Sicily – 12th August 1943

(NA 5882): Men of the 11th Ambulance Bde. bringing in some of the wounded during the advance of our troops. Copyright: © IWM.

Brigade HQ– BRONTE.

0015 8 A & SH reported on their objective.

0230 38 Brigade attack began on high ground east of Maletto from established line south of rd 7513 – 7613.

0305 Bomb line fixed at 810140 – 785174.

0500 1 RIrF after encountering some opposition reached their objective Capella (7614). 2 LIR were late over start line and by 1630hrs had only one coy on Sperina (7714) having been under MG fire from their right flank.

0630 Mortars opened up from area 8814 on the reserve coys of 1 RIrF and squadron 50 RTR on the eastern slopes of Mt Macherone.

0800 Our artillery shelled enemy gun and mortar posts area 8114.

1500 2 LIR report two coys now on Sperina, which had been pinned down for two hours by MG and mortar fire from area 8114. This fire was considerably reduced by fire from own artillery at 1515hrs.

1600 1 RIrF report mopping up of Maletto proceeding.

6 Innisks moving on to La Nave. This was mostly MG and mortar supported by SP guns. 1 RIrF report first phase completed.

2230 Patrols found no enemy in front of their positions and on road to Randazzo located S mines

2330 1 RIrF pass through coy position 2 LIR along road to Randazzo.

1 RIrF informed that American troops now at 7919 and enemy likely to withdraw from our area. It is necessary to keep him on the run and speed is essential. Enemy counter attack on our present position unlikely, therefore leave one coy only where it is now and advance on Randazzo (8220). First objective track 803156 – 801162. Second objective road junction 817195. As speed is essential, one coy, preceded by barrage, will start as early as possible after dark and main body must advance by 0001hrs at latest. Enemy opposition possible area 787138 and 784141.1 RIrF will be followed by East Surreys, 5 Northamptons and 2 LF.

Trace of artillery task in support of 1 RIrF advance is attached.

Read the Brigade’s account of the advance to Randazzo can be read here.

1 RIrF.

0030 Arrived FUP.

0230 Attack according to plan. A Coy on the left, and C on the right got to the foot of their objective without meeting any opposition from them on. A Coy met very heavy opposition from MGs and snipers. The advance up the hill was slow. TSMGs and grenades being the most successful weapons. In spite of the fact that individuals and sections were moving forward winkling out the enemy positions. The success of the attack was largely due to the perfect control kept by the company commanders Major PJ Proctor and CSM Keir. C Coy meanwhile was advancing and reached their objectives with no opposition. To help A Coy, the CO ordered them to swing left and try and reach the top of the hill.

Bttn HQ had by now moved up almost to the road and as it was beginning to get daylight, looked as though they might be caught in the open. Just in time, however, the success signal was fired by C Coy and they were able to move forward to the house half way up the hill after D Coy had re-cleared the copse and house.

0600 By daylight, the bttn had consolidated and were digging in. A very unpleasant day was spent under very heavy mortar and MG fire and it was almost impossible to reach the two forward coys owing to sniping and 88mms firing HE.

It was difficult to get the MGs and mortar mules forward owing to sniping.

1600 D Coy went out to clear the village. Snipers and LGs had been firing from it periodically during the day and it was found to be held by about fifteen enemy. Some of these were taken prisoner. They were a very mixed band of survivors of a Para Regiment and Fortress Bttn with a few from an all German Reggio Bttn.

1800 News came from Brigade that the Americans were only a few miles from Randazzo, and had cut the road leading out of the town to the north east. It was thought that the Germans would have to withdraw and the bttn was ordered to push on to Randazzo as fast as possible.

1930 CO’s orders.

2000 B and D Coys crossed the start line.

2045 B Coy got through on wireless to say they had gained the first objective with no opposition.

The Faughs attack on Maletto.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier James Purnell, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Jones, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Gillis, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Samuel Kennedy, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Jackson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Martin, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Albert Hamlett, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Reginald Holmes, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Arthur Edwards, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Henry Dixon, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal John Williams, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Philip Lloyd, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – BRONTE.

Food brought up in 15 Cwt in containers.

Plan again changed – Innsks now to advance to position to attack Mt Nave 810140. Intention: to use covered line of approach.

Lieut Wilton (mortar officer) kicked in jaw and evacuated.

1230 Bttn march off by road and track junction 746110 thence along increasingly bad tracks through broken lava country on the foothills of Etna.

During this, many walls had to be breached to let the mules through.

Map reading was difficult because many track and houses shown on the map did not exist, and the tracks further from the road were very ill defined. The proximity of Mt Etna further affected magnetic readings.

The route eventually taken from road and track junction 746110 was along the railway to 759113. Where the track was temporarily lost and the Bttn moved across walls etc to track junction 769115 to track junction 776117.

Patrols were sent out to determine the next move. Wireless communications with outside world broken down.

1800 By 18 set through RIrF, the CO indicated the impossibility of getting to M Nave in a fit state for a battle in daylight, but was ordered by the Brigadier to push on and get as close as possible in order to threaten it. Advantage of the holdup was taken to search for water, of which a limited quantity was found and some of the mules were watered.

1900 Bttn moved off to Baggiorazzo via pt 793114 (track junction 783116 did not exist).

2220 Head of Bttn arrived at Baggiorazzo and it became plain that it was impossible to reach Mt Nave.  Also the bttn was in a most vulnerable formation strung out in a single file (men and mules) along the track.  By this time, wireless communications had broken down, but for a previous intercept, it was thought that the RIrF were intending to attack Mt Nave, but we had no indication of time and method. Therefore, the CO decided to centre the bttn on Baggiorazzo and try and create the impression to the enemy that he was being surrounded.

Bttn in position. A Coy on high ground 786129 with patrols pushing towards Mt Nave. B Coy was local protection for Bttn HQ. C Coy and MGs (2) on high ground 785122. D Coy at track crossroads 781130 and to Mortar Corner 782142. During the night, the enemy withdrew and were pursued to Randazzo by the RIrF.

The Skins at Maletto.

2 LIR.

0200 Mount Macherone and positions to the right occupied by 8 A&SH without opposition.

0230 Artillery barrage commences to support 38 Brigade attack on Capella and Sperina.

0400 Two Platoons of E Company and 2 Platoons of G Company arrive at Start Line.

0500 Major Lofting in command of this force attack Western end of Sperina and join up with the remaining platoons of these two companies who had somehow gone a little way forward with the Commanding Officer.

0730 E and G Company on the objective. They had met very heavy enfilade fire crossing the road which ran parallel to the objective and although gaining their positions were unable to exploit them or dig in due to the MG and mortar fire coming from the right rear of the Sperina.

Special mention is made of 8 and 14 Platoons who showed great dash and courage clearing the machine gun and sniper posts on the hill. The enemy did not show quite as much fight as he might have done and were quickly killed or rounded up. 37 prisoners were taken in all.

0800 It was now realised that force of the enemy were still occupying positions on the right rear of the Sperina feature. The Commanding Officer ordered that F Company when they were ready would occupy the right hand edge of Sperina, clearing this opposition on the right on their way.

1030 F Company advance towards the enemy opposition and come under heavy fire. They engage. It was then that something went wrong. F Company suddenly switched their advance and made straight for their objective on Sperina. The Company Commander had realised his orders and why the original plan was not carried out will never be known – the Company Commander was killed leading his company across the bullet swept ground which led to Sperina.

For the remainder of the afternoon, the battalion was subjected to machine gun and mortar fire and little movement was possible due to the vigilance of the enemy machine gun crews and the well concealed snipers.

Artillery fire was brought down on enemy positions throughout the whole day and counter battery work only succeeded in neutralizing the enemy for short periods.

2000 Most of the enemy fire had died down by this time.

2100 Patrol from Pioneer Platoon recces right flank of the battalion and finds enemy positions unoccupied. “S” mines are encountered and one was set off, fortunately causing no casualties.

2330 E and F Companies relieved by 8 A & SH and move into reserve.

G Company remain on Sperina.

1 RIrF having gained their objectives during the day pass through our lines moving up the main road to Randazzo.

A/Major J Fitzgerald killed in action. W/Lieutenant J St Maur-Sheil wounded in action.

The London Irish Rifles at Maletto.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman James Law, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Albert Roberts, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Leo McRory, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Felix Creaney, London Irish Rifles.

Major Joseph Fitzgerald, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman William Roffey, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Peter Gregory, London Irish Rifles.

(NA 5904): R.Es at work removing the debris from the railway of Bronte, these buildings were, once again demolished by the enemy to slow up our advance. Copyright: © IWM.