Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


6 Innisks – January 1944

1st January – CAPRACOTTA.

Mule train to A Coy at Pescopenntaro still held up owing to the depth of the snow drifts. The patrol that had left Castel del Guidre at 1630hrs 31 December had still not returned. A ration truck from B Echelon became snowed up when only two kilometres from Capracotta, and the driver after some difficulty, was able to get into the village to report the whereabouts of his vehicle. The weather remained fine but cold and rum was issued at night. Oil, low cost test was used on weapons and anti freeze and graphite grease available.


2nd January – CAPRACOTTA.

1000 Daylight brought no further news of the patrol, which went to Castel del Guidre and a patrol of one Polish officer and two civilians went out, on skin, to try to locate them. They failed to do so, as wind had caused the snow to cover the tracks they had made.

1100 An attempt was made by another ski party to get through to Pescopennataro; this party succeeded. A further ski party, composed of civilians (16) went out to the snow bound ration truck, two kilos away taking with them their big ruck sacks, which hold fourteen loaves and making two journeys, they were able to be able to bring in the complete load. All available men were employed throughout the day in digging, communication paths; platoons to coy HQ and coys to Bttn HQ.


3rd January – CAPRACOTTA.

0830 Liaison officer from Troop 10 Polish Commandos, and a Polish Sergeant started out with a mule to try to get supplies to Pescopennataro by this means. This was not found possible as the high wind had caused the snow to drift too deeply for mules to get through.

1030 Cpl Key, one of the last patrol, came into town accompanied by the people from the farm, where he and three other members of the patrol had taken shelter.

1100 Polish officer and Sergeant set off again for A Coy on their own, and got through on their skis – A Coy reported  that their digging progress had taken through one and a half miles from the Agnone road.

1500 Tasks were allotted to coys for clearing road to Capracotta.


4th January – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Digging parties left for allotted tasks. This proved to be a difficult job as the wind was constantly causing the snow to drift back, into the channels being dug.

1000 Six Italians left Capracotta for B Echelon, at Agnone, with dispatches. These men returned in the evening carrying rations.


5th January – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Three Intelligence Sections set out to mark route of mule track to Pescopennataro but this was not possible as snow was falling and wind was at gale force cutting visibility to nil. Owing to this bad weather, the digging tasks allotted to coys had to be postponed.

1100 A civilian from a farm near Castel del Guidre came into Capracotta to report the finding of Sergeant Sullivan (Patrol leader of the patrol 30/31 December), who had died from exposure. He was found sitting in a drift and tracks indicated that he had crawled the least two or three kilometres before he died. Snow continued to fall all day and in the afternoon the snowfall increased and the temperature dropped.


6th January – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Twelve to eighteen inches of snow fell during the night of 5/6. Snow continued to fall throughout the day, and the bttn went onto rations owing to the reserve getting low, and the difficulty of getting further supplies in under present conditions.

2330 A house caught fire, starting from the chimney, personnel from C Coy and Bttn HQ were called out to assist in putting it out. Investigations showed that the enemy, before evacuating Capracotta, had poured pitch into chimneys of a number of the houses so that fires would occur.

7th January – CAPRACOTTA.

0730 Preparations were made for receiving supplies by plane. Ground strips were used in the area south of the town and an oily rag set at the base of the code letter, ready to be lit and indicate wind direction (L for Pesco,  M for Capra).

0800 100 men left Capracotta with empty packs to collect rations from a dump which had been formed at ‘Half Way House’ (2550).

0930 Further tasks for digging were marked as it was decided that the bright moonlight would make digging possible until midnight.

1130 20 men from each coy with personnel of supporting arms resumed the tasks of clearing the roads west of the town, and a relief system was brought into force to allow the digging to continue until midnight.

1235 DC3s were seen approaching from the south, and were watched expectantly as they probably carried the promised rations. When two of them wheeled round towards Capracotta ground flares and the oily rag and the two planes came in flying very low. The first one released its load over the letter ‘M’ and the second in the area of the monastery half a mile south of the town. The sky was soon filled with the brightly coloured parachutes (14) and on each one was a 200lb hamper containing rations; some of these were damaged on impact. The men standing by started at once to bring the hampers in, and because some of the contents had been damaged all rations had to be taken to the ration store for redistribution. A Coy at Pescopennataro received 10 containers of rations, dropped at the same time as those at Capracotta. The Bttn had been on half rations again today, but now were to go back on to full scale. The rations received for the day were 960 by air and 2000 from the carrying party, including the 1 ES. It was found necessary to reach the containers before the civilians, who found the parachute silk a great temptation. B Echelon at Agnone was also snowed in and had to be supplied by air.

1600 80 men from the 1 ES, who had volunteered to bring rations to us, arrived in Capracotta, each carrying 20 to 30lbs of foodstuffs.


8th January – CAPRACOTTA.

The weather was fine, but cold and visibility was good.

0730 Working parties set off according to programme of work issued 7 January.

0800 120 men with 2 officers set off to draw rations from the dump at ‘Half Way House’ (2550).

0900 Right sector Operation Instruction No 1 received.

A copy of 78 Division Admin Order No 14 was received from 56 Recce for information and necessary action. 78 Divisional Operational Instruction No 7 also received.

1000 CO’s conference on ration and digging progress and all non essential stores were ordered to be packed ready for taking back as soon as the state of the roads made it possible.

1120 Ground strips had been prepared as before, and once more the DC3s  came over, circled once, this time the containers were dropped right on the town, three of them actually dropping outside the door of the ration store. A Coy also received rations by air at the same time. Rations received for the day were 1000 by air at Capracotta, 420 by air at Pescopennataro, 1000 by carrying party. 


9th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather fine but still very cold, visibility good.

0700 110 men moved off with empty packs for rations.

0730 All available men continued digging the mule track.

0945 CO of 1 ES (1 East Surrey Regiment) visited Capracotta to discuss points on the relief.

1000 CO’s conference on road clearing progress.

Captain Kendall rejoined unit and is posted to D Coy as 2.i.c.

1023 Once more, the DC3s came over and dropped supplies and most of the contained dropped within the Bttn area, but three of them were carried by the wind to a minefield at the north end of the town, which were recovered by Bttn Pioneers. The aircraft dropped 1100 rations at Capracotta and 420 at Pescopennataro.


10th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather was still good but cloudy.

0730 Available men of the Bttn were set to work clearing the roads within the town to vehicle width, so that those vehicles still there could be run for short distances after being dug out from the snow.

0930 ‘Right sector’ Operational Order No 1 received. 78 Division Signals OO No 8 received.

1000 CO’s conference on digging progress.

1400 Advance party from 1 ES arrived.

1700 All civilian passes were checked as a number of people were known to have returned to the town. The mule track from Capracotta to Carovilli cross roads (260458) was opened but the track was bad and normal supplies could be maintained. 


11th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather good, no snow or wind, visibility good.

1000 Usual CO’s conference on digging progress. During the morning, a great deal of enemy movement was observed north west of Gamberale and Pizzoferrato by Bttn OP. This information was passed on to the 25 pounder battery, but they were unable to fire on them owing to the necessity for conserving ammunition because of bad supplies. Medium artillery were informed and these guns engaged the targets. Oerlikon Coy 1 Kensingtons arrived to relieve C Coy.

1300 All available men under 2/Lieut Phillips MM left to bring up rations from the trucks following the bulldozer.

2345 A CO’s conference was called and orders were given that the Bttn had to be clear of Capracotta by 1200 on 12 January. C Coy to be clear by 0430hrs and were to have B Coy to assist them in carrying stores etc to the road head, which was still two and a half miles from the town. The other Coys were to carry their stores to the road head as soon as C Coy were clear and make dumps 100 yards apart ready for loading onto transport.


12th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather fine, light wind.

0300 Admin notes on move from Capracotta issued. C Coy were not able to get clear until 1000hrs due to the heavy going and the need for men carrying stores, to make two or more journeys from the town to the road head.

1200 Transport carrying the coy of 1 ES, who were to relieve the garrison at Capracotta arrived at the road head, also 200 Italians arrived to assist us in carrying stores. With the help of these civilians, D Coy managed to get away by 1400hrs, followed by B Coy at 1500hrs. The MMGs and mortars of B Coy made their way by mule to Agnone, where they were put on vehicles of the B Echelon rear party.

1900 Bttn HQ and the remainder of B Coy left the road head by transport after having to take over some of the vehicles provided for the civilian labour. This necessitated changing stores, and personnel to RASC transport at road junction 2550.

2100 D Coy at Aquaviva.


13th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather fine and cold.

0010 HQ and S Coys arrived in Forli 1443.

1000 38 men left for rest camp at Campobasso. C Coy ordered to move to Casrel San Vincenzo at 0800hrs, 14 January. Bttn spent the day in clearing up and checking stores etc.


14th January – CAPRACOTTA.

Weather fine, visibility good, wind fresh.

0800 C Coy left for San Vincenzo and attached were two Intelligence Section personnel for OP work and security work and three signallers for communications.

2245 This coy sent all reports direct to Brigade HQ. Coy was set with Coy HQ and one platoon at San Vittorino, one platoon at Cerro and one platoon at San Vincenzo.


15th January – FORLI.

Weather fine, wind light, visibility good.

0800 RSM’s parade for all ranks at Forli at 0800hrs.

0900 An explosion occurred near S Coy resulting in the injury of two children. Investigations found this to be caused by a booby trap charge which had been placed in the bottom corner of a window.

1000 Dental inspections for the Bttn started.

Capt HE Mathews joined this unit and posted to C Coy as 2.i.c.


16th January – FORLI.

Weather fair, rain in the evening, visibility fair, wind fresh.

1400 A Coy left Pescopennataro.

2100 A Coy arrived at Forli.


17th January – FORLI.

Weather fine and cold, visibility good, wind light.

Personnel at Forli carried out training and bttn duties. FFI inspections.

1400 Security lecture for A and HQ Coys was given by lecturer from FSS.

Allotments were given cinema show.


18th January – FORLI.

Weather fine and cold, visibility good, wind light.

1000 Leave party went to Campobasso for three days at the monastery.

The truck which took this party, after depositing the personnel ran over a mine and injured the driver.

Personnel at Forli continued training. Captain JJ McPhillips rejoined this unit and was posted to A Coy as 2.i.c. Lieut AC O’Reilly joined this unit and was posted to S Coy and appointed officer in command Carrier Platoon. One platoon B Coy acted as demonstration platoon for the battle school at Forli.

Major Little OC S Coy evacuated to hospital with influenza.


19th January – FORLI.

Weather fine, light wind, visibility good.

0815 Approximately 60 enemy launched a small scale attack around forward platoons of 2 LIR at Montenero (0545) and 6 Innisks were ordered to have one strong coy standing by to occupy point 1210 (0944). This coy was made up from personnel of A, B, and S Coys and commanded by Major Murdoch (B Coy).

1015 Intelligence Section recced a route from Rionero to this feature and found suitable track for mules.

1245 CO  and OC B Coy left to make recce of point 1210 and afterwards continued across country to D Coy at Acquaviva.

1815 This coy was not needed and ordered to stand down.

Lieut Milner joined Bttn.


20th January – FORLI.

Weather fine. Visibility good.

0900 Two MMG sections moved from San Vittorino to Castel San Vincenzo (0539). Two 3” mortar sections attached to C Coy established positions in Cerro (0839).

1230 Intelligence Section recced supply route to point 1191 (0942) and a mule track was found from Foci (084414). OC HQ Coy recced billets in Aquaviva for Bttn HQ and HQ Coy. Divisional Commander visited positions at Cerro and San Vincenzo.

1730 CO’s conference on proposed move. DCA visited the Bttn and tested new cooks. 6 Innisks OO No 3 (C Coy) issued. Movement instructions for inter coy reliefs issued.

2315 Orders were received from Brigade HQ to recce coy positions at San Vincenzo (0539). Mount Croce (0740) and point 1191 (0942).


21st January – FORLI.

Weather fine but overcast, wind fresh, visibility good.

0900 One officer and 40 ORs from S Coy left for Mount Croce and all mules and donkeys in San Vittorino were requisitioned to carry their stores up the mountain, which was an hour’s climb. The positions on Mount Croce were manned and the men not on duty were housed in two 160lb tents. Rations were stored in San Vittorino.

1500 C Coy moved its HQ from San Vittorino to Cerro. S Coy received warning order to move to Mount Croce and coy commanders and platoon representatives carried out recce.

The following awards of the MM were announced:

4458929 L/Sgt J Chatburn D Coy,

7015490 Cpl A Lyttle C Coy,

7018185 Cpl D Milligan D Coy,

2618443 L/Cpl J Powell D Coy,

6470130 Cpl P Madden B Coy.


22nd January – FORLI.

Working party from B Coy and Pioneer Platoon went to Mount Croce to prepare positions from the rocks. One platoon from C Coy moved forward to new positions in San Vincenzo.

1340 Five Kitty Bombers (British markings) dropped 6 bombs in area 159193 near B Echelon and afterwards returned to machine gun the area. No casualties to this unit.

1540 Six Lightnings (American markings) from formation escorting bombers came down and machine gunned the same area. This unit escaped casualties on this occasion.


23rd January – FORLI.

One platoon moved forward to San Vittorino to act as carrier and working party. Bivouacs, water, rations and ammunition were taken forward to Mount Croce, the bivouacs being erected on the reverse slopes. The Brigadier and CO inspected these positions. All supplies had to be carried up the mountain, a carry of 1500 up a very step gradient. Lieut Green joined this unit and was posted to B Coy. Also Lieut CO Beard, 2/Lieut BK Jackson and Lieut AJ Minty.


24th January – FORLI.

Weather fine, light cloud, visibility good. Coys continued preparations of new positions. B Coy OO No 1 issued.


25th January – FORLI.

Weather, visibility deteriorating. Preparations made for move of Bttn HQ to new location Cerro. Some personnel of Bttn HQ moved at 1400hrs in order to establish new HQ. Main body left Forli at 1900hrs and arrived at Cerro at 200hrs.

1700 One platoon of C Coy, which had been left in Cerro for security, left to rejoin C Coy in San Vincenzo and A/Tk Platoon for San Vittorino moved into Cerro to man defences. A Coy came under command of 1 RIrF (Tactical). Dispositions were now as follows:

Bttn HQ – Cerro.

A Coy – Forli under command 1 RIrF.

B Coy – Mount Croce.

C Coy – San Vincenzo.

D Coy – Acquaviva and ready to move to move to Pt 1191 on orders from the CO.

Closer liaison was made between VIII Taber (Goums) by sending an interpreter from Bttn Intelligence Section to San Vincenzo, where they had an HQ.


26th January – CERRO.

Weather light rain during night. Overcast, visibility fair.

A Coy moved to point 1210 (0944).

1530 6 Innisks OO No 4 (Cerro) issued. Notice received from 1 RIrF that the only light signal they would use is red – green – red meaning “I’m in contact with the enemy”.

1745 B Coy sent a patrol to Mount Fosse (060420). Strength 1 officer and 2 sections.

D Coy sent a similar patrol to Mount Curvale (070428).


27th January – CERRO.

Weather: slight rain during night but day bright and visibility good.

0400 B and D Coy patrols returned having seen no sign of the enemy on their respective features

1745 B and D Coys again sent out protective patrols of 1 officer and 2 sections to Mount Fosse and Mount Curvale. Snow clothing was issued to A, B, D Coys as these coys were living in tents. Sleigh equipment was also issued, but no sleighs.


28th January – CERRO.

0210 Loud explosion heard south of Pizzone.

0400 B and D Coy patrols returned. No enemy seen. Coys again reminded of the importance of CB work and shell reps proformas issued in sufficient quantities for each officer and senior NCO to be in possession of one. A copy of this proforma was also on each telephone and wireless set within the Bttn. No patrols tonight as visibility became very bad towards nightfall.


29th January – CERRO.

1310 6 Innisks’ OO No 5 (C Coy) was issued. 6 Innisks’ Periodical Intelligence summary issued.

1745 B and D Coys send usual protective patrols to Mount Fosse and Mount Curvale.


30th January – CERRO.

0415 Goums from VIII Tabor called down artillery DF tasks onto 033406 to cover the withdrawal of their patrols from Pizzone (0340). The Goums reported Pizzone heavily booby trapped and mined.

1400 CO’s conference was held at which it was announced that the Bttn was to be relieved by the Carpathian Rifles and that the Bttn was to be clear of the roads by 3rd February.

1515 CO left for conference at Brigade HQ. Training programme issued to all coys to commence at new location.

1715 6 Innisks’ OO No 6 (D Coy) issued.

1730 Patrols to Mounts Fosse and Curvale as before.


31st January – CERRO.

0400 Patrols returned and reported no sign of the enemy. The weather was fine, low flying clouds during early morning. Visibility poor in Cerro and San Vincenzo but clear at B and D Coys. C Coy and A/Tk platoon were warned to keep careful watch until visibility had improved.

0915 Officer from Bttn HQ leaves to meet representatives from relieving unit.

1000 CO’s conference at which orders were issued for the handing over to the Carpathian Rifles, also for the move of the Bttn from Cerro to Busso (1628). Notes were issued on stores to be handed over and certificates to be obtained. Operational Instructions issued.

1100 Representatives from 2 Carpathian Rifles arrived and were taken to the respective coy areas and shown the general layout etc – C Coy started ferrying packs and non essential stores to dump ‘Red House’ (086391).

1745 Usual patrol to Mounts Fosse and Curvale.

2335 Movement order issued. Instructions for advance party issued. Training programme issued (to commence at Busso).