Irish Brigade

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

38 (Irish) Brigade – July 1944

 1st July – PANICALE.

On 25 June, advance parties from each battalion and Brigade HQ had concentrated under divisional arrangements and left for train for Caserta the next day. Information was very scarce and it was known that the division was to go to a concentration area near Rome preparatory to handing over all stores and transport before leaving Italy for an unknown destination. The whole brigade was out of the line and the remainder of the division was to be relieved of its commitments west of Lake Trasimeno within the next few days. Advance parties to recce the concentration area near Rome left at 1500 hrs. Orders were issued for the brigade to move embussed tomorrow to the new concentration area. Head of column past SP at 0500 hrs and order of march to be Brigade HQ, 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, 214 Field Coy, D Support Group.


2nd July – PANICALE.

0500 Brigade column passed SP for concentration area near Rome.

 

A halting place was arranged for units to halt for one hour at midday to make tea and have a haversack lunch. The head of the column started to arrive in the concentration area by about 1445 hrs and the whole brigade was reported in the area by 1800 hrs. It was a very long journey for the carriers, many of which broke down and were not complete until the following morning.

 

1600 Brigade HQ established. Map ref F 905730. Remainder of Brigade Group in areas around Brigade HQ.

 


3rd July – ITALY.

 

As soon as the battalions had settled down in the new concentration area, arrangements were quickly made to give men as much leave in Rome as possible. Daily leave trucks – as many as could be spared – were to be sent in each day from each battalion, returning camp at 2230 hrs. Therefore, every man was able to get into Rome either every other day or once every three days.  In addition to allowing the men as much leave as possible, there was considerable work to be done during the next few days getting everything ready for the handover. Vehicles had to be checked and cleaned and all G 1098 stores that were going to be taken with us to be packed and stored in crates.

 


4th July – ITALY.

 

Leave parties to Rome continue. All battalions continue preparations for handing over stores and transport.

 


5th July – ITALY.

 

Leave parties for Rome continue. Battalions prepare stores and transport for handing over. Advance parties of 56 Division arrive during the evening. Advance party 169 Brigade report to this HQ to take over transport and all stores. Preparations commence to organise a dance to be given by officers of Brigade HQ to the officers of the Brigade Group and also to arrange a restaurant for the men as the feeding arrangements in Rome were not of the highest order.

 


6th July – ITALY.

 

Leave parties to Rome and preparations for the handover of transport and stores continues.

 


7th July – ITALY.

 

Leave parties to Rome and preparations for handover to 169 Brigade continues. Orders received for future moves of the brigade. Advance parties to recce concentration area at Taranto to move by rail at 1400 hrs, 9 July. Brigade to move by rail on 10 July from Rome to Taranto to a concentration area there. Trains, each holding 800 men, leave at 0900, 1200 and 1500 hrs.

 

6 Innisks and 50% Brigade HQ to leave at 0900 hrs. 2 LIR and remainder of Brigade HQ at 1200 hrs, 1 RIrF at 1500 hrs.

 


8th July – ITALY.

 

At 1200 hrs, the Brigade Commander opened the Shamrock Club. The situation of feeding troops in Rome was still far from good and it was decided to open a restaurant for the Brigade Group. A great deal of hard work was put in by the Staff Captain in finding a suitable restaurant and organising the running of it. The restaurant was situated in the Via Gamero in Rome and was a complete success from the very beginning. A total of 700 meals being sold during the first day. In the evening at the Barberini Palace in Rome, Brigade TPD Scott and the officers of the HQ held an officers dance for the Brigade Group. About four hundred guests were present and the whole evening was an outstanding success, much appreciated by all. The Brigade Pipe Band played Retreat before the dance and later on in the evening, the pipers danced jigs and reels, followed by some Haymakers Jigs danced by the officers and their guests.

 

Lt-Col HEN Bredin MC returns to the brigade. He was attacked on Piumarola on 17th May when commanding the 6 Innisks.

 


9th July – ITALY.

 

All stores and transport handed over to 169 Infantry Brigade. Brigade pick up remaining stores and prepares to entrain tomorrow for staging area, just outside Taranto. Brigade Commander addresses the officers and men of 6th Bttn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He explained to the bttn that they were being disbanded on orders from the War Office and were being amalgamated with the 2nd Bttn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The 2nd Bttn would retain the name and become part of the Irish Brigade. The officers and men made surplus to establishment by the amalgamation would become first line reinforcements for the brigade.

 


10th July – ITALY.

 

0900 6 Innisks and 50% Brigade HQ entrains at Rome station and move off at 0915 hrs.

 

1200 2 LIR and remainder of Brigade HQ entrain.

 

1500 1 RIrF entrain.

 


11th July – ITALY.

 

Whole brigade in train for Taranto. Trains were composed completely of cattle trucks and each truck held thirty men including their personal kit and there was considerable overcrowding and discomfort.

 


12th July – ITALY.

 

1500 6 Innisks arrive at Taranto station and march to staging area four miles outside Taranto. The other two trains containing 2 LIR and 1 RIrF were not due in until late in the evening and arrangements were made for the troops to sleep on them until the early morning.

 


13th July – ITALY.

 

0900 2 LIR and 1 RIrF arrive at staging area together with the remainder of Brigade HQ.

 

Arrangements were made to borrow transport from static units and ferry 50% of the men into Taranto on day leave.


14th July- TARANTO.

 

Lt-Gen Allfrey, Commander, 5 Corps, spoke to the officers and men of the 6th Bttn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was representing General Alexander, who could not get away as he was too busy. He explained the reason for the disbanding of the battalion and why General Alexander could not come down himself to speak to the battalion. Lt-Gen Allfrey was accompanied by the Brigade Commander, who was in Bari, awaiting a plane to fly him to Cairo.

 

The return of Lt-Col Bredin and the disbanding of 6 Innisks necessitated a change in COs. Lt-Col Coldwell – Horsfall – an Irish Fusilier – now commanding 2 LIR took over command of 1 RIrF. Lt-Col Bredin (RUR) took over command of 2 LIR. On the amalgamation of the two Inniskilling battalions, Lt-Col Scott would retain command of 2 Innisks.

 


15th July – TARANTO.

 

Day leave in Taranto. Bathing parties. Preparations made to load heavy baggage tomorrow on to lighters. Transport loaded up ready to leave first thing in the morning

 


16th July – TARANTO.

 

0600 Heavy baggage of Brigade HQ, 6 Innisks, and 2 LIR are loaded on to one lighter. Lighter to remain there until the next morning when it will report to ship transporting the brigade.

 


17th July – TARANTO.

 

0600 Light baggage party left for Oil Jetty, Taranto.

 

1230 Marching personnel left transit camp to march down to Taranto. Picked up by transport in Taranto and taken to Oil Jetty, Taranto.

 

1600 Marching personnel arrive Oil Jetty, Taranto.

 

1630 Embarkation commences on HMT Banfora. Brigade HQ first, 6 Innisks second and then 2 LIR. Whole piper piped aboard by pipes of 2 LIR. 1 RIrF saile don the HMT Ponttanic and were separated from the rest of the brigade.

 


18th July – TARANTO.

 

1200 Convoy left Taranto. As we sailed away from the quay, the piper played on the Boat Deck. Land in sight all day.

 


19th July  – AT SEA.

 

0800 Off Catania. Mount Etna sighted.

 

1315 Action Station Alarm. No contact with the enemy.

 

1600 Out of sight of land.

 


20th July – AT SEA.

 

1400 Land sighted. The shore of North Africa. A quiet day. A perfectly calm sea.

 


21st July – AT SEA.

 

This evening a concert was arranged by the padre of 2 LIR and the pipers and singers in the brigade entertained all personnel aboard HMT Banfora over the internal communication system.

 


22nd July – EGYPT.

 

0800 Convoy arrived at Alexandria.

 

0900 Brigade Commander comes aboard, having flown from Bari to Cairo.

 

0930 Brigade commences to disembark in lighters. 6 Innisks first followed by Brigade HQ and 2 LIR. Pipe Band of 2 Innisks played the brigade ashore.

 

1030 6 Innisks, Brigade HQ and2 LIR embussed at the docks and proceeded to Amaryia Transit Camp and arrived there at 1230 hrs.

 


23rd July – AMARYIA.

 

0530 Brigade embussed.

 

0630 Brigade convoy left Amaryia. Order of march – Brigade HQ, 6 Innisks, 2 LIR. Destination Qassassin.

 

1230 Lunch halt. Convoy passed over Delta Barrage, then ran parallel to Ishmaila Canal through Tel el Kebir to Qassassin.

 

Convoy arrives at Qassassin Camp.

 

1900 Brigade Group, including 1 RIrF, who landed at Port Said established at Qassassin Camp.

 


24th July – QASSASSIN.

 

Day spent in cleaning and reorganising camp sites and areas. Admin Orders received concerning future leave. Four periods allotted each of five days allowing 25% of units to go on the one period. Leave is to Cairo, Alexandria or Ismalia. Also 15% of unit strength allowed on day leave to these three places. Brigade Commander lays down training policy, which is to spend as much time on PT and drill during the early morning and then progressive talks or talks in the evening. Arrangements were also made for AEC  lecturers to come and talk to units on various political and topical subjects. Welfare facilities for the men are excellent. There are plenty of NAAFIs, concerts and cinemas and they have set a high standard, which was very pleasing to see.

 


25th July – QASSASSIN.

 

General routine. Early morning parades and day leave parties. Brigade Commander now acting Divisional Commander, while Divisional Commander is away and the other Brigade Commander’s are on a course.

 


26th July – QASSASSIN.

 

Leave parties commence to Cairo, Alexandria and Ishmlia. 25% of unit strength to go at one time for a total period of five days. Day leave is permissible as well to all these three towns, but the majority of the men take advantage of the short distance to spend of their time in Ishamlia.

 


27th July- QASSASSIN.

 

0820 Brigade Commander Conference. Subject was the amalgamation of the 2nd and 6th Battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

 

For the last three days, two Inniskillings’ COs had been drawing what was to form the nucleus of the new battalion and the Brigade Commander’s conference was held with the other two battalions’ COs present to discuss, who could go to the London Irish and the Irish Fusiliers out of the surplus made by the amalgamation of the 2nd and 6th Bttns, Inniskillings.

 

Day leave parties and training continue.

 


28th July – QASSASSIN.

 

0830 Brigade Commander Conference continues.

 

Early morning PT and training periods and day leave parties continue.

 


29th July – QASSASSIN.

 

1400 Brigade Commander leaves for Cairo to visit GHQ Cairo. Certain problems to be discussed as the Brigade Commander is acting Divisional Commander. He is then going on to Sidi Bishr, just outside Alexandria, to see 2 Innisks.

 


30th July – QASSASSIN.

 

0600 Leave party to Alexandria depart. They leave a day early in order to spend one night at Amaryia Transit Camp and then onto Alexandria the next day. Early morning PT and training periods and day leave parties continue.

 


31 July – QASSASSIN.

 

0600 Leave parties to Cairo and Ismalia depart.

 

All transport taking leave parties will bring back leave parties, whose leave has finished.

 

Early morning PT and training periods and day leave parties continue.

 

Farewell message received from Major General CF Keightly on his departure from the Division. He had gone to command 5 Corps.



 

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