2 LIR – December 1943

After the capture of Fossacesia, the 2nd Battalion moved on, and a patrol from E Company found the bridges between Fossacesia and Rocca still intact, and Major Peter Grannell and G Company went forward to seize them and prevent demolition. Rocca was duly occupied, but the delaying tactics of the enemy held up a further advance a mile and a half north of the town.

Here a bridge had been blown, and a deep ravine with precipitous sides had to be crossed before a protective screen could be placed to cover the repair work. During a morning reconnaissance, Major Lofting of E Company was wounded, and later Lieutenant Gentle, who had taken over the company, was hit by shrapnel and Lieutenant Wilson took command.

There was a sharp fight to force the ravine and the high ground beyond, and when eventually a bridgehead had been made the London Irish were relieved by a Canadian battalion and switched to the flank to clear an area down to the River Moro. This was done after several minor scraps. The battalion was firmly established along the line of the river by December 4, and though they were heavily shelled and mortared they felt secure. The Sangro Battle was over and the enemy had scuttled back five miles since the attack on his Winter Line had begun.  The Irish Brigade, ably supported by the veteran 4th Armoured Brigade, had had a good, successful fight and they went to the back areas to rest.

At the end of 1943 Lieut.-Colonel Ian Goff took over command of the 2nd Battalion from Lieut.-Colonel H Rogers. Major HEN Bredin, DSO, MC (Royal Ulster Rifles), had earlier joined the battalion as Second-in-Command.

Christmas 1943 was spent by the 2nd Battalion in the lower Apennines. The battalion was scattered among the mountain villages of Pietra, San Marco, and the town of Campobasso, where they spent the nearest approach to a peace‑time Christmas that was possible.

The festive season was short-lived. On December 27 they started a move which eventually brought them into the line again in the hills near Montenero. New Year’s Eve came, and with it a blizzard which those who experienced it will never forget. The snow fell all day, gradually getting thicker and thicker. At 1600 hours G Company came across a German patrol, some forty strong, and a sharp encounter ensued.  But visibility was so bad that little could be seen of the effect of the fire or of casualties to the enemy. They eventually retired and disappeared into the blizzard. At night the snow was three to four feet deep, and the next morning permission was given to withdraw the forward companies to Montenero.

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