6 Innisks – August 1943

1st August – CATENANUOVA.

0200 A & B Coys in position. B forward on pt 250. A Coy and HQ Coy around farm 591939.

0900 MMG platoon and A/Tk platoon arrived together with rations.

1600 A & B Coys marched to lying up area in vineyard, which had very recently been evacuated by the enemy,  1 mile north of Catenanuova at 624863. C & D Coys rejoined the Bttn there. 2 enemy trucks and signal stores salvaged. 

2nd August – CATENANUOVA.

0400 Orders received for Irish Brigade to advance to Centuripe, which was believed to have been captured by 36 Brigade. A warning order had been issued to coys.

0530 Bttn, less S Coy, started to advance by mule track to Centuripe, an advance of 6000 yards, with a climb of over 2000 feet. Coys moved in light order without small packs and hard rations carried, wrapped in gas capes. The Faughs were advancing along the main road on our left.

0845 C Coy in the lead came under mortar and rifle fire from the left flank and took up a position on pt 640 (653907), where they were also fired on from the ridge on the south east of the town. Bttn HQ was immediately established in the rear and the remaining coys closed under cover while recces were carried out.

Immediately in front of C Coy lay pt 708 which dominated our position.

1100 After artillery fire had been directed by 10 Field Battery under command on to enemy positions, D Coy, followed by B Coy, were ordered to move on to the ridge on the right flank and to seize the farm on the top of pt 664 (663907), which was the ground vital to the enemy’s defence. Unfortunately, the opposition from here was strong and progress was held up at a distance of 300 yards. Meanwhile, the heat on the southern slopes of the hills had become intense and because of this and the shortage of water (although wells were fortunately found in the area) and the steepness of the mountain, it was decided by the CO to await the relative cool of the afternoon before recommencing operations.

1600 D Coy were fired on by units of another brigade, which was attacking another feature on their right rear. After a little time, contact was established.

1630 Bttn HQ moved up to pt 640 and C Coy with artillery support moved forward to and scaled a 100 foot cliff to pt 708 and succeeded in gaining a foothold in the town. A Coy followed but owing to a mischance, artillery support was not available and they were fired on from both flanks.

After reorganisation, A Coy passed through C Coy into the town and encountered strong enemy resistance including a tank. House to house fighting at close quarters ensued during which Major Crocker and Lieut Morrow were wounded.

C Coy was then ordered to move east and occupy pt 709 (658914), which controls the ridge to the east of the town. This was done but the enemy got between A & C Coys and the situation became confused during the remaining hours of daylight.

1720 Zero attack for the attack by D Coy, supported by B Coy on the farm at pt 664. Over the most difficult country, and in the face of heavy fire, Lieut McClinton succeeded in gaining the objective with his platoon but was driven off b a well organised immediate counter attack. A further attack was launched by B Coy after dark, but it was then found that the enemy had evacuated the position. During the operations, Lt Ferris (D) and Lt Harpur (B) were wounded.

3rd August – CENTURIPE.

0330 Town reported clear of enemy. D Coy, which had been ordered to work along the ridge after the occupation of pt 644 found it clear of the enemy and made contact with C Coy on pt 709.

0630 Bttn HQ moved into the town and B Coy also came in from the east. The road now being open, rations and S Coy were brought up and the Bttn spent the day reorganising. The town has suffered severely from shelling and bombing but the civilian population were pleased to see us in place of the Bosche.

The enemy consisted of the 3rd Parachute Regiment.

Total casualties were 8 ORs killed. 4 officers and 36 ORs wounded.

1830 Brigade moved north from the town and the Innisks took up a position round 667929 in a square formation with Bttn HQ in the gully.

The night was quiet. The REs  started bulldozing a bypass round the a blown bridge over the gully  

4th August – CENTURIPE.

0600 – 0700 Vehicles moving around diversion past Bttn HQ raised dust, which brought down shellfire.

1100 OP reports  RIrF have reached river south of bridge 683947 (blown).

1230 CO returns from Brigade HQ. Explains bridgehead is to be formed over the River Salso.

1430 Command Group moves to HQ RIrF on cliff 678943.

1500 Bttn takes over position of RIrF as they move across river. The bridgehead was formed by RIrF right, LIR left with heavy barrage.

1700 Forward Bttn well forward and consolidating Innisks position, forming local protection for RE bridging party. Two Coys each side of river, but later the two rear coys were also ordered forward across river.

Spasmodic shelling till dusk and quiet night. Lieut RH Richardson wounded. 

5th August – CENTURIPE.

1030 Preparations for crossing second river (Simeto).

CO goes forward to house 688949 for O Group. Enemy shelling this area, wounded Major Little, Captain McPhillips and Captain Duddington and one OR killed and one wounded.

1 Portee burnt out – some ammo saved.

1200 Bttn HQ moves up to Orange Grove 693955.

Rifle Coy also stepped up.

S Coy in large house 688949. Good water here.

1200 Creeping barrage in the vicinity of the Bttn HQ.

One lot.. fell among the HQ. 1 OR wounded (not seriously).

1500 CO goes forward to RIrF and LIR across the river.

1600 C Coy called into the assistance of RIrF. After a change of plans, while preparing to attack St Maria 711953, they were diverted to clear the village of Macaioni 704955, which they did with outstanding success at 1945 – 2045hrs, establishing themselves on YGn 705954.

They took some PoWs. About 30 enemy were seen running away into the hills. These were engaged by MMGs and mortars.

C Coy won the highest praise from the RIrF for their part in the attack.

D Coy crossed the river to the village behind C Coy and relieved coys of the Faughs in that area.

During the night, Major Savage, who had led the attack, was shot accidentally by a fusilier of the RIrF, who mistook his identity.

During the night, the enemy heavily shelled the ridge behind the River Salso causing many casualties in men and vehicles. Innisks A Echelon sustains 1 OR wounded and 1M/C destroyed.

6th August – ADRANO.

0900 Patrol sent out under Lieut Clarke MC, located enemy position below Adrano, returned 1500hrs without casualties and 1 PoW.

Day quiet except for odd shelling – preparation proceeding all round by 11 and 36 Brigades for attack on Adrano. A and B Coys stepped up behind river.

7th August – ADRANO.

1300 Terrific barrage overhead onto Adrano, which was taken without assistance.

Bulk ration issued. Bread blue mouldy. Bttn HQ moved to house 693955.

B Echelon moved to house 692953.

8th August – ADRANO.

Quiet day. Bathing in River Simeto. Back to compo rations.

9th August – ADRANO.

Bttn prepared to move to north of River Simeto. Move cancelled.

10th August – ADRANO.

1400 R Group to 36 Brigade HQ (726084). Plan formed in which Innisks were to do right flanking on Maletto (later cancelled).

1430 Bttn marched across River Simeto to 705954, essential transport only.

11th August – BRONTE.

0930 Bttn moved by transport to area Senetu (730091), arrived 1100hrs.

1200 O Group to OP on Mt Rivoglia. Plan changed, leaving Innisks in reserve, while RIrF and LIR were to make a frontal attack on Maletto and Mt Sperina respectively.

2330 Bttn marched to road and track junction 752122. Pack transport. Coys carried rations split up (rolled in gas cape).

12th August – BRONTE.

Food brought up in 15 Cwt in containers.

Plan again changed – Innisks now to advance to position to attack Mt Nave 810140. Intention: to use covered line of approach.

Lieut Wilton (mortar officer) kicked in jaw and evacuated.

1230 Bttn march off by road and track junction 746110 thence along increasingly bad tracks through broken lava country on the foothills of Etna.

During this, many walls had to be breached to let the mules through.

Map reading was difficult because many track and houses shown on the map did not exist, and the tracks further from the road were very ill defined. The proximity of Mt Etna further affected magnetic readings.

The route eventually taken from road and track junction 746110 was along the railway to 759113. Where the track was temporarily lost and the Bttn moved across walls etc to track junction 769115 to track junction 776117.

Patrols were sent out to determine the next move. Wireless communications with outside world broken down.

1800 By 18 set through RIrF, the CO indicated the impossibility of getting to M Nave in a fit state for a battle in daylight, but was ordered by the Brigadier to push on and get as close as possible in order to threaten it. Advantage of the holdup was taken to search for water, of which a limited quantity was found and some of the mules were watered.

1900 Bttn moved off to Baggiorazzo via pt 793114 (track junction 783116 did not exist).

2220 Head of Bttn arrived at Baggiorazzo and it became plain that it was impossible to reach Mt Nave.  Also the Bttn was in a most vulnerable formation strung out in a single file (men and mules) along the track.  By this time, wireless communications had broken down, but for a previous intercept, it was thought that the RIrF were intending to attack Mt Nave, but we had no indication of time and method. Therefore, the CO decided to centre the Bttn on Baggiorazzo and try and create the impression to the enemy that he was being surrounded.

Bttn in position. A Coy on high ground 786129 with patrols pushing towards Mt Nave. B Coy was local protection for Bttn HQ. C Coy and MGs (2) on high ground 785122. D Coy at track crossroads 781130 and to Mortar Corner 782142. During the night, the enemy withdrew and were pursued to Randazzo by the RIrF 

13th August – BAGGIORAZZO.

0600 A Coy patrol reported ridge Baggiorazzo clear of enemy. Rations somewhat depleted owing to difficulty with mules and harness – arrived at 0400.  A good well was found in A Coy area. Water bottles filled and mules watered.

0830 Bttn moved off to Mortar Corner and was allotted coy areas.

1100 CO returned from Brigade, with the news that RIrF and Americans were in Randazzo. Bttn settles down to rest.

14th August – MALETTO.

Bttn area is well wooded and affords a good measure of shade. The ground is covered with fine lava dust, which infiltrates everywhere especially near the area used by MT. Water for washing is available from wells in the area. Drinking water is brought by the water truck.

More cases of suspected malaria (average 2 or 3 a day), source believed to have been river valley occupied on 5th August and days following. Major Crocker rejoined from hospital.

British Military Authority (BMA) money declared legal tender in this theatre of war. 

15th August – MALETTO.

Party of 1 and 30 visited 2 Bttn Innisks near Paterno.

17th August – MALETTO.

Individual training started. Party of 2 Innisks visited unit.

19th August – MALETTO.

Captain Norman (adjutant) admitted to hospital with jaundice.

20th August – MALETTO.

Half battalion (C & D Coys and half S and HQ Coys) moved to rest area (SL253 895505). Area affords good shade and is almost on the seashore. Bathing is excellent, the shore shelves steeply and deep water comes within 5 yards of the edge. Complete absence of parades and separation of officers and ORs is the “Order of the Day.”

Fruit is plentiful (grapes, figs, blackberries). Bttn HQ remains at Mortar Corner but as Brigade has moved to rest area, much administrative detail finds its way to the rest area.

The remainder of the battalion continues individual training and field firing.

1600 March out for Exercise “Blister”. 19 miles to assembly area.

21st August – MALETTO.

Captain McCaldin MC to hospital.

22nd August – MALETTO.

Major Bayley and Captain Kerr to hospital (suspected malaria).

23rd August – MALETTO.

Rest party returns.

24th August – MALETTO.

Remainder of Bttn moves to Rest Area. Since the 18th, a marked increase of suspected malaria is noticeable. 37 in all.

Similar training carried out by C & D Coys.

Bttn packed up and standing by for embarkation at 1 1 /2 hrs notice.

25th August – MALETTO.

Lieut GT Griffiths to hospital with tonsillitis.

Lieut JF Hall joined Bttn.

28th August – TINDARI.

Whole Bttn concentrated in Rest Area for training.

Captain McCaldin rejoined from hospital.

29th August – TINDARI.

Coys settled in shady olive grove. Central officers’ mess (less C and D Coys) and Sgts’ mess started).

Septic sores and desert sores mostly cleared up since arrival here.

Severe thunderstorm shortly after midnight caused considerable discomfort as no tentage is available, but no damage was caused.

30th August – TINDARI.

Training programme commenced (but heavy rain interfered).

0800 Training programme resumed again.