Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


2 LIR – May 1945

1 May – ITALY.

0800 Bttn still in La Pavonara area on the banks of the River Po.

Bttn HQ in farm 163906.

0830 Recce u/c Captain RJ Cockburn moved back to B Echelon area to recce new billets for the bttn at Tamara.

1430 Bttn commences move back to new area.

1600 Bttn locations now as follows; Bttn HQ – 247900, E Coy – 273869, F Coy – 270876, G Coy – 253887, H Coy – Tamara village 243896 and S Coy – 268887.


2 May– ITALY.

0730 25 men from each rifle coy report with all available axes to the 256 Field Coy RE at road junction 225968 for road maintenance and bridge work.

1700 News – All German forces in Italy and Western Austria capitulate to the 15th Army Group


3 May – ITALY.

0800 Bttn advance party warned to be at 1 hours notice from 1000 hrs for purpose of moving to Udine area.

1500 Advance party move postponed to the following day.


4 May – ITALY.

0600 Advance party move off.

0900 RSM’s talk to WOs and Sgts on discipline and probable bttn future moves.

0915 QM and staff prepare a Victory Festival for bttn to take place in the evening.

1030 RC Thanksgiving Service in Tamara Church.

1100 C E Thanksgiving Service at Bttn HQ.

1800 Victory Celebration at Bttn HQ. CO gave a sort speech to bttn and then ignited a 15 feet high bonfire of logs. Rum punch, vino, sandwiches and cakes and calf roasted whole were provided for all ranks. An effigy of Hitler, escorted by pipers playing the slow march was brought to fire and duly burned.

2030 News – All German forces in NW Germany, Holland, Denmark, Heligoland and the Frisian Isles surrender to Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group.


5 May – Italy.

0800 Bttn prepare for move to Udine.

2000 Bttn move off.


6 May – ITALY.

0700 Bttn halted in staging area San Maria Rovere (639782) about 3 kms north of Treviso where breakfast and later a tea meal was served.

1200 Bttn convoy moves off on final stage of journey.

1600 Bttn arrive in Udine area. Owing to unsuitability of billets, the CO carried out a personal recce in the evening for a new Bttn HQ. Present Bttn HQ located at 345239.


7 May – ITALY.

0900 Advance party move to Bttn HQ.

1100 Main body move to new Bttn HQ. Bttn locations now as follows:

Bttn HQ – 369264, E Coy – 372262, F Coy – 372257, G Coy – 373262, H Coy – 372257, S Coy – 389252.

Bttn’s role in present static conditions is to be a controlling force over civilian and partisan movement to prevent looting and removal of captured enemy weapons and supplies. The first enemy dump to be put under guard was a diesel oil and lubricant dump located in the grounds of Bttn HQ itself. Previously, the dump had been guarded by Partisans and later for a few hours by a section of the 1 Kensingtons MMG Platoon. 


8 May –ITALY.

0400 Bttn warned to send two coys forward to Caporetto area at 0900 hrs. Main Bttn HQ and remaining two coys at 1200 hrs.

1000 Tac HQ and E and H Coy move forward.

During the course of the morning, the move forward of the remaining two coys was cancelled. The two forward coys established traffic control posts in the Plezzo (656499) area near to the Austrian border, which they held until relieved by units of 46 Division on early morning of 9 May. The area held by two forward coys was also garrisoned in strength by units of the Yugoslav Army.

1500 Prime Minister’s radio address to the Empire announcing Germany’s final capitulation, The Cease Fire in Europe to be sounded at one minute past midnight.

1600 Bttn warned to have an advance party ready to a new area. Time of departure as yet unknown.


9 May – ITALY.

0001 Bttn buglers blow the Cease Fire.

1000 Bttn warned no move today.

1400 Tac HQ, E and H Coys returned from Plezzo area on relief by units of 46 Division.

1800 Pipe Band played at Udine.


10 May – ITALY.

0400 Bttn warned that advance party would move north into Austria at 0730 hrs. Main body to follow at 1100 hrs.

0730 Bttn advance party move off. Route – Tolmezzo, Tarvisio through  the Thorl Pass to Villach, thence to Klagenfurt.

1100 Bttn main body move off.

1700 Bttn now staging in Klagenfurt area. Bttn HQ at 252812 with coys in close proximity.


11 May –  AUSTRIA.

0730 Advance party move off.

1100 Bttn main body move to Wolfsberg.

1600 Bttn now located in Wolfsberg.

Bttn HQ in the Jaeger Barracks (638055). These had been the offices of an Abwehr unit of the Wehrmacht controlling numerous PoW camps including Stalag 18A located in Wolfsberg. E and F Coys billeted in the Laventer Reichstrasse. G Coy took over the telephone exchange in the Haupstrasse. H Coy were also billeted in the Haupstrasse.

1600 The remaining hours of daylight were spent in the establishment of the following:

PoW cage for SS troops.

Cage for all other German or German Allied troops (Deutche Verbandte Truppen).

Enemy weapons dump.

Bttn guard of the Telephone Exchange , Municipal building, Power Station and Bank.

During the course of the afternoon, numerous Austrians, including civilians and officers and men of the Wehrmacht, offered their services as interpreters and a suitable selection was made.

In the evening, at the request of the new Mayor of the town (who had been in a concentration camp for 5 years) and in conjunction with some of the older Austrian police, 31 leading Nazis were arrested and put in the civil jail. During the round up, two men attempted to escape but were picked up later in another house. One woman attempted suicide.

SS rounded up before nightfall totaled 2 officers and 67 ORs.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.


12 May –  AUSTRIA.

0600 The days’ work commenced with the sorting out of the surrendered personnel into their nationalities. In the cage were Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Hungarians, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Croatians and even Russians. An Information Post was set up in the town in the main street to deal with wandering German soldiers, stragglers and refugee civilians; members of the armed forces being directed for the most part to our own cage.

1400 The German food dump for Stalag 18A was located in Wolfsberg and is now being used to feed many PoWs and surrendered personnel as well.

1430 Two Hungarian officers reported to Bttn HQ for orders for the 4th A/A Regiment, 2nd Hungarian Corps, who are stationed at St Georgen 6993. Stated they had sufficient food for 21 days and were in billets. Ordered to stay where they were until further orders. May retain all arms in case they are attacked by partisans.

1500 Ten Nazi suspects investigated and two arrested.

1800 The German Ambassador to Croatia, Gauleiter Kache and the Croatian War Minister (Feimtl), observed trying to pass through Wolfsberg towards Klagenfurt were chased, stopped, brought back to Bttn HQ and arrested. With their party of five others, they were confined for the night in the Officers’ Mess and their column of Croatian troops and civilians ordered to stay the night in the fields by the road, where they had parked.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.

1930 Bttn guards during the day included 2 NCOs and 12 ORs on the Power Station. 2 NCOs and 6 Officers on the Bank, 2 and 6 on the Telephone Exchange, 2 and 6 on the local jail, 2 and 6 on Brigade HQ (also located in Wolfsberg) and one platoon on the enemy food dump. A road post of 2 NCOs and 6 Officers and a road post of 1 NCO and a Austrian interpreter were established at road junction 645051 and the bridge at 637047 respectively. One platoon of F Coy was detailed to assist the Intelligence Sergeant, who was in charge of the Bttn PoW cage and Surrendered Personnel Camp. 


13 May –  AUSTRIA.

1300 69 SS men were evacuated by transport to 5 Corps PW Cage.

1400 54 Hungarians in the bttn cage sent to the Hungarian Concentration Area north of Wolfsberg. Also, all German troops of the 68 and 69 Corps under their own officers by march route to Klagenfurt.

1800 Sitrep:

  • Investigation of breaking into the Water Works (located about 200 yards of 38 Brigade HQ) proved that no damage had been done or sabotage carried out. A guard of 2 NCOs and 6 ORs was placed on the works.
  • The Croat War Minister and party arrested in night of the 12th were taken to 5 Corps HQ. Officer in charge of the guard received orders there to take the ‘much wanted persons’ on to the Jaeger Prison in Villach. This was duly carried out and they were handed over there together with their papers and 250 British gold sovereigns, which had been found in their possession.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.


14 May –AUSTRIA.

0600 During the course of the night 13/14, the Hungarian A/A Regiment, which surrendered to G Coy on the 12th, moved from their location at Sant Georgen 6993 to an area approximately 2 kms north of Wolfsberg. This was done to avoid the possibility of a conflict between them and Bulgarian troops in the same area.

0800 Arrangements made for conference and luncheon party between high ranking Allied officers to be held in the Officers’ Mess. Guard of Honour to be provided by H Coy.

1200 5 Corps Commander, Lt General Keightley, and Russian representatives including a Corps Commander arrived for a conference on International Zones of Occupation of Austria and more precise fixing of demarcation lines. Agreement was signed between Commander 299 Soviet Division area and Lt Col HEN Bredin on behalf of 8th Army Commander, fixing the boundary between Koflach and Soviet/Bulgarian Inter Army boundary.

1800 An FS Section from 46 Division established their office in 38 Brigade HQ.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.

1930 During the day, several investigations of people were made and some houses raided for arms.


15 May – AUSTRIA.

1030 One officer and 43 ORs of the Luftwaffe evacuated by march route from bttn cage to their own assembly area near Klagenfurt.

During the night, a party of Yugoslavs proceeding to Graz were taken over from the 1 RIrF and escorted through Wolfsberg and allowed to proceed on their way north.

1200 Four Officer and 203 ORs of the 7th Field Eisenbahn Division by march route to Klagenfurt.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.


16 May – ITALY.

British soldier shot during night whilst n sentry duty at station. During the day, several raids were made on private houses and numerous arms were confiscated. During the last few days, no new dumps were found.

1200 Bttn warned that the 5 Hampshires 46 Division would be taking over the Bttn area. Bttn to move on 17th to Lavamund.

1500 Hampshires advance party arrived in bttn area.

1600 Bttn advance party left for Lavamund area.

1800 Sitrep: On information received, a patrol was sent to house at 641066, where a quantity of arms, ammunition, detonations and fuses were found. These were confiscated and one man was arrested and handed over to the FSS.

1900 Bttn band played in the town square.


17 May – ITALY.

0500 Bttn move cancelled and 5 Hampshires were directed to Lavamund instead.

0800 Bttn began unpacking and settling back to the day’s normal routine.

1200 250 Officers and ORs from a German hospital train were put into the bttn PoW and Transit Camp.

1600 Another 300 Germans from a hospital train were also put into the Bttn Laager. Arrangements were made to evacuate these 550 Germans together with others to St Stefan (or Volkermarkt) on morning of 18th.


18 May – ITALY.

0745 Escort of 1 and 2 sent to conduct party of 600 Croatians to Lavemund. This was the Croatian War Minister’s party, which had been waiting since his arrest. Orders to hand them over to Tito’s troops. Party conducted to within one mile of Lavemund, where responsibility for handover was taken over by CO 5 Hampshires.

0800 Bttn advance party warned to be ready at 1000 hrs today.

1100 Transfer of hospital cases from the bttn camp postponed as no transport could be laid on.

1400 Advance party from the 6 Lincolns arrived in bttn area.

2000 Arrangements made to hand over the Bttn Laager and the interpreters not required by the bttn to the 6 Lincolns.


19 May – ITALY.

0600 Bttn sector handed off to 6 Lincolns.

0800 Bttn convoy moves off. Route – Wolfsberg – St Anre – Griffen – Klagenfurt – Villach.

1200 Bttn column was halted 25 kms north of Tarvision and informed that a change of plan had occurred and that the advance party had been recalled from Tarvisio and was moving north again to Velden on the Worther See. Bttn to wait until advance party had arranged billets in Velden.

1600 Bttn moved back to Velden area and waited on the outskirts for 2 hrs whilst final billeting arrangements were completed by advance party.

1900 Bttn HQ in Mosslacher Hotel 033803 with coys nearby.

2100 Bttn bad played in the town.


20 May – ITALY.

0830 RC Service Velden Church.

1000 Local situation: troops of Marshal Tito’s Yugoslav Army were asked to withdraw from Austrian territory, which they had occupied. If they refused, then 2 LIR would become involved in forcing them to withdraw to their own frontier. Fortunately, Marshal Tito agreed to the British request and ordered his troops to be back inside the Yugoslav by 1900 hrs 21 May.

1500 Warning Order – Bttn to remain in present locations for tonight. No move likely before morning of 22nd. Advance parties prepared to move at short notice from 1200 hrs on 21 May.


21 May – ITALY.

1000 Bttn received orders to take over the Castle at Rosegg 016777 from the Welsh Guards. However, the Guards had no intention of relinquishing their hold on such a natural Bttn HQ as the castle and they convinced higher authority that there was plenty of other territory into which the bttn could expand without the Guards having to move. Consequently, the advance party was cancelled until a further rcee could be carried out.

1800 CO carried out personal recce for new area.


22 May – ITALY.

0930 Recce party under command Captain RJ Cockburn to new area.

1500 Divisional Commander visits Bttn HQ.

1600 Recce party return after marking out future bttn locations in the area of the Ossiacher See.


23 May – ITALY.

0945 Normal party of 5 ORs left for 1 month’s leave in the UK.

1345 CO addressed HQ Coy in a farewell speech.

1900 CO entertained at a farewell party in the Sgts’ Mess.


24 May – ITALY.

1500 Bttn Pipe Band played the CO out of Bttn HQ. As per tradition, the CO’s car was pulled by the sergeants for the first stage of his journey to take up a new position at Divisional HQ.

Lt Col JM Coldwell-Horsfall DSO MC assumed command of the bttn.

1700 Warning Order to move to new bttn positions. Three coys to move on 25th and Bttn HQ and two remaining coys on the 26th. Move to be finally complete by 1200 hrs 27th.

Political and Military Situation.

In the bttn area are located seven German hospitals administered by 5 Bttn CCS. Also in the area are several Austrian Reserve Lazarette all containing wounded or sick enemy soldiers. The total number of troops being 1,500. As each man recovered from his illness, he was dispatched to the German Concentration Area.

No fraternisation with the local population was allowed.

All displaced civilians were directed to the Divisional Civilian Camp at Spittal.

Any requests for passes etc were directed to the Town Commandant, an officer from the Guards Brigade (6 Armoured Division), who had his office in the same building as Bttn HQ.


25 May – ITALY.

1000 E, H and S Coys began their move to new area around the Ossiacher See.


26 May – ITALY.

1000 Bttn HQ and remaining two coys began their move to new area.

1400 2 NCOs and 6 ORs from H Coy took over road post at 904816 from 2 Innisks.

Bttn locations now as follows: Bttn HQ in Villa Koch, Annenheim 924853; E Coy – St Urban 974872; F Coy – 978888; G Coy – Ossiach 987873; H Coy – 939859; S Coy – 985884.

1700 G Coy ordered to move to Murau, 32 miles north east of the Ossiacher See, in order to help with the evacuation of 25,000 Cossack troops (who had been fighting as allies of Germany) to the Russian lines. The Cossacks were definitely not enthusiastic over being handed to the Red Army and consequently G Coy was to be sent up early tomorrow to aid the existing forces.

1800 Bttn boundaries – end of the Ossiacher See to the west, to Steindorf factory to the east.


27 May – ITALY.

0700 Fresh orders for G Coy sent them to St Michael in the 36 Brigade area.

1000 Situation: Bttn’s responsibility is to clear the area of all unwanted personnel – PoWs, displaced civilians etc. All Austrian soldiers resident in the area to be vetted and passes issued to them to stay on their farms as long as they carried on with their work.


28 May – ITALY.

Normal road post checking of civilians and evacuation of unwanted personnel.


29 May – ITALY.

1200 Sitrep: Jeep patrol to areas 14 and 15 (Unterlieger 5194 and Winklern 9494) brought in 8 soldiers and Lt of Flak and also an absentee from the 2 LF (11 Brigade).


30 May – ITALY.

During the day, the first Austrian soldiers with discharges from US Army camps began to arrive in the bttn area. As no ruling had been received regarding these discharges, the soldiers were treated as Surrendered Personnel.

Local residents supplied the bttn with names and addresses of prominent Nazis, but as yet no concrete evidence was given.

1800 Sitrep: 10 surrendered personnel evacuated to St Andra and 3 displaced civilians to Villach.


31 May – ITALY.

1200 Sitrep: PoWs evacuated during the day included one SS Major (formerly a Guard Commandant at Dachau), one SS Police Regiment OR and one agent, who claimed he was working for the Allies. A diesel oil dump in a semi buried concrete shelter was discovered on night 30/31 at H Coy’s road post, Ruprecht 899839.