38 (Irish) Brigade – May 1944

1st May – FORMICOLA.

Training and recreation. 6 Innisks carry out River Crossing Exercise across River Volturno, just north of Capua. 2 LIR carry out Village Fighting Scheme in Capua area. 1 RIrF Interior Economy. Cinema allotments and ENSA shows in the evening in Capua.

Lieut JD White (RUR) joins Brigade HQ as Senior LO and is promoted A/Captain. Lieut F Lyness (RUR) returns to 2 LIR.

2nd May – FORMICOLA.

Training and recreation. 6 Innisks: Demonstration of Assault Group Infantry and Pioneers attacking a pillbox under bttn arrangements. 2 LIR carry out preliminary River Crossing Exercise across River Volturno. 1 RIrF carry out discussions on Tank and Infantry cooperation with 16/5 Lancers. Entertainments in Capua during the evening. Leave allotments continue to Bari and Divisional Rest Camp at Maiori.

3rd May – FORMICOLA.

Training and recreation. 6 Innisks have tank discussion with 16/5 Lancers. 2 LIR watch demonstration of attacking pill box and 1 RIrF carry out preliminary River Crossing Exercise. Leave allotments and entertainments continue.

4th May – FORMICOLA.

Training and recreation. 6 Innisks carry out Village Fighting Exercise in Capua. 2 LIR watch demonstration of attacking a pill box. 1 RIrF carry out full scale River Crossing Exercise. Leave allotments continue. Entertainment in Capua for all ranks.

5th May – FORMICOLA.

Training and recreation. 6 Innisks carry out Scheme A set by Division. Normal attack across close country involving several intermediary objectives to be gained by companies before the final assault on main objective.

This constitutes phase I of an attack. Scheme B carried out that same evening on phase II of the attack. It involves a bttn attack with two coys forward across difficult country and involves the isolating of a village.

Flank protection plays a considerable part. Idea is that the bttn is leading element of a big push with another operating a little behind to a flank.

2 LIR carry out a discussion with C Squadron 16/5 Lancers on question of infantry and tank cooperation and then carry out a small simple attack. The attack was carried out with great vigour and extreme interest was shown by all troops. Some 38 sets were all netted together including those in the tanks and all worked perfectly.

1 RIrF watch a demonstration by a bttn of infantry and pioneers on how to attack and demolish a pill box.

6th May.

2 LIR carry out Scheme A during morning and early afternoon and Scheme B during the night.

1 RIrF carry out village fighting exercise in Capua.

Recreation, leave allotments, cinema shows and ENSA shows continue.

7th May.

1 RIrF carry out Scheme A starting at 1200 hrs. This was not executed in quite the dash that the Brigade Commander desired and as the bttn left very little time between the end of Scheme A and the preparations for Scheme B, the Brigade Commander ordered the night attack to be postponed and to take place on night 8/9 May. The remaining two bttns spent their time in interior economy and preparing light scale of transport.

Recreation and shows for the troops during the evening.

8th May.

Coy training and interior economy by all bttns.

1 RIrF prepare for Scheme B and CO holds O Group at 1600 hrs. Scheme carried out with great enthusiasm and a vast improvement on Scheme A.

78 Division Operational Order received regarding future ops.

9th May.

Coy training and preparations for moving on light scales carried out by all bttns.

The Brigade Pipe Band, now some 25 pipers and 8 drummers and buglers play Retreat for 152 Field Ambulance in their own area. The previous night, the band played for the 56 Recce Regiment. Their performance was good and well appreciated.

10th May.

38 Brigade Group warned to move. 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, Brigade HQ, coy 152 Field Ambulance and B Squadron 16/5 Lancers to move at 2330 hrs for divisional concentration area south of Presenzano.

Remainder of Brigade Group – 254 A/Tk Battery RA, D Support Group (less heavy mortar platoon who are already committed in San Angelo sector), 280 LAA Battery RA, 214 Field Company RE and remainder 152 Field Ambulance to move up to concentration area night 11/12 May.

1700 Brigade Commander leaves for concentration area.

2330 Head of Brigade column passes Starting Point.

11th May.

0400 All three bttns, 152 Field Ambulance and 16/5 Lancers reported in concentration.

1700 D Support Group, remainder of 152 Field Ambulance, 254 A/Tk Battery RA, 214 Field Company RE, 280 LAA Battery RA passed SP for concentration area.

2000 All units reported in position in concentration area. Brigade Group now complete.

Locations as follows: Brigade HQ 070062, HQ 6 Innisks 079065, HQ 2 LIR 075065, HQ 1 RIrF 070066, D Support Group 075060, 254 A/Tk Battery RA 0603, 214 Field Company 0603, B Squadron 16/5 Lancers 071043.

2100 Brigade Group now at one hour’s notice to move. All units warned. Recce parties at immediate notice to move.

Opening phases of Cassino battle commenced with terrific artillery concentration barrage.

12th May.

0900 Brigade Commander visited Divisional Commander at Divisional HQ to find out possible future operations and where the brigade is likely to be committed, once 4th British Division and 8th Indian Division have completed their tasks.

Nothing definite could be given except a general area of possible operations.

Brigade Group now at four hours notice to move.

13th May.

Brigade still at four hours notice to move. Preparations made for move at short notice.

Light scale transport to be taken forward.

1800 Warning order received. Brigade to move to lying up area this side of River Gari tomorrow, preparatory to crossing the river the same day.

14th May.

0315 Brigade recce parties leave to recce lying up area this side of River Gari.

0415 Command Group and recce parties leaving.

0430 Brigade Group embussed in TCVs leaves for forward concentration area.

Brigade Group now consists of 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, 214 Field Company, D Support Group (1 Kensingtons), 152 Field Ambulance, 254 A/Tk Battery, B Squadron 16/5 Lancers.

0930 Congo bridge across River Gari now reported ok. The fact that this bridge was not completed in time delayed the battalions in marching to a concentration area across the River Gari.

1000 LO in charge of recce parties looking for concentration areas on far side of the River Gari report that they are only suitable for troops and jeeps. Better areas will have to be found for heavy essential transport.

1115 6 Innisks leave present area to cross River Gari.

1345 Brigade Commander’s verbal orders: 6 Innisks to make good the report line Grafton between 834174 and 834169.

2 LIR to concentrate on the left between 834169 and River Pioppeto 834163.

1400 2 LIR move forward to cross River Gari and are established by 1530 hrs.

Tac Brigade HQ and transport 2 LIR move forward to cross the River Gari. Tac Brigade established 860167.

The attack by 6 Innisks did not go in at 1800 hrs as planned as the subsidiary objectives to be gained by 2/4 Hampshires (4 Division) were not taken due to heavy casualties. 1 RWK were thought to be on Massa de Vivo 845179 but even this would not help the attack by 6 Innisks materially.

This plan was laid on quickly without the complete knowledge of the Brigade Commander and without adequate support and it is not unnatural that it did not succeed in the face of determined opposition.

2100 1 RIrF now across River Gari and established in concentration area just behind Brigade HQ.

2130 Prisoners taken by 6 Innisks. Identification 6 Coy 741 Jaeger Regiment.

15th May.

0245 Two coys 6 Innisks advanced on to Massa Venditis 843168.

0500 Two coys at 837167 meeting heavy opposition.

0545 Two coys now on Massa Venditis 843173.

0700 Commander 11 Brigade arrives at Brigade HQ.

0730 Divisional Commander arrives at Brigade HQ.

Plans made to secure the next report line (Pytchley). Grafton to be held by 78 Division between 837179 and 827167. 5 Northamptons (11 Brigade) on right, 6 Innisks (38 Brigade) on left.

78 Division to attack Pytchley on a two brigade front each with one battalion forward. 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry to guard right flank.

1200 6 Innisks now secure Grafton. Their attack was supported by B Squadron 16/5 Lancers. Enemy identification – 115 PGR.

Enemy tanks and anti tank guns were knocked out during the advance.

Heavy shelling for remainder of day. Many other enemy identifications revealed by prisoners taken by 6 Innisks. Shows enemy’s efforts to bring everything into this valley to stem our advance.

2030 2 LIR now concentrated area 838169. Lieut Colonel Goff 2 LIR very seriously wounded. Casualties to Brigade fairly heavy during the day.

2100 Divisional Commander arrives and CRA.

Plan made to continue the advance with 2 LIR and 2 LF. Heavy barrage laid on. Attack to commence at 0900 hrs.

16th May.

6 Innisks had a noisy night and considerable enemy shelling and mortaring.

2 LIR slight shelling. 1 RIrF still in concentration area just this side of the River Gari. Bridge across River Piopetto now complete at 850174 and second bridge being constructed nearby to enable one way traffic. Several tanks were bogged trying to cross this river yesterday with the 6 Innisks, and the bridge had to be hastily constructed during the night in time for the attack at 0900 hrs.

0900 78 Division commence attack on Pytchley. 2 LIR on left, 2 Lancashire Fusiliers on right, supported by 16/5 Lancers and 17/21 Lancers.

1140 2 LIR reported to be established on Pytchley and objectives secure.

Fairly heavy casualties were experienced but these were mainly on the SL. Now confirmed that Lieut Colonel IN Goff, Commander 2 LIR, died of wounds. Major J Coldwell-Horsfall assumed command.

Identifications of prisoners taken during the attack were 361 PGR, 6 Coy741 GR, 95 Recce, 33 Eng Bttn.

1200 2 LIR consolidate positions, assisted by Squadron 16/5 Lancers. Responsible for flank protection River Piopetto from Pytchley to 823170. 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry on line same reference to 822160 and are moving to 818173. On arrival, this line 2 LIR are responsible up to an including junction point with Derbyshire Yeomanry at river junction 818173 – 813163.

2 LIR locations – Bttn HQ 823177, Coys at 818177, 821177, 824179 and 824176.

1645 2 LIR report four enemy SPs and 2 enemy A/Tk guns knocked out during the attack.

1900 Conference to plan attack by 1 RIrF at 0700 hrs on to next objective, supported by 16/5 Lancers.

17th May.

Very quiet night. No outstanding incidents. No indications of enemy pulling out, but it is thought his guns and main bodies have probably gone back to prepare next line.

0700 Attack on Fernie commenced. Objectives of 1 RIrF and tanks are Massa Cerro 8118 and pt 87 818184. Lothian and Border Horse had difficulty in advancing towards left flank in direction of Piumarola 8018.

0900 Lothians getting on and 1 RIrF advancing well.

0945 1 RIrF report objectives captured.

1000 1 RIrF ordered to exploit forward to Tarta 814154 and pt 85 813190. 6 Innisks and 2 LIR ordered to be ready to move.

1055 Report received from 26 Armoured Brigade that 10 RB on 823 easting to our left flank. Held up in this area and they also report Piumarola held.

1100 Divisional Commander visits Brigade Commander. 36 Brigade is now going to come up and hold line R Piumarola tomorrow.

1300 6 Innisks move up to an assembly area behind 1 RIrF.

1430 1 RIrF report one company now on Tarta and the other leading company will be on pt 85 shortly.

6 Innisks then ordered to capture pts 87 811188 and pt 78 811182 and then Piumarola 8018.

1500 Squadron 16/5 Lancers supporting 1 RIrF have lined up with the Lothian tanks in front of Piumarola and are getting on.

1530 Lothians report Mk IV tank at 811188, which is being dealt with.

2 LIR report that they are now on the move. 1 RIrF now all in position. They report coy locations as follows: 815195, 815192, 817192, 817195.

1800 Prisoners now coming in, taken by 1 RIrF during their advance. Identifications mainly 82 Eng Bttn, I/361 PGR, II/721GR, 129 PGR, III/721CR. Total of 37 so far.

1930 6 Innisks reported that they have reached the line of the River Piopetto just in front of Piumarola and attack on the village going in straight away. They captured the village half an hour later.

A considerable number of prisoners were taken – 47 in all – mainly from I/3 Farm Regiment. It was afterwards confirmed that the CO was among the prisoners.

2 LIR move forward to guard left flank in the pt 78 area 811182.

5 Buffs (36 Brigade) take over protection of left flank along River Piopetto from 814177 to 818173.

2100 Major Maxwell 2.i.c. of 6 Innisks assumes command of the battalion vice Lieut-Colonel HEN Bredin who has gone to hospital.

18th May.

Consistent enemy mortaring and shelling was experienced during the night. Nebels were seen firing and engaged by our own artillery.

Brigade ordered to conform to general line 36 Brigade after their dawn attack by 5 Buffs to the left of Piumarola. This entails moving a company of 6 Innisks to the left of Piumarola, having only one coy now in the village. This was carried out at 1730hrs.

2000 Brigade HQ moves to G 818184.

2030 Orders received to take over from 36 Brigade so that they can move forward to attack Aquino.

19th May.

0030 Orders received to take up positions lining Route Six. All battalions to move at dawn. Recce parties to go out before hand to recce cross country route.

0800 Brigade ordered to advance a further 1000 yards nearer Route Six.

1000 Brigade now disposed as follows:

6 Innisks – HQ 788197, coys at 786207, 793204.

2 LIR – HQ 789197, coys at 784208, 776 205.

1 RIrF – HQ 797201, coys at 796204, 798204, 799204, 795201.

Remainder of day spent in consolidating positions with very little enemy shelling.

1400 All patrols to Route Six return and report no contact.

20th May.

A quiet night on the whole with spasmodic shelling.

0900 Brigade Commander visits 1 RIrF. Heavy shelling 6 Innisks area during the morning, same shells believed 170 mm.

1200 8 Indian Division is taking over responsibility of Route 6 from 4 Division and this will enable 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF to come out and concentrate in reserve localities.

2 LIR to remain in present positions but to conform to new divisional boundaries. This will entail moving one coy into reserve.

1400 Shelling 2 LIR area. Very slight.

1600 2 LIR report that they believe Poles have captured Piedimonte. Two enemy Mark IV tanks were seen going back in the direction of Castrocielo.

2100 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF now in reserve localities.

Brigade locations.

6 Innisks – HQ 791199, coys at 792194, 787193, 789197, 787198.

2 LIR – HQ 801189, coys at 800195, 798191, 807189, 803187.

1 RIrF – HQ 779199, coys 775206, 775203, 779202, 779199.

Units now under command – 254 A/Tk Battery RA, D Support Group (1 Kensingtons). 16/5 Lancers revert to command of 6 Armoured Division.

21st May.

A quiet night with only slight shelling.

0800 2 LIR to be relieved tonight by 56 Recce. Relief to be completed by 2200 hrs.

1300 Recce parties 56 Recce arrive as 2 LIR HQ. Slight shelling Brigade HQ area and Ace Route.

1500 Lieut-Colonel Caron CO of 12 Canadian Armoured Regiment visits Brigade Commander. This regiment is to be in support of the brigade during the next advance.

2300 2 LIR now relieved by 56 Recce. Slight shelling 6 Innisks’ area.

22nd May.

12 CAR revert to command of 1 Canadian Division.

1000 Divisional Commander visits Brigade Commander to discuss future policy and possible role in attack on Aquino.

1100 11 CAR now in support of this brigade. Lieut-Colonel Purvis CO 11 CAR visits Brigade Commander. Brigade rests. Slight odd occasional shelling during the day.

Situation: Canadians attacked Adolf Hitler Line just north of Pontecorvo with a certain amount of success and have penetrated the preliminary defences.

11 Brigade in front of Aquino have been doing active patrolling.

23rd May.

Brigade still in concentration areas. Quiet day. Canadians still continue to advance through Adolf Hitler Line. Pontecorvo reported in our hands.

24th May.

Brigade rests. Another quiet day.

Canadians have now reached line of River Melfa. 6 Armoured Division to attack and reinforce success but congestion on the roads prevented this being carried out.

2000 Brigade Group to move at 0800 hrs 25 May. To move south across Forme d’Aquino and clean up valley. Task not yet known.

25th May.

0800 Tac Brigade moves up to 787185. Brigade Commander’s O Group. Orders given out for advance guard movement to move into Liri plain behind 6 Armoured Division and clean up any pockets of resistance. Delays due to traffic congestion postpone brigade move until tomorrow. Brigade Group remained in present locations.

Lieut-Colonel Sir P Farquahar CO 3 King’s Own Hussars visits the Brigade Commander. This regiment from 9 Armoured Brigade to be in support of the brigade when the 11 CAR revert to command of 1 Canadian Division.

26th May.

0500 Brigade Group column passes SP for concentration area west of the River Melfa.

0930 Brigade Group in concentration area. Locations as follow:

Brigade HQ – 727236. 6 Innisks – 725239. 2 LIR – 718233. 1 RIrF – 721235.

Brigade Group consists of 3 Bttns, D Support Group (1 Kensingtons) , 214 Field Company RE, 254 A/Tk Battery RA, Coy 152 Field Ambulance, 17 Field Regiment, 98 Field Regiment (SP), 2 RHA, Battery 165 Jeep Regiment.

2030 Brigade Commander’s conference to discuss plan for advance tomorrow towards Ceprano.

Object is to clear ground south of Monte Grande 6429 as far as the River Liri.

Brigade column to move at 0900 hrs, Van guard provided by coy 1 RIrF with two troop tanks, bttn supporting weapons and an RE recce party.

Remainder of 1 RIrF follows, then Brigade HQ and then remainder of Brigade Group strategically positioned.

27th May.

0700 Hide recce parties move off to recce laying up areas for Brigade Group south of Monte Grande.

0830 Advance guard (1 RIrF) formed up nearby to move. Now decided that the Brigade Group will not move in one column, but bttns will move as situation permits and when ordered by the Brigade Commander.

0900 Van guard with RE recce parties to sweep paths and make routes leaves, closely followed by remainder of 1 RIrF as advance guard with remainder of 21 Field Company RE in support.

1200 1 RIrF entering harbour area 684272. 214 Field Company with van guard as covering party sweeping paths and tracks and then improving Ace Route on axis A 649271 – B 625272 – D 605285 and shortest route from B to Ceprano. Van guard to push forward and establish a firm base by tonight and cut Arce – Ceprano road between 628300 and 605285 and patrol radially.

1325 1 RIrF now at 665275 and by 1500 hrs were advancing towards their objective with no enemy interference.

1612 2 LIR now on move to harbour area.

1720 Brigade HQ moves and establishes at 674265 by 1815 hrs.

1800 6 Innisks now on move.

1830 1 RIrF on objective astride Arce – Ceprano road. Squadron 11 CAR in support found great difficulty in forcing their way through the woods and close and in some cases had to blast their way to keep up with the infantry.

The Sappers of 214 Field Company RE were excellent and did a very good job of work. They continued to work on during the night in order to have the wood ready for the advance to Ceprano in the morning.

1900 Brigade Group in harbour area Bosio di Coldragone except for 1 RIrF in position along Colleato 6228. Patrols to Route 6 and River Liri made no contact during the night. Recces were also carried out to find out possible routes to Ceprano. Bttn HQ 1 RIrF was heavily shelled for a short spell during the early part of the night.

28th May.

0940 Enemy tanks were reported at 632308 and a counter attack was in progress on Monte Piccolo. It afterwards transpired that the Guards did not get Monte Piccolo but did succeed in taking Monte Grande and it was on the latter hill that the enemy counter attack came in. It was successful but a coy managed to get onto it later in the day.

This incident is mentioned as these hills only 1500 yards north east of the RIrF positions and afforded a good view of the surrounding countryside. Rocca D’Arce- still held by the enemy – was another good OP but he apparently made little use of it.

1000 1 RIrF to move forward and cross River Liri by bridge built by the Canadians south of Ceprano. Main body moves off at 1024 and finds that the bridge is not yet working and, in any case, there is two hours traffic already waiting to go across.

1245 Brigade Commander issues fresh orders based on this information. 1 RIrF and 2 LIR to remain where they are. 6 Innisks to occupy area 6226 as a firm base.

1600 1 RIrF advance across River Liri and make for their objective Colle Comesilli 5829 supported by their squadron of Canadian tanks.

By the time the two remaining bttns have changed squadrons and 3 Kings Own Hussars were now in support of the brigade. It was impossible to change the squadron with 1 RIrF due to operational commitments and also due to the bad going and congestion on the tracks.

2000 1 RIrF in position. No opposition except for mines, which delayed the tanks for a short while.

29th May.

1 RIrF formed bridgehead north of Ceprano successfully during the night and pushed forward one company to 592292. They are going to push on during the morning.

0700 2 LIR on move to concentration area on far side of River Liri.

0720 A Squadron, 3 KOH now going to join 1 RIrF and relieve squadron of 11 CAR. They are already across the river.

0800 Brigade HQ moves to 587284.

During the day, 2 LIR moved forward to concentration area 586295 and the 6 Innisks to an area just below Brigade HQ.

The 1 RIrF push forward during the afternoon to gain the high ground 571317 – 573320. The going was slow and the tanks had six ditched due to the shocking nature of the ground.

1820 1 RIrF report that they are going on as quickly as possible and realise the need for speed but the ground is very difficult.

1900 CO 1 RIrF reports to the Brigade Commander. Tells how his forward coys met with opposition from area of their objective and also the nebels and mortars were very active. Now he has pulled his two forward coys back to the edge of the wood at about 372300 and was going to put in a set piece attack with a small barrage.

2000 Coy 2 LIR starts making for its objectives pt 255 G 552313.

2030 Tac HQ 2 LIR and remaining coys move forward from concentration area to consolidate objective pt 255. They could not take their tanks with them and they harboured for the night ready to rejoin 2 LIR by a different route in the morning.

2232 Battle patrol 6 Innisks ordered up to escort 214 Field Company sweeping main road of mines just west of the River Liri.

2300 2 LIR are pushing on and meeting slight resistance.

2320 6 Innisks now on move forward to come up on right of 1 RIrF to guard right flank between them and the river.

30th May.

0010 2 LIR attack pt 255 with two coys, as they were meeting slight opposition preceded by half an hour’s barrage.

0015 1 RIrF are getting on. B Coy is at 567317. A Coy going on to 564322 and D Coy at 587303.

0045 A Coy 1 RIrF on objective.

0153 6 Innisks now in position.

0210 Patrols were sent out during the night and found Strangolagalli evacuated but the buildings of the village had been demolished across the road and there were many bomb craters which would need some time to fill in and also would need the help of a bulldozer. Booby traps and mines had also been laid. Task of brigade now to advance to Ripi. 2 LIR to lead and gain objective San Giovanni 5333. 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF to follow up and clamp down in suitable concentration areas behind 2 LIR final positions.

2 LIR were late in moving off due to difficulty in getting road ready in time and also ensuring it was clear of mines so that the tanks got through.

1935 2 LIR report that they had quite a battle for San Giovanni and are now consolidating north of the village.

Battle Patrol 2 LIR to move round east of Ripi and try and cut the road leading north from the town.

6 Innisks moved up to a concentration area behind 2 LIR positions.

31 May.

0500 1 RIrF move up to concentration area 543320.

0630 1 RIrF in position and squadrons 3 KOH now married up with 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF.

0700 Brigade HQ moves to 546310.

0800 6 Innisks with one squadron of tanks pass through 2 LIR to advance north of Ripi. Their final objective was Il Castello 5336.

At 1030, they reported slight opposition Cle Ronoro 5336 and also mines and ditches, which were holding up the tanks.

1055 6 Innisks report enemy holding Il Castello 5336.

1735 6 Innisks attacked Il Castello at 1700 hrs and gained feature. They are now pushing on to pt 267 5338.

2000 One coy 6 Innisks on objective. Two more moving up.

2100 6 Innisks now firm. Squadron harboured successfully. Four tanks ditched up to present. Remainder of night quiet.

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