The part played by the Irish Brigade during the battle at Termoli 5/6 October 1943.
On the 5th October 1943 commencing at 0600hrs, the marching personnel of the brigade and Tac HQ embarked at Barletta. By 0945hrs, the convoy of seven LCIs were ready to leave and shortly afterwards, the leading ship nosed itself out of the harbour. The Brigade Transport Column had left Barletta on the 2nd October and on the 5th was on route from San Severo to a concentration area south of Campomarino.
The sea journey was completely uneventful and at 1945hrs, the convoy arrived at Termoli. The Brigade Commander and the IO were the first ashore and were greeted by an officer of the SS Brigade, who drove them to his HQ.
The situation in the town appeared somewhat obscure. The enemy were shelling the town spasmodically and it was evident that his main forces were not very far away. A brief picture was given by the SS brigade of the situation and then the Brigade Commander and the IO drove to 36 Brigade, where a conference had been called by the GOC for 2200hrs. On the journey from the town to the Brigade HQ (830757), several blazing vehicles were passed and to the west, several buildings were on fire.
The conference duly took place at 2200hrs and a plan was formed. The plan was as follows:
At 0800hrs on 6th October, the tanks of 3 City of London Yeomanry (3 CLY) were to advance due west from the area of the main junction H8374, and occupy Village Ridge. After Village Ridge was occupied, the Irish Brigade were to take over the ground from the tanks, with the 1 RIrF on the right and the 6 Innisks on the left. Having reached their objective, the infantry were to dig in.
At 2300hrs, Tac HQ was established at Termoli and reports received that the brigade was disembarking steadily at the harbour. The shelling of the town continued at irregular intervals. The day of 5th October had been one of determined attack by forces of the 16 Armoured Division. Throughout the day of the 5th, heavy confused fighting had taken place on all sectors of the 36 Brigade front with enemy tanks penetrating in the several places. At 1700rs, our tanks had swept the ridge area H8274 and the infantry of 6 RWK and 5 Buffs established themselves there. The position, though precarious, was under control by midnight and the plan forced to beat off any attacks by the enemy at first light on the 6th.
The outer defences of the town were held by personnel of the SS Brigade and the 2 Lancashire Fusiliers covering the area from just south of the Pescara road to the coast. The 6 RWK and 5 Buffs were established on the ridge area 8274 and all available personnel were in defensive positions covering the approaches to the town.
By 0100hrs, the COs of the three battalions had reported to Tac HQ and reported that disembarkation was proceeding steadily and rapidly in spite of the shelling of the harbour area. The immediate plan was for the brigade to stiffen the perimeter defence of Termoli to ward off a possible enemy attack at first light and then continue to the start line for the plan already made by the Divisional Commander.
By 0330hrs, the 6 Innisks were established in the area H825779, the 1 RIrF area H824785 and the 2 LIR area H827784. At 0545hrs, Main HQ transport column arrived at Termoli. As anticipated, the enemy put in an attack with tanks and infantry on the town at first light along the axis of the Pescara road. The enemy attack met with a certain measure of success but he was held up by our defences roughly 400 yards from the western outskirts of the town. Enemy a/c and artillery were active and the town was being fairly heavily bombarded – his fire was increasingly accurate (later found to have an OP in the church tower).
At 0830hrs, Tac HQ was established area H823770 and at 0915hrs, the Divisional Commander visited Tac HQ. The tanks were making rapid progress on the high ground area H8274 owing to the bad going and accurate A/Tk fire.
The Divisional Commander ordered the Irish Brigade to take Village Ridge off its own bat – the fact that the tanks were operating on the high ground would undoubtedly facilitate the infantry advance and in fact have a great effect of the battle.
At 1000hrs, the three Bttn commanders reported to the Tac HQ and they were ordered to get their men onto the start line and be prepared to advance by 1130hrs.the planned axis of attack was the line of the Pescara road with the 1 RIrF on the right and the 6 Innisks on the left- the right boundary being the road. The objective was the high ground to approximately the 81 grid line, and having got there, to dig in. The 2 LIR were not being loosed until later. Under command was B Squardron Canadian Tank Regiment (12 CTR), who were to advance on the axis north of the Pescara road at the same time as infantry advance at 1130hrs.
At 1130hrs, 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF commenced their advance, with the tanks of 12 CTR, north of the Pescara road. By 1230hrs, forward troops were reported on a general line running south from the Pink House. Considerable opposition was being met from shellfire and MGs.
Our advance continued steadily and by 1300hrs, the tanks of B Squadron 12 CTR, and the 1 RIrF were in the area of the Brick Factory, and the 6 Innisks were on the high ground to the south. The 2 LIR commenced their advance at 1400hrs and by 1530hrs, 2 coys had reached the area of the cemetery after stiff opposition.
The situation at 1700hrs was well in hand. The 2 LIR were in position from the coast to exclude road junction north of the Brick Factory with the squadron of tanks in their immediate rear. 1 RIrF from forward and including junction north of the Brick Factory linking with 6 Innisks in area 791757. The 6 Innisks had 2 coys south of San Giacomo astride the road. HQs were established as follows: 6 Innisks 785738, 2 LIR 806778 and 1 RIrF 803768. The position was now well in hand and the enemy had withdrawn. No shelling had taken place for two hours.
The 2 LIR had had some heavy fighting in the cemetery area, whilst the 1 LIR met their stiffest opposition in the area of the Brick Factory and to the south on Village Ridge. The 6 Innisks had a fairly clear run through except for one incident. An isolated Mk IV Special hidden in a farm caused some casualties, slightly wounding the CO.
By 1800hrs, the position was as shown in the attached sketch. The 2 LIR commanding the River Simarca between the sea and the Brick Factory – the 1 LIR between the Brick factory and Pt 161, and the 6 Innisks firmly established between pt 161 and south of the village of San Giacomo. The 2 Lancashire Fusiliers, now under command of the Irish Brigade, were in reserve about 1000 yards immediately north east of the Brick Factory. The 5 Buffs (36 Infantry Brigade) stepped up to gain touch with 6 Innisks in the area of San Giacomo. B Squadron 12 CTR worked with great dash and destroyed 6 enemy tanks and made possible the quick movement of the brigade.
The whole operation, from the dis-embarkation at the pier to the final occupation of the enlarged bridgehead reflects great credit on the 3 battalion commanders concerned. They disembarked and assembled their battalions for the attack, without any fuss or worry. Most of this was carried out in darkness and under appreciable shell fire and was by no means an easy operation.
At 1900hrs, the following order was issued by Brigade HQ:
“The Irish Brigade will dig in, consolidate and hold a general line as under –
Right LIR from the sea to the coast road at road junction 803767excl.
RIrF from including this road junction to pt 161 785749.
6 Innisks from pt 161 excl to about area 783728.
LF, under command Irish Brigade in present area 8177 with one coy in area 8176.
Positions will be well dug in and held firm.
A/Tk defence guns allotted as under LIR (seven), RIrF (six), Innisks (seven).
Tank support – one regiment tanks in support of brigade disposed for night as under:
two squadrons astride west road supporting LIR and RIrF respectively, and one squadron probably in area 8075. Buffs are on our left about area 8072 and Innisks will gain contact with them. No move forward without further orders and present positions will be held firm.”
- Distance of today’s advance (6 October):
6 Innisks – 6800 yards.
1 RIrF – 5300 yards.
2 LIR – 2600 yards.
- Enemy casualties – tanks (claimed by 12 CTR).
6 destroyed, 2 damaged.
- Enemy casualties – personnel.
Estimated killed – 42, estimated wounded 25, prisoners taken – 15.
- Casualties from the Irish Brigade
Killed Wounded Missing Killed Wounded Missing
6 Innisks – 1 – 3 15 2
1 RIrF 1 1 – 11 68 –
2 LIR – 1 – 8 22 –
Total 1 3 – 22 105 2
Wounded – Lt-Col TN Grazebrook DSO 6 Innisks.
Killed – 2/Lieut SEJ White 1 RIrF.
Wounded – Lieut WG Fielding 1 RIrF.
Wounded – Major BH Westcott 2 LIR.