Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


6 Innisks – October 1943

1st October – BARLETTA.

0830 S Company carried out a 15 mile route march, having a bathe in the sea at Barletta en route. Remainder of Bttn spent the day cleaning up after move from Taranto. Mosquitoes very bad in this area – many people bitten. T/Capt J Norman was appointed acting Major. 


2nd October – BARLETTA.

0715 Bttn route march (less S Coy). Bathe on route in sea near Barletta. CO and Adjutant recalled from the march, and MT received orders to move at 1500hrs.

1830 March finished in rainstorm, and hasty packing for MT move was done during violent rainstorm. Transport moved off at 1500hrs to Foggia area. Clothes dried out in the late afternoon.


3rd October – BARLETTA.

Storm during night 2/3 October made troops very wet. Troops allowed in town until 1230hrs.

1400 Bttn moved by route march to factor buildings in Barletta. There was heavy rain after 25 minutes marching. 


4th October – BARLETTA.

Troops allowed in town until 1300hrs.

1500 Standing by to move.

1700 ‘No move’ order came through and clothes were dried. Warning orders received for move the following morning.


5th October – BARLETTA.

Heavy rainstorm during night.

0515 Reveille, breakfast at 0545. Transport. loaded with cooks’ equipment and rations, moved off for docks.

0715 Marching personnel moved off to docks. Embarkation commenced almost immediately on arrivals.

0745 Troops very crowded in LCIs (only 7 for Brigade).

1000 LCIs sailed outthe sea was calm in the morning, choppy in the morning – a few people sea sick.

2000 Arrived Termoli. Anchored off shore owing to shallow water. Shelled at anchor – no casualties or hits.


6th October – TERMOLI.

0030 D were first to disembark, and half Bttn HQ with 70 of C and B Coys followed an hour later.

0130 The position in Termoli was extremely confused. Commandos and a Bttn of 11 Brigade were holding the north and had beaten off a German counter attack the day before, assisted by our own carriers, and another one during the night.

Another counter attack was expected at dawn. The CO and Adjutant went off immediately to Brigade HQ to be told the situation and at 0230hrs, the Adjutant returned to lead the Bttn (less half) to an assembly area. From here, the coys present were placed in defensive positions in the area of Termoli railway bridge and station.  The RIrF were on our right and a troop of commandos formed on our left. In the meantime, the rest of the Bttn under Major Crocker had disembarked at about 0300hrs and joined the Bttn. Captain Hodgson contacted the Bttn with the Bttn with the MG and carrier platoons so that by first light, the fog of war began to clear.

First light saw the CO and Lt-Col CH Butler of the RIrF at an OP with an officer from the Commandos, where the ground for the day’s attack was pointed out. The enemy attack at dawn did not materialise but Termoli was bombed soon after first light.

Orders were then received from Bttn HQ for a two Bttn attack, supported by tanks on either flank, on the area rd junction 803767 – pt 161 – San Giacomo, with the object of enlarging the Termoli bridgehead with RIrF right and 6 Innisks left. Information, both about the enemy’s strength and dispositions, and the locations of our own troops was almost nonexistent, but it was known that the enemy were supported by tanks.

0800 Hasty recces were completed and, at 0905, the Bttn moved out of Termoli to an assembly area where it was met by the remainder of S Coy. The state of the ground, however, prevented cross country movement by vehicles other than tanks. The Bttn had no artillery support as none was yet available.

1030 The attack started across broken country suitable for infantry. Communication within the Bttn was by runner only, as no wireless batteries were available in the country. A tank battle proceeded on both flanks of the Bttn, which progressed steadily forward with coys leapfrogging each other.

1300 The CO was wounded by fire from a tank and Major Crocker took command.

By the time the final objective (San Giacomo) had been reached, the enemy had already evacuated it, and in fact Bttn HQ was the first to enter the village after a long and arduous advance across very broken country.

Coys quickly followed and were allotted defensive positions on the outskirts of the village, which were occupied soon after dusk.

2100 OC S Coy brought up supporting weapons and rations after a patrol had cleared the road between and ourselves and the RIrF and the meal was very welcome after the long and arduous day. The welcome given to our troops by villagers spoke for itself. A 50% stand to was ordered for the night but no counter attack developed.

Casualties were 4 ORs killed, CO and 14 ORs wounded. Two enemy PoWs were taken.


7th October – SAN GIACOMO.

The night 6/7 October passed quietly with spasmodic shelling our right.

0430 Stand to. Coy positions were changed to make full use of ground, Bttn supporting arms were put in position at first light. 2 Platoons of Mortars and 1 of MGs from the Brigade Support Group, and one troop of 6 pounder A/Tk guns were allotted to Bttn in support. One carrier was knocked out by shelling.

Lieut McVie was evacuated with shell shock.


8th October – SAN GIACOMO.

The day passed quietly with spasmodic shelling being the only enemy activity. Coys were able to check and improve their positions. The CO, whose head wound proved to be only superficial, came from Termoli to visit the Bttn.


9th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Once again, the only activity was from enemy shell fire and a few shells fell on the town. There was one casualty, slightly wounded.


10th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Major BL Bryar joined the Bttn as 2.i.c. The CO returned to take command of the battalion and on the night of 10/11 October, coy positions were changed slightly.

The enemy continued his spasmodic shelling but was now concentrating more on the San Giacomo-Termoli road, and gun positions west San Giacomo.

Major AW Gibbons MC also joined the battalion today and assumed command of C coy. Many civilians come through from the enemy’s lines bringing information, which often proved valuable.


11th October – SAN GIACOMO.

A party of officers, NCOs and men arrived from 8 Indian Division to stay with the Bttn for three days.

Two escaped British PoWs came through our lines disguised as Italian peasants and spoken highly of the help they had received from civilians. A patrol programme was started with the dual purpose of contacting the enemy and reconnoitring lines of advance for a future attack.


12th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Heavy rain fell during the night and conditions in the coy areas were extremely unpleasant. More patrolling was carried out by night.


13th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Further improvements to the defensive position went on daily. Reliefs took place between reserve coy in the village and a forward coy every three days. The rain has now ceased and given place to brilliant sunshine. Patrols went out again at night.


14th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Three more escaped PoWs came through our lines with a Yugoslav, who had accompanied them on their journey south. At tonight, a patrol of 7 led by Major Crocker MC plus one officer of 46 RTR went out to recee tank runs, river crossings and a Bttn assembly area in 7377. Battle dress was issued.


15th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Another quiet day. Civilians began coming in great numbers requesting passes to visit their various farms. These civilian were checked but none were allowed to go forward of our positions. Another patrol, one platoon in strength went out at night.


16th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Numbers of Italian soldiers were now beginning to come through our lines – any that had good information was sent immediately to Brigade HQ and the remainder were directed to the authorities at Termoli or San Severo.

Patrolling continued at night with another patrol of a platoon in strength.


17th October – SAN GIACOMO.

A church service was held for the troops in the village church.

Captain McCaldin took out the night patrol and two Indian NCOs went out also.


18th October – SAN GIACOMO.

A very quiet day with no activity whatsoever.

Five ore escaped British PoWs came through today – they were given a hot meal and sent back through the usual channels.


19th October – SAN GIACOMO.

0130 LIR attacked Petacciato. All objectives taken by 0730hrs Captain Clark MC held left flank with two platoons and killed one enemy.

Major Little and Captain McPhillips rejoined the Bttn from hospital.

1400 FSP came to the town and in conjunction with Bttn IO interrogated all civilians not permanent residents of the town.

Bttn placed at short notice to move forward.


20th October – SAN GIACOMO.

Bttn not at short notice any further. Training notes sent to coys for a short period of training.

Major Norman went to Brigade HQ to act as Staff Captain. Major Little took over command of S Coy.

1900 CO returned from Brigade HQ with orders for move that night.

2000 O Group conference. A, B, D and Bttn HQ move at 0330hrs to area 263. C Coy and A/Tk to move the following day.


21st October – SAN GIACOMO.

0330 A, B, D and Bttn HQ left San Giacomo by MT for forward assembly area at Petacciato.

Arrived at Petacciato at approximately 0500hrs.

At first light, CO went forward to recce new area.

0800 CO met Brigadier.

1015 CO O Group and Recce.

1345 Bttn moved up to new position by march route and coys commenced digging in. Bttn established at H6976.

1700 A few enemy shells came over, but caused no damage.

2000 Captain Duddington took out a patrol of one platoon strength.


22nd October – Pt 263 (H6976).

0130 Spasmodic shelling in bttn area lasting for one hour.

0120 enemy patrol worked its way between A and D Coys to a MMG position – the crew were taken prisoner and A & D Coys opened fire as the patrol withdrew. They caused the patrol to split up and three of the MMG gun crew away. Fusilier Harris missing. One enemy casualty, a Sgt (killed) from 5 Coy, 79 PGR, an identification which proved useful to higher formations. One MG 42 was also killed.

1300 Spasmodic shelling for two hours, chiefly in A Coy’s area, caused one casualty, slightly wounded. Captain Kendall (Adjutant) admitted to hospital with suspected malaria.

RIrF ordered to take bridge over Trigno following successful patrol by LIR the previous night. LIR to advance on their right and 6 Innisks to hold present position and raid Montenero in force the following night (2 Coys A & B).

Recce patrols from A & B Coys find suitable route to Montenero.

C Coy withdrawn to guard Brigade Command post.

Major Gibbon went to Brigade HQ as acting Brigade Major.

23rd October – Pt 263 (H6976).

56 Recce reported Montenero clear of enemy, but area mined.

1230 Bttn ordered to Montenero.

1400 Bttn moved off by march route in following order: A, B, Bttn HQ and D Coy. Recce party moved forward by transport.

1530 O Group at OP in Montenero.

1615 A Coy arrived and moved into position, closely followed by the other coys including C Coy, which was released by Brigade at 1330hrs. By dusk, all coys were in position and the town was strongly defended. Bttn HQ at 648729.

DF tasks arranged.


24th October – MONTENERO.

Fire plan coordinated at first light. . No enemy activity on our immediate front but some shelling was observed to our north. The task of clearing the enemy mines was continued and completed by the pioneer platoon and a detachment of REs. At night, a patrol was sent to establish a position on high ground H6375 and to observe river line.


25th October – MONTENERO.

Day quiet, patrolling being the only activity. One patrol, strength 1 platoon was sent out at 1130hrs to find out enemy situation in Mafalda. Three escaped PoWs came through our lines, two from RASC and one 1st Sherwood.

1500 3 Sections made a sweep of farms in area H6173-6273-6174-6274. Montenero bombed by enemy aircraft. No casualties.


26th October – MONTENERO.

1030 O Group – 8 A & SH to relieve us from Montenero, 6 Innisks to take over from 2 LIR, A Coy to come under command 1 RIrF.

The changeover to be effected

A Coy + 2 MMG and 2 Mortars with D Coy, 1 RIrF.

B Coy + 2 MMG, 2 Mortars and 2 A/Tk guns  – G Coy 2 LIR.

Bttn HQ to change to Bttn HQ 2 LIR.

C Coy + 1 A/Tk change with F Coy 2 LIR.

D Coy + 2 Mortars change with E Coy 2 LIR.

C Coy to remain in Montenero until two coys 8 A & SH arrive.

Montenero again bombed with effect.

1430 Marching personnel, less C Coy moved off. Transport waited until dusk in order to avoid observation.

1730 Take over from LIR completed. A Coy moved down to 1 RIrF position on River Trigno after dusk and came under their command.

Brigadier was taken sick and CO assumed temporary command of Brigade; Major Bryar taking command of Bttn.


27th October – RIVER TRIGNO.

Rain fell making river crossing extremely bad. This crossing was under direct observation by the enemy and was accurately shell throughout the day and night.

During the night, the RIrF and LIR completed their move across the river into the narrow bridgehead in preparation for their attack on San Salvo. 6 Innisks moved down to the river to take over the bridgehead with B, C and D Coys across the river and Bttn HQ and A Coy, which reverted to command, on the near side.


28th October – RIVER TRIGNO.

The attack proved to be a costly failure and LIR and RIrF were withdrawn back in to the bridgehead by first light. One squadron of tanks had also crossed the river during the night. Consequently, the crossing and bridgehead were under frequent and accurate shell fire throughout the day.  Heavy rain fell again and prevented another attack on San Salvo, in which 6 Innisks were to have taken the lead, from taking place.

Maintenance of forward coys was extremely difficult in the wet, and could only be done at night.

Slit trenches became full of water, but the shelling forced their use. LIR and RIrF recrossed the river thus relieving the congestion in the area.


29th October – RIVER TRIGNO.

Weather improved somewhat. Shelling of crossing now became so accurate that individual men crossing by day were fired at by 105mm guns. A Coy relieved B Coy forward of river by night.


30th October – RIVER TRIGNO.

Acting on civilian reports, B Coy sent out a patrol to a neighbouring farm and brought in two prisoners of 79 PGR driving back more of the enemy patrol.

1815 Bttn was relieved on the bridgehead by LIR and withdrew to a position on the east side of the River Trigno and north of the crossing.


31st October – RIVER TRIGNO.

Weather definitely improved and ground drying out; Bttn rests and dries, and starts getting the mud of equipment and clothing.

The casualties during the time the battalion held the bridgehead was as follows:

1 officer wounded.

3 ORs killed.

21 ORs wounded.

2 ORs missing.