Following the capture of Centuripe, the Irish Brigade pressed forward but were hampered by craters in the road down to the Salso river. Due to these delays, plans were made to attack across the river on the afternoon of 4th August and, despite some opposition, a bridgehead was secured by 430pm.
The view northwards from Centuripe towards the Salso and Simeto rivers.
Nelson Russell recalled the advance:
“There was no delay after the capture of Centuripe. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were through the town.. and by daylight their carriers were feeling down towards the river shortly there after. The whole battalion was in contact with the enemy and concentrated in the vicinity of the river by midday.
The remainder of the brigade was assembled and in contact by early evening.
This quick follow up pays a good dividend. The Bosche is often on the wrong foot. In this particular instance, an exposed and open approach to the river was free from enemy interference until after midday. But it requires fit troops to follow up quickly after 36 hours fighting and hill climbing in difficult country. The following were the chief problems in this river crossing:
– In addition to 100 feet of the bridge being blown; there was a bad crater at 667928, which was a 12 hour job.
– No material could reach the river until this crater was fixed, and although he bulldozers were up quickly, it was impossible to work them by daylight, in full view of the enemy, and under heavy shell and mortar fire.
– Part of the Artillery had to be stepped up to support an infantry crossing.
The attack went in at 1500hrs…The Artillery support was effective; the barrage, which commenced on the escarpment being most accurate, and by 1630hrs, the bridgehead was secure, with the Royal Irish Fusiliers on the right and the London Irish Rifles on the left.
The Royal Irish Fusiliers met a certain amount of opposition, and a good many stubborn MG 34s and sniper posts had to be eliminated. The LIR had a pretty free run through.”
The Salso river today – with very little water flowing.
Although the Skins had not been involved in the crossing of the Salso river, Lieutenant Percy Hamilton recalled what happened when he moved up with 6 Innisks.
“During the morning, I went to a stream about 200 yards in front of Bttn HQ to have a wash and shave. The place was among large trees, and the way there was through an orange grove so Jerry could not see me. I hung my shirt and vest on a tree and got a biscuit tin full of water from the stream and started washing. I hear him drop half a dozen mortar bombs a few hundred yards away, but we were used to that and I didn’t worry, then he dropped a lot round me and covered my back with dirt as I lay on my face in a hollow in the ground. I decided the place was a bit hot so I gathered up my things and beat it for Bttn HQ. He dropped another lot in the same place, but I was clear by them and didn’t worry.
I passed a group of lads in their trench and one of them pointed out that my shirt was on fire; there was fire pouring from the collar, which must have caught a piece of hot shrapnel, when it hanging on the bush. It was the only one I had, so I wore it with a hole burnt in the collar. I also lost my identity discs in the schemozzle and didn’t get another set for ages. I have never worn any since.”
Area north of the Salso river.