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3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards – War Diary December 1943

1st December 1943 - Pugliano

1700 The Battalion left for a forward concentration area on the northern slopes of Roccamonfina in order to take part in the second battle of Camino. This was carried out without incident.

The Fifth Army plan was as follows:

(a) That the Americans helped by two Battalions of experienced mountain troops should take Monte Defensa and Mt Maggiore.

(b) That 10 Corps should carry out the following operations:-

(i) On D -1 46 Division should capture Calabritto, in order to protect the left flank of 56 Division in its attacks     on the Monastery feature.

(ii) On D 167 Brigade (56 Division) should climb Bare Arse and capture Point 727 and Point 819.

(iii) On D 169 Brigade should attack Razor Back from the east and then exploit to the top of Camino.

(iv) The on D one one Company Coldstream Guards under command 167 Brigade should, after a firm base has been established on Points 727 and 819, be launched to seize Point 683.

(v) That on D +1 3 Coldstream Guards less one company should join Lance Force and capture and establish itself on Points 683 and 615.

(vi) That on D +2 201 Guards Brigade less 3 Coldstream Guards should seize Acuapendola with 46 Division advancing on its left.

(vii) That finally 6 Grenadier Guards should exploit and capture Rocca d'Evandro, Lance Force consisting of 4 Company under command of Major R. Beck with under command on section of MMG platoon.

Battalion less Lance Force arrives without incident in forward concentration area.

2nd December 1943               

2200 At about 2200hrs the Battalion less Lance Force moved to a forward concentration area around Galuccio. There was intermittent shelling but the Battalion suffered no casualties and arrived at 0200 hrs 3 Dec 43.

3rd December 1943                        

0200 All morning we waited news of Lance Force but none arrived. From later information it was never launched according to the original plan as commander 167 Brigade considered that as it was daylight before it could be launched it was too late and ordered it to remain under the east side of Bare Arse, where Brigade had been before the first battle of Camino.

1200 The CO Lieutenant-Colonel W.A.G. Burns MC, was summoned to see Brigade command where he received the following information; which eventually proved to be false. Lance Force had been launched at 1130hrs on Point 673 and the Battalion was to move as soon as possible to Point 683 to carry out it’s intention, where again the Battalion was ordered to move up the mule track and actually started at 1315hrs. The CO Lieutenant-Colonel W.A.G. Burns MC, accompanied by the Adjutant, Captain P.H.A. Bowman, and Major Smith Battery Commander 65 Field Regt RA, moved to the top of the mule track to receive orders from commander 167 Brigade. On arrival at the top of the mule track the Brigade Commander was not to be found but reliable information from OC London Irish which proved to be correct proved that Lance Force had not been released and was sitting under Bare Arse.

A nasty problem confronted the Battalion, which by this time was coming up the mule track, because the whole of the feature around the mule track was filled with troops and it was obviously quite unsafe to allow any more the rest there. At the same time the Battalion could not advance on Point 683 until stock had been taken with regard to the situation. The Battalion was therefore ordered to join Lance Force under the cliffs of Bare Arse – a very steep and difficult climb which was carried out without loss although there was intermittent shelling.

1400 Orders were received that the battalion should attack and take Point 683 before dark. This was impossible as in the first place the troops needed a rest and secondly there was not sufficient time to get the attack laid on. As a result, it was decided to carry out a night attack to start at 2300hrs.

The plan was as follows: - 2 Company on the right, 3 Company on the left with 4 Company in reserve. Route across Bare Arse and Formeli and then on to Point 683, with 2 Company taking the north side of the feature and subsequently consolidating on it and 3 Company taking the south side of the feature subsequently exploiting and consolidating on Point615. 4 Company to remain in reserve on the reverse slop (south side) between Point 683 and Point 615.

2230 The advance began.

4th December 1943

The battalion reached its objectives, in the rain, without opposition, one prisoner being captured on the way, after an exhausting march because to begin with the going was extremely rocky and last part of the advance was extremely muddy over terraced cultivated fields. Consolidation then took place. Except for the RAP no casualties were suffered by the Battalion but the former received a direct hit from a shell which killed our doctor Captain D. Forgan and our Padre Rev. G.A. Levis and wounded one or two others.   

1000 Battalion HQ was heavily mortared and sniped for about 35 minutes. Several casualties occurred including Major J.G.C. Clark, our Signals Officer, killed and Major A. Smith, Battery commander, wounded. Battalion HQ was then moved to a safer place.

The rest of the day passed off quietly except for sniping from Formeli which continued intermittently for the next few days.  The situation during the next few days was extremely disquietening, because the Battalion was in a salient without any communications except by lamp which no one could answer and without any 3-inch mortars whose base plates had been lost.

The night passed off quietly except for one scare when D/Sergeant Woodmansey declared that he had seen 120 Germans advancing towards us. They turned out to be ghosts. 

5th December 1943

Except for sniping nothing to report.

Our first rations, of which we were getting extremely low arrived.

Communications nil.

0830 The CO of the DLI arrived at about 0630hrs with the news that he was going to attack the ground west of Calabritto from Point 615. We laid plans for his assistance, otherwise no news and all quiet.

2100 The DLIs arrived at about 2100hrs to attack at dawn the next day.

6th December 1943

At dawn the DLIs attacked. Unfortunately, Lieutenant J.E. Hamilton was killed by a sniper, whilst assisting the attack with covering fire.

The details are as follows: -

Just before light Lieutenant J.E. Hamilton took out a party of Bren gunners and mortar OP to a point 300 yards to our left. Unbeknown to anyone three snipers crept in at the same time to a position between him and our left-hand platoon and started to snipe the DLIs. Lieutenant J.E. Hamilton heard the shots and returned to see what was happening. He stumbled on the sniper’s post. Both parties were surprised but the Germans shot first.

1200 - Point 683 Also, at dawn 6 Grenadier Guards and 2 Scots Guards appeared for their attack on Aquependola. Z for this attack was 1200hrs which we supported with MMG. It was successful and rest of the day was quiet for the Battalion.

7th December 1943

Quiet day. Slight reorganisation on the front. 3 Company moving up the hill to fill the gap between 6 Grenadier Guards and No. 2 Company on the right.

8th December 1943

Wet but quiet.

9th December 1943

Nothing to report.

10th December 1943

Second battle of Camino ended for the Battalion and we retired to rest at Terra Corpa where we arrived at 1900hrs. We left a Battalion cemetery quite close to Formeli and beneath Point 683.

During the whole of the battle our full casualties were four officers and eleven ORs killed, one officer and forty four ORs wounded of whom four ORs died of wounds.

11/12th December 1943 - Terra Corpa                                  

Rest and reorganisation.

13th December 1943 - Mondragone                      

Battalion moved to Mondragone.

14th December 1943                                     

A large draft of officers arrived. Order of battle was changed as follows: -

No. 2 Company:

Major R.J.V. Crichton, MC

OC Captain A.F. Davison 2 IC

Platoon commanders: Lieutenants G.A. Gidney, N.D.T. Gardner, C.D. Darley, G.F.T. Jones and M.F.T. Bridger.

No. 3 Company:

Major C.P.M. Worrall OC

Captain G.L. Falkiner 2IC

 Platoon commanders – Lieutenants D.M. de L. Cazenove, N.W.S. Mitchisch, J.S. Lloyd, A. Seward and D.B. Magill.

No. 4 Company:

Major R. Beck OC

Captain R. Benson 2IC

Platoon commanders:

Lieutenants D.C.E. Helme, J.T. Gurney, S.F.B. Codrington, G.H. Legge and D.R.G. Noel.

Support Company:

Major J.M.G. Girffith-Jones OC

Captain D.F. Noel (MMG)

Captain the Lord Andrew Cavendish (OC Anti-Tank Platoon)

Lieutenant A.P. Harbord-Hamond (Anti-Tank Platoon)

Lieutenant P.H. Wyld (OC Mortars)

Lieutenant D. Bossom (Mortars)

Lieutenant The Lord Herschell (Mortars)

Captain A.C. Grover (Carriers)

Lieutenant R. Chaworth-Musters (Carriers but with 56 Division Mule Company)

 Lieutenant M. Kinchin-Smith (Pioneers)

HQ Company:

Captain A. Yates OC

Captain N. Keith-Cameron

Lieutenant Count. H. Bentick (HQ Patrol Platoon)

Lieutenant Hon. G.H. Boscawen spare

Lieutenant H.T.H. Snowden (MTO)

Lieutenant W.B. Clowes (IO)

Captain P.H.A. Bowman (Adjutant)

Major Hon. A.R.G. Strutt 2IC

Lieutenant L. Rowlands (QM)

B Echelon had during the past days been supplying carrying parties together for Support Company for carrying of rations up the hills, over hundred men thus being employed.

B Echelon moved to road side 036836 where Support Company also stopped.

25th Anniversary of Lieutenant General Sir A.E. Codrington GCVD, KCB as Colonel of the Regiment. The letter of congratulations from Regimental Headquarters to the Lieutenant General was posted for all ranks to read.

15th December 1943

B Echelon moved into area of Battalion at Mondragone. Support Company still at roadside 036836.

1400 Cinema show for Battalion.

The following awards were notified - earned by the battalion at Battipaglia, Salerno and Point 270: -

Award of MC - Major J.M.G. Griffith-Jones, Captain D.W. Forgan (RAMC) since deceased, Captain C.H. Bulteel, Lieutenant Howard.

Award of DCM – CSM C. Smy.

Bar to MM – RSM H. Joel MM.

Award of MM – Lance Sergeant H. Glover, Sergeant L. Barlow, Lance Sergeant G. Stoneman, Lance Corporal Mountford, Guardsman L. Bennett and Private Shaw DCM (RAMC).

16th December 1943 - Cellole

0900 CO Lieutenant-colonel W.A.G. Burns MC, Major Hon. A.R.G. Strutt and all Company commanders recce Cellole 877890.

1400 Church service held at Battalion HQs.

17th December 1943

1800 Battalion move to Cellole and affect relief with 46 Recce Regiment. Cellole area is quite different to the hilly area the Battalion as been fighting in for the past few weeks – lying low and clear fighting ground flanked on west by sea – overlooked by enemy Ops on the high ground to north. Movement has to be restricted. As little MT as possible with the Battalion and this can only move under the cover of darkness.

B Echelon[GT1] is still in Mondragone.

18th December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

0800 Company commanders conference. The system of patrolling for forthcoming patrols was discussed.

1500 Guardsman Bishop was reported missing from patrol.

1600 The Brigade commander visited the Battalion.

1630 - 1830 Patrols were sent out. A standing patrol from 2 Company encountered enemy opposition in the neighbourhood of road junction 826919. They suffered three casualties, one of which Lance Sergeant Warrior died later.

1745 – 1815 Stand to.

19th December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

0830 Company commanders report to HQ.

0900 - 1200 The Brigade commander visited the Battalion and visited the company positions with the commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel W.A.G. Burns MC.

1400 - 1600  The OC 2 Scots Guards visited the Battalion and went round the positions with the commanding officer.

1745 -1815 Stand to.

1800 Patrols were sent out by companies. Lieutenant D. Magill, No. 3 Company, took a patrol up the railway line for just south of bridge 8392 and lay out all day.

No. 4 Company sent out a patrol which went to the south of the river and left two snipers there. Guardsman Peacock who laid up at 802910 obtained much valuable information and sniped 5 Germans.

1745 A member of the Field Security service who was returning to Cellole from Sessa on a motorcycle was shot at and wounded in the arm when in the area of bridge 898899.

A wet day.

21st December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

0730 A patrol consisting of Intelligence Sergeant,  Field Security Police Corporal and one FSP went out to search the area of bridge 898899.

They found indications of a man having laid on the river bank and picked up a .22 Berreta bullet.

1645 - 1800 Patrols sent out.

22nd December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

A quiet day nothing to report.

1730 - 1800 Stand to.

1800 Patrols sent out; little to report.

23rd December 1943

0600 - 1630 Stand to.

Lieutenant D. Cazenove and one Guardsman were left at 831929 on east bank of railway.

24th December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

A quiet day with nothing to report. Patrols were sent out but found nothing noteworthy.

25th December 1943                                             

Xmas Day. There were no Xmas celebrations.

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

A quiet day with nothing to report. Rain and poor visibility.

Patrols were sent out but had nothing to report.

1730 - 1800 Stand to.

26th December 1943

A quiet day. Rain.

0900 The Brigadier visited the Battalion.

During the afternoon there were church Services in each Company.

0115 A fighting patrol under Lieutenant D. Magill, 3 Company, attacked an enemy locality in railway bridge area 8392. The attack was only partly successful and four casualties were sustained, 1 wounded, 3 missing believed to be POW.

27th December 1943                                                

A quiet day with nothing to report.

1830 Companies changed positions to let 2 Scots Guards take up position on left flank.

28th December 1943

A quiet day.

29th December 1943

A quiet day.

30th December 1943

0600 - 0630 Stand to.

During the night the Brigade made a diversionary attack on the German positions on the south bank of the River Garigliano. Whilst this was going on 9 Commando landed north of the river and made a raid towards Minturno.

During the battle 4 ORs were killed, 5 reported as missing and 24 ORs wounded, five of whom later died of wounds.

Lieutenant M.F.T. Bridger was also wounded, also Lieutenants D.M. de L. Cazeove and A. Seaward.

The Battalion captured 18 POWs and inflicted casualties on the enemy. 

31st December 1943

0900 The Battalion had returned to its usual positions.

1000 The Corps commander visited the Battalion and congratulated the Battalion on its performance. Cellole was shelled intermittently during the morning.

1200 The village was divebombed by 5 MEs. All the windows in Battalion HQ were broken, otherwise there was no damage.

1330 The village was again shelled. Three shells fell within 100 yards of Battalion HQ. The Battalion suffered no casualties but ten Italian civilians were injured or killed.

2000 The Battalion moved from Cellole to Falciano, arriving at about midnight. It was a difficult move as the weather was appalling and south of the road flooded and several bridges swept away.

Heavy rain during the greater part of the day.