1st November 1943 - 093937
Brigade HQ moved from Petrulo to a position n between Route 6 and the railway line at 093937. During the day 167 Brigade continued to advance meeting no opposition but numerous demolitions and some booby traps. Thu King’s Dragoon Guards reported that the Americans had entered Roccamonfina and found it abandoned. However, they made contact north of the town and took 2 prisoners of war.
2nd November 1943 - 093937
The London Scottish cleared the Teano road as far as San Pietro (9798). 167 Brigade had now occupied all the divisional objectives without opposition though as straggler from the Hermann Goering Recce Unit was taken.
3rd November 1943
Guardsman Chadwick, Scots Guards, who had been captured during the 2 Scots Guards attack on the tobacco factory near Battipaglia in September, reported to Brigade HQ. He had jumped out of a. train about 50 kilometres south of Rome and made his way back on foot. He reported that there were a number of 88 mm guns near Mignano. Considerable work was in progress on the south and eastern slopes of Monte Camino. He had watched German sappers blasting positions into the rock and gangs of Italian civilians were being used. Italians had told him that this work had been going on steadily, night and day, for three weeks. Sipicciano and S Clemente were being evacuated by the enemy on 2 November. t
By nightfall the leading battalion of 168 Brigade, 1 London Irish, had occupied the Frascara ridge, facing Monte Camino north across the narrow intervening valley and had pushed north of Sipicciano (9502).
Our gunners, 65 Field Regiment, moved up to 987987.
4th November 1943
The Americans pushed beyond the very prominent small hill of Friello (9807) and reported it well covered with S mines. 168 Brigade entered S Clemente 9605 and had a sharp brush with the German rearguard, which then withdrew.
5th November 1943
The Brigadier, the Commanding Officers and their O groups went ahead of the remainder of the Brigade to the London Irish OP at 972019 from which there is an excellent view of Monte Camino the intervening valley.
From this OP the ground falls away rapidly in wooded slope to a valley some two kilometres wide. On the northern side at the valley stands the -large mountain massif of Camino. Just below the highest point (963) stands a large square built monastery. A spur runs almost due South from here, in the shape of a narrow razor-backed
ridge, dropping a few feet then rising again to “Spandau post ridge" dropping from here into the valley to the south. 1,000 metres south west of the monastery stands Point 819, the southern slopes of which are almost
almost precipitous. There is a small wood at its south-western foot. Due south of Point 819 and 500 metres distant is Point 727. The whole are bounded by the monastery-Razor Back-Spandau Ridge forms a rough saucer.
From 272 another spur runs due south, parallel with Monastery – Razor Back – Spandau post ridge spur. This second spur, ‘Barearse’, slopes gradually up from the west – a bare expanse of boulder strewn rock without trees or cover of any sort. The eastern face of the Barearse spur drops precipitously almost a hundred feet and then falls away steeply. At the bottom of the re-entrant formed by these two spurs runs a gully. A rough, twisting mule track makes it way up to the re-entrant from the little village of Mieli at the bottom up to the saucer at the top of the pass. In the valley just below the Barearse spur, stands the village of Calabritto and further west ‘pill box spur juts out of the bottom of the Barearse spur itself.
Our orders were to capture Points 819 and 727, and then drive west along the massif to capture Points 683 (939076) and Acquapendola.
Information about the enemy’s numbers and dispositions was slight. An Italian Colonel had described a line running north of the Fosso Cocuruzzo from about 935042 to 945052, south east of Calabritto, and, in less strength up the Barearse ridge. Air photographs showed signs of military activity at various points of the valley defences described by the Colonel. They showed two mortar posts on the Barearse spur, just west of the crest, and half a dozen MG posts on Spandau post ridge and the Razor Back.
168 had carried out patrolling to a certain extent. At 1230 they reported that the London Irish had seen 15 enemy at 953032 who had moved up the wadi to 923046. They had also seen 30 enemy in Massa la Valle 921041. This information was of no immediate interest to us.
However, the Royal Berkshires reported that Mieli, Saraceni and Canelli were unoccupied (all in 9505). They reported the ridge above Canelli (Barearse) to be held but gave no indication as to the probable strength of the enemy. Civilians had told them that Calabritto ((405) was occupied and the church tower used as an OP. A second patrol reported that Timelli, Cisterni and Gallucio (9604 and 9605) clear of the enemy.
All company commanders were able to see the ground before last light from the London Irish OP. The Scots Guards saw movement in and out of the monastery – whether Huns or monks however they were not able to determine. No patrolling of our own was possible as the battalions themselves did not arrive until after dark.
6th November 1943
A Divisional intelligence conference was held at Roccamonfina under the GIII(I) at which the information stated above was collected. Two Italian civilians who had come through the lines were taken up to the London Irish OP by the Brigade IO. They said that there were mines and wire in front of Calabritto but could not exactly pinpoint either.
Zero hour was to be 1630 hrs. An artillery concentration of six Field, two Mediium and one Heavy regiment was to prepare the way for the Coldstream to seize Pill Box spur and Calabritto. The Grenadiers were to follow this up by a strong fighting patrol and then the whole battalion moving up Barearse Ridge to seize Points 727 and 819. Operation Order No. 17 was issued.
Tac was established just behind the London Irish OP, consisting of the Brigadier, Brigade IO and OC 65 Field Regiment (Major F. Shrimpton, MC). The GOC 56 London Division arrived at Tac shortly before zero hour.
The artillery concentration fell almost exactly in the area required. It was an awe-inspiring sight in that setting with the bulk of Monte Camino towering behind. For the time being all enemy small arms fire was silenced. Several large fires were started – a hinderance to the Coldstream, who as night fell, had to make wide detours to avoid being shown up to the enemy infantry. No. 4 Company, attacking on the right, secured Pillbox spur by 2000hrs. No. 3 Company, whose objective was Calabritto village itself had a more difficult time. A post by the road running south east from Calabritto was captured after some grenade throwing and 10 prisoners of war from 11 company, 129 Panzergrenadier Regiment (15 Panzergrenadier Division) were taken. An attempt was made to storm the village from the north with No. 2 Company, hitherto in reserve, covering their left as they went into the assault. This attempt failed, largely owing to wire and extensive mines. No. 2 Company had suffered from mines – mostly prepared charges set off by trip wires – one officer being killed and one wounded, while they lost 2 ORs killed and 12 wounded. The position was now that although No. 4 Company of the Coldstream were firmly established on Pill Box spur the enemy was still in possession of Calabritto, behind his considerable defences of mines and wire. Although the base for the Grenadiers assault up Barearse was not yet completely secured the Brigade Commander took the decision that it should go forward. At 2210, while No. 3 company of the Coldstream were about to make their attempt to capture the village from the north and artillery concentration was going down to support them, the Grenadiers, preceded by a strong fighting patrol, began to scale the Barearse ridge. The CO of the Coldstream was ordered to make a fresh plan and attack Calabritto again at dawn.
The POW said that after their battle with 167 Brigade in the area of Teano they had been withdrawn to Rocca D’Evandro (9209), their company being only 17 strong. There they had been reinforced and refitted and sent back to hold the Calabritto position which their sappers had prepared.
7 November 1943 -972019
From 0540 to 0550 a divisional concentration of artillery fired 2 minutes intense, followed after a gap of 4 mins, by minutes rapid and a further 2 minutes intense into the square 940058 - 927058 - 930045 - 938045. The Coldstream then assaulted Calabritto from the north east. By 0640 No. 3 Company (Major Griffith-Jones) was into the village. The enemy, No.11 company of III/129 PGR (15 Panzergrenadier Division) were either killed or driven out and 18 more POWs, including a Feldwebel, were taken. Meanwhile No. 2 Company attacked a MG post that was giving trouble north of the village.
At 0740 the CO of the Coldstream, Lieutenant-Colonel D.W.A.W. Forbes, MC, who had now established his HQ at 952047 reported the Battalion's casualties to be:- No. 2 Company 1 officer killed and 2 wounded; 2 ORs killed and 15 wounded: No.3 Company 1 officer wounded and 23 OR casualties.
When the POW arrived at Brigade HQ the IO took the Feldwebel up to the OP. At first he refused to say anything but when considerable pressure had been brought to bear upon him he admitted that his Company Commander had told him that No.10 company of his battalion were holding Barearse and the Razor Back and No.9 company the Monastery. He said that II/129 Panzergrenadier Regiment were on the right of his battalion.
Meanwhile some MG fire could be heard on the top of Barearse. The Grenadier Guards had had a most difficult climb over very rough rocks and boulders, so far unexplored by any British patrol, and were destroying the various MG and mortar posts they encountered.
At 0705 they called for two DF tasks north of Point 727 (951067). This however was not to stop a counter attack but to catch the enemy who were retiring. By 0740 they reported their leading troops on Point 819 (951074), the final battalion objective, though not yet established.
2 Scots Guards, our reserve battalion, had meanwhile followed the Coldstream down into the valley. They had been earmarked, once the Grenadiers were firmly in possession of Points 819 and 727, to exploit westwards to Point 683 (940077) and Acqua Pendola, the next feature beyond to the west. One of their three companies was now with the Coldstream, the other two near Battalion HQ at 953035. They were ordered to find two patrols. The first was to got to Sipicciano (9502) and try and contact two troops of the Royal Scots Greys who were reported to be leaving that village at 0700 hrs to support us. They were also to try the state of the road and see whether six anti-tank guns, at the village could be brought up to the Calabritto area to guard against a possible thrust from the left. The second was to be a recce patrol to see if the enemy were still of the south eastern slopes of Point 352 (9305) and to find out if he was in the Fosso Cocuruzzo between 045 and 050 Northings. This second patrol found the enemy’s carefully prepared positions to the west of the wadi had been abandoned, a considerable number of mines being in the wadi bottom. No. 4 company of the Coldstream were therefore moved from Pillbox Spur onto the left of the battalion to 940050.
At 0810 mortars at 933062, which had been firing on the Coldstream Guards were engaged by a divisional artillery concentration. At 1027 the Coldstream reported enemy posts on Point 430 (9306).
At 0940 hrs the Grenadiers reported that they could not get on owing to Spandaus firing from the slope of Razor Back at 955077. These MG posts were to prove the crux of the who battle. From their position on the slopes of Razor Back, Monastery Hill Razor Back and Spandau Post Ridge they dominated the top of Point 819 and covered the whole "saucer", described above, preventing any movement by day between Point 819 and Point 727.
At 1050 hrs the Brigade Commander ordered the Grenadiers to patrol that night to Point 683 (940077). The patrol was to find whether the feature was occupied and whether the intervening country was held. If so they were to estimate the strengths and location of the enemy and find the best line by which to attack it. They must be prepared to guide a company up to it.
1120 2 Scots Guards reported that they had seen a large semi-tracked vehicle move down the road on the far side of the Garigliano at 889061 from north to south. At the same time about six men were seen moving in the opposite direction at the same spot. In the same area there were two stationary objects, either 3-tonners or half-tracked armoured cars. Major J. Harris, MC, the Battery Commander of 65 Field Regiment, attached to the Scots Guards was going to register the road.
1200 8 PW captured by the Grenadiers during their adv up Barearse Ridge were brought in to Brigade. They consisted of 5 from 10 company 111/129 Panzergrenadier Regiment, 1 from No. 12 company, the heavy support company of the same battalion, and 2 from 12 company of II/104 Panzergrenadier Regiment who said that they were attached to III/129. These PW said that 10 company of III/129 Panzergrenadier Regiment were across the saucer from Barearse to Spandau Post Ridge and the Razor Back. No. 9 company, they said was holding the Monastery and Monastery Hill. No. 10 company was 50 strong of which 14 men had been lent to No. 9 Company. No. 9 Company, with these 14 men, numbered a total strength of 30.
The Brigadier held a conference with the CO of 2 Scots Guards, as they were going up the hill that night. Torrential rain began to fall reducing visibility to a few yards.
1400 The Royal Berkshire reported that a patrol of theirs had gone two thirds up the mule track and contacted the Grenadiers. A Mg at 955086 was firing at the Grenadiers.
1700 3 Coldstream Guards reported that a counter attack was forming up in the valley to the west. DF was fired twice and the counter attack broken up.
1855 2 Scots Guards reported their Battalion HQ at 963033, F Company at 953046, G Company at 956034 and Right Flank at 951035. Rain continued to fall very heavily indeed. Owing to the extreme difficulty of the climb up Barearse, it was decided by the Brigade commander to tell the Scots Guards to stand fast.
2300 65 Field Regiment’s OP with the Grenadiers reported that a PW had been taken from a patrol forming up to the west of the OP. On being cross-questioned he said that they had been told that the mountain must be recaptured. The Grenadiers called for DF at 2313 and again at 2330 hrs. Rain continued to fall unabated.
8th November 1943 - 972019
3 Coldstream Guards reported their Battalion HQ to be at 947049.
The Scots Greys two troops had still not appeared. They last reported themselves at 963933 and then went off the air. This map reference being impossible, a guide was sent 963033 but there was no sign of them.
A patrol was sent to see whether the mule track was climbable reported that after a certain distance it became rougher and rougher, ending in a vertical cliff. (This was due to the patrol getting into a wadi to the right of the path and mistaking it for the actual path.)
At last a line was completed to the Grenadiers Tac HQ. The Brigade Commander was able to talk to Major Sir Hugh Cholmeley, who was commanding the Grenadier Guards, owing to Lieutentant-colonel W.H. Kingsmill, DSO, MC, being out of action from a motor accident.
The Grenadier Guards had spent a night of extremely heavy and persistent rain on a high mountain with no cover or protection whatever. No rations could be carried up to them by daylight on 7 November owing to the Barearse ridge being covered by enemy fire. Rain had made it impossible for porters to reach them during the night. There was no prospect of any reaching them until late that night.
Owing to the PWs information they had concentrated on guarding against a counter attack from the north and west and had not taken the offensive action they had intended against Spandau Post Ridge and Razor Back MG posts. F Company, 2 Scots Guards, had arrived, somehow having failed to receive the order countermanding the move up Barearse. This proved to be a blessing in disguise and it was decided that F company should be sent to reinforce No. 2 and 3 companies of Grenadier Guards, holding precariously onto Point 819.
The rain had waterlogged our telephone lines and it was impossible to hear the Coldstream. Lieutenant The Master of Erskine was therefore sent down to see Lieutenant-colonel D.W.A.W. Forbes, MC, the CO, to tell him to make a recce of the possibility of attacking Point 683 from the south, moving up the wadi running up the re-entrant between Barearse and Point 682 spur. At 0950 hrs 3 Coldstream Guards reported that Lieutenant-colonel Forbes had been very badly wounded on his recce, a shell splinter having gone through his head – a wound resulting in his death two days later.
He had been with 3 Coldstream in every one of their many battles and had commanded No. 3 Company at the battle of Sidi Barani, in General Wavell’s offensive of December 1940. Major the Honourable R. Strutt, 2nd-in-command, took temporary command of the battalion.
At 0950 the missing troops of the Scots Greys appeared at Cici (9604).
1215 A deserter came into the Grenadiers’ lines. He was a member of the defence platoon of 129 Panzergrenadier Regiment HQ. He said the HQ was at Rocca D’Evandro (9209). At 1253 hrs two field, a heavy and two US heavy artillery regiments bombarded Rocca D’Evandro. This PW’s story indicated that 129 Panzergrenadier Regiment had been stretched to the limit.
Unfortunately, the PW’s statement of the last night had been correct. The enemy were determined to re-take their positions. II/ Panzergrenadier Regiment 104, that had been resting on the far side of the Garigliano, had been rushed up onto the mountain to counter attack, and relieve the pressure on III/129’s two surviving companies.
At 1450 hrs the Grenadiers called for a shoot on Point 683. At 1548 hrs they called for DF 300 yards inside its registered line – an ominous sign.
At 1711 hrs the Coldstream reported that about two sections of Germans were moving round the flank of No. 4 Company, the battalion’s left-hand company. At the same time small parties were working their way around the right flank of the right-hand company No. 3, who were holding the village of Calabritto. DF was called for.
At 1755 the Grenadiers reported over the wireless that No. 2 Company, one of the companies holding onto Point 819, had been heavily attacked and one platoon lost. They were putting in an immediate counter attack. Three minutes later they asked for DF in a quarter of an hour’s time 100 yards south of its registered line – presumably to support the counter attack. This counter attack presumably failed as at 1840 hrs they called for DF to be fired twice on the same point to support another one.
While his fighting was in progress for Point 819 the Brigade commander ordered one of the 2 Scots Guards companies that remained in the valley to occupy the vital piece of ground of Pill Box spur (952053). This spur completely dominated our communications with the Grenadiers above. If it was seized by German infantry who appeared to be trying to infiltrate round the Coldstream, Calabritto would become untenable and the Grenadiers be cut off completely and surrounded. He also placed the last remaining Scots Guards company under command of the Coldstream, to be employed as an immediate counter attack force.
2010 The Brigade Commander, at 2010 hrs, ordered A Company of the 6 Cheshire (machine gunners) to harass the western side of Point 352 (9305) all night, in order to help the Coldstream’s defence of the Calabritto area. At 2012 the Coldstream reported digging, later thought to be mining, at 942053 and No. 4 Company sent out a fighting patrol to deal with it. At 2100 hrs they said that the Scots Guards company moving up onto Pill Box spur and that heavy stonking was landing at 955053 – a harmless place for so much attention. At 2105 the Brigade Commander ordered the Scots Guards, who were by now all in position, to send a patrol 1000 yards north of the Pill Box. He ordered the Coldstream to send one up the wadi between Barearse and Point 683. Mieli (9505) at the base of the mule track was now under shellfire.
The Scots Guards were now positioned with G company on Pill Box spur, one platoon of Right Flank halfway between them and Calabritto and the remaining two platoons 200 yards to the south, ready to counter attack at once should any position be over-run.
At 2300 hrs the Coldstream patrol of No. 4 Company that had gone out to investigate the mining at 942053 reported that they had seen 4 Germans moving north at about 942058. They had seen men, presumably those who had tried to work round their company’s left flank earlier, moving back. The second Coldstream patrol that had gone up the wadi was shelled and had 1 officer and 3 ORs wounded.
Meanwhile up on the mountain 3 Spandaus had worked their way into the saucer, between the two Grenadier companies fighting to retain their grip on Point 819 and the remainder of the battalion on Point 727. This prevented casualties being evacuated. F Company, 2 Scots Guards, had already set out for Point 819. The saucer is a large area and the Scots Guards reached the two leading Grenadier companies without bumping into the Germans. 2100 hrs Major Sir Hugh Cholmeley sent out a patrol to see if the enemy were still in the saucer but all now appeared quiet. Porters were at last able to carry food, water and ammunition to the Grenadiers and the extremely difficult task of bringing the wounded down the long, rough, difficult climb continued all night. Lieutenant Clerk-Rattray, Scots Guards, during the night attempted to reach the Grenadiers with rations on mules by the mule track. Near the top however the path was being swept by MG fire so he left the rations on the ground and returned.
9th November 1943 - 972019
0110 2 Scots Guards reported their new Battalion HQ to be at 962024 – established there since 1700 hrs.
0645 The Cheshire’s DF on to the western slopes of Point 352 appeared to have been a great success in keeping the Germans quiet, so the Brigade Commander ordered them to continue throughout the day.
0646 The PWs taken by the Grenadier Guards during the bitter fighting of the late afternoon of the day before at last reached the Brigade IO. The consisted of 2 men from 7 Company 104 Panzergrenadier Regiment, 1 from 8 company 104 Panzergrenadier Regiment, 1 from 12 Company 104 Panzergrenadier Regiment and 1 from 129 Panzergrenadier Regiment. The PW’s identification showed us, for the first time, that a completely fresh German battalion – II/104 Panzergrenadier Regiment – had been brought up the day before to re-take the ground we had won on the mountain.
The situation was now that the enemy was strongly posted on the western slopes of Monastery Hill, Razor Back and Spandau Post Ridge. These MG posts manned by two companies, 9 and 10 of III/129 Panzergrenadier Regiment, completely dominated the saucer and summit of Point 819. The newly arrived German battalion II/104 Panzergrenadier Regiment, had secured the top of Point 819. Two Grenadier companies, each about 45 strong, and F Company, 2 Scots Guards were clinging onto the western slopes of Point 819 and the wood below it. By day they were completely cut off from the two rear companies and HQ of the battalion round 727 and communications by night were always liable to interception by German patrols moving down into the saucer under the cover of darkness. The two rear companies were still about 80 strong and had food and water for the day.
0700 The Brigade Commander left Brigade HQ for a recce of the eastern slopes of the Razor Back and Spandau Post Ridge from Friello (9806); he took with him the CO of 2 Scots Guards, Major Patrick Stuart-Fotheringham. His intention was, if possible, for the two remaining companies of the Scots Guards – G and Right Flank – to scale these features from the east and clear out the MG posts.
The GOC 56 London Division arrived accompanied by the Army Commander and the Commanding General of the 3 US Division.
1050 A strong attack at 1050 was reported to have come in against No. 2 Company of the Grenadiers and F Company of the 2 Scots Guards. Major Sir Hugh Cholmeley said it was impossible for him to move up No. 1 Company, his reserve, to assist them as the saucer was being swept by the MGs on Razor Back and Spandau Post Ridge.
1155 The Grenadiers reported that No. 2 and No. 3 companies, together with F Company 2 Scots Guards on the western slopes of Point 819 were being hard pressed by continued German attacks. No. 4 Company, just west of Point 727, was under fairly heavy fire from the west. The enemy were between the rear and forward companies and No.1 Company, in reserve, had been clustered round Battalion HQ. If No.2 and No. 3 Companies and F Company Scots Guards should be overrun, Sir Hugh would hold on to Point 727 with the remainder of the Battalion.
Soon after the Brigade Commander, to whom this news had been passed by wireless, returned to take charge. He sent the following message to Major Sir Hugh Chomeley "I have been ordered to use the whole resources of the Brigade to hold your position. I shall move the Scots Guards up tonight to hold on your right, the Coldstream being relieved and moved to the area of Mielli. You have done magnificently and must complete the job by holding until you are reinforced".
Bitter fighting continued all day round our three companies. The enemy, from the top of Point 819, was able to hurl stick grenades down among them. Movement of any sort was impossible as they were continually covered by snipers. The Germans made repeated efforts to rush them. They were compelled to lie low while the large numbers of automatic weapons gave these attacks covering fire. As soon as this covering fire lifted, they sprang up and fired every weapon they had into the assaulting German infantry. Several times a voice in good English called on them to surrender.
At 1800 hrs the position of our troops on the mountain was unchanged. In the valley G Company of Scots Guards on Pill Box Spur was relieved by the Royal Berkshires while the London Scottish took over the defence of Calabritto from the Coldstream Guards, the latter concentrating in Mieli.
1830 65 Regiment reported that at last light they had seen 30 men entering the Monastery. At 1835 hrs the Coldstream reported that 4 men had been seen working round No. 4 Company’s left flank – the left of the Battalion.
1850 In answer to a personal enquiry by the GOC 56 London Division, the following facts were found out about the Grenadiers’ casualties. In front of the RAP there were 25 – 30 casualties to be brought I, though the enemy had undoubtedly collected several more from the top of Point 819. There were no casualties at present in the RAP but 84 had been evacuated during the day.
By 1900 hrs A Company of the Royal Berkshires had relieved G Company 2 Scots Guards on Pill Box Spur while by 2350 the Coldstream had been relieved by the London Scottish in Calabritto.
Meanwhile a patrol from the Grenadiers’ rear companies was sent out to try and contact the three isolated companies, with whom wireless communication had now failed. This patrol had a sharp fight with a German patrol, killing 12 of the enemy and taking one PW. He was an Austrian from No. 9 Company, 3rd Oria Battalion, 382 Panzergrenadier Regiment, the third Panzergrenadier Regiment of 15 Panzergrenadier Division, which was on the coast. This PW said that a draft of about 100 men from 9 and 10 Companies of this Battalion had, three days previously, been brought up from the coast and drafted into 9 and 10 Companies of III/129 Panzergrenadier Regiment.
10th November 1943 - 972019
The Scots Guards two remaining companies began to move up the mule track to take up a position on the right of the rear companies of the Grenadier Guards on the top of the pass. At 0305 hrs 2 Scots Guards reported that they had nearly reached their objectives. One Spandau had already been dealt with and a second, on the top of the pass was now firing, not however at the Scots Guards who had apparently not been noticed by its crew. Steps were now being taken to deal with it and the CO was confident that the positions ordered by the Brigade Commander could be occupied and consolidated.
0520 The Grenadiers reported that another German patrol was in the saucer between them and their isolated companies. No rations could be taken back up to them and the stretcher bearers could not bring the casualties back.
0547 The Scots Greys Squadron commander had tried all night to find a possible route by which a tank could be driven up Barearse. The Northern Irish Horse had succeeded in driving Churchill tanks onto the Bou Arda feature in Tunisia and if a Sherman could go up Barearse the same consequences might result. By 0547 however he reported that there was no possibility of doing so.
0735 Orders were given that every available Grenadier was to be collected from B Echelon, the Carrier and Anti-tank platoons and sent up on to the mountain as reinforcements. The Grenadiers HQ reported that a German patrol onto Point 727 had been driven off. The position was now that the two Grenadier companies and one Scots Guards company were still holding on to the western slope of 819 and the wood below it. They were running short of water, food and ammunition. The Germans were on the top of 819 and between it and 727. The Scots Guards other two companies under their CO were holding the tip of the pass, east and t the right of the Grenadiers.
1150 G Company Scots Guards on top of the mule track, reported they could see 2 or 3 men on Spandau Post Ridge, beyond Right Flank who were on their right. They were engaging them with LMGs. Right Flank went out for these Germans and at 1305 hrs reported they had winkled out two MG sangars, taking 8 PWs.
1200 Lieutenant-Colonel Ball, commander 7 Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, arrived at Brigade HQ, with his company commanders. They were taken to our OP and also shown air photos of the objective. Their battalion was to arrive at St Clemente (9604) at 1900 hrs and arrangements were made to guide them up the mule track. 2 Scots Guards were to peg out their start line.
1610 168 Brigade informed us that Royal Berkshires were going to relieve the London Scottish in the all-important village of Calabritto, guarding the line of supply to our troops on the mountain.
1907 The Brigade Commander ordered D Company 6 Cheshire to harass Pint 430 (937063) and Point 683 (940077) from 0300 hrs onwards.
The GOC 10 Corps visited 2 Scots Guards forward positions and the GOC 56 Division visited Brigade HQ.
2010 65 Field Regiment reported hat the Grenadiers were standing to and at 2013 they called for DF.
11th November 1943
0115 The Royal Berkshires, 168 Brigade reported, had not yet completed their takeover of Calabritto from the London Scottish. DF had been called for at 2230 hrs.
0315 The Grenadiers signalled “Less one isolated section reached new location. No casualties on the way.” Preparations had been made for a hot meal to be awaiting them in their billets at Mieli.
Captain Ralph Howard, who had commanded No. 3 Company of the Grenadiers, had been wounded 3 times – so badly that both his legs had to be amputated above the knee. He had refused to be evacuated and when once wounded had continued to lead the company in a counter attack until shot down again and unable to move.
Forty two survivors of F Company 2 Scots Guards came out with the Grenadiers, under command of Captain R. Coke. The company commander, Major Rathbone, had been killed, and all other officers had become casualties.
At 0330 hrs 168 Brigade reported that Calabritto was being heavily attacked. At 0400 hrs they reported hand-to-hand fighting in the streets, though no breakthrough so far. The Brigadier ordered the Grenadiers to patrol at first light to ensure that the area was clear.
At 0425 hrs the Adjutant of the Ox and Bucks signalled “Left hand party definitely established”. At 0525 hrs their CO reported: “My one on right has sticky time. Has joined with two in centre. Three on left OK and has reached objective. Am not happy about right, particularly at dawn. Dominated by ground to the east.”
The Brigade Commander replied “Well done. Am arranging for smoke to be fired by artillery on your east at call from you. Am ordering the 2 Scots Guards to continue to make efforts to winkle out posts on slopes to your east. 3 Coldstream Guards are making ground towards your left at first light. Essential you establish Ops on the objective to overlook ground to your north.” He signalled to the 2 Scots Guards: “Ox and Bucks on objective but nervous of right flank. You will continue efforts to clear away enemy from lower slopes on Monastery feature on lines of yesterday.” He signalled to the 3 Coldstream Guards: “Ox and Bucks on objective but overlooked from right. You will carry on as ordered with one sub-unit with special task of preventing infiltration from left flank of position.” This last signal referred to a previous order for No. 2 Company of the Coldstream, the left-hand company, to move into a position where it could cover the outside of the left and western tip of the saucer.
Soon after we heard that the Ox and Bucks had taken 10 PW during their assault.
At 1000hrs 168 Brigade reported that last night they had been attacked twice at Calabritto, first from the south west and secondly from the Cocuruzzo (9206) direction. The London Irish were moving up on to the left flank of the Royal Berkshire’s to about 945050.
At 1040hrs No. 2 Company Coldstream reported that they were covering Point 683 well and that a few Spandaus were firing from that direction.
At 1135 hrs the Ox and Bucks reported: “No. 2 952073, No. 1 951073, No. 3 948073, Battalion HQ 952070. Enemy MG and sniper fire from area 940076. Own mortars engaging the enemy at 953076.” In fact they were in much the same position as the Grenadiers had been and suffered from the same domination of Razor Back whose numerous automatics covered the top of Point 819 and the saucer.
The Ox and Bucks reported at 1240 hrs “Enemy infiltration between our two left sub-units as with predecessors In order to deal with this and close the gap have had to draw in two right sub-units, giving ground slightly on the right.
At 1435 hrs the Ox and Bucks asked for 4.2 inch mortars to engage enemy on Razor Back.
At 1455 hrs the Division Commander ordered 167 Brigade to send every available carrier man, etc up to reinforce Ox and Bucks that night.
At 1530 hrs 2 Scots Guards reported a great deal of shooting from the Ox and Bucks who appeared to be surrounded.
168 Brigade were calling for DF to break up another attack on Calabritto.
At 1605 hrs 2 Scots Guards reported that the Coldstream, who were firing every available weapon to support the Ox and Bucks, were shooting with effect. 2 Scots Guards mortars had had a good shoot onto a Spandau. About 40 Ox and Bucks were coming in through G company of the Scots Guards. These however turned out to be porters.
At 1700 hrs the situation was that the Scots Guards were holding firm their positions on top end to the east of the pass. They were in touch with the Coldstream who had now re-established contact with the Ox and Bucks in the wood below and south west of Point 819.
At 2110 the Coldstream were ordered to patrol towards Point 683 to see whether the enemy were in the intervening country or on that feature. HQ Royal Artillery were informed and all harassing fire until 0300 hrs in this area was stopped.
At 2155 hrs the Ox and Bucks reported that they had 30 -40 survivors in the wood south west of Point 819 from all their assault companies. In fac however they had very many more. The Divisional Commander now came to the conclusion that Point 819 and Razor Back must both be taken together with a two-battalion attack and ordered up the 8th and 9th Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. We were ordered to guide the Brigade and Battalion recce groups up to our HQ and OP from the bridge at Conca (990029) at 0730 hrs the next day. 56 Division Operational Order No. 6 received.
12th November 1943
At 0330 hrs 3 Coldstream Guards reported that Lieutenant John Hamilton, MC, and 8 Guardsmen had been across to within 100 yards of the foot of Point 683 and had fired off three Bren gun magazines. There had been no reply and as it was a brilliant moonlit night, they concluded that there were no enemy between Point 727 and Point 683 and no enemy on the rear and eastern side of Point 683 itself.
At 0400 hrs 168 Brigade reported that a patrol of the Royal Berkshires had been up Barearse and contacted the Coldstream Guards at the top near Point 727. The GOC 56 London Division went up the mountain and visited all the forward troops. He telephoned down that he was very anxious to see the Corps Commander and a meeting was arranged at Tac Corps HQ at 1130 hrs. This was extremely unlucky day for the 2 Scots Guards. At 0811 they reported that Major Patrick Hume, Commander Right Flank, ha been wounded by a sniped from Point 819, while out on a patrol and could not be brought in until dark. At 0840 hrs Major Alister Timpson, MC, and Captain Nigel Barnes, MC, the company commander and 2 i/c of G Company, had both been wounded by the same shell.
0810 The Ox and Bucks were now sorting themselves out and at 0810 hrs their CO was able to report that they were 160 strong.
1130 Preparations were going ahead for the attack of the two royal Fusilier battalions and at 1130 hrs the CRA 56 London Division met the Commanding Officers of 64 Field, 146 Field and 69 Medium at our HQ and OP.
At 1200 hrs the Coldstream reported that enemy guns, possibly a battery and recently arrived, were shelling them. On a sound bearing they were 290 degrees from 951068.
At 1315 hrs 2 Germans from 6 Company II/ 104 gave themselves up to the 2 Scots Guards. They seemed badly shaken by our artillery. They said their company was now reduced to between 30 and 40 men. Food had reached them last night but not on the previous two nights, owing to the British artillery’s non-stop harassing fire. Their company was on the left and eastern side of Point 819, No. 7 Company being on their right. No. 8 Company, the heavy support company, was about 200 yards behind Point 819. Their battalion had rested on the far side of the Garigliano on 5 and 6 November. On the 7th they had been told that there were not enough troops on the mountain and they would have to go up. They arrived on the 8th November, the day the furious counter attacks began against the Grenadiers.
At 1735 hrs 65 Field Regiment reported that Point 819 appeared to be unoccupied – a discovery that the gunners are rather fond of making. Lieutenant-colonel Ball, CO of the Ox and Bucks, at once decided to try and seize it, and despatched a strong fighting patrol.
At 1800 hrs blasting was seen and heard to be in process on the western slopes of Razor Back. There were 20 explosions which were put down to the enemy improving his posts in the rock face.
At 1755 hrs No. 2 Company of the Coldstream reported that the Ox and bucks patrol appeared to be meeting opposition. Shouting and some shooting could be heard. At 1800 hrs this was confirmed by the Ox and Bucks HQ.
At 1815 LMG, rifle and TSMG fire could be heard from the south west of Calabritto. At the same time the officer i/c the mule column, that was carrying the rations up the track to the forward troops, was hit by a shell and the mules bolted.
At 1820 hrs the Ox and Bucks patrol, the Coldstream reported, was unable to get onto Point 819 and was being withdrawn. At 2145 the Ox and Bucks reported that they were all back in their original position except for 5 – either dead or PW – including the officer commanding the patrol.
At 1830, Brigadier Firth, who had arrived at our Brigade HQ ready to direct 167 Brigade was told by the Divisional commander that his two remaining battalions, the 8th and 9th Royal Fusiliers, who were at the foot of the mountain would not be required to go up tonight, as the attack would not take place next day. Brigadier Firth ordered them to stand down. One company of 9 Royal Fusiliers had however already been sent up to be under command of the Scots Guards, who had only two companies of their own. This company was positioned on Spandau Post Ridge, on the right of Right Flank.
2130 The Brigade Commander, at 2130 ordered the Coldstream to patrol onto Point 683. HQ Royal Artillery were tole to suspend harassing fire in the area concerned until 0300 hrs. Major George Burns, MC, went onto the mountain and took command of 3 Coldstream Guards from Major R Strutt.
A report was received from Major Patrick Hume from the ADS saying that he had information that had been unable to report the information before being evacuated. “On top of Right Flank’s ridge, he found during the course of last night and early morning five definite Spandau positions. No. 1 firing directly down the path leading from Mielli to the top. No. 2 30 yards away from No. 1 firing south west towards junction of two tracks at the top of the mountain. No. 3 and No. 4 in about centre of the ridge firing across and into the valley (saucer). No. 5 wandering Spandau firing at patrols and down opposite side. Note: No. 3 and No. 4 have snipers as well. Immediate action for tonight.”
13th November 1943
0350 Lieutenant John Hamilton, MC, reported at 0350 hrs that he had thoroughly explored Point 683 and that it was unoccupied.
0459 The Coldstream reported at 0459 that the night had been fairly quiet and that very little shooting was coming Point 819.
0535 2 Scots Guards reported that their patrol along Razor Back had not returned.
At 0830 the Ox and Bucks reported the situation normal as for yesterday. The patrol leader who had tried to get onto Point 819 had been captured. A lucky shell had hit the two Germans who had seized him and he had now returned. He thought, if anything, the hill had been more strongly held than on the night of their attack.
0835 3 Coldstream Guards, at 0835, reported that the enemy appeared to be occupying the wood to the south west and below Point 819. He was being engaged by small arms. The Brigade Commander and the Brigade IO drove to Canelle (9505) and climbed up the mountain to Point 727 to the Coldstream Battalion HQ. (On the way to Canelle the Brigade Commander met the Corps and Division Commanders and talked to them for some time). They visited the Scots Guards and Ox and Bucks Battalion HQ and then went down the mule track to Canelle where at 1600 hrs a conference was held attended also by the Commanding Officers of the battalions on the mountain and the Brigade Major. It had been decided by the Corps and Division Commanders that 56 division had not enough fresh troops to capture the whole Camino feature. The Division would therefore withdraw for the time being, abandoning the mountain and the valley as far back as S Clemente (9604). This was a terrible blow to our Brigade. We held a very strong position on the southern lip of the saucer from which we were confident the enemy could not dislodge us. After all hardships of the mountain top in rain and bitter cold, all the officers and men who had been sacrificed to capture the ground we had gained, everyone hoped that fresh troops would finish the work we had so hardly begun. However, with the troops at the Division Commanders disposal, remembering that in mountain warfare every fighting man wants another man to carry for him, it was impossible. As it turned out in the great storms that were about to break, with roads turning into quagmires it was all that could be done to supply the two battalions in the valley.
Thinning out for “Springboard” next day was to begin at 1945 hrs and the last covering parties of the Coldstream and Scots Guards were to pull out at 2030 hrs. Nothing was to be left for the enemy – food was to be buried and tins pricked, ammunition bent, water emptied and rum bottles smashed. The battalion areas were to be mined and booby trapped and mines laid on the mule track. The civilian population was to be removed from the villages at the bottom of the mountain next morning by AMGOT in order that there should be no chance of spies betraying our move. A 3-ton lorry for each battalion was to wait at the chapel just south of Mielli – and as they passed they would drop their blankets and heavy equipment – MGs, mortars, mine detectors and ammunition into them. They would march to the Bailey bridge at Conca and there embus in troop carriers and drive to the area of Terra Corpo.
The Brigade IO then went off to fetch the commander’s jeep which was near Mieli. Mieli had been heavily shelled all day and the driver had been hit in the stomach. He brought the jeep back to Mieli where the Brigade Commander and the Brigade Major had stopped to see Lieutenant-colonel Kingsmill who had now resumed command of the Grenadiers. As they came out, and were about to drive off four shells landed in quick succession. The Brigade Commander was hit through the left arm, the splinter penetrating his lung, and also through the right arm. He was given first aid in the Grenadiers HQ and told Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsmill to take command of the Brigade.
1150 Meanwhile the company of the Royal Fusiliers on top of the hill had sent out a patrol along the eastern side of Razor Back which was unoccupied. There was no fire either from the eastern side of Monastery Hill.
1411 The Ox and Bucks asked for an official complaint to be made to HQ Royal Artillery that they had been spasmodically shelled by our own artillery for the past 48 hours.
At 1730 hrs the artillery put down a concentration on Point 819 and all infantry who could do so fired small arms. As a result 8 or 9 Germans MGs disclosed themselves on that feature.
2200 Operational Order 13 received from 56 Division.
14th November 1943
At 0100 hrs the following telegram was received from the GOC 15 Army Group: “Sorry to hear of David. Shall I send Burns or wire Arthur Smith for another. Alexander.”
The following telegrams were sent by the Brigade Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsmill, DSO, MC, to GOC 15 Army Group: “Gascoigne badly wounded but not serious. Consider Burns suitable to command 3 Coldstream Guards.” To Major-General Commanding London District: “Gascoigne badly wounded but not serious. Await instructions.”
At 0945 hrs 2 Scots Guards complained that one platoon of Right Flank had been shelled by our own guns. Casualties were heavy and the Platoon Commander wounded. Area was 955073. Details: 13/11/43 1545 -1600 hrs by 25-pounders. 14/11/43 hrs onwards by a heavy gun.
A final co-ordinating conference was held at the Grenadiers’ HQ in Mieli attended by the Brigade Commander and the IO, all Commanding Officers of battalions, OC Cheshires and a Sapper Officer (RA 56 Division Order apply).
AMGOT began clearing out the whole civilian population of the villages of Mieli, Saraceni and Canelle.
At 1200 hrs the GI 56 Division said that any enemy activity in the area of Point 819 was to be reported to him direct. Two G IIIs were lent by division. One was put in charge of the troop carriers who were to meet the battalions at the Bailey bridge at Conca. The other was to bring 3 x 3-ton lorries, one from each battalion, to the chapel south of Mielli, which he was shown by the Brigade IO. The Brigade IO, with a telephone and White Scout Car fitted with wireless, was stationed at this chapel to report as each unit passed and to give the codeword “Newmarket” when the final covering party went by him.
Night fell. IT was a dark, misty evening with a slow drizzle of rain. At 1650 hrs No. 2 Company of the Coldstream, on the left of the battalion, reported slight enemy movement, obscured by mist.
At 1655 the Commanding Officer of the Coldstream reported a white flag moving on the saddle between the Monastery and Point 819. The Scots Guards had sent out a patrol and there was now some shooting. (This patrol was in fact one from the Ox and Bucks who had some hand-to-hand fighting with a German patrol).
A patrol of Germans was reported to be approaching on No. 2 Company of the Coldstream’s front, taking advantage of the mist. No shots had as yet been fired. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the hill, the Brigade IO was anxiously waiting the arrival of the G3 and the 3 x 3-ton lorries. At 1915 hrs the leading company of the Grenadiers from Mieli began to pass. As there was no 3-tonner to receive blankets, mine detectors and so forth, they had to be stacked in the chapel and by the road. At 2030 hrs, just as the last covering party of No. 2 Company of the Coldstream Guards were about to abandon their position on top of Barearse, a strong German fighting patrol appeared out of the mist and tried to rush them. They fired several Bren gun magazines into the enemy and put them to flight, inflicting six casualties.
At 2000 hrs the Ox and Bucks, the first troops from the top of the mountain, began to pass the Brigade IO. At 2005 hrs the Coldstream began to come by and at 2020 hrs the leading Scots Guardsmen. By 2050 the Scots Guards had all passed and still there was no sign of the G III and his trucks. The pile beside the road was now reaching considerable dimensions and there seemed a grave danger of much stores and equipment falling into the enemy’s hands. At 2110 a 2 Scots Guards 3-tonner appeared, sent in addition to the one that had reported to the G III. There was very little labour available – 3 linesmen, the Whites driver and a few Coldstreamers. However, everyone worked furiously at loading and at 2125 hrs the other three trucks arrived. There was not enough room for them to turn round by the chapel so they had to be parked 200 yards away at a road junction. This involved double loading, jeeping the stores from the chapel to the road junction and there off-loading on to the 3-tonners. The last man past the check point, Major Hugh Cholmeley, commanding the Grenadiers, came by at 2230 hrs, and just before all the stores were safely aboard and the trucks set off. “Newmarket” the final codeword was given and the first battle of Monte Camino was concluded.
15th November 1943 - 972019
The battalions were temporarily established with the Grenadiers at 017007, the Coldstream at 029014 and the Scots Guards at 023008. These were most unattractive quarters for troops who had fought a severe action – mere expanses of mud beside the road. Brigade HQ was established at Terra Corpo (0201) in the priest’s house. The Coldstream and Scots Guards found billets for themselves in Torella and Vallecupa during the day.
16th November 1943
The Grenadiers went to Caserta to excellent billets in the Scuola Allevi Casagrova (260750).
The enemy mortared the old Coldstream and Scots Guards positions, evidently still having no idea that we had withdrawn.
The GOC 56 Division lunched at Brigade HQ.
17th November 1943 - Terra Corpo
The GOC 56 Division addressed all officers and WOs of the Brigade at Brigade HQ.
18th - 19th November 1943 - Terra Corpo
The Brigade IO found billets for the Coldstream at Pugliano and Doddi S. Marco (0291 and 0191). The Brigade Major told the 2 Scots Guards to find billets at Sparanise (0887). This was impossible however in this much bombed village and they therefor found billets in Zuni (1090).
20th November 1943 - 077868
The Brigade Major found a billet for the Brigade HQ at 077868. As it had no windows or fireplaces and the weather was very cold it was not a popular one. Brigade HQ moved there and the Coldstream Guards and 2 Scots Guards to locations mentioned above.
21st November 1943 - 077868
The Grenadiers marched past the Army Commander, General Mark Clark, in front of Caserta Palace to the band of the Irish Guards. The Brigade IO found billets for the Grenadiers in Petrulo (1190).
22nd November 1943 - 077868
The Grenadiers moved to Petrulo.
23rd - 26th November 1943 - 077868
Individual training and minor tactics in hill warfare.
27th November 1943 - 077868
Brigadier Colvin arrived and took command of the Brigade.
28 November 1943 - 077868
Brigade and Commanding Officer 6 Grenadier Guards went to Sipicciano to recce Point 683 and Acqua Pendola (940077 and 9207).
29th November 1943 - 077868
Brigade Commander and Brigade IO went up to the Brigades old HQ and OP at 972019 to see Point 683 and Acqua Pendola. Royal Artillery 56 Division Operational Order 11 refers.
30th November 1943 - 077868
A preliminary conference was held on the forthcoming attack on Monte Camino at Brigade HQ.
31rd November 1943
The Brigade Commander gave orders for the Brigade’s attack on Point 683 and Acqua Pendola (see Operation Order No. 18 1 Dec). Vehicle state attached.