On 30th December 1943, a patrol of Inniskillings was sent out in blizzard conditions from the mountain fastness of Capracotta which, at 5,000 feet above sea level, looks down over the valley of the upper Sangro river.
Two men from the patrol to Guidre, Captain Joe Beglin and Corporal David Marshall, would be killed on that day. As they were taken to two separate casualty clearing areas, they are buried in two different CWGC cemeteries, Captain Beglin resting at the Sangro river and Corporal Marshall at the Moro river.
David Marshall’s nephew, also named David, explained that, although his uncle had volunteered to join the Royal Ulster Rifles in Northern Ireland, he had actually joined the 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy during November 1943 after the Irish Brigade had suffered significant levels of casualties during battles near the Trigno river. Captain Beglin had also joined up with the Skins at the same time and the two men had been present in the brigade’s advance from the river Sangro up to the Moro before being taken out of the line for three weeks. On Christmas Day, the Skins had been sent to Capracotta, which is known to suffer the largest amounts of snowfall in the whole of peninsula Italy.
In 2019, during a very moving visit to the area, David Marshall and his son, Dwayne, placed wreathes and poppy crosses on the side of the road leading up to Capracotta and close to the location where Corporal Marshall and Captain Beglin suffered the injuries that had led to their deaths.
Stephanie Hess, granddaughter of Captain Beglin’s elder sister had also provided further details about Joe in a letter to us in 2010:
“Joe Beglin’s older sister, Eilish, was my grandmother. She died in 1978, but I can remember clearly the occasions when she spoke of her dear lost brother – they doted on each other and she often spoke of his lovely noble nature which
I think it must be no exaggeration based on the letter I am attaching. It is written by Lt John R. Stewart, 6th Inniskillings, to his father a few months after Joe’s death. He gives a most moving account of Joe Beglin’s final moments and if that is an example of the type of man who served with the Irish Brigade then they were a most extraordinary group indeed.
Joe Beglin was one of 11 children, seven of whom survived to adulthood – my grandmother and six brothers. I know that the family lived in Enniscorthy, County Wexford where the children were born and later moved to the South Circular Road in Dublin.
Joe was a keen sportsman and family tradition has it that he played rugby for Leinster. My great-grandmother, Anastasia Beglin, comes across through the few letters I have of hers as an incredibly strong woman – by 1944 she had lost three boys to the war, her daughter & grandchildren were refugees in Australia and her son-in-law, my grandfather J.B. Dunne, was a prisoner of the Japanese…
I am also attaching a photo of Joe in uniform. It’s impossible to see how tall he was from this but I know he was very tall indeed, hence the nick-name “Tiny”. I wonder what became of his friend John Stewart….”