Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


2 Innisks – May 1945

1st May – ZOCCA.

Another exceedingly quiet day. A Gymkhana was held by the 78th Division and the bttn put in a few entries. The Brigade Band played on the course and the day was a complete success.

2000 A Mobile Cinema visited the bttn. One Polish deserter came in during the evening.


2nd May – ZOCCA.

1000 A day of little activity, a German PoW was discovered in hiding and was sent to Brigade PoW Camp.

1640 An Order of the Day by Field Marshal Alexander announcing the Unconditional Surrender for all German forces in Italy.

1945 Most of the bttn made their way to some wireless or other and listened to the broadcast of Mr Churchill’s statement to the House confirming Unconditional Surrender. Shortly after, numerous flares and belts of tracer ammunition lit up the sky. This was the means employed by the troops in the area south of the Po to celebrate their victory. The sound of bursts of Spandaus and exploding of enemy grenades seemed to make a reincarnation of many nights gone by and the thoughts of many Inniskillings turned back to 1942 to the beaches of Madagascar and the Plains of Medjez-el-Bab.


3rd May – ZOCCA.

An exceedingly quiet day. The bttn was at 4hrs notice move.


4th May – ZOCCA.

0700 The advance party left for the new area. Most of the day was spent cleaning up and preparing to move across the Lombardy Plains.


5th May – ZOCCA.

1530 The bttn embussed and left the area of Zocca, owing to the large number of bridges destroyed by the enemy, the journey was very tiresome. After 7 hrs, we had only covered 14 miles but once across the bridge over the Adige, the roads were clear and we made our way at a more normal speed.


6th May – TREVISO/UDINE

0230 The bttn arrived in Brigade Staging Area at Treviso.

0700 The bttn left Treviso and travelled at a good speed to the town of Udine, arriving at 1000 hrs.

1200 The bttn was placed at two hours notice to move, so everybody was confined in the bttn area. C Coy was told to stand by at one hours notice and to be prepared to go and engage some enemy formations, who were reported building out in the hills north of Udine.

1700 A conference was held at Bttn HQ at which the Commanding Officer outlined the political situation in the area. The situation was rather complex and, on no account, were we to get involved in any political quarrels that might arise. Tension existed between Tito’s Yugoslav army and the Green scarf Partisans of Italy. These Yugoslavs claimed to be Patriots, while the Green scarfs claimed they were democratic. The situation was further complicated by the presence of Garabaldi Partisan Red Scarfs and the Italian Regular Army.

1700 It was decided that the bttn would be allowed out until 2200hrs, the men availed themselves of the opportunity to visit Udine.


7th May – UDINE.

0900 The Bttn Quarter Guard was mounted in the Public Square, this caused great interest among the civilian population. Orders were received to establish road blocks on the three main roads leading to Udine with a view to controlling movement of unauthorised people and looting of enemy dumps. The Garrison of each post was comprised of 8 Inniskillings and 8 Yugoslavs.

1000 Yugoslav Liaison officer arrived at Bttn HQ; the language difficulty was overcome by a mixture of Italian, French and German.

1100 Orders were received that a search of Udine was to be made to locate and take over enemy ammunition dumps, this to be done on the 8th of May.

1600 Road blocks established. Owing to the lack of transport, the Yugoslav part of the Garrison arrived at 2200 hrs. Displaced persons arriving from Austria and other parts of Italy, kept those posts very busy.


8th May – UDINE.

0800 The town of Udine, having been divided into six parts, six sections from A Coy started the search for enemy arms.

1030 The Yugoslavs on the road posts started to take the weapons off the Italian Green scarfs, thus causing friction, those incidents caused a lot more work and talk on our part. Later in the day, after a visit by the Divisional CO to the Yugoslav HQ, the Yugoslavs agreed to allow all Italians to retain their personal arms.

1500 Most of the Inniskillings, that were not on duty, listened to Mr Churchill’s broadcast announcing the end of the war with Germany but in view of the situation prevailing in this area, this seemed unreal and the difficulties, which lay ahead were only too clear. At the end of the broadcast, the bttn carried on in a normal way.

1800 The Regimental Band beat Retreat outside Bttn HQ, which brought much applause from the Italian public.

2030 West of the personnel not on duty went to see the film, “Two Girls and a Sailor” shown by the mobile film unit. The rest of VE Day was without incident.


9th May – UDINE.

During the morning, a few arms which had been located the previous day were collected and taken to the weapon dump. Yugoslavs again wanted to disarm the Italian Green Scarfs of their personal weapons. It had been agreed that that all weapons other than personal weapons were to be confiscated. It was now apparent that the Yugoslav army  wanted to take over the Province of Udine; the Green Scarfs were opposing this move by all means short of actual conflict. The Italian Red Scarf party were inclined towards the Yugoslavs.

1500 One of the road blocks confiscated a 75 mm Gun that was being taken to Udine by the Red Scarfs. It later transpired that these particular Red Scarfs were of an assault division of the Yugoslav National Army. Later in the day, the gun was returned to the Yugoslavs in Udine.

1800 The Drums and Pipes of the brigade played in the main square of the city; this attracted hundreds of civilians.


10th May – UDINE.

During the day, the Brigade Posts arrested small numbers of people, most of whom were proved innocent and released. There were no incidents with the Yugoslavs during the day.


11th May – UDINE.

0500 The bttn received orders to move into Austria.

0900 Advance party left.

1015 The bttn left Udine, most of the Road Posts being relieved by the 56 Division, some were relieved later in the day, the personnel forming these guards joined the rear party.

The btnn had an interesting journey through the Italian Alps and arrived at the Austrian Frontier (approx 1430 hrs).

1300 The bttn arrived in the village of Furnitz and the coys were split up over quite a considerable area. A certain number of comment was caused by the obvious difference in layout and people that was noticed between Italy and Austria.

1700 The Commanding Officer held a conference at Bttn HQ, where he said that the bttn was under orders to move to Villach, where it would relieve the 1st Guards Brigade. Captain Vincent was to assume command of S Coy and take over the PoW cage at Jager Barracks from the Welsh Guards. A Cot to take over PoW cage at Arnoldstein. He also gave out that all personnel would carry weapons at all times and that the non fraternisation order was effective in Austria.


12th May – FURNITZ/VILLACH.

0500 A Coy moved off to Arnoldstein and took over the SS PoW cage there.

0930 S Coy moved off and arrived at Villach, taking over at Jager Barracks at 1100 hrs.

1115 The bttn left Furnitz and arrived at Villach at 1215 hrs, where they took over St Martin’s Barracks (873805) from the Grenadier Guards. The bttn was u/c of HQ RA 78 Division.

1230 S Coy at Jager Barracks was at this time having a certain amount of difficulty in sorting out PoWs and displaced personnel into different nationalities and sending them to their respective camps. They were relieved by the 91st Field Regiment RA at 1900 hrs. A Coy were relieved of their commitments at Arnoldstein and moved directly to Sandra 9183, where they took over a camp containing 13,000 surrendered personnel of the German Army. 


13th May – VILLACH.

In the early morning, B Coy 1st Surreys came u/c 2 Innisks and was made responsible for all Road Blocks. Numerous duties had to be found by all coys.

1000 Squads of enemy PoW were brought into the camp and formed into working parties and were set to work cleaning up St Martin’s Barracks. A number of the Orderly Room and half of the ‘I’ Section were sent to A Coy to help them at the PoW camp. The duties of that coy were very heavy and meant two hours on and two off for the all the coy

1300 A visit was made by the IO to all Guards’ Dumps, Road Posts, Railway Station and PoW Cage, which were being guarded by the bttn.


14th May – VILLACH.

1000 Brigade Commander arrives at Bttn HQ and, with the CO and IO, went round all the Guards.

1400 The Divisional Commander visited the bttn.

1440 The strength on both guards on the railway station was halved.

The guard on the foot dump 901809 was increased by 50%.

A guard was put on the brewery 884805.

Personnel were allowed out to the town of Villach up to 2000 hrs.

1530 The Brigade Commander visited the bttn.


15th May – VILLACH .

0900 The guard on the vehicle and oil drum was withdrawn as there was nothing further to report.

1100 Four interpreters from German surrendered personnel were attached to the bttn to help us over the language difficulty.


16th May – VILLACH.

1030 A Memorial service was held in the Bttn Dining Hall in memory of members of the bttn who had fallen for their country in the battle from the Senio to the Po. The names were read out by the CO and the names of missing and wounded read out by all Coy Commanders. The tunes that were well known to those present and to our departed comrades were played by the Regimental Pipe Band. This was attended by all ranks of the bttn.


17th May – VILLACH.

0800 S Coy took over the Road Block 894810 from D Support Kensingtons. C Coy took over Road Block 880815 and A Coy took Road Block 882812 from B Support Group. the guard at 877793, an enemy oil dump, was handed over to 132 Field Regiment (Field) RA.

In the morning, the Brigade Major and IO of the bttn visited all Road Blocks in the bttn area.


18th May – VILLACH.

1400 The Brigade Commander arrived at Villach in a Spotter Plane and was met on an air strip by the Commanding Officer. He visited many of the Road Posts and the PoW Camp at St Andre.


19th May – VILLACH.

1045 The Brigadier from HQ RA paid a visit to the bttn.

1500 The Brigadier 38 Brigade arrived at Bttn HQ and held a Bttn Commanders Conference. The CO and CO of the 2 LIR and Brigade Major were present. On this day, barbed wire was erected around the PoW cage at St Andra by the German PoWs. The reason for this was to stop German civilians entering the camp rather than to stop the Germans from getting out. The persistence of civilians in their attempts to get among the interned personnel caused more trouble to A Coy than 13,000 men confined to camp.


20th May – VILLACH.

0800 A Church of England Service was held in Villach by the Church of England padre of HQ RA Group. This was attended by many members of the bttn. There was also an RC’s Parade in Villach.

The Brigade Commander visited Bttn HQ.


21st May – VILLACH.

0930 The Officer Commanding the East Surreys, the CO and IO visited the Guards and Road Posts, which the bttn was to take over.

1130 The OC B Support Group arrived at Bttn HQ to conduct the IO around the guards we were to take over in his area.

1345 A coy was relieved of its duties at St Andra PoW Cage by the 132 Field Regiment RA and rejoined the bttn.


22nd May – VILLACH.

0920 The following guards and dumps were relieved by B Coy 1st East Surreys: Telephone Exchange, Power House, Gas and Water Plants, Railway Stations and Brewery.

The following were handed over to 209 A/Tk Battery: Vehicle and Ammunition Dumps, Food Dumps.

1000 The bttn reverts to under command 38 (Irish) Brigade.

All Road Posts manned by B Coy, 1st Surreys and B Support handed over to 2 Innisks.


23rd May – VILLACH.

1100 The BM and IO visit all Road Posts.

1400 The Divisional Commander visited Bttn HQ.

1430 Officers play Sgts at Football, it was a good game but rain damped the enthusiasm of the supporters. The Sgts won 3-2.


24th May – VILLACH.

0930 The Commanding Officer and IO paid a visit to all Road posts.

1100 A patrol of S Coy under the command of Capt P Hamilton MC went to the area north of St Andra to search it for hiding German soldiers, two or three were picked up and taken to a PoW Cage.

1530 The Brigade Commander paid a visit to the bttn


25th May – VILLACH.

1000 The Director of Military Training paid a visit to Bttn HQ.

1100 A warning order received that the bttn, less HQ and Support, was under four hours notice to move as from 2400 hrs. All guards and Road Posts were to be taken over by HQ and S Coy, who were remaining in Barracks at Villach. The bttn was to move as far as for battle with first line ammunition. The reason for this move was approximately 30,000 Cossacks, who had been fighting with the German Army, and who were now our PoW, did not want to leave their camp in the Drau Valley and return to Soviet Russia, which had been ordered and a certain amount of trouble was anticipated.


26th May – VILLACH/WINKLERN.

0915 The CO and IO left Villach to attend a conference at 36 Brigade HQ at Ober Drauberg.

1030 Advance party left Villach under command of Captain Campbell.

At the 36 Brigade Conference, the plan was outlined. The brigade was to move the 30,000 Cossacks and Caucasians to Russian occupied territories by train. As these people strongly objected to being returned, it was anticipated that there might be some trouble. Therefore, all officers were to be collected together first and, after they had removed the remainder, would be entrained and despatched to Judenburg.

1700 The bttn started arriving and coys went straight to allotted area, having received orders for this by DR. Bttn HQ and A Coy to Winklern 1409, B Coy to Unt Nuisdorf  0805, C Coy to Dolsach 1104 and D Coy to Lavant 1101.

1800 The Commanding Officer called an O Group conference at Bttn HQ, where he passed on information concerning the situation and gave Coy Commanders their tasks. All were to prevent movement of the Cossacks from the Drava valley by establishing Road Blocks and by patrolling the tracks and passes leading from the valley.


27th May – WINKLERN.

0900 The IO passed information on to the personnel at Bttn HQ and then went round the Corps. A Curfew was put into force in Winklern. Four members of the Bttn Band played in the square.


28th May – WINKLERN.

0900 The CO paid a visit to all coys.

1730 A Coy went on patrol. Instructions were received from AMGOT re civil traffic. The removal of the Cossack officers was carried out. As we had been warned that this was the crucial point in the whole operation, everybody was more than usually vigilant. However, that part went well and there was no need for any action on our part.


29th May – WINKLERN.

The leading of trains with Cossack personnel was due to start today but this was put back to the 31st. It was during this time lag that the first signs of dissent among the Cossacks began to appear. Signs were put up reading “We prefer death rather return to Soviet Russia” and a Medical Officer at Nuisdorf Hospital informed the Coy Commander there that most of the people intended to commit suicide.


30th May – WINKLERN.

An Information Centre was opened up by the ‘I’ Section.

A fire started in B Coy’s HQ at Nuisdorf which, at first, was believed to have been caused by Cossack action, although later this was doubted. Movement from one camp to another was increasing and one of the few officers left, tried to enter the Lavant Camp and was turned back, after trying to force his way past our sentries. He was threatened with a bayonet and he then tried to take out his pistol. His horse and pistol were taken from him and he was sent back to his own camp on foot.

The coy at Lavant were finding that there was also an increasing tendency for Cossacks to go to the area of a Schloss in the hills south of Lavant.

1800 The Regimental Pipes and Drum Band played Retreat, to which the Brigade Commander of 36 Brigade had been invited.


31st May – WINKLERN.

Patrol activity was intensified. The Cossacks were loaded into trains by other units in the Drava Valley and considerable difficulty was reported and notice received that we meet be prepared to give assistance on June 1st.