6 Innisks – November 1943

1st November – MASSA FANALE.

Bttn resting – cleaning weapons etc and making general preparations for battle.

Lt-Col Grazebrook took over command of the Bttn (returned from A/Brigadier)

1700 O Group conference on general plan for crossing River Trigno

2nd November – MASSA FANALE.

0800 O Group conference at OP Farm. Orders and study of ground for Trigno crossing.

1000 CO, IO and Coy commanders attend conference at 36 Brigade HQ.

1430 IO went off to recce and mark Bttn concentration area.

1500 O Group conference.

1545 Battle platoon went off to meet IO and REs for night task north of River Trigno.

1830 Coy guides shown route to FUP by IO.

1900 Battle platoon shown route and task.

3rd November – MASSA FANALE.

0001 Hot tea served to all ranks. Bttn came under command 36 Brigade.

0115 Bttn moved off from area 6479.

0245 Bttn concentrated in assembly area west of River Trigno (6380).

0400 Leading coys (Right C, Left A) left front edge of wood, followed by Bttn HQ and reserve coys (Right B, Left D).

0430 Leading coys crossed start line with left on bridge over Molino 631812. S Mines were encountered in area of bridge, which caused a number of casualties.

0530 Leading troops on first objective, ring contour 40 (6282), followed ten minutes later by two troops B Squadron 46 RTR.

Remaining coys followed but D Coy on the left was delayed by a further minefield, causing more casualties. Reorganisation was necessary as coys were considerably intermingled.

0715 B Coy right, and D Coy left, started advance to second objective (San Salvo).

0730 A Coy started advance to second objective, but its remaining officer was killed shortly afterwards.

First objective was shelled, and occasional bursts of small arms fire came from both flanks. Forward coys were fired on by enemy tanks, east of San Salvo, which were concealed in farm buildings and olive groves. This fire was extremely accurate and pinned down the forward rifle coys, who found themselves in flat and open country. Our own tanks were unable to locate the enemy tanks from the positions they often occupied.

0930 Part of D Coy, however, managed to move round the right flank under cover, and entered San Salvo. Enemy tanks and infantry were still in occupation of the town, but were in the process of pulling out,

1030 C Coy with one troop of tanks in support, was ordered to move well round to the right and get into the town from the north east. They also came under fire from the enemy tanks.

1130 Four enemy tanks moved northwards along a track to the east of the town and two of these were put out of action by the troop of tanks supporting C Coy. This eased the situation, as some half hour later the remaining tanks withdrew from the south half of the town.

1300 C Coy then moved forward into the town, followed by B Coy and Bttn HQ and by 1400hrs, the Bttn was established in a defensive lay out , although the enemy were still firing into the town from the west.

1430 A Coy reached the town.

1600 An enemy counter attack developed round the north flank of San Salvo, tanks being used. Although none of them actually entered the town, they were on the outskirts and fired shells and MGs into the buildings.

While this counter attack was still proceeding, the Bttn A/Tk Gun, mortars, MGs and the RAP moved into the town from the south east and were in position by 1730hrs.

Casualties for the day were:

Officers – 2 killed, 3 wounded (and 3 rifle company commanders).

ORs – 15 killed, 45 wounded.

1730 “Stand to” followed by 50% “Stand to” all night.

About 150 personnel of 5 Buffs entered the town, thickening up defences.

2300 German preparation for counter attack was detected and artillery made it an “uncle” target effectively breaking it up.

2305 2 DFs brought down north of San Salvo.

Enemy MG fire continued spasmodically until 0300hrs.

A Echelon was bombed at midday; One 15 cwt and two carriers destroyed and two 15 cwts damaged.

Casualties – 4 killed, 9 wounded.

4th November – SAN SALVO.

0330 Captain Bunch arrived with rations.

0830 Evacuation of wounded carried on.

Civilians ordered to clean up the town and reorganise civil administration. The men killed in the previous day’s battle were collected and brought to the local Innisks cemetery for burial.

36 Brigade continued advance.

5th November – SAN SALVO.

0815 A mine cleaning section of Bttn pioneers were attacked by 56 Recce Troop.

0830 Patrol of two sections went to area Colle 583797 and found the area to be clear of enemy.

0830 Lt Hamilton and one platoon of C Coy patrolled to pt 210 (5783) and brought back one prisoner from 2 Coy 64 PGR.

C Coy moved forward by night to give local protection to 17 Field Battery RA.

1 RIrF moved into San Salvo and took over B and D Coy positions. B and D Coys moved to new positions north west and west respectively. Bttn returned to be u/c 38 Brigade.

Congratulatory message received from commander, 36 Brigade.

6th November – SAN SALVO.

Bttn standing by to move wef 1500hrs.

1000 Brigadier and OC 1 RIrF visited Bttn HQ for conference.

1100 A Group left to recce new Bttn area.

1500 IO attended conference at Brigade HQ.

1545 Marching personnel moved off to new area. Arrived new area 1745hrs, HQ at 580888 (near Vasto).

Captain DK McCalden rejoined D Coy.

Lieut C Clarke MC regranted rank A/Captain.

Lieut RF Greer regranted rank of Temp/Captain.

Light rain in evening.

Censorship regulations relaxed permitting mention of combat experiences at any time subject to certain restrictions.

7th November – VASTO.

0730 B Echelon moved forward to San Salvo area.

1600 A Echelon moved forward and joined Bttn.

1730 Brigadier visited Bttn.

8th November – VASTO.

Move wef 1500hrs 8th November.

1000 A Group moved off to recce new area.

1230 MT ordered to move 1315. Marching personnel at 1345hrs.

1315 MT moved off to new area, arrived at 1400hrs.

1345 Marching personnel moved off, arrived at 1525hrs.

Bttn HQ at 553922.

Bivouacs and 2nd Blankets brought up. Packs issued.

1800 Heavy rain set in for the night. Majority of troops in bivouacs, remainder in farms.

9th November – VASTO.

Continuous rain throughout the day.

0945 Adjutant and IO attended lecture on air cooperation by G2 Air 5 corps.

Major Bayley, OC B Coy left to go as instructor to North Africa.

Large mail, including papers, for Bttn. Rum issue at night.

10th November – VASTO.

Continuous drizzle throughout night and day.

Bttn carried out route march by coys from 1030 to 1230 (5 miles approximately).

1030 Brigadier Russell visited coy areas to see the conditions under which the men were living. All men under cover in either farms or bivouacs.

Bathing at MBU commenced for 150 men.

11th November – VASTO.

Temp Captain SJ Bunch regranted rank of Temp/Major wef 3 November 1943.

A/Captain C Clarke MC (D Coy) assumed command B Coy.

12th November – SAN SALVO.

Coys commenced training on Field Firing Ranges.

Ranges –  2 small arms and 2” mortar.

1 TSMG and grenade.

1 3” mortar.

Bttn given allotment at Vasto Cinema (80 men).

13th November – VASTO.

Training continued on Field Firing Ranges.

Parties from each coy went to ENSA show at Vasto in afternoon and evening.

Pioneer Platoon received orders for repair of track running north to main Vasto to Pescara road. Track to be made suitable to carry supply vehicles.

3 printed Xmas airgraphs and free airmail letters issued.

14th November – VASTO.

Period of four days intensive training commenced with Bttn route march at 0800hrs. Route distance – 8 miles.

1145 RC and C of E church services held.

1700 IO and one section of Battle Platoon left for attachment to 6 RWK for purpose of recce of assembly area and routes across River Sangro for operation “Encroach”.

15th November – VASTO.

Bttn carried on with training despite continuous rain throughout the day, which turned the Bttn area into a sea of mud.

A large party attended 36 Brigade Concert Party at Vasto in the afternoon.

25 reinforcements joined the Bttn among them being many who had been with the Bttn in North Africa or Sicily.

Lieut JK Beglin joined the Bttn.

There was a rum issue during the evening.

16th November – VASTO.

The Bttn carried on with training including coy schemes.

Maintenance inoculations against Typhus commenced for all personnel of the Bttn.

The weather during the day was fine but the ground remained very muddy.

17th November – VASTO.

Training was controlled by the Bttn.

The remainder of the Bttn had Typhus inoculations.

0900 IO and Battle Section returned from attachment to 6 RWK.

0900 CO attended lecture by General BL Montgomery at Vasto.

The weather was showery and the ground remained muddy.

18th November – VASTO.

Preparations made for move forward to lying up area for Operation Encroach.

1400 A party from Bttn attended cinema show at Vasto. Major AW Gibbon posted from Bttn to 2 LIR. Weather showed much improvement, being fine with light showers.

19th November – VASTO.

Preparations for battle completed.

1315 A Group moved off to lying up area 433989 and one mule party left for mule pt 4599.

1530 Marching personnel, with 2 sections of 152 Field Ambulance, moved off by MT to debussing point at Villafonsina (471952).

1600 A Echelon transport moved off to area 487946.

1700 Marching personnel left debussing point and went by march route to lying up area 4398.

1930 Bttn arrived at lying up area and Bttn HQ was established at 433989, in a barn loft.

2000 Rain started, and coys, which were in the open, endeavoured to find cover, the majority of troops were found cover of some sort.

F Echelon moved off to area 4499.

2100 Blankets were brought to the Bttn by transport, but rations and water were brought up by mule during the night.

Steady rainfall continued throughout the night.

Lieut R Blyth joined the Bttn.

20th November – AREA 4398.

0730 O Group conference in area 429993, overlooking enemy positions. After the conference the CO and IO went forward to river to recce crossings.

1200 Rain had continued up to this time and a warning order was received by the Bttn to move back to its old area near Vasto, the ground being extremely muddy and operations impractical.

1430 O Group moved off to take over billets.

1630 Bttn moved off by route march to embossing point at Villafonsina (471952). The route was extremely muddy and marching was very difficult owing to the bad state of the tracks. Bttn HQ was re-established in the billet occupied prior to the move forward for Operation Encroach.

Coys took over additional farms and all personnel were under cover.

Lieut R Phillips MM rejoined the Bttn.

21st November – VASTO.

Continuous rain throughout the day.

Coys cleaned up and prepared once again for battle.

1100 C of E church service was held.

1300 A party from Bttn visited a cinema show at Vasto. .

22nd November – VASTO.

Training was carried out throughout the day.

A Echelon moved forward again to area 4894.

C Coy moved into new billets in area 5691.

Medium bombers and Kittyhawk fighter bombers passed overhead every 15 minutes throughout the day to bomb and strafe the enemy defences north west of the River Sangro.

CO attends conference at Brigade HQ. O Group called on is return and orders issued for move to new lying up area for Operation Encroach on the following day.

23rd November – VASTO.

Heavy rain started early in the morning, and preparations were made for move forward.

0900 IO and CO went forward to Brigade HQ and from there.

1030 CO went on with Brigade Commander and Divisional Commander on a recce.

IO recced for concentration area (4299) and route for river crossings of Sangro.

1130 Move forward postponed for 24 hours owing to the state of the ground after the heavy rain.

1530 Move postponed further until 25th.

C and B Coys attend ENSA concert in Vasto.

The following honours and awards were notified-

Periodical Awards – MC to T/Major SJ Bunch.

Mentioned in Dispatches –

Captain E Ferris.

Lieut W McVie.

Lieut M Hodgson.

WO II F Fenwick.

Sgt EPD Lloyd (KIA).

Sgt H Doel.

Fusilier L Love.

Fusilier DE Dilkes.

Fusilier WH Slater.

2/Lieut Wilkie joined the Bttn.

Rain continued until late afternoon.

24th November – VASTO.

Coys carried out training in attack.

In the afternoon and evening, further parties attended the ENSA concert at Vasto.

25th November – VASTO.

Coys continued training in the morning.

In the afternoon and evening, more people went to Vasto to attend ENSA concert.

Weather showed improvement and a strong drying wind was blowing throughout the day.

26th November – VASTO.

Training continued. CO takes over command of Brigade.

27th November – VASTO.

Preparations were begun for Bttn move forward across River Sangro.

1030 CO returned from Brigade HQ and resumed command of the Bttn.

1400 CO called O Group conference.

1430 I section left by MT to recce routes and act as guides to lying up area below the escarpment at C4000. Shaded lamps were set out from H bridge (4199) to the lying up area, but this bridge, which had been weakened by shell fire, collapsed under a tank before the Bttn arrived.

1800 Bttn embussed at 553922 and travelled by MT to “Gun Alley” (433003), where they debussed at 2115hrs, and then proceeded by march route to F bridge.

1930 A message was received by the guide party that the Bttn would cross the river by F bridge at 432020 and arrangements were quickly changed to meet the fresh situation. Rain fell at the time, which quickly made the ground bad.

28th November – RIVER SANGRO.

0045 Bttn crossed F bridge and continued by route march to lying up area, via the junction 421032, arriving at 0200hrs.

0200 Coys were shown into allotted areas and Bttn settled down to rest.

A Echelon arrived at lying up area at same time as the Bttn.

0600 IO and four men went out to recce approach to proposed start line for next day’s attack.

The gully leading north west from 390997 was chosen as the approach but it was found not to be possible to use it as the 17 Indian Brigade in this area had met with some reverses and were not far enough forward to allow the Bttn to use San Maria as a start line.

1030 San Maria was bombed and strafed by our own close support planes.

1400 Enemy planes came over the area and bombed and strafed the gun lines east of the Sangro.

1430 A heavy artillery barrage, lasting for two hours was put down on the enemy positions in the area of San Maria and R. Li Colli. 3601- 3702.

1730 IO and two men went forward to recce a new start line on top of the escarpment for a dawn attack on the next day, and a suitable area was found at 393003.

1830 O Group conference, attended by reps of all arms supporting the attack.

Blankets and rum issued, and Bttn told, by officers, details of proposed attack at dawn.

29th November – RIVER SANGRO.

0345 Bttn roused and preparations were made for move to the top of the escarpment.

0445 Bttn moved off and took up positions on start line, B and D Coys forward. A Coy, Bttn HQ, C Coy.

0555 Barrage from supporting artillery (smoke and HE) started and tanks from 3 CLY moved up and Bttn started in following order:

One squadron tanks, B and D Coys, second squadron tanks, A Coy, Regimental HQ tanks, Bttn HQ, C Coy, reserve squadron tanks.

Bttn was able to get as far as the foot of R. L Colli without being fired upon, but once the enemy became aware of our presence, MGs and artillery opened up with heavy fire.

Travelling in the tanks were Brigadier Currie of 4 Armoured Brigade and Brigadier Russell of 38 (Irish) Brigade.

1000 A tank obstacle was met and infantry (B and D Coys) went forward alone while engineers of 4 Armoured Brigade made a crossing.

Coys with tanks were now in close contact with enemy defences, Coys after having passed through a thickly laid minefield which temporarily held the tanks up. Bttn HQ moved up (also through the minefield) to a ruined house at 388029, having been sniped at on the way.

1150 A mule carrying tools which was following Bttn HQ trod on a mine, which exploded, killing the mule and injuring the muleteer.

The CO needed tank support to help a coy deal with an obstinate M/G post and permission was obtained for ranks to take a chance and cross the minefield to get to the ridge.

The first tank to move went over a mine, which blew the track off, and the Bttn pioneers went to their assistance and made a gap 50 yards wide in the minefield, lifting 54 Italian box mines in doing so.

While this battle of the ridge was going on, A Coy and one squadron of tanks went forward through D and B Coys and then turned left towards San Maria (3601) and established themselves on the ridge overlooking the town.

There was some trouble with snipers and MGs but late in the afternoon, tanks and one platoon of A Coy entered the town capturing 24 prisoners.

C Coy was brought up to the right rear of D Coy.

1430 Bttn HQ moved up to site of enemy strong point at 378026. Up to this time, 17 PoWs had been cleared from 2/145 Regiment but now more were coming in, and with A Coy’s 24 the total was brought to 45 (2 officers, 4 NCOs and 39 ORs).

1530 Coys were now consolidating and enemy was shelling fairly heavily, trying mainly for tank harbours. His Nebelwerfers were used from time to time.

1730 Bttn HQ and one coy moved 600 yards further south to 376021 making room for 1 RIrF to come in on our right and so continue the push the next day in conjunction with 2 LIR.

At this place, a further 24 PoWs were brought in (1 Major and 23 ORs) making the total bag for the day 69.

Our own casualties for the day were 1 officer (Lt Feirn) and 8 ORs killed. One officer (Capt Hodgson) and 29 ORs wounded. One OR missing.

30th November – R. LI COLLI.

Coys improved their positions and spend a fairly quiet morning with only spasmodic shelling and mortaring.

1030 Eight enemy planes (FW 190s) bombed and strafed the Sangro valley. As a result of this attack, 3 jeeps, one 15 cwt and the water truck were put out of action. Casualties to personnel were five ORs injured.

1030 CO went to Brigade HQ, returning at 1105hrs and a warning order was issued for a move at 1200hrs.

1200 Bttn moved north east along the ridge to area 3802, where C Coy pushed on north west to the San Maria to Fossacesia road at 377031 with tank support.

1430 Six other planes (FW 190s) bombed and strafed the road to Fossacesia. During this attack, Major Bunch and passengers of a 15 cwt truck in which he was travelling left the truck to take cover and walked into a minefield, where an S mine killed Major Bunch and two fusiliers and injured one other.

1500 Bttn moved off to join C Coy and were established astride the road with Bttn HQ at 378029.

C Coy pushed on further, cleaning farms and mopping up, and adding a further 15 PoWs to our collection. This time, 12/361 PGR being identified among the 145 Regiment personnel.

1700 CO went to Brigade HQ and on his return, orders were issued for continuing the advance the next day.

1730 Local patrols were out to pts 377046 and 383048 but failed to find any organised enemy parties, although each patrol brought back one prisoner.