Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


6 Innisks – July 1944

1st July – LAKE TRASIMENE.

Weather fine and sunny.

This was the last day of the bttn’s stay in the area south of Lake Trasimeno and much of the time was taken up in packing and preparing for the move south.

1400 6 Innisks Movement Order issued.

1630 Brigade Commander visited Bttn HQ to discuss future moves.


2nd July – LAKE TRASIMENE.

Weather – fine and warm – light cloud.

0330 Reveille. Final preparations were made for the move and the bttn was embussed by 0415 hrs.

0430 Bttn moved off and made a good journey with a one hour’s stop at midday near Viterbo.

1515 Bttn arrived in its new area, midway between Rome and Tivoli and was soon settled in, owing to the good work of the bttn advance party. Shortly after the bttn arrived, the MBU came along and was soon established and working.

In the evening, the Divisional Dance Band played in the bttn area and gave a very good performance.


3rd July – TIVOLI.

Weather – fine and warm.

Day passes to Rome for 30% of the bttn personnel were issued. Personnel were conveyed to Rome in unit transport.

1000 Church parade for C of Es.

The remainder of the battalion spent a quiet day cleaning up and making themselves comfortable.


4th July – TIVOLI.

Weather fine and warm.

30% day passes to Rome continued.

The day was quiet and uneventful; and in the evening, a mobile film unit showed the film “Ride ‘Em Cowboy”, which was enjoyed by all present.


5th July – TIVOLI.

Weather fine and warm.

Quiet day with no important events. There were the usual allotment of day passes to Rome.


6th July – TIVOLI.

The Bttn Pipe Band was taken to Rome to give a performance and a great crowd was drawn, which showed great appreciation. The usual allotment of 30% of the bttn went to Rome on day pass.

The rest of the day was quiet and uneventful.


7th July – TIVOLI.

Weather still fine and warm.

Normal allotment of day passes to Rome.

38 Brigade opened a canteen  – the ‘Shamrock Club’ – for the three bttns, which were well organised and fully appreciated by all the troops who used it.


8th July – TIVOLI.

Weather fine and warm.

The bttn was to move on the 10th without transport, which was being handed over to 2/4 Hampshires of 56 Division. Therefore, the job of packing everything in crates was begun – the Bttn Pioneers being called upon for advice and assistance far more than was usual.

The Brigade Commander gave a dance for all officers of the Brigade in Rome. This was preceded by the Brigade Pipe Bands playing Retreat in the grounds of the palace where the dance was held.

The whole evening was very successful and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.


9th July – TIVOLI.

Weather cloudy and cooler with high wind.

There were no day passes for Rome today, owing to the need for completing all arrangements for the move on the 10th. Packing etc went on all day and everything was stacked ready for loading.

1700 Brigade Commander arrived at Brigade HQ and spoke to all officers on the subject of the bttn being disbanded and asked for all assistance in softening the blow. After speaking to the officers, he spoke to the whole bttn and said that it had been decreed by higher authorities that the bttn was to be disbanded owing to the lack of Irish reinforcements.

The Second Bttn was to come from the 5th Division to take our place in the ‘Irish side’, but the Brigadier promises that as many personnel as possible of the 6th would be absorbed into this bttn and others would go to the 1 RIrF and 2 LIR, thus keeping as many of the 6th Inniskillings as possible in the brigade.

A new W/E raising the total for the bttn to 43 officers and 900 other ranks considerably helped in this. The bttn received the news with mixed feelings, none of them pleasant, for the men of the bttn had done a lot of good work together and had played a leading part in building up the reputation of the Irish Brigade. However….


10th July – TIVOLI.

Weather, cloudy but warm.

0500 Reveille.

0530 Heavy baggage went off to Prenestina Station, where it was loaded onto the train.

0640 Bttn left in RASC transport for Prenestina Station, where they entrained in box wagons, 30 men to a truck.

0910 Train pulled out and a very slow train journey commenced; about 25 miles being covered in the first ten hours.

1900 Train halted in a siding and food was cooking at the side of the line.


11th July – ON TRAIN.

0900 The train had reached Roccasecca near Cassino where it stayed for about two and a half hours. Breakfast was cooked here and most of the bttn managed to get washed and shaved in addition.

1130 Train left Roccasecca and by 1215 hrs was passing the ruins of Cassino and the Monastery. These places drew considerable interest for it was the first time that most of the battalion had seen the places since they passed them in very different circumstances.

1400 Train stopped for a short halt at Sparnise. Here L/Cpl Pidgeon met with a fatal accident through falling under the train as it started.

1645 The train stopped in a siding near Caserta and here a hot meal was prepared.

2030 Another halt was called at Benevento and more M & V, biscuits and tea were served.

Weather was fine and sunny.


12th July – ON TRAIN.

Weather, cloudy but dry.

0600 The train travelled slowly throughout the night and reached Barletta, where a breakfast was served of M & V and tea.

After this, there were no long halts until the bttn arrived in Taranto at 1445 hrs.

The bttn marched to the Transit Camp near the Railway Station, where a hot meal of M & V, rice and tea was served, after which the bttn marched to its own camp, five miles north of Taranto.

1630 Bttn settled down to the task of ‘moving in’. Offices and stores were set up – blankets etc, drawn.

1900 Bttn was settled in and only just in time, for shortly afterwards heavy rain fell. Even so, many tents were washed out, as lack of tentage had necessitated the use of fly sheets as tents.


13th July – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm – but cloudy.

50% of the bttn was allowed into Taranto on day pass until 2030 hrs.

Weapons were cleaned and a general ‘clean up’ was carried out, after the dirty train journey.

The water in short supply in the camp and precautions had to be taken to ensure strict economy in its use.


14th July – TARANTO.

Weather fine with light cloud.

The allotment of leave passes to Taranto was reduced to 50%.

As the bttn had no transport of its own, two x 3 tonners were borrowed and a shuttle service for carrying troops into Taranto was started.

1200 Corps Commander of 5 Corps visited the bttn to speak for General Alexander on the disbanding of the bttn. He expressed great sympathy and assured us that everyone else felt the same – but nothing could be down about now.

2030 A cinema show was shown in the camp area.


15th July – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm.

Normal allotment of day passes were available to Taranto.

During the day, preparations were made for leaving the location and, in the evening, heavy baggage was packed up in crates and loaded onto trucks, ready to move early on 16th July 1944.


16th July – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm.

0630 Heavy baggage with party under command of Captain PS Anderson left for port.

0930 Brigade Church Services were held for all denominations.

After the church, the Commanding Officer spoke to the bttn on security and also gave a few words of advice for the benefit of personnel who had not been there before, on the customs and habits of the people likely to be encountered in the Middle East.

In the evening all kit, less bedding was packed up and stacked, ready for loading onto vehicles early on 17th July.


17th July – TARANTO.

Weather fine and warm.

0630 Reveille; and blankets were rolled and added to the baggage to be taken to the port.

0730 Baggage was taken to the port and handed over to the Baggage Party for loading on to the lighter with other ‘hold’ luggage, less large packs, which was laid out for personnel to give up as they marched past.

0945 Berthing Party of 1 officer and 3 ORs left for the port, where they went straight on to the boat and arranged coy areas on the mess decks allotted.

0950 CO met CO of 2/4 Hampshires and exchanged views with him.

1230 Bttn left camp and marched to Taranto, passing on the way troops of 56 Division, who were coming into Italy.

1510 Bttn embussed at the Governor’s Palace in Taranto and were taken to the Oil Jetty wharf, approximately three miles outside Taranto.

1550 Bttn arrived at the jetty and commenced taking up packs.

1630 Embarkation started and everybody was shown to their allotted places on the boat and very soon afterwards, everyone was established as comfortably as was possible on a troopship that was carrying surplus to normal capacity.

The ship did not sail that night and everyone spent a quiet and uneventful night.


18th July – AT SEA.

1000 The bttn, in conjunction with other units travelling on the same boat, was allotted AA gun duties.

1400 The ship sailed and joined the convoy, which kept within sight of land for the rest of the day as it sailed towards the toe of Italy.

1500 Personnel on the boat were shown to ‘Action Stations’ and ‘Boat Stations’. Great interest was shown in the Russian ex prisoners of war, who were travelling on the same boat and experiences were exchanged and also knowledge of home countries, through the aid of one or two interpreters.

The night was quiet and uneventful and a calm sea ensured that even the worst sailors had a restful night.


19th July – AT SEA.

The weather was bright and warm and the sea very calm.

Early morning found the convoy steaming down the east coast of Sicily and the sight of Mt Etna brought back memories of hard fighting to many of the bttn.

1400 ‘Action Stations’ was sounded owing to an enemy reconnaissance plane which flew over the convoy.

No action resulted from this and the ‘All Clear’ was sounded soon afterwards.

The remainder of the day was quiet and uneventful and all ranks were enjoying the calm voyage, lying on the decks most of the time sunbathing.


20th July – AT SEA.

Weather still fine and warm.

1000 Ship rounds.

Usual routine was carried out during the day. In the evening, an impromptu concert was held by S Coy and the Russian troops on the S Coy deck. Russian and Irish songs were an unusual mixture but were enjoyed nevertheless by all present.


21st July – AT SEA.

Weather bright and warm with calm sea.

1000 Usual ship rounds.

After ship rounds, Lt Col Kerr gave a talk to officers and senior NCOs on the Middle East. This was a very interesting and enlightening talk and afterwards others, who had spent time in the Middle East were invited to talk on their experiences there.

1630 OC Troopship called a conference for all officers and informed them of embarkation on 22nd July.

The remainder of the day was uneventful.

In the evening, a concert was held and relayed over the ship’s microphone transmission.


22ndJuly – AT SEA.

Weather fine and warm.

0500 Reveille.

0800 The ship pulled into Alexandria harbour and all preparations were made for disembarkation.

0945 Personnel were taken ashore by lighter, landing at the dock at 1000 hrs. The Pipe Band of 2 Innisks played as the bttn came ashore and several officers and ORs of 2 Innisks were there to meet us.

1015 Bttn proceeded by MT to Amirya Transit Camp about 9 miles south east of Alexandria, where a hot meal was prepared.

Lt Col J Kerr and the Orderly Room Clerk went to 2 Innisks to discuss further points on personnel to be retained when the 6th Bttn was disbanded.

A baggage party was left in Alexandria to collect the heavy baggage. The bttn was warned for an early move next morning so everyone settled down to sleep soon after dinner.


23rd July – ALEXANDRIA.

Weather fine and warm.

0330 Reveille.

0345 – 0445 Breakfast. Considerable difficulty was found in getting everyone fed owing to the shortage of cookhouses.

0530 Bttn, along with the rest of 38 Brigade, embussed.

0630 Convoy moved off and had an uneventful journey across the desert.

1230 – 1330 A halt was called and the cooks made tea. Haversack rations were eaten.

1810 Convoy arrived at Qassassin Camp where it was met by the advance party and personnel were guided to their tents.

As usual, the bttn did not take long to settle in and very soon everything was well established.


24th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather fine and warm.

0730 Reveille.

During the day, the btttn settled down to learning all over again the ways of peace time soldiering. Equipment was scrubbed etc, and soon long lists of ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts” were published and it soon became obvious that the complete freedom we had enjoyed in Italy would now be seriously curtailed. An Officers’ Mess and Sergeant’s Mess were started and in the ORs’ Dining Tents, plates were available, a much appreciated change after the long spell of feeding from mess tins.

0900 The first Regimental Quarter Guard was mounted.

1000 RMO started the first of a series of lectures to coys on VD and anti malarial precautions.

In the evening, the bttn was allotted 25 seats at the ENSA show of ‘Nomads of the Nile’ and the same allotment was to continue nightly until 29th July.


25th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather very bright and warm.

0530 Reveille.

0630 First parade; parades were to continue until midday only.

The disbandment of the bttn on 10th August made a great deal of extra work for Bttn HQ, the personnel of the Bttn Orderly Room working until 0430 hrs on 26th July.

Leave for 6 days was to be arranged for the whole bttn on the basis of 25% at a time for 4 periods, to one of three locations – Cairo, Alexandria and Ishmalia, the first party leaving on 26th July.

Lt Col J Kerr returned from the 2nd Bttn, bringing with him Lt Col R Scott and reps from the 2nd Bttn in order that further conferences might be held with 6 Innisks coy commanders on the disbandment.

6 Innisks Leave Instruction No 1 issued.

A party went to the ENSA show ‘Nomads of the Nile’.


26th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather was warm and bright.

0530 Leave party for Alexandria left camp for the embussing point and were carried off on a RASC convoy.

0700 Leave party for Cairo left.

0830 Leave party for Ishmalia left.

1400 Lt Col J Kerr spoke to the bttn on the disbanding and introduced Lt Col R Scott as the CO of the 2nd Bttn.

Lt Col Scott expressed his sympathy at the disbandment and extended a hearty a hearty welcome to those people of the 6th, who would be joining the 2nd Bttn.

1430 Swimming parties were organised and taken to Ishmalia on unit transport. The usual party attended the ENSA show in the evening.


27th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather very warm and bright sunshine.

The day was very quiet with the normal parades in the morning and swimming parties in the afternoon.

1030 The bttn was visited by General Stone (CIC, ME).

A conference was held at Brigade HQ on the subject of the disbandment of 6 Innisks and arrangements were made to absorb as many of the personnel as possible into the other two bttns so that they would not have to leave the Irish Brigade.

The usual party went to the ENSA show in the evening.

Other troops visited the many cinemas and canteens in the area. 


28th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather very warm with bright sunshine.

The day was very quiet with the normal parades in the morning and swimming parties in the afternoon.

Notification was received that the whole of the brigade allotment for the next leave period would be given to 6 Innisks in order that everyone would get their leave before the disbandment.

6 Innisks Camp Standing Orders were issued to all concerned. 


29th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather very warm and bright.

Another quiet day with normal routine.

In the evening, a party from the Sergeants’ Mess went to Ishmalia to a dance. Instructions on the new leave policy (6 Innisks Leave Instruction No 2) were sent out and also a warning that personnel for Alexandria would leave tomorrow, 30th July, instead of on the 31st with the remainder. This was made necessary by the arrangements for this party to stay in Amiryia Transit Camp for the night 30th/31st July continuing to Alexandria early on the 31st.


30th July – QASSASSIN.

Weather fine and warm.

0530 Leave party left for Alexandria.

The remainder of the bttn spent the day in packing up, paying out etc, and making all the necessary arrangements for leave.

Arrangements had been made with 2 LIR for them to supply a guard for the camp, as the first leave party were returning on the transport, which carried the second group to the leave towns. This meant that there would not be anybody in the camp except for the four officers and about six fusiliers, who did not wish to go leave.

1700 2 LIR Guard arrived and were shown to the Guard Room and posts by the RSM.


31st July – QASSASSIN.

Weather fine and warm.

0630 RASC transport for the leave party to Cairo arrived and the bttn, which was paraded on the Bttn Parade Ground, was embossed.

0700 Convoy left for Camp 16 Qassassin where it joined the main convoy to Cairo.

0800 Transport with the personnel for leave at Ishmalia left to join the main convoy to Ishmalia.

The rest of the day was very quiet with nobody in the camp except the 2 LIR guards. The officers had their meals at the Officers’ Club, which was not very far from the camp. In the evening, personnel from the leave party returned, but as these were comparatively few in number, the camp still retained its deserted appearance.