Part II – Petacciato

About five miles to the west of Termoli is the San Giacomo Ridge, where the Irish Brigade was able to secure the bridgehead perimeter on the afternoon of October 6th.

The view from San Giacomo ridge towards Termoli.

The narrow streets of Petacciato.

From here, over the next two weeks, all three battalions of the brigade undertook extensive patrolling activity before 2 LIR (Irish Rifles) moved forward and captured the village of Petacciato on the night of 18th/19th October. The view from the ridge to the north of Petacciato offers an excellent outlook over the Trigno River valley.

 Petacciato old town. View from the Petacciato ridge towards the Trigno.

The official history of the London Irish Rifles describes 2 LIR’s attack on Petacciato:

“There was intense patrol activity, which gradually reached Petacciato, eight miles from Termoli, while engineer parties removed the mines which the enemy had laid in the vicinity. Much useful information about the enemy and the surrounding country was obtained by the patrols. One, a battle patrol led by Lieutenant Douglas Seymour, killed a couple of suspicious-looking “civilians” who were found to be Huns in disguise and belonging to the 1/64 Panzer Grenadiers whom the battalion had met earlier in Sicily.

Sergeant Hugh Donaghy MM, and his patrol ambushed an enemy truck as it was returning to the German lines after delivering supplies to the forward troops. They fired heavily on the vehicle, wounding one of its occupants, but did not manage to stop it.

Petacciato, a small village on the top of rising ground on the north side of the River Sinacra, had to be taken to provide a jumping-off ground for the next major assault — the crossing of the River Trigno.

A battalion attack on a two-company front was planned, F Company on the right and G Company on the left, with E Company protecting the forming-up position and H Company in reserve. A squadron of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment was in support. At 0100 hours on the 19th a barrage opened and the attack began. F Company pushed forward; the leading platoon with Major Gibbs, brushing aside all opposition, arrived in the town five minutes after the barrage had lifted. They found the enemy still recovering from the effects of the bombardment, with most of them hiding in the houses and other buildings. They had “gone to ground.” Among them were the gun-crews of the seventy-five’s guarding the roads into the town, but most of the enemy managed to escape, as the task of systematically clearing each building was a slow one.

Later, Lieutenant O’Connor, with the leading platoon of G Company, advanced to the southern end of the village, clearing a few machine-gun posts on the way, and by dawn the rest of G Company, who had been held up by enfilade fire, succeeded in occupying the southern half. F Company also moved up during the early hours, and Petacciato fell. The battalion suffered no casualties in the actual attack, and nineteen prisoners were taken.”

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan also described one memory of the battalion’s advance into Petacciato:

“I followed closely behind. Human excrement littered the street. The commanding officer called the mayor and ordered him to clear it up. It was obvious that the town had received some bombardment and the people were afraid to leave their houses. Not being able to clear their ‘gabinetti’, they just threw the contents out of the door.”


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