Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


6 Innisks – December 1943

1st December – ROCCA.

The Bttn prepared to continue the advance after breaking through the enemy’s fortifications; the plan being to push on along the main Fossacesia to San Vito road with a regiment of tanks until resistance was met and then issue orders on the spot for dealing with it. A and C Coys were to meet the tanks at road 377047 and 383048 and push along road in that road followed by Bttn HQ, B and D Coys.

0630 Bttn started off, and while leaving, the area was shelled fairly heavily for ten minutes, resulting in four casualties in D Coy.

0800 Coys reached tanks at RV but considerable delay was caused just after starting owing to the bridge at 377047 being demolished. REs were sent for and coys were deployed in protection of the bridge. The REs were very soon on the spot; and using the bulldozer got the road clear by 1230hrs.

Meanwhile, a recce party had found that the next bridge at 367044 was also blown and work was started on that as soon as the first one was finished. While the Bttn was protecting the first bridge. B Coy brought in three PoWs from 3/361 PGR.

1430 Bttn was astride road at 377044 and waiting for the second bridge to be completed (2 PoWs were found here from 56 Werf Regiment).

1500 Orders came through from Brigade not to continue any further owing to a threat that was growing on our left flank, but that another Bttn (2 LIR) would pass through is that night; so the Bttn disposed to cover the bridge, which had been prepared and by 0330hrs were established with Bttn HQ at 364048 and coys at 363048, 369049, and 365042.

1800 2 LIR came through our positions and continued towards San Vito until they were held up by the bridge being blown at 369073, 370044. The advance up to this point had taken place without enemy resistance.


2nd December.

The enemy started shelling the Bttn, but caused no casualties. The advance party of the Seaforth Highlanders (1 Canadian Division) arrived and preparations had been made for handing over the position.

1300 O Group conference and orders issued to assist the 2 LIR in crossing river at 369073 where enemy resistance had been met.

1400 Bttn moved off and by 1510, Bttn HQ had reached 361060 and were disposed in that area while the CO, who had found the LIR were not so far forward as expected, went back to Brigade HQ. The enemy was shelling this area, but no casualties were caused. Bttn stayed there until 1900hrs, when orders were received for our return to Rocca 3805, where we arrived at 2140hrs.

2330 O Group conference was called and it was made known that the Bttn was to support elements of 4 Armoured Brigade in an attack on San Vito from the left flank, infantry to be lorry borne. This coin was to proceed along the Lanciano to San Vito road as far as possible until resistance was met, when further orders would be issued to deal with it. Orders of march – Troop Tanks, B Coy, Regimental HQ, 2 Scout Cars (CO and 22 set in one, Adjutant and 18 set in the other), jeep for the IO, two artillery carriers, C Coy, A Coy, D Coy, S Coy, Bttn HQ, RAP.

Lieut Beglin appointed to the rank of A/Captain.


3rd December.

Bttn was roused at 0400hrs and embussed at 0505hrs, and joined tanks at road junction north of Fossacesia (351022) at 0615hrs.

0645 Column moved off and the head turned down the southern San Vito road but the leading three tonner had fallen behind and by mistake went into Lanciano and along the northern road with the rest of the column following. Lanciano had only just fallen and was yet unoccupied by infantry.

The column travelled along the northern San Vito road for about three miles before the IO caught up with the head and turned it back; but 3 PoWs were brought back, too, from an MG post, which had been surprised; it caught up with B Coy and 3 CLY without any further incident.

1000 B Company and 3 CLY were making good progress and news came through that they were on the outskirts of the town. The tanks were first in the town and were shelled while entering, but suffered no casualties.

1200 B Coy entered the town, but the coy commander, Capt Clarke MC, was wounded on the outskirts and was prevented from leading his coy in. C Coy followed close behind, B Coy and progress continued with the street fighting going on in our favour, and, by 1500hrs, the Bttn was firmly established in the town with Bttn HQ at 365108 and coys in positions around. Supporting arms moved up and a local patrol was sent out to protect the REs, who set to work clearing demolitions and craters. A patrol was sent out to the bridge at 364118 and reported it to have three spans blown and two gaps. The bridge was over a gully 20 feet deep with steep sides. Total PoWs for the day were 47 from 361 PGR. Our own casualties were 2 ORs, 1 officer (Captain Clarke MC) and 16 ORs wounded.


4th December.

The other two Bttns of the Brigade moved up and went forward of the town to the line of the River Moro.

Bttn pioneers lifted 46 Teller mines from area of railway in 3611.

0940 CO was called to a conference at Brigade HQ and on his return the Bttn received orders to move forward to area of ridge 3411 to protect left flank of 2 LIR and 1 RIrF.

1400 Bttn left San Vito in the following order D Coy (riding on tanks), C Coy, Bttn HQ, B Coy, A Coy. The RIrF on our right flank were having some trouble with M/G posts and some bullets were just clearing the road along which the Bttn was travelling.

1630 Bttn was established with Bttn HQ at 345114, B and D Coys, with supporting weapons at Apollinari (3310) under command of Major Little A Coy remained in the same area as Bttn HQ and C Coy went under command of 1 RIrF, who were expecting a counter attack to develop.

2100 News came through that the Canadian Battalions were to take up positions on our left flank and guides were sent out to meet them and guide them through our Bttn area.


5th December.

0130 The Bttn was established at 334097 and 336087. The enemy put down harassing fire on Apollinari throughout the night and also to the right of Bttn HQ.

1600 Warning order was sent out to coys telling them that relief would take place that night after 1800hrs.

1900 Change over with Seaforths completed and code word ENO sent to Brigade HQ.

1930 Bttn left by route march for area 3604 in the following order S, A, B, C, D, Bttn HQ, A Echelon marching personnel joined Bttn as it marched through San Vito.

Lieut Dicker appointed A/Captain, Lieut Schayek awarded MC and CSM Stevenson DCM.

2150 Greatcoats arrived, with the cooks and rations.

The enemy shelled San Vito and river bed causing some vehicle casualties; 15 cwt water truck and staff car damaged by shrapnel. Enemy mortars bombed area spasmodically all day, but without effect.

2330 Bttn arrived at area 3604 and code word Fruit was sent to Brigade HQ.

Hot tea, blankets, greatcoats, and rum was issued.

Lieut Dicker rejoined the Bttn from hospital.


6th December.

Bttn spent all day in this area owing to move being cancelled. 22 Canadian Bttn moved into same area. The River Sangro became swollen preventing transport from crossing and Bttn had to go on short rations.

Rain fell the whole day causing the Sangro to get even deeper.


7th December.

0600 Bttn roused and preparations made for the move to Casalbordino.

0930 Bttn embossed and moved off via Rocca-Fossacesia, coast road to Casalbordino, debussing at road junction 4594 from where the Bttn marched to its area 600 yards east of Casalbordino. Here, a hot meal was served, tents and blankets issued and Bttn was made as comfortable as possible.


8th December.

Bttn spent a quiet day. Personnel were allowed into Casalbordino.

1800 Preparations were made for move, tents were struck, blankets rolled and haversack rations issued for midday next day.

2330 Bttn embossed in area 4594.

2350 Column moved off following the LIR in the brigade convoy.


9th December.

MT columns had a good journey on good roads to Larino, where a halt was made at 0530hrs for breakfast.

0530 Breakfast cooked at roadside.

0730 Column started off again, and this time the journey was on winding roads through hilly country.

Good time was made and the Bttn arrived at Casalnuovo 9235 at 1230hrs.

Billets had been recced in advance and everyone was found a comfortable place.

Lieut Griffiths promoted to rank of A/Captain.

Lt-Col Grazebrook ordered to fly to England next day.

Major Maxwell rejoined the Bttn.

The Bttn was told that the CO was leaving us, having been called home for a special appointment at the war office. Before leaving, he issued a special order of the day, thanking all ranks for their close co-operation in the past. Major Bryar assumed command of the Bttn.


10th December.

Bttn spent day cleaning up and checking admin points.


11th December.

MBU arrived for use of the Bttn. Check of kit and admin points.

1400 Advance party leaves for Isernia to recce billets for Bttn, which had been ordered to stand by for move to there.  

1430 Kit bags of personnel arrive. 


12th December.

0930 Bttn Church Parade – Captain Mahon posted to this unit.

1130 MO lectures on VD – further allotments for MBU.

1930 HQ Coy hold quiz and impromptu concert.


13th December.

Captain DK McCaldin MC attached to Brigade HQ as assistant Staff Captain.

0930 A party of 35 men left for Divisional rest camp at Campobasso, which is run by Captain Ablett an ex member of the Bttn.

0945 CO inspect kits.


14th December.

RSM’s parade for C and D Coys.

Darts competition held in recreation room.

Maintenance inoculation of Typhus starts.


15th December.

Typhus inoculations continue.


16th December.

Individual training commenced, all ranks to do 1 hour PT every day.


17th December.

Training continued.


18th December.

Training continued – T/Major Cooke posted to this unit.


19th December.

Field firing range completed and A Coy start firing practice. The new Divisional Commander, Major General CF Keightley CB OBE, known to many of the Bttn from our 6 Armoured Division days, visited the Bttn accompanied by Brigade N Russell DSO MC.

Training continued.


20th December.

TAB inoculations for all ranks in need of it.


21st December.

1330 Training was restricted owing to the number of men on light duties after the TAB inoculations. Firing on range continued and platoon training carried out. All coys started making preparations for Xmas; building ovens and buying poultry etc.

1530 12 Reinforcements arrived including Lieut Stewart and many who had been with the Bttn previously.

2000 News came through that the Bttn was to move to Isernia next morning.

2/Lieuts Sorrell and Walker joined the Bttn. T/Captain Hingston MC attached this unit.


22nd December.

0500 Bttn started making preparations for the move and by 0900hrs everything was ready.

1045 Bttn started off in coy blocks in the order: S, D, C Coys, Bttn HQ, B Echelon, A and B Coys; travelling via via Volturno, Vinchiaturo, Isernia.

Owing to a delay in the full number of RASC vehicles arriving at Casalnuovo, HQ Coy was held up until 1200hrs.

1530 Bttn was in Isernia and all coys shown to their billets.

2000 A and B Coys ordered to move on following morning: A Coy to Pescopennataro 2464, B Coy to Vasto Girardi where they came under command of 56 Recce Regiment.


23rd December.

A and B Coys moved off to their new areas.

0830 Captain Dicker appointed OC HQ Coy.

1010 24 men from HQ and C Coys went off to Divisional rest camp at Campobasso for three days. 6 men from S Coy went off for 6 days to Naples. Captain Kerr (A/Adjutant) appointed A/Major and takes over command of D Coy.

Lieut JF McClinton rejoined from hospital – Africa Star ribbons were issued to all ranks entitled to the award.


24th December.

Preparations made for Christmas Day – Lieut JF McClinton was posted to Brigade HQ as LO.


25th December.

1200 CO and Coy commanders visited the area.

1300 CO visited each coys’ dining room and extended his best wishes to all ranks.


26th December.

Bttn ordered to area Capracotta 2159hrs on the 27th and preparations for this move was made during the day.

0915 Church service in cinema at Isernia.

1100 Advance party left for Capracotta.


27th December.

0400 Bttn roused to complete packing.

0500 Breakfast served.

0630 Bttn embossed at Isernia and column passed SF (road junction 223327) at 0700hrs and proceeded via Carpione, Sessano, Pescolanciano, road junction 261503, road junction 258517, to Capracotta. This was a very cold journey and the second half was carried out in driving snow, which caused a little difficulty with some of the MT, but all arrived at Capracotta with some pushing over the slippery parts of the road.

1200 Coys were shown their defensive tasks and set to work in improving and strengthening there.

Lieut Blyth rejoined the Bttn from hospital.


28th December.

Weather still very cold. Movement observed from Bttn OP in Pizzerferrato. 10 (Polish) Commandos sent out a patrol to search woods in the Sangro Valley west of Capracotta, but found no sign of enemy.

Captain Hingston posted to this unit.


29th December.

Some snow fell and visibility was very poor – Mobile Film Unit came up to Capracotta – Divisional Commander and Brigadier came up to Bttn and discussed defences etc. Major BL Bryar appointed Lt-Col in command of 6 Innisks wef 10 December. 2/Lieut Phillips transferred from B Coy and relinquished rank of Captain.

Patrol of one Sergeant and 4 ORs from D Coy with 1 signaller and 1 pioneer was sent to Castel del Guidre (1961). B Coy moved from Vastogiraldi to Capracotta.


30th December.

Heavy snow all night produced drifts of 10-12 feet and 4 feet was the average depth.

Heavy snow fell all day. Coys spent day strengthening and wiring defences. Diptheria broke out among RA personnel and these troops were placed in quarantine.

Snow reduced visibility to zero and Bttn OP closed down.

2300 Patrol returned from Guidre.


31st December.

0300 Another patrol strength 1 Sergeant and 6 ORs went to Castel del Guidre.

Lieut Blyth was appointed Adjutant and A/Captain wef 27 December.

A/Major J Kerr transferred from D Coy to C Coy and assumes command.