that his method of living becomes thoroughly well known and any attempt on his part to interfere with ours is frustrated.

Maintain a central reserve rest and maintenance area in Montenero itself.


Appreciation of Situation from enemy point of view in area Alfedena during snow conditions.

Object – to hold Barrea – Alfedena, and harass communications on road Rionero – Castel di Sangro – Montenero.

Factors affecting attainment of object.

  1. Weather – Assuming snowy conditions, enemy unlikely to occupy ridge between Alfedena and Montenero. Enemy will find it difficult to supply troops based on Montenero. Therefore, enemy patrols this side of Alfedena are most unlikely and we can always get to the top of the ridge earlier in the morning than he can
  2. Ground – Favours us as in 1 above. We have a solid base to operate from behind the Sangro and Alfedena not as a rule over looked by the enemy. On the other hand, we cannot overlook the enemy except with string patrols and we cannot shell Montenero, which is his base. He can shell our base. We have however a covered approach to Steep Hill area, which is on the way to Montenero from the north west or west. His supply route runs laterally and is vulnerable, while ours is from front to rear and protected on both sides by precipitous hills, except between Alfedena and Scontrone. Most vulnerable part of his supply route (between Montenero Railway Station and the hills) unfortunately runs across flat open ground easily guarded by his patrols.
  3. Strength – The enemy is thin on the ground with approximately one bttn in Montenero possibly including the Montenero station. We are also thin on the ground but can easily be reinforced from Scontrone and Barrea. In guns, they are stronger than us particularly in mediums. The enemy has command of the air. Suspect that they have little reserve. Even such as there is, will not arrive rapidly.
  4. Dispositions and movements – In widely scatted coy groups. Positions sometimes only occupied by day, when movement as far as top ridge taking place in coy groups and smaller patrols. Movement is fairly slow. FOOs apparently move these patrols. No movement in forward area 0345 recorded lately. Therefore, any movement which we make by day over the ridge must be in strong coy groups or larger. Enemy movement by night unknown at present except for supply movement along road Montenero – Castel di Sangro, which he is at pains to clear of snow. No minefields yet detected.
  5. Fighting value – Enemy have experienced but comparatively tired troops unused to fighting in snow and without snow equipment, but well accustomed to hills and more regular types of warfare with full artillery support. We are more inexperienced but are better trained for this type of warfare and can move rapidly as we can borrow skis from the mountain division on our left. In view of the rumours of reserves in Russia and in the air war, even a small success will improve the morale of the troops. The enemy is unlikely to expect vigorous action in this sector. The division opposite is seen to its best advantage in the assault role. Therefore, it is up to us to pursue offensive action when our numbers allow us.
  6. Observation – Because we are nearer the commanding features on the ridge dividing the Sangro from Montenero, and because the ground this side of the Sangro commands these features, we have the advantage in observation. The enemy is forced to surmount the ridge and descend a forward slope in order to approach us.
  7. Communication – Enemy comms suspected to be difficult.
  8. Local inhabitants – Present in much larger numbers than with the enemy. We have therefore more chance of keeping our roads clear of snow than the enemy. Inhabitants include a large number of (some friendly), who know the Montenero area intimately.
  9. Method – The moon is very nearly full but there is still a dark period before dawn. Patrol work easy during moonlight made brighter by the snow.

Preliminaries.

Night patrolling, track breaking and the marking of a route through the forest to area 041454.

Plan.

Forces Used – One infantry bttn with in support one troop 88mm, one coy 2 cm, AA.

Phase I – Small patrols set out at dusk to covering positions on top of ridge from 036471 to 054477 to cover concentration of main body in area rd 034474 and strong patrol at 047478. Some light flak to be moved up to Alfedena area. Concentration complete by 1830hrs in case of strong patrol and 2300hrs in case of main body (previous night recce patrols sent out to establish whether high ground at 048455, 049461, 054463 and 047467 held by enemy. Movement seen only means lattn until approx 0100hrs).

Phase II – Strong patrol move and operate on and above road at approximately 067474 attacking any enemy troops or patrols seen, and cutting telephone lines. Arrive operating area at 2130hrs, withdraws 2300hrs northwards but remains available to harass reinforcements from Rionero.

Phase III – Main body less heavy mortars and MGs move assembly position area 054467 arriving 0400hrs covered by patrols on 049461, 054463, and 047487 arriving at 0300hrs. Main body occupy these features 6 heavy mortars and 4 MGs with (part) of one coy move by mule to high ground 041454 arriving at 0400hrs. Part of escort to hold high ground 043449.

Phase IV – 0500hrs, mortars and MGs open heavy fire on Montenero for five minutes Meanwhile, one rifle coy attacks Montenero from north and clear down to include village square. Task to be completed by 0530hrs and coy withdraw covered by fire from remainder of bttn and by fire from heavy mortars and MGs.

Phase V – General withdrawal at 0615hrs covered by artillery, heavy mortars and MGs until 0700hrs then these withdraw west through forest to day laying up area already recced. Withdrawal to be completed next night, Rearguard patrols to maintain contact during day and pursue delaying action.

Courses open to enemy.

  1. He can continue as he is doing ie operating by day with coy patrols from Montenero.
  2. He can do as in 1 with small patrols left out on or near top of the ridge at night.
  3. He can try to reoccupy top of ridge and patrol forward down to river line by night.
  4. He can attempt a full scale attack on Alfedena area.
  5. He can attempt an infiltrating movement through the hills on to the main rd north west of Alfedena.
  6. He can try to cut our comms by patrol action between Scontrone and Alfedena.

Courses open to us.

  1. Hold Scontrone and road west of Afedena and patrol forward to Alfedena with strong patrols to ridge between Alfdena and Montenero by day.
  2. Occupy top of ridge and attack comms out of Montenero while mortaring Montenero itself.
  3. Stay in Alfedena area and attack Montenero Station by night or attack convoys on road Montenero – Station by night.
  4. While containing Montenero and Station by diversion raid on road Rionero – Montenero Station by night.

A combination of 1 and 2 to be adopted as the plan.


11th/12th January

Enemy activity.

No enemy activity at all has been seen on the battalion front during the past three days. Coys out forward in the Alto and Narsucci areas on 11th and 12th saw no movement or any fresh signs and recce patrols on 12/13th brought back information that the enemy was not using the Alfedena – Bifurcation road and tracks in the snow were not recent. Some might have been 24 hours old but the general impression was that they were older.

Own Troops.

11 January – F Coy went out to old position near Alto to hold ground and observe. Also to recce possible new coy areas. Nothing was observed all day.

IO and Battle Patrol with mules recced mule route to Rionero. Route, although steep, would be possible to mules when snow has cleared away.

12 January – Recces were carried out in the morning for possible bttn counter attack role should the enemy ever attack from the Alfedena direction down to the Bifurcation.

The operation was carried out in the evening, primarily to practise the bttn in the counter attack role, and secondly to provide a strong protective screen for recce patrols to observe the Alfedena – Bifurcation road.

The battalion moved off from Montenero and was in position by 2100hrs. The two forward coys were at 052479 and 057483 with the other two coys in reserve at 053473 and 058475. Bttn HQ established near lone hut at 058478.

The patrols left at 2120hrs and returned about 2352hrs.

Full report in patrol reports.

The battalion withdrew about 2330hrs and returned to Montenero by 0130hrs on 13/1/44.

Mortar and MMGs were to accompany coys on mules, but deep snow drifts and rocks made it impossible to get them forward in time.


14th January

Enemy activity.

Nil. No information.

Own Troops.

Operation – 1500hrs.

F Coy to Wooded Saddle 044449 in support of G Coy who went to 038445.

Patrol from G Coy went out to recce believed enemy patrol base at 024448 and to observe any enemy movement on the Alfedena – Pizzone road. The patrol, its speed and movement hindered by deep snow and woods, did not gain information required. Saw nothing of any interest.


14th to 16th January

Enemy Activity.

German patrol, 25 strong, observed in area 039474 by one of our own patrols. Enemy were proceeding in a westerly direction making considerable noise. Full details in patrol report.

Enemy shelled Calvario (0346) during afternoon of 15th. Two shells only. No casualties to own troops.

At 0600hrs on 16th January, enemy shelled area 044675. Twenty to thirty shells in 15 minutes. No casualties.

No other information was gained about the enemy from our own sources, except that the road from Alfedena to Pizzone is covered with virgin show and has not been used, nor have the roads leading east out of Alfedena.

Own Troops.

14 January – Patrol report for patrol night 14th. Nothing to report.

15 January – E and F Coys, with supporting arms (4.2” and 3” mortars and MMGs), occupied positions in Calvario area.

Registration by RA during the day.

Coys build shelters and prepared defensive coy positions.

Patrols were sent out to various objectives during the night 15/16 January. Patrol reports for the first two patrols were the only ones to obtain any information. The other patrols made no contact and had nothing to report.

16 January – G and H Coys relieved the two coys on Calvario by 0800hrs.

Except for slight enemy shelling during early morning, all quiet.

Operation for night 16/17 January commenced at 1900hrs.

H Coy occupied Pt 1061 with one platoon and the remaining two platoons were disposed in the area of main Alfedena – Pizzone road to the rear of Pt 1061.

Battle patrol crossed River Torto and advanced up to Bellaveduta.

The remainder of the night passed without incident.


17th/18th January

Enemy activity.

Most of the enemy activity has been confined to shelling, these past two days.

Montenero received approximately 50 shells between 0830 and 0900hrs on 17 January, many of which were duds. Calibre was mainly 105mm and 150mm, probably situated in the Barrea area. Casualties – 3 wounded. Shellrep submitted.

Eight shells landed in area Pt 1182 (0347) at 1130hrs on 18 January and then the enemy switched to Banchette and worked his way eastwards along the reverse slopes, some shells landing well in the area of E Coy’s forward platoon (032461). Seven shells landed in this area – calibre 105mm.

Own Troops.

17 January – The fighting patrol sent out during the night to lie up in area 027469, saw nothing and no contact was made.

18 January – Intentions during the night to send one platoon to lie up in area of the bend of the road at 028478, supported by remaining two platoons at 035474 and 031470. Forward platoon to lie up and ambush any enemy patrols passing through that area and to observe as much detail as possible.

Bttn Location Statement.

Two coys – area 032462.

Bttn HQ and remainder of bttn – Montenero.


20th – 22nd January

Enemy Activity

Two enemy patrols ere encountered between 2100hrs and midnight on 20th January. They were fired on by our standing patrol at 043461, who were observing the Calvario feature, but the enemy did not return the fire and dispersed. They had no snow camouflage and were normally dressed as far as vision would allow.

Forward coys in Banchette on 21st January reported the following information.

  1. Tracks not more than 24 hrs old going down eastern slopes of Banchette towards Calvario.
  2. Alfedena – Pizzone road not cleared of snow and still not being used by enemy.
  3. OP previously used by enemy found at 033454. Considerable track activity around OP position.
  4. No enemy movement seen.

Our Troops

20 January – all troops now established in Montenero. Patrol report for patrol observing Calvario is attached.

21st January – E Coy went to Wooded Saddle (044449) to appoint F Coy on Banchette. Information obtained from OPs and small recce patrol sent down the forward slopes of Banchette is given in enemy paragraph.

G Coy left Montenero at 1730hrs to take up positions in area 063487. Small recce patrols went out to area 056496. One patrol out at 2100hrs – back at 2230hrs. Reported no sign of tracks leading towards the River Sangro in that area. Did not go as far as river itself. Found red roofed house mentioned in instructions but could not see the track crossing railway. Night was dark and observation difficult and snow deep. No sign of life in house. No signs of enemy activity observed.

Second patrol went out at 2215hrs to the River Sangro at area 056496. Returned about 0200hrs. Reported that River Sangro about knee deep. Could not find any sign of a path or tracks leading to or over the river in that area. Snow deep on river bank and on ground generally, but Alfedena road clear. Night dark and observation difficult and snow deep.  Unable to find red roofed house mentioned in instructions.

Patrol reports for patrols lying up to watch area of old forward coy positions on Calvario are attached.

22 January – IO recce-d mule track by cross country route to Rionero. Only possible for mule convoy during hours of daylight or if there is a bright moon at night. Otherwise, going would be extremely hazardous and route which mules could follow would be difficult to find.

F Coy to lie up in forward area tonight for counter attack role on Bifurcation.


23rd January

Report on Enemy activity.

At approximately 1230hrs, nine men were seen moving in a north easterly direction across the Csioritio feature north half of square 0046. They were not dressed in snow clothing, and were moving well spaced out. Artillery fire was put down but it was very difficult to see where the shells were landing. A lot of movement then started and about fifty men in all were seen moving in the opposite direction to the patrol along the same route. They were moving very fast and in some cases running and gave the impression that they were in a great hurry to get somewhere, possibly to the battle that was raging on the left. A few came against the traffic in the same direction as the patrol.

There was considerable air activity during the day.

The movement seen saw definitely more than patrol movement and in no case was snow camouflage used.


 

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