Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


2 Innisks – February 1945

1st February – BIVIGLIANO.

Coys were busy making their billets more comfortable and generally cleaning up.

1030 Many changed were made in bttn appointments and commands and these were made at a special conference held by the Commanding Officer.

Two cinema performances were given, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.  150 men travelled to Florence in unit transport on day pass. Of these, 120 were allowed meals in Florence Command cafes. The others were able to obtain meals in EFI and NAAFI clubs.


2nd February –BIVIGLIANO.

0900 The daily party for a day’s leave in Florence, went off in time. The system was changed to allow one whole coy to go to Florence for the plus a proportion of HQ Coy. This was designed in order that Coy Commanders would have their whole coys for the other days and so make better progress with the task of refitting and reorganisation.

1030 A/Brigadier (Lt Col TA Preston) visits the bttn and accompanied the CO in a tour of inspections in the area. The Bttn Pipe Band played while he inspected their part of the bttn area.

The Brigadier stayed to lunch with the Commanding Officer.

An Information Room was established in the Recreation Centre and maintained by the Battalion Intelligence Section.

The remainder of the day was quiet; most people taking full advantage of the opportunity to rest and write letters. The Mobile Cinema Unit gave two more showings of the film, “Let The Angels Sing”, one at 1800 hrs and one at 2000 hrs.


3rd February – BIVIGLIANO.

The Commanding Officer went away on leave and the 2nd in Commander Major PJ Blake MC assumed command of the bttn. Normal routine was carried out through the bttn and the usual day leave party visited Florence.


4th February – BIVIGLIANO.

0930 A Church Parade for all denominations was held and the whole bttn attended. The Pipe Band played the bttn to the parade ground where the C of E service was held and the RCs marched onto their own service.  The remainder of the day was spent in normal routine.


5th February – BIVIGLIANO.

The coys tested automatic weapons and also carried out normal admin checks.

1800 The CO returned from leave.

2000 The Officers’ Mess held a dance, the sisters and nurses from Florence and Borgo San Lorenzo were invited. The Bttn Dance Band provided the music and the evening was voted by all as a great success.


6th February – BIVIGLIANO.

Most of the morning was spent in preparing for a visit by the Divisional Commander.

1330 The bttn paraded on the road south of the village and awaited the General’s arrival.

1400 The Divisional commander arrived and the bttn, headed by the Bttn Pipe Band, marched by the General who was standing on the saluting base under the Regimental flag. Coys saluted independently as they came up to the saluting base. The General expressed his satisfaction at the Parade.

1500 Transport left for the All Ranks Dance held in Florence. This Dance was extremely well run and the ORs, who had not been to a dance for some time, enjoyed themselves to the full. Dancing was from 1700 hrs to 2130 hrs, owing to the Curfew. The Divisional Commander and the Brigade Commander visited the Dance during the course of the evening.


7th February – BIVIGLIANO.

Normal routine was the order of the day. Coy continued to check weapons.

Bttn snipers were tested and their rifles tested and zeroed.


8th February – BIVIGLIANO.

0700 Advance party, under the command of Major Blake MC, left for new bttn area at Forli.

Coys continued their normal allotment of day leave passes to Florence.

The Bttn snipers put in some practice with their rifles.

1900 The Regimental Dance Band played in the wet canteen.


9th February – BIVIGLIANO.

Normal day leave, the last from this area.

Coys were now beginning to make their preliminary arrangements for the bttn move on the 11th of February.

WOs and NCOs of the bttn now at a CRU came up to the bttn on a visit and also to see if there was any chance of their coming back to join permanently.

1700 The Regimental Pipe Band played Retreat in Florence and attracted a great deal of attention from the civilian population, who have never got used to seeing kilts.

The Regimental Dance Band was lent to the 2 LIR for their dance in Florence at which the CO and three other officers of the Inniskillings were invited


10th February – BIVIGLIANO.

0300 Reveille for Unit carriers and personnel travelling with them.

0500 Carriers moved off under the command of Captain PL Hamilton who was also in charge of the whole brigade carriers. These travelled on a 2nd class road to Faenza and then down Route 9 to Forli.

0600 The QM and his staff and stores vehicles left for Forli, followed at intervals by the stores’ vehicles of the coys.

1100 CO’s Conference to discuss the final points of the move.

The bttn spent the remainder of the day in preparing for the main move on the 11th. Advance party of the 1st East Surreys arrived and these were to take over the billets when we left. 


11th February – BIVIGLIANO.

0400 Reveille.

0600 Everyone completed their last minute packing and were embussed and ready to move. The MT was assembled in the open square on the west side of the villages and, on orders from the convoy commander Major Cochrane, the convoy moved off.

A rear party, under Capt McCorkell, stayed behind to hand over. The only incident throughout the journey was when a few trucks at the end of the column took the wrong turn at Dicamano but these were soon brought back to the right road by the MTO.

The column made good time and arrived in Forli at 1145 hrs, where guides were arranged to take the MT and personnel to their respective places. Accommodation was very limited and, when first taken over, was in a filthy condition, having been used by Italian troops. The advance party worked hard and, when the main party arrived, everything had been cleaned up by the liberal use of creosote.

The town was well organised with cinemas and canteens for the men and clubs for the Officers but nobody found time to use them today, being much too occupied with settling in before dark and catching up on sleep.


12th February – FORLI.

0900 The CO, 2 i/c, Adjutant and three Coy Commanders went to Florence to watch a parade for which the Inniskillings were providing the guard of honour and their Pipe Band. A few high ranking personage was expected.

1040 Brigade Commander paid a visit to the bttn and looked over the billets. For the remainder of the day, coys were busy, cleaning and improving their billets and generally making themselves more comfortable.


13th February – FORLI.

Bttn, having settled in, is concentrating on administrative checks, Allotments for the MBU was made.

Bttn HQ and the coy billets were cleaned and the approaches to the buildings cleared of mud and bricked. The mirror at Bttn HQ was set up and the wording over it (Do you look like a victorious British soldier now?) attracted much attention from the residents of the town.

General cleanliness and smartness of the Irish Regiments attracted much attention at first laughs but, after a day, whole hearted attempts by other units to follow the same example was noticed.

Notice was received from Brigade HQ that training was to commence on the 15th of February. Training programmes were to reach brigade on the 14th. Marked maps were received from Brigade HQ showing the training areas.


14th February – FORLI.

Coy Commanders received areas for training on the 15th. Coy checked weapons and equipment in readiness for training.

1430 The CO, 2 i/c, and IO went out to recce training area ‘D’. Some of the area was known to have been mined and, in many cases, the tracks were impassable to vehicles either through mud or through bridges having been blown.

The area proved to be good for training but the only practical approach was by vehicle to Medola and to march across the footbridge to the training area.

1830 Four officers from Rear HQ of the 1st NZ Division visited the Officers’ Mess and stayed for dinner. They had been invited in appreciation of the help they had given us in finding billets in the town and for the two houses of their own, which they had given over to us.


15th February – FORLI.

0830 Training commenced in earnest and took the form of weapon training and small tactical exercises.

1030 The CO visited the Dorchester NAAFI Canteen to see how the troops were catered for and was very impressed by what he saw and considered the NAAFI the best he had ever seen with plenty of facilities for everything. He asked permission for his Coy Commanders to be shown around in order that they also might see the way their men’s welfare was looked after.

1400 Bttn cross country run of 3 miles was carried out with all ranks under 35 years of age. Everyone ran extremely well, the winner covering the course in 24 minutes. By evening, the first signs of stiffness was beginning to show in all those who ran; a stiffness, which for most was to last for two or three days.


16th February – FORLI.

0830 Normal training continued with tactical exercises on a platoon and coy level.

Notice was received from brigade that positions had to be recced for the defence of the Reda Line, a projected plan, which would become effective if the enemy broke through north of Faenza, this recce to be carried out at 1000 hrs 17th Feb.

Coy Commanders were notified and the necessary maps issued.


17th February – FORLI.

0830 Bttn less CO, IO and Coy Commanders set out on a 10 mile route march south of Forli.

0930 CO and IO attended a conference at Brigade HQ on the defence of the Reda Line.

At this conference, a map marked with positions to be occupied was issued and also the OO affecting it. Warning was given not to wander across fields too much during recce as there were mines known to be in the area.

1000 CO met Coy Commanders at Brigade HQ and gave them the positions they would occupy. Then, in company with the Squadron Commanders of the tanks that would assist in the defence of the bttn area, went out to visit the positions, meeting each Coy Commander and Tank Commander in their respective positions to discuss points with them.

1100 At a point approximately half way round the route march circuit, Captain Long gave a demonstration of the WASP flame thrower.

1730 Brigade Pipe Bands together with the Silver Band of the RUR played Retreat in the town square It was an impressive ceremony and attracted a large crowd of spectators. This was followed by drinks and light refreshments supplied by Brigade HQ in the AMGOT building to which officers from each department of the division were invited. The Divisional Commander was also invited.


18th February – FORLI

0900 The RCs paraded with the Bttn Pipe Band and marched to church in Forli.

The C of Es attended a voluntary service in the NAAFI.

1000 The IO went to the training area to recce site for a rifle range. This was made necessary as the allotment of the bttn on the existing range was one day, which the CO refused, deciding to build his own. A suitable site was found on the northern edge of D training area Ref 467066.

1400 A Sgt and three men were sent to live in a farm by a range to supervise its building by fatigue parties sent out each day and to maintain the range targets etc when firing commenced.

1430 Training programmes were issued to coys.


19th February – FORLI.

0830 Bttn training continued as usual.

0900 A five days’ Snipers course was started under the direction of the IO.

Coy Commanders left for a more detailed recce of the Reda Line positions.

1000 CO Battery Commander and IO left for Reda Line to arrange final positions with Coy Commanders. The CO changed  most of the positions to points further forward where better fields of fire could be obtained.

1300 Final positions were established and support weapons sited, also 3” Mortars and Artillery DFs, were fixed and the CO returned.

1400 Platoon Commanders went out to the Reda Line and met Coy Commanders who showed them around the area and allotted their positions.


20th February – FORLI.

0830 Coys continued with their training.

The rifle range was ready for use but owing to other commitments. Coys could not as yet take advantage of it.

1430 The CO, 2 i/c, and IO went out to ‘A’ training, area to recce ground for a river crossing exercise, which was to take place shortly.

1730 The IO attended a Conference at Brigade HQ to coordinate our changed positions on the Reda Line and to tie up with the flanking units and supporting arms.


21st February – FORLI.

0800 Three officers and three NCOs per coy left bttn area for a short demonstration exercise with Kangaroos. Remainder of the bttn continued normal training.

0900 Exercise at Kangaroo Park in Forli was preceded by a 20 minute lecture by the Commander. Describing capabilities and inter comm. This was the first time most of us had seen a Kangaroo as such (It is a Sherman tank with the turret off and the unnecessary fitments taken off making it capable of carrying 9 men).

0930 Kangaroos then went out, each bttn group representing a platoon and short tasks were given over the air, so that the infantry could see the method of passing on orders and getting to an objective.

1130 Exercise finished.

1300 A large number of the bttn attended the 8th Army race meeting at Cesena.


22nd February – FORLI.

Normal training continued and Coy Commanders went out to field training areas to arrange exercises.


23rd February – FORLI.

0800 Coys in turn carried out small exercises on Kangaroos. The exercises lasted about one hour and were designed mainly to illustrate the use of Kangaroos and to accustom the men to them prior to a larger exercise in which they are to be used. Two subalterns of 2 Innisks start a four day attachment to the Desert Air Force to study their method of working etc and one pilot of the Desert Air Force was attached to us for the same period and for the same purpose.

1700 All officers went to Brigade HQ to hear a lecture by a Canadian Coy Commander on his experiences of fighting in this type of country and particularly of the peculiarities of the rivers and the methods used in crossing them. Enemy tactics in holding these river lines were also discussed.

1930 Major Blake MC and five other officers were invited to Divisional HQ to a party held in their ‘B’ Mess.


24th February – FORLI.

0900 C Coy Commander Major J Duane MC went out with the CRA to recce a plan re Divisional exercise which is intended to take place shortly. Coys continued normal training in the mornings and organised games was the main programme in the afternoon.

1930 WOs and Sgts organised a dance to which all the Bttn Officers were invited and Sgts from other units in the brigade. The Sgts spared nothing in their efforts to make the party a success and the reputation of the Sgts’ Mess was maintained. WOs and Sgts of the Regiment at present held at No 2 CRU were not forgotten and a large number attended.

2350 There was an accident outside the bttn billet when Sgt Phillips of A Coy was knocked down and seriously injured by a truck  while crossing the road.


25th February – FORLI.

0930 A church parade was held for RCs and the parade was headed by the Regimental Pipe Band.

1100 A lecture was given at the Oak cinema for three officers and three NCOs from each coy, the subject once again was conditions of fighting in the type of country we are now in. The lecture was good and very enlightening and all ranks were thoroughly interested. The lecturer was a Platoon Commander from 56 Division, who had been in the sector for a considerable period.

1200 The CO returned from leave.

The remainder of the day was quite uneventful.


26th February – FORLI.

0800 Two coys went out to Field firing areas and carried out exercises arranged by the Coy Commander. Other coys continued their normal training in the area close to Forli. The Snipers’ course was extended for another three days in order that more practice could be gained in firing.

1200 Brigadier visited Bttn HQ on a social call.

1330 The first game of football in a newly organised league was played. Officers v B Coy first time. B Coy won by 6 goals to nil.

1900 The CO, Adjutant and four other officers went to dinner at 10 Battery 17 Field Regiment on the invitation of Major Steedman, the Battery Commander. This is the Battery, which always supports the bttn in action.

1930 Lt AC Gladitz was transferred to the LIR.


27th February – FORLI.

0800 Coys continued Field training and practising river crossings with assault boats. In view of the large number of mines laid by the enemy, a new organisation of the Platoon Pioneer was proposed, which would enable all coys to benefit from the specialised knowledge and ability to neutralise all types of mine.

1730 The CO of the 17th Field Regiment gave a lecture to the officers on the advantages and disadvantages of artillery in flat country and particularly in the area of the lower Po valley where OPs were often not possible. He stressed the importance of Platoon Commanders being able, not only to observe for the guns, but to be able to shoot and correct them, in order that all possible targets might be engaged despite the difficulties confronting the FOOs.

2000 The CO and two other officers attended a Dance and Cabaret held by the Divisional Medical Services.


28th February – FORLI.

0800 Coys continued Field Firing and assault best practice.

1500 The Bttn Pipe Band played in the town square and General McCreery arrived to watch the performance, afterwards speaking for the while to the CO.

1815 A lecture was given by the Battery Commander of 10 Battery, 17 Field Regiment RA on the peculiarities of the 25 pounder and also the best means of communication when the Platoon Commander wishes to fire the gun on to a target out of view of the FOO.