1st May – FORMICOLA.
Weather cloudy. Slight wind.
Bttn held river crossing exercise with Major Kerr commanding, as Lieut Col HEN Bala Bredin MC had gone on leave for four days and the 2.i.c. Major GF Maxwell was in hospital.
0700 Bttn left Formicola N1939 and arrived at the lying up area 290843 at 0800 hrs.
0800 A recce was then made to find suitable routes to the FUP 298841 and from FUP to places of embarking. The latter was taped from FUP direct to river.
1030 Bttn left lying up area and was guided to FUP by Intelligence personnel, arriving at 1100 hrs.
1110 Coys moved forward, carrying boats, which had been left on the road at the beginning of the two routes to the river.
Main Bttn HQ at a report centre at the forming up point. Lines were laid to the place of embarking and disembarking, the line across the river being taken when Tac HQ crossed.
1130 Divisional Commander visited the Bttn while the crossing was in progress and was very pleased with the way the boats were getting across, for the river was a difficult one to negotiate, being very shallow and very fast flowing.
1210 A and B Coys were across complete, having been rowed by personnel from C Coy.
1220 Tac HQ and RA party crossed, followed by D Coy ten minutes later.
1300 B Coy reported on objective. A Coy still clearing area. D Coy in reserve behind B Coy. Main HQ and C Coy in the process of crossing.
1315 Consolidation complete. RA OP went to left coy (B Coy) to select and man OP. B Coy created fictitious situations and dealt with them accordingly. Our A/Tk guns could not make the crossing as the opposite bank proved too steep and muddy. Carriers crossed via ferry under RE supervision, half a mile further upstream.
Support weapons, MGs and 3” mortars moved with coys, carried by their crews.
1500 C Coy ordered back to prepare boats for return journey and coys were informed that the exercise had finished.
1515 CO held conference with Coy Commanders and supporting arms on river bank. The chief points brought out were:
- Mortars. 4.2” and 3” should be used for quietening enemy on opposite bank.
- A limited objective must be established to wait for the whole bttn to cross and be used for a start line, when ready.
- Crews and passengers of boats must be together before approaching beachhead.
- Beachmaster needs men to help push boats off muddy banks.
1600 Bttn return to bivouac area and the remainder of the day was free to all.
Lieut Greene took over the duties of unit Anti Malarial Officer.
Lieut JH Bradfield relinquished the appointment of IO wef 30 April 1944 and is posted to D Coy.
2nd May – FORMICOLA.
Weather clear, bright and warm.
Individual training only was carried out and admin points were checked etc.
In the evening, the Bttn Pipe Band played Retreat, much to the amusement of the villagers, who found kilts a strange sight
3rd May – FORMICOLA.
Weather clear, bright and warm. Misty in the morning.
Bttn had further exercises, ‘Medjez’ with tank cooperation, working with 16/5 Lancers of 6 Armoured Division.
0900 O Group left ahead of the bttn to look over ground from OP in order to make sure of bringing out the points required.
Orders given out at the O Group were:
Topological – Profeti (N 235930) known as the ‘village’ – small copse on north side of village as ‘copse’ – house at east side of copse ‘brown house’ – pt 577 (2293) as ‘One Tree Hill’ and knoll on right as the ‘ rabbit’.
Information – Enemy holding line San Angelo – Formicola with positions in ‘Copse’ and ‘Brown House’ and holding ‘One Tree Hill’ and the ‘Rabbit’ in strength. Also, we must expect trouble from the west shoulder of San Angelo. 2 A/Tk guns were covering the valley from this point. Areas 233929 and south of ‘Copse’ were mined.
One bttn of enemy was holding our immediate front.
Own Troops – Division on right attacking at same time including San Angelo. A bttn on left attacking at same time with the left body knoll left of ‘One Tree Hill’.
We had in support one squadron 16/5 Lancers and one regular artillery.
Intention – Bttn will capture ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Rabbit’.
Method – Two coys take ‘Copse’ and ‘Brown House’. Two coys pass through and capture ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Rabbit’. Both attacks supported by tanks.
A Coy (‘Copse’) attack round left of village.
C Coy (‘Brown House’) follow A Coy and swing right to objective.
B Coy pass through A and D Coy, follow C and as B Coy assault, move forward down valley, being covered on to objective by B Coy.
FUP 242920. Start Line 100 yards south of ‘Village’.
Troop of tanks with each forward coy. Reserve troop move up with B Coy.
0900 D Coy continue with C Coy’s tanks. On consolidation, tanks RV at foot of ‘One Tree Hill’. D Coy to keep their tanks, if necessary.
Artillery – No barrage. Only concentrations.
- ‘One Tree Hill’ – H plus 10 to H plus 20.
- ‘Rabbit’ – H plus 30 to H plus 40.
then lifting into valley at 217935.
One FOO on hill, rear of Start Line. One FOO in tank.
One section MMG support from ridge right of ‘Village’. One section in reserved at FUP until required to consolidate.
3” mortars support from low ground rear of FUP.
Mortar concentrations ‘Copse’ H minus 1 to H plus 1 and ‘Brown House’ – H plus 2 to H plus 4. Mortars remain under command Bttn HQ until capture of first objective, when they will come under command of D Coy.
A/Tk guns move to ‘Rabbit’ and ‘One Tree Hill’ on consolidation, towed by carriers or tanks. One section Bttn Pioneers to travel with each troop of tanks to clear mines or make tank runs through terraces.
Administration – Tools carried by first two coys. Tools for forward coys on carriers on capture of final objective.
RAP in house behind SP.
Honey tank without turret available for MO.
Bttn HQ – House on SP until objective taken, then to small house right of ‘Copse’.
Intercommunication, Light Signals – One white parachute flare – coy about to assault and requires 30 seconds concentration on objective. Verey light – attract tanks’ attention to tracer fired at target. Duplicate by 38 set when possible. Wireless normal within bttn. 38 sets all on tank net.
H 1300 hrs.
0900–1200 While O Group were forward bttn was in Liberi (N 2491) area, looking over tanks of 16/5 Lancers.
1200 Bttn went forward, guided by intelligence personnel to assembly at N 338927, then on to FUP and SL, arriving on SL at 1250 hrs. Tanks then came through respective coys and the advance began.
The Exercise went well through the preliminary stages, tanks giving support by firing HE and MGsat prearranged target area.
1323 White flare went up, signifying that the first coy was ready to assault. The area was fired on by all arms and the attack went in.
1326 ‘Copse’ in our hands and A Coy go through to ‘Brown House’.
Verey lights were used often and tanks fired successfully at targets indicated. Coys had to be told to make more use of 38 sets for cooperation. Umpires made the situation as the exercise progressed and coys reported so that everybody should be exercised.
1404 B Coy sent up a flare to indicate that they were ready to assault, but it was found that they had fired too soon, as there was a long interval between cessation of fire and gaining of the objective and tanks had to assist.
1445 Final objective was taken and Main Bttn HQ moved forward. The exercise closed at this point and the bttn, with all supporting arms assembled for a discussion of the points brought out by the exercise.
CO of the bttn and CO of 16/5 Lancers brought out their respective points and during the discussion, the Army Commander, Sir Oliver Leese and the Divisional Commander arrived to listen.
Afterwards, both spoke in turn, giving hints of big things to come and the Army Commander said how pleased he was to have the opportunity speaking to the bttn, for he was Corps Commander during the earlier battles of Centuripe, Termoli, San Salvo and the Sangro, in all of which, he said, the Inniskillings had kept their high standard.
1600 The bttn returned to Formicola and were left to their own resources for the evening, for entertainments were plentiful and the canteen was well stocked with books and games.
The caubeen, drab, was taken into the use as the official headdress of the bttn.
4th May – FORMICOLA.
Weather bright and sunny. Light clouds. Bttn was on another exercise of village clearing.
Major HE Mathew commanded the bttn on this occasion as Major J Kerr had to make a recce for another exercise.
The exercise was held in the bombed part of Capua (N 1798) and was arranged by 1 Kensingtons. First there was a demonstration. The troops had to attack from house to house through smoke and grenades thrown by umpires. Enemy positions were strongly defended by A/Tk guns, MMGs, LMGs and snipers. 64 A/Tk Regiment took part.
1000 Orders were given out by the CO from an OP in a house and the bttn was ordered to clear three blocks houses. A Coy to clear first block and then B Coy pass through. A Coy then repeat for third block. Artillery to concentrate on exits from village. 4.2” mortars to fire on 163794 – 166786 – 175793 intermittently from H hour.
Support Group MMGs to neutralise west bank of Volturno.
RE one section to bttn – will travel with leading coy to clear booby traps, mines etc.
A/Tk – one gun firing up each side of block.
Brigadier of 36 Brigade was present during the morning.
H hour for morning exercises 1025 hrs. Communication was by wireless and runner but use of wireless was very difficult, owing to the houses screening the sets.
PIAT and Bren Guns were put into position together, the PIAT to knock down walls and the Bren to fire when the position is revealed.
A/Tk guns were also directed at walls and Brens waited for targets.
A and B Coys did this exercise in the morning, leaving at 0800 hrs and returning at 1400 hrs.
C and D Coys did the same exercise during the afternoon leaving at 1300 hrs and returning at 1900 hrs.
Skeleton HQ accompanied each party. The usual conference was held at the end of each exercise to discuss the points learned.
5th May – FORMICOLA.
0900 The bttn held a further exercise and the CO held an O Group at OP in farm 205577.
One red verey light represents MG. Carrier with flag represent Panzer Mark IV. Mines would actually be laid on the ground but not detonated. One round 2” mortar smoke represents salvo from 88 mm guns.
Rocky Ridge – Ridge on 1988
Sarsfield Ridge – W 209900
Black Hand – Village foot of Sarsfield Ridge, NW side.
Rings End – Village 240909.
O’Donovan’s Nob – 222920.
Scrub Hill – 226880.
Enemy. Positions in gully Rocky Ridge where there are known to be two tanks. The enemy are also known to be holding Sarsfield, Ridge, Rings Head and O’Donovan’s Nob.
Intention. Bttn will attack and capture O’Donovan’s Nob.
Method. 1st objective – Sarsfield Ridge and Rings Emd.
C Coy will clear gully and take ridge beyond, then push on to the Sarsfield Ridge.
After capture of first objective, A Coy pass through to take O’Donovan’s Nob.
SP line of road behind OP. Heavy weapons follow on consolidation.
In support – two regiments artillery, 64 A/Tk Regiment.
Artillery. During the first phase to smoke Rocky Ridge. If smokes falls, HE for first hour. Concentration H to H plus 5 on Scrub Hill, H plus 5 to H plus 45 slow fire on Sarsfield Ridge and Rings End. H plus 45 to H plus 60 switch to O’Donovan’s Nob.
FOOs – one with C Coy, the other with Bttn HQ to go to O’Donovan’s Nob on capture.
The 4.2” mortars. H minus 2 to H plus 1 – concentration in gully – then lift to Scrub Hill.
MMG position right of OP to cover the ground to the first objective.
A/Tk own and 64 A/Tk Regiment guns in area 212868 awaiting orders. Guns will move up road to junction 202895 when first objective taken. H hour 1100.
Enemy was D Coy complete.
While O Group conference was on, the bttn was being brought in an assembly area in a sunken road at N 203873 by guides and were in by 1000hrs.
Coy Commanders took Platoon Commanders to see ground from vantage points.
1100 C Coy started off.
1105 B Coy started off.
C Coy was held up bridge and had to move round left. Considerable 2” mortar smoke was put down as troops were seen and occasionally the red verey light representing no fire.
1125 C Coy past the bridge and advancing up the road.
1135 Communication with D and C Coys broke down as the distance increased and it was suggested the netting be carried out over longer distances before starting any future operations.
Various situations were created to exercise coys in calling for the artillery, which was done extremely well.
1145 B Coy had two platoons over the gully in front of Scrub Hill.
1220 O’Donovan’s Nob was smoked to assist mopping up and consolidation of Sarsfield Ridge.
A/Tk guns were ordered up to road junction behind Sarsfield Ridge.
1240 A Coy directed round left of C Coy to clear Black Hand and to wait there for further orders. B Coy to support A Coy’s move.
1313 A Coy reached Black Hand.
1318 A Company ordered forward to take O’Donovan’s Nob and artillery to put down 5 minutes concentration, finishing with five rounds of smoke.
A Coy to get as close as possible to the concentration and, on smoke coming down, to assault.
1330 Objective taken and exercise finished.
Bttn at C Coy HQ (W 203895) for discussion on the exercise.
The chief point brought out was that signals and as many others as possible should know place names for reporting when Coy Commander is engaged.
1600 Bttn returned and rested in preparation for the next exercise.
1800 Intelligence Section went forward and taped out SL and route from the FUP. Meanwhile, the battalion was led to the FUP by other guides.
2000 Bttn was on SL. B Coy right, A Coy left. A Coy behind B. Bttn (Tac) HQ behind C Coy.
Coys started off in good order, despite many flares and 2” mortar smoke bombs which fell among them and arrived on their first objective without difficulty. Sarsfield Ridge and Black Hand.
6th May – FORMICOLA.
0030 Second phase, the attack on Mt Erasmo (W 2091) then got under way, but before it finished, the enemy counter attacked, using 2” mortar smoke bombs and flares – so many that this part of the exercise had more flashes and bangs than in a real battle.
The attack by A and B Coys went on, leaving C Coy to deal with the counter attack.
Some tanks (represented by carriers) broke through, but our A/Tk guns, which were moving up the road, were warned in time and were able to get into a position to deal with them effectively.
Lt AJ Wilton rejoined the bttn and is posted to A Coy.
0045 Exercises ended and troops returned to billets, tired but satisfied that their series of exercises were finished and that they had won praise from their commanders.
D Coy had not taken part in the Night Exercise as they were to act as enemy for the other bttns in the Brigade who were doing the same series of exercises.
0800 D Coy left the bttn area but the remainder of the coys had a late reveille and were at coy commanders’ disposal for individual training for the remainder of the day.
1000 Parties from each coy left in unit transport for day visit to Naples, returning at 1930 hours.
7th May – FORMICOLA.
1100 CE church service was held on the football ground in D Coy area and the service was taken by 78 Division Senior Chaplain.
The remainder of the day was free to troops and the usual party went for a day visit to Naples.
8th May – FORMICOLA.
0900 CO spoke to all officers of the bttn and told them the general plan for the forthcoming offensive, which was 13 Corps to attack the Adolf Hitler Line and carry on to the Valmontone Line and break it, if possible.
4 Division and 8 Indian Division to cross Rapido and continue to Adolf Hitler line and we, 78 Division, to go through it.
Lieut Colonel of our sister regiment (Princess Louise Canadian Regiment) visited CO.
1500 FSS S/Sgt lectured the bttn on enemy agents and their methods.
In the evening, the Officers’ Mess held a party, which was attended by the Divisional Commander, Lieut Colonel of Princess Louise Regiment and some officers of the supporting units.
9th May – FORMICOLA.
An advance party under Captain EJ Griffiths left for concentration area at H 079070.
0930 RASC vehicles for carrying troops reported to the bttn and were shown to the parking area by MTO.
The 2.i.c. Major GF Maxwell went with Sgt RT O’Connor to WOSB in order that a test for an immediate commission would be carried out.
Most of the day was spent in making preparations for the move at night. Also in making farewells to the very friendly people of Formicola.
The CO went on to the concentration area.
2200 Bttn transport was formed up and ready to go.
2330 Column moved off, passing SP at 2345 hours. Journey was good with very few halts. Lieut PA Hamilton and Lieut AJ Wilton are appointed A/Captains.
0330 The bttn arrived at the new area and were shown to positions by Captain Griffiths and his men who had also managed to erect most of the bivouacs for the troops.
Reveille was not until 0730 hours.
1115 The Divisional Commander, accompanied by the Brigadier, arrived to talk to the bttn , giving them the general plan of the forthcoming offensive. The Brigadier spoke afterwards and after a short break, the CO went into more detailed points, which were likely to affect the bttn.
2300 Flashes and continual rumbling from the front indicated that the offensive had started.
Weather fair and warm. It was a quiet day and news from the battle was eagerly sought by all. Platoon of REs arrived with the bttn for mine clearing work when we went forward. New maps and codes were issued and points discussed so that there should be no mishap. Sgt RT O’Connor is appointed to a commission in the rank of 2/Lieut
Weather fine and warm.
0900 Bttn was ordered to be at one hour’s notice to move and everything apart from essentials was packed.
News from the battle front showed that two bridges were established and two squadrons of tanks were already across.
1230 The bttn was informed that the one hour’s notice had now changed to four and it appeared unlikely that we should move today. Inter-coy football matches were arranged and coys told that all ranks were to do one hour’s PT each day.
Weather warm and sunny. Another quiet day with football matches and games taking up most of the day.
In the evening, the bttn were informed that it would be moving early 14 May 1944 to pass SP at 0330 hrs.
Details for the move were finally fixed and, after the necessary preparations were made, everybody settled down to as much rest as possible.
Weather fine. Haze in the morning, which helped operations.
0400 Bttn left the concentration area for a position across the River Rapido with light scale transport only. B Echelon remaining at the concentration area and rear details still at Formicola.
1000 On arrival at DP, it was found that the REs had not quite finished the bridge across the river and a delay of three hours was caused.
1300 Bttn marching personnel moved off, crossed the river and went to a lying up area approximately one mile forward.
1355 One of our tanks crushed a jeep against a bank while passing, smashing it completely.
From here, the plan was to cross the River Piopetto with our tanks and continue through a series of objectives westwards, the Brigade then turning north to cut Route Six between the 72nd and 75th Eastings.
The bttn was unable to proceed with this plan owing to the Hampshires failing to take pt 73 842173 and the bttn took up positions while the Hampshires formed a plan for a fresh attack. The positions taken up were: Bttn HQ 853171 and coys at 854172 – 855171 – 854170 – 853171. The River Piopetto was found to be impassable to tanks owing to the soft banks – one tank became bogged and caused the river to swell.
The Hampshires were to arrange bridging for the night of 14/15 and the bttn remained in a defensive position for the night with the intention of carrying on the next day.
Patrols were sent out to gain knowledge of the country beyond the river.
0330 Owing to brigade informing us that the bttn objective (road at 833174) was to be taken by 0600 hrs, D and A Coys moved off and crossed the river at 0345 hrs, reaching Vendittis (8417) without meeting much resistance.
0445 B and C Coys then went through but were held up after a short distance by MG fire.
0500 Bttn (Tac) HQ then moved off to Vendittis being shelled on the way but suffering no casualties.
0545 C Coy pushed on to 834169 where they reported being held up by tanks. Consequently, Brigade HQ were again told of the urgency of getting a bridge across the river completed.
0800 Bridge completed and B Squadron 16/5 Lancers were guided up to Tac HQ at Massa Di Vendittis 8417.
Then the Squadron and Troop Commanders were brought forward to Massa Tambourini (8316) where a plan of attack was formed – tanks to attack MG posts and pill boxes and remain in hull down positions until two coys followed up. This would be repeated until the final objective was reached, the two remaining coys establishing a firm base in the area of Vendittis with the A/Tk guns and other supporting weapons.
0830 An MG post, which was harassing forward positions, was taken on by 2” mortars. This position continued to cause casualties. They also fired with a 5cm mortar and one bomb fell among a platoon HQ, injuring all but one men.
The CO tried to get into position from where he could pick off the enemy with a rifle, but they were too well covered.
0855 Our tanks now came into action on the right with C Coy following and dealt with the MG positions.
0900 Tanks came up on the left also with B Coy following.
Platoon Commanders of MGs and Mortars were instructed to follow close behind the battle with their weapons so that consolidation could be effected as soon as possible on reaching the objective.
0910 The tanks considerably heartened the infantry who were seen moving in good order, firing as they went and getting straight into the enemy positions.
An A/Tk gun was reported by the forward tanks and infantry went forward and, after concentrated fire from tanks, dashed in and put it out of action.
0935 This produced three prisoners from 33 Recce Unit.
0940 CO went up to forward troops to see how they were getting on.
Stretcher bearers did extremely good work in bringing in casualties from forward positions.
0955 Seven more PoWs came in from 115 PGR and 33 Recce.
1050 Situation cleared and two coys assaulted positions just short of the final objective, the CO remaining in front of the assault throughout. From these positions were brought thirteen more prisoners with one officer.
1130 B Coy reported having reached track junction 833174 and were being fired on by MGs.
1140 Our own propaganda leaflets were seen falling over the Bosche lines.
1153 D Coy, accompanied by tanks, moved forward to a position on B Coy’s left, one of the tanks running over a mine, which broke a track. This tank was subsequently shot up by an enemy SP gun and destroyed.
1210 Bttn was on its final objective. Support weapons were sent forward to assist in consolidation. Main Bttn was moved up and positions were now as follows: Bttn HQ 834172, B Coy pt 86 833179, D Coy 831172, C Coy 832171, A Coy 833170. MGs were covering front and left flank.
Two German tanks were seen and engaged by our own tanks.
1215 Two sections of Bttn Pioneers cleared a way round the knocked out tank, using mine detectors.
1310 D Coy complained of our own shells falling in their area, believed to have been gunners of 6 Armoured Division. 16/5 Lancers were informed and it was stopped.
1415 CO required by CO 16/5 Lancers in order to tie up plan of 2 LIR, who were to pass through our positions. The CO was not available and the IO went on the Squadron Commander’s tank to the conference.
Heavy shelling of the area started in which the CO of 16/5 Lancers and the CO of the LIR were killed.
The tanks dispersed then and the CO 6 Innisks visited 2 LIR later.
1400 5 Northants passed through on our right.
1640 Our close support fighter bombers dropped bombs very close to bttn position but caused no damage.
1830 2 LIR started off through our lines. Total bag for the day was 53 PoWs and seven 75 mm guns (A/Tk), also some SPs plus numerous articles of infantry equipment. Our own casualties were 2 officers killed (Lieut MG Milner and Lieut BK Jackson), 2 officers wounded (Lieut R Phillips MM and 2/Lieut WV Baxter) and 9 ORs killed and 50 wounded.
B Squadron 16/5 Lancers went back to an organised harbour after having arranged to stay in the rear of the bttn for a counter attack role.
1900 Food was brought up to the bttn position already cooked.
Heavy and concentrated artillery fire during the night caused more casualties, nebelwerfers playing a prominent part in the enemy barrages.
Since the early hours of the morning, the enemy shelling had slackened into spasmodic salvoes.
0900 Food was again brought up from A Echelon cooked and ready for distribution.
0920 Our own artillery barrage in support of 2 LIR (who had postponed their action) started, some shells falling short in the bttn area, fortunately causing no casualties. There was no fighting on the part of the bttn during the day although heavy and consistent shelling continued.
2 LIR and 2 Lancs Fusiliers continued the attack.
1150 D Coy reported seeing an SP gun at 834184 and artillery fire was brought down on the area.
Throughout the morning, the only signs of battle in progress were tanks seen burning and others moving up.
Shelling came from all directions and bursts of MG fire were heard all round but brigade informed us that all was going according to plan.
In the evening, it was decided that the other bttns had done well enough to allow our sections to concentrate and have normal guards of two men per section – the others to sleep, but not to take their boots off.
The Brigadier sent a message to the bttn, saying how pleased he was with their recent battle.
1830 A Coy went to area 842171 to guard B Squadron 16/5 Lancers, which were harboured there.
2030 A recce patrol went off to contact 10 RB on the left flank.
1100 CO held O Group in the open and the enemy shelled the area at the same time but no casualties were caused.
1115 CO and IO and Squadron Commander went off on a recce on a honey tank and a bttn start line was decided upon.
1400 A heavy concentration of enemy shells on the bttn area caused three casualties.
1415 Owing to a report that the Lothians might have reached the bttn objective Piumarola (804192), a recce of 1 platoon and 1 troop of tanks was sent forward from the concentration area (821184) with the object of finding out if our own troops had come across our front.
1510 CO called another O Group conference and gave the information that Piumarola was strongly held and that there was at least 1 Panzer Mk VI in the area which needed to be located by infantry.
The plan was to start off on a one coy front, A Coy leading with one troop of tanks along the axis of the road to Piumarola – followed by C Coy with a troop of tanks – D Coy with no tanks, then B Coy with the last troop of tanks.
A Coy to advance and capture Piumarola. C Coy to follow and be prepared to pass through if needed. When two coys past pt 80 and B Coy to await role, which would be dependent on the other operation.
1517 Troops of tanks engaged by AP from the north west. The bttn was heavily and consistently shelled in the forming up area by 170 mm guns and a number of casualties caused.
One squadron of the Lothians, which were nearby were persuaded to accompany D Company to their objective and the H hour for the whole battle was 1745. D and A Coys started off, C Coy following A Coy. The Lothians supporting D Coy would not go very far and the infantry had to go forward to the objective alone, which they took successfully.
The 16/5 Lancers with A and C Coys were very much better and the whole attack went in with great vigour. The Bosche tried to resist at first but soon found out that it was better not to and prisoners started to come in.
1855 At this time, the CO had been hit fairly badly by shrapnel but refused to be evacuated until he saw that the battle was begun and going well. Major J Kerr then took command of the bttn.
1900 A Coy reached the road at 807182 and more prisoners, all anxious by this time to give themselves up, arrived, one of them reporting that his coy was to go back 40 kilometres.
1915 The battle was now on for Piumarola itself, where resistance was stronger and A and C Coys went round right of the village where the river was reported too wide for tanks to cross. Fortunately, a bridge was found intact which the tanks was able to cross, but a platoon of A Coy had gone into the village earlier by crossing a pole that was slung across the river and C Coy went in close after A Coy.
1920 Once tanks entered in support, the battle was soon over and many more prisoners were added to the bag.
The Brigadier had ordered the battle to stop some time earlier so that consolidation should be completed before nightfall, but it was then too late to stop it as all troops were determined to clear Piumarola.
Having achieved their objective, the supporting weapons which were waiting to move, came up and consolidation was completed just as darkness fell. Numerous SP guns, A/Tk guns, MGs, recce vehicles were found in the area, many in good working order. One of the prisoners taken was the CO of the First Parachute Bttn. Normal patrols went out at night but reported no contact.
Three new officers joined the bttn: 2/Lieut CJ Morgan A Coy, Lieut JM Campbell B Coy, 2/Lieut IF Tilly C Coy. Lieut JJ McKenna is SOS on posting to HQ 78 Division.
Weather fine and warm. Slight cloud. There was only slight shelling in the bttn area during the morning, otherwise it was a quiet day and the bttn recovered itself, sorted weapons etc and generally cleaned up.
Major GF Maxwell assumed command of the bttn wef 18 May 44 and Major J Kerr acted as 2.i.c.
Positions were now as follows:
Bttn HQ 808183, A Coy with u/c 1 platoon MMGs and 2 A/Tk guns in Piumarola 805182; B Coy less 1 platoon at 809185; C Coy with u/c 1 platoon B Coy, 2 A/Tk guns, 2 MMGs at 807185; D Coy with u/c 2 A/Tk guns and 2 MMGs at 811189.
Bttn prepared for a good night’s rest, but this was not to be.
2000 CO went to Brigadier’s conference at which arrangements were made for the bttn to move forward at first light to relieve a bttn of 36 Brigade. During the night came further orders and counter orders and finally it was arranged for the bttn to be clear of the present area by 0730 hrs 19 May 44 and to move an intermediate area at 792191 from where further moves could be carried out at short notice.
Weather good but cloudy in the morning.
0730 Recce party move off, consisting of CO, IO, S Coy Commander, RA party and guides for coys. Everything was arranged at the intermediate area and the bttn following up was shown into position.
0840 Recce party moved off again, this time without the coy guides, to recce the area 790199 and at 0930 hrs, the CO called the Coy Commanders forward to an O Group to give orders for the defence of the area.
While these orders were being given out, fresh orders came through for the bttn to move further forward and reach a line 783206 – 797204. Fresh plans were made for coys to move forward, each supported by one M 10 which, apart from artillery, was the only close support available at such short notice.
1020 A and C Coys started across country and, by 1210, had reached the road which was the objective and consolidation was begun. The expected resistance did not materialise and the only enemy seen were two very young soldiers of the 1st Parachute Division, who were hiding in a house in the area.
Dispositions were now:
A Coy, 791206 – 797205.
B Coy, 794203.
C Coy, 784206 – 791206.
D Coy and mortars – 791201.
A few enemy shells fell in the area.
1500 The Bttn Battle Patrol was sent out to reach a position from where Route Six could be seen. This was accomplished successfully, but no enemy were encountered.
1645 The Black Watch and the Royal Fusiliers of 4 Division came across our front and stopped on C Coy’s right flank and very nearly launched a battle for possession of C Coy’s HQ.
1740 Movement was observed at 788229.
Weather fine with few clouds. Quiet day except for enemy shelling. Later in the day, enemy 170 mm guns ranged on the house and six direct hits were scored on Bttn HQ, which was fortunately in a very substantial building and only a few casualties were caused plus the water truck. It was realised that there had been too much movement in the area.
1500 The bttn was ordered to close in to a narrower front to allow 8 Indian Division to move up on the right along Route Six. Areas were recced and the bttn moved by coys, starting at 1900 hrs to positions – Bttn HQ 791198, A Coy 793194, B Coy 787193, C Coy 789187, D Coy 787199, S Coy 790195. The move was completed without incident and coys started to make themselves comfortable in their new positions. 254 A/Tk Battery returned to its own regiment. D Support Group returned to its own unit.10 Field Battery RA party returned to the Battery to check administration points
Uneventful day during which everybody managed to make up for lost sleep. Many domestic tasks were possible too, although it was still necessary to maintain careful movement as the positions were overlooked by Monte Cairo.
Some social visits were paid to 5 Northants, who had moved to a position on our left, visits being carried out on the adjutant’s tank, a captured recce vehicle (tracked) of French origin, which was smaller than a Bren gun carrier.
The Brigadier phoned the CO and said that we were waiting to pursue our original role of “Fly and Fart Forward”.
Major GF Maxwell is appointed Local Lieut-Colonel wef 17 May 44, while commanding the bttn in the absence of Lieut-Colonel HEN Bredin MC.
Weather good, but cloudy. Rain in the evening. Another quiet day with the only activity that of the Poles in Piedimonte where there were very fierce fighting was still taking place. Some 170mm shells were still falling near but not in the area – aimed at the artillery, which has now moved up to close behind and at our last HQ. Tanks support for our next battle was to be A Squadron 11 Canadian Armoured Brigade and Squadron Commanders and Troop Leaders came to bttn to meet Company Commanders and to discuss points.
Still no activity on the part of brigade.
RC Church Service was held. Brigadier visited the bttn with prospective plan, namely that after 11 Brigade had cleared Aquino, 38 Brigade would follow through to line River Melfa. Rain during the afternoon and evening. Three new officers joined the bttn and are posted to coys as shown – Lieut HC Hall, B Coy; 2/Lieut RRB Roche, C Coy; 2/Lieut DGM Foster, B Coy
Weather clear and bright. Bttn expectant but not yet ordered to move. At midday came a report that Canadian Armour had reached the Melfa and that other armoured units were exploiting north of Route Six. It was expected that this might change the plan for the Irish Brigade.
2100 Message from brigade that there would be no move tonight but the bttn would be at immediate notice from 0800 hrs, 25 May. Also Brigadier’s O Group would be held at 0800 hrs, 25 May.
0745 CO and IO went off to the Brigade HQ for O Group. Brigadier delayed owing to the need for him to investigate traffic hold up, believed due to collapse of bridge over Fiume d’Aquino. On his return, he informed everyone that brigade was at three hours notice and that the plan would probably remain the same.
1230 G3 at Brigade HQ phoned information that the bttn would probably move at 1600 hrs, the plan being 6 Armoured Division to make bridgehead over the River Melfa. 11 Brigade to hold it, 38 Brigade to go through. 38 Brigade to move to concentration area tonight and continue with 6 Armoured first light tomorrow 26 May. CO also met CO and Squadron Commanders of 3 Hussars, who were to be our tank support in the near future.
1745 Bttn moved to an area at G 725240. There was no further move that night and no orders for continuing next day but the bttn was put at four hours notice to move.
Weather fine and warm. Little cloud. Bttn remained in the same location, still at four hours notice to move.
0900 Bttn warned to be ready to move at approximately 1300 hrs, complete with tanks.
1130 CO attended O Group at Brigade HQ and orders were received for move to brigade to the wooded area at 6626.
1300 Bttn started off, led by A Squadron, 11 Canadian Armoured Regiment and arrived in the area of 265269 by 1630 hrs. Three shells fell in the area just as the bttn was arriving, so no time was lost in digging slit trenches. Food was prepared and the bttn rested, there being no further activity during the night. The enemy shelled the wood, but no further shells fell in the bttn area.
Weather fine, but cloudy.
In this wood, the change over in tank support was effected from 11 Armoured Brigade to 9 Armoured Brigade, our own particular support being C Squadron 3 Kings Own Hussars.
1000 Orders came from brigade that we were to be prepared to move forward to an area in another wood at approximately G 642271 and the CO, IO and Squadron Commander went on a recce to this area.
1230 Just as the recce was completed, fresh orders came through that we were now to go on as soon as possible to the position of 1 RIrF at G 622262 and a recce party was sent off immediately and the bttn prepared for move.
1600 Bttn started off by march route, the vehicles waiting for one hour before starting to avoid dust. This did not help very much for the bttn was accompanied most of its way by a squadron of tanks from another unit which caused great clouds of dust. However, the expected shelling did not come, for it was learned later that 6 Armoured Division had just pushed the enemy from Monte Grande and Monte Piccolo.
1830 Head of the bttn reached the new area and, by 2000 hrs, everybody had been shown to their area by the guides. The positions were now: Bttn HQ – 623265, A Coy – 625268, B Coy – 624273, C Coy – 620267, D Coy – 624269. Ceprano had already fallen and the RIrF had occupied it, so the bttn spent a very quiet night. Protective patrols were sent out but they had nothing to report.
Weather fine and warm. Bttn did not move during the day and troops took advantage of this halt to bathe and wash clothes in the nearby stream.
1900 Bttn was informed that it would be moving forward at 0930 hrs 29 May.
Preparations for the move had already been made and bttn only awaiting the arrival of its tanks, which were lead the column.
0930 Tanks passed and the bttn transport followed on, coys moving by march route to an area at G 592273. The bttn waited here, expecting to move at any time and after many orders and counter orders were ordered to move to an area about 2000 yards south of Strangolagalli 5733.
2100 Bttn moved off by march route along Strangolagalli road.
0300 Sgt Girr, while investigating a farm at 585306, stepped on a mine, which blew his foot and lower leg off.
0315 Bttn was in the area it was to occupy, but a careful search had to be made as a great number of these mines had been left in the area, especially in farm yards. Bttn’s dispositions were now: Bttn HQ 589303, A Coy 534304, B Coy 580302, C Coy 587304, D Coy 588309, tanks harboured at 589297.
0415 Normal stand to, but there was no trouble from the enemy. Two patrols went out, one to Colle Castelnuovo 595318, which was found to be unoccupied by enemy and the other to the village of Strangolagalli, which they found to be clear of the enemy, although many mines and booby traps were found in the area. Bttn was informed that it would move on behind remainder of the brigade in an advance on Ripi 5234.
0900 Own aircraft were bombing and strafing the area and one of planes dropped bombs on the bttn area.
C Coy were the chief sufferers, having Sgt F Byrne killed and three others wounded. People nearby were partially buried in their slit trenches and had to be dug out.
1440 Bttn had orders to move at 1515 hrs.
1520 Bttn reached 569235 but were held up here as REs had not yet swept the roads for mines. Whilst waiting here, enemy guns were seen firing on to our own gun positions from 566366 and our artillery OP ordered two rounds of gun fire from regiment. The shots fell in the right area and the enemy guns were silenced.
1630 Roads were cleared and the bttn moved forward again. 2 LIR, who were fighting in front, did not reach Ripi and consolidated at San Giovanni 5333 and the bttn stayed in area 4532 for the night. The CO had orders for continuing the advance on the next day.
0645 CO held O Group conference and orders were issued for coys to leap frog in 1000 yard bounds.
0750 C Coy left to occupy the high ground north east of Ripi, with the other coys following in the order: A, B and D. Two pioneers went with each forward coy. MMGs, 3” mortars and A/Tk to wait in Ripi until called forward. C Coy reported the road to Ripi was badly cratered and that in the village itself, the houses along the main road had been blown down, making the movement of tanks and MT along that route an impossibility. The advance was held up while RE’s recced an alternative route, which was difficult to find. While bttn was waiting for tanks, C Coy sent out patrols, which reached 530362 and were fired on from 534365 by MGs and mortars. Three casualties, wounded, were caused. These patrols were strengthened by two platoons, which remained at 530362.
1630 Tanks finally reached Ripi and A and B Coys went forward, but once again tanks were held up in difficult country and a large crater at 526357. This time, orders were received not to wait for the tanks and to go forward with artillery and 4.2” mortars support along. The appearance of the tanks had caused the enemy to evacuate the high ground he was occupying and the bttn moved forward in good order.
1920 The Brigadier visited Bttn HQ and after failing to contact the CO by wireless went forward in a tank to see him. The conditions of the road did not allow this and he was forced to return. CO was out of contact for a considerable time, owing to the need to leave his tank where he had wireless communication and go forward on foot.
1930 News from coys that they had reached 527376.
1935 Divisional Commander visited Bttn HQ and, when he saw on the maps where the forward coys were, expressed great pleasure in the remark, ‘First Class!’ Owing to the bad state of the roads, vehicles could not get to the bttn with food and supplies so all the donkeys, bullocks, horses etc around Bttn HQ were ‘borrowed’ and taken forward with supplies.
2100 REs finished bulldozing a diversion and Bttn HQ moved forward to 529348. Dispositions were now: Bttn Main 529348, Bttn HQ Tac 526372, A Coy 534365, B Coy 527368, C Coy 531375, D Coy 522376. All positions consolidated.
2230 CO returned from forward positions and went to Brigade HQ with a full report of the day’s activities. The remainder of the night was quiet.