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6th Battalion Grenadier Guards – War Diary December 1943

1st December 1943

1400 A conference was held in Battalion HQ when the Commanding Officer told the plan of attack to company commanders.
300 ‘Bergen’ Packs were issued to the Battalion. These packs hold a large quantity of kit, and are so well balanced and padded that the extra weight is hardly felt. These were issued to 3 and 4 Companies in lieu of small packs, some to the signallers and the RAP.

2nd December 1943

The battalion prepared to move to Concentration area prior to the next attack.

1530 The battalion moved off under Sir Hugh Cholmeley.  The Commanding Officer had gone to meet the Brigadier. Captain J. Glyn was Acting Adjutant.

2100 The Battalion arrived at Cici.

3rd December 1943

The story of the 2nd Battle of Camino has been written separately in Appendix C (Included below).

Point 727, 952067, Point 819, 950075 and the Saucer captured.

Attack on Monastery by 2/5 Queens had failed. The battalion still at Cici, not likely to move till after 0300 hours 4th December.

4th December 1943

Battalion moved 0400 hours via S. Clemente 9604 - Mieli 9505 to the base of Point 727. We remained under the ledge of the hill and were treated to one of the worst rain storms of the campaign; it rained for 12 hours and we suffered some casualties from mortar and shells. During the morning Coldstream Guards had taken without opposition their two hills 683 and 615. A contact Patrol was sent and the situation there was satisfactory.

1430 Tac Brigade HQ was hit, Tony Inchbald Acting Liaison Officer was wounded and died at the ADS.  Three other officers were wounded and Brigadier Dick evacuated. Colonel Billy took over and I was sent for.

We spent a very wet night still under Point 727. Meanwhile the battle was progressing slowly - the London Irish were to take Formelli 9407.

5th December 1943

Formelli taken and the DLI on our left were due to attack the Cororruzzo Spur 9206 at 2100 hours. The Queens were to try again for the Monastery Hill, which they succeeded in doing, but were counter-attacked and pushed off. By night we were still under the hill, less mortar and shelling, but the position on our flanks not very secure. We did not know whether the DLI attack was successful or not.

6th December 1943

0400 The Battalion moved from 727 - 3, 4, Battalion HQ, 1 Company to behind the Coldstream Guards position 683 - 615. We had to cross our old enemy “Bare Arse” slope and hoped we could get across in the last hours of darkness, thus we had our new familiar task of not getting caught by daylight in the open. The going was appalling and the men’s loads heavy. We had two Companies equipped with Bergen Rucksacks. We carried 24 hours rations, ammunition and a blanket. Total weight on the back 35lbs. The first two Companies were safely below the skyline by first light but Battalion H.Q. and No. 1 Company were caught going along the Bare Arse. This brought some mortar and shell fire. Casualties slight but unlucky as two stretcher bearers and two signallers were hit.

By 0900 hours we were in our FUP behind Coldstream Guards. A sniper on the spur north of Formelli caused casualties and annoyance to us.

I went forward to recce with the Gunner and received orders for Grenadier Guards and Scots Guards to attack Points 470 and 530. Zero was fixed for 12 noon and a concentration arranged on the intervening valley and on the objectives.

I collected the company commanders for orders at 1030 hours, just before this John Glyn was wounded by a mortar splinter. A bad cut in his cheek. At Zero the Battalion went over the saddle between 683 and 615 with Scots Guards on the left. Artillery support was to last 90 minutes. The objectives were expected to be lightly held, and they could command nearly the whole line of our advance.

The going was slow over rocks and through coppice wood. Plan to advance two up, No. 4 to go for 470, No. 3 for 530. Tac HQ with No. 1 to establish themselves in saddle at 931082. Code words for success Grayling. No. 4 Company’s objective Point 470 (931086) Grayling 2, No. 3 Company’s Point 530, 928081.

There was no opposition and by 1420 hours these words came as welcome sound to my ears over the 38 set and this was telephoned to Brigade Tac.
We suffered some casualties from mortar fire and from one of our own guns falling short. Tony Ardec wounded in the hand and nine other ranks. My advance with No. 1 Company, though noisy, was uneventful except for a few casualties in No. 1 Company. I failed to shoot a woodcock with my revolver. This brave bird got up at my feet and gave a beautiful chance.

By 1500 hours we had consolidated at I wirelessed for the remainder of my Battalion HQ, moved down by Wyndham Hackett Pain, the Intelligence Officer.

By the evening we were feeling more secure. DLI had taken Cocurruzzo Spur, 2/5 QUEENS were once more on Monastery Hill and the Americans on Defensa and Maggiore.

7th December 1943

The Bosche had been worried by the flank movements but now started to wake up and No. 3 Company on 530 reported activity North of this Spur. No. 4 Company was receiving attention from a mortar, situated somewhere in the valley to their north west.

A Spandau post was located north of No. 3 Company and a small Patrol sent to get rid of it. Lieutenant T. Huntington left at 1000 hours with three men. The Bosche were located, one was shot. Tim Huntington called on the remainder to come out, but a third Bosche appeared and shot Tim. The rest of our patrol shot the Bosche and the post was cleared up.

It was difficult to reach Tim who had rolled down the rocks. Any movement drew fire, but at noon the Medical Officer, Captain McKenzie, went to Company H.Q. and was told that Tim had died.

The ridge north west of 530 was a series of rocky steps, a cliff to the east and a bare slope of rock to the west. The ridge was held by a succession of Spandau posts and every movement drew fire and mortar. A platoon of Cheshire's MG battalion was established with No. 3 Company.

1620 Activity in the valley between 3 and 4 Companies to the north west suggested a possible counter attack. A certain amount of firing stops this threat. I could by now be quite certain that No. 3 Company’s ridge was held by at least 6 posts backing each other up. The valley south of Rocca was also held by Spandau and mortars. Our final task was to take Rocca on the code word Swan.

The plan to Swan had been made off the map and nobody but myself and the company commanders realized the impossibility of the task. Rocca D’Evandro stands on a hundred foot cliff completely inaccessible from the south (we were not allowed to approach from the north). The valley between held by at least four Spandau completely covering on fixed lines, as easy as shooting down a long passage.

The spur north west of 530, a succession of steps sheer drops sometimes of 10 feet, sometimes more. There successive positions each prepared. (Later we counted 20 all stock with ammunition boxes). We had two tired Companies and position on our flanks vague, in fact nobody either side.

1630 I received Swan and explained that the position which to my mind would have resulted in failure and 75% casualties. Following a fight on my part and back to division by Billy Kingsmill we compromised with patrols from each company pushing forward.

This they did at night and drawing fire completely confirmed to higher folk what I already knew. The danger of a map and red pencil from further back was then very apparent to me.

However, honour was satisfied and good results obtained from these patrols, one from No. 3 by Philip Parr and one from No.1 by Dick Stokes Roberts.

Later on this night 46th Division advanced to the West of the Scots Guards to Croce Spur 9107.

During this day movement northwards was observed from Rocca mostly MT and half-tracks. These were engaged by artillery. FOOs were with Nos. 3 and 4 Companies and the BC with my Tac.

8th December 1943

A company of London Scottish was reported advancing from Camino 9408 towards Rocca, keeping North of the track running to Rocca.

0915 No. 3 Company tried again to advance along their Spur and met more Spandau fire. I had to prepare a plan to carry out the Swan order which was brewing up again. I sent a mortar detachment to Nos. 3 and 4 Companies and at 1230 hours moved No.1 Company to a position north west of No. 4 area, 928088. This move drew Spandau fire from the valley and no further movement was possible except for small recce parties.

No. 4 Company had been mortared again and suffered a few casualties. Pat Hanbury slightly wounded, a direct hit on the OP killed a Guardsman and a Gunner.

During the rest of the day there was no change except that Nos. 3 and 1 Companies constantly tried to edge forward for their final task of investing Rocca.

9th December 1943

The position for dealing with Rocca improved. The London Scottish had reached the spur north of Rocca, two companies Scots Guards with one company Lincolns had advanced down their spur using their Brens and mortars. The Spandau had diminished and No. 1 Company at 0900 hours started down the valley.

Visibility was very poor owing to the low-lying mist and by 1130 hours No. 1 Company entered Rocca from the West. No. 3 Company had knocked out the last Spandau and were located 920094 having destroyed abandoned kit in 20 positions along their line of advance.

1200 Battalion HQ moved to 924093. I took the Intelligence Officer to visit No. 1 Company and found them well established.

1530 I received orders to take under command two companies Scots Guards to release London Scottish and organise defence of Rocca, with the added difficulty of fixing their food and water problem. This was completed by dark and we settled for the nigh. Uneventful except for a ‘stonk’ of 24 shells around our HQ and intermittent 88mm fire on Rocca. One Guardsman of the Pioneer Platoon was killed.

10th December 1943

Battalion HQ less mortars moved to Rocca. The Intelligence Officer searched the village for equipment and a heap of equipment found. Two letters addressed to us written by Bosche were also found, one to say, "When the Russian occupy Europe and the Americans England, what happens to us then?". The other more cryptic “Much loves from an German soldier, when is the war lost for yourselves. Goodbye, Tommy.” 

During the morning it was decided to relieve the Division by the 46th Division.

1430 Recce parties of the companies were sent back. Orders were received by me to take out Battalion HQ, 3 and 4 Companies and to go back to a prepared area Orchi and to leave No. 1 Company under Command Scots Guards to come out by darkness.

11th December 1943

0700 Nos. 3  and 4 companies and Battalion HQ started their 4 1/2 mile march and got to billets by 1630 hours. No. 1 Company came out with Scots Guards at 1800 hours and reached billets at 0500 hours.

Tony Inchbald - Died of wounds ( Brigade IO)
Tim Huntington - Killed
Peter Addison - Wounded, leg
Tony Ardee - Wounded, hand
John Glyn - Wounded, back.
Other Ranks
12 Killed
70 battle casualties.

12th December 1943

The whole battalion was in Orchi by 0500 hrs.

Shortly after 100 hrs news was received that the battalion would move back for three days rest to an area some distance back on the west coast and eventually 56 Division would take over the coastal sector.

13th December 1943

1400 The divisional concert party *the Cats Whiskers" gave an open air performance to the battalion.

1500 Lieutenant Fraser rejoined the battalion and Lieutenant Taraxxx was posted to No. 3 Company from reinforcement company. 

14th December 1943 - Mondragone

0845 The battalion moved in motor transport to area Mondragone.

15th December 1943

The following immediate awards were granted by General The Honourable Sir H.R.L.G. Alexander GCB, CSD, DSO, MC:

Lieutenant-Colonel W.H. Kingsmill MC - Distinguished Service Order

Lieutenant R.G. Stokes-Roberts - Military Cross

Captain H.W. Chestnut RAMC - Military Cross

L/Serjeant T. Morley - Military Medal

Guardsman W. Butterworth - Military Medal

16th December 1943

0800 The Commanding Officer and his O Group set off to recce the new battalion area south of the River Garigliano. The battalion will take over its new positions on the night 17th/18th.

1000 The Brigade Commander inspected the battalion's billets.

17th December 1943

1610 The battalion moved to its new location and arrived at 2100 hrs to take over from the King's Dragoon Guards.

18th December 1943

0100 Relief completed without incident.

1800 Nos. 1 and 4 Companies sent out two recce patrols each and No. 3 Company one standing patrol which was not to return till first light.

The battalion positions were south of the Garigliano and the whole area was under observation from the high ground on the enemy side of the river by day. Therefore movement was restricted to a minimum. all supplies were brought up during the hours of darkness.

19th December 1943

The patrols returned without any important information but having gained useful knowledge of the ground.

Further recce patrols were briefed for the night 19th/20th.

20th December 1943

Further useful information was gained from the patrols. A recce patrol from No. 4 Company, one sergeant and two guardsmen, did not return.

the night was an extraordinary dark one. Some of the signal lines were cut and a despatch rider was shot at as far back as Brigade HQ. It seemed that a few German patrols were operating in our lines but apart from a light shining in the direction of the enemy line from a neighbouring house (this was extinguished and its occupants removed) nothing further occurred.

21st December 1943

During the night two OPs were established and one standing patrol.

22nd December 1943

The darkness, the wind and the rain, made the Commanding Officer decide that all patrols would be useless.

23-24th December 1943

Further patrolling was done, gaining little but useful information which would all help in the final plan of pushing the enemy back on his own side of the river. It was clear that enemy patrols rarely, if at all, operated on the battalion's front on our side of the river.

25th December 1943

The Brigade Commander visited all companies. During the night the OP reported a considerable number of small lights thought to be motor transport on the other side of the river. The gunners were informed and a short time later the lights were no longer seen.

Christmas greetings were received from the Army commander, Corps commander, Major-General Graham and the Divisional commander.

26th - 28th December 1943

Further patrolling was done by companies bringing back very little information.

29th December 1943

Commanding Officer received orders from the Brigade commander for the operation of the night 29th/30th.

The battalion part in the operation was only a small one. The Brigade plan briefly was as follows. The Grenadiers were to deceive the enemy into believing that we were going to throw a brigade across the river, while the Coldstream and Scots were to annihilate the ~German positions on our side of the river. A commando were to land behind the German lines in their side of the river and eventually withdraw through a bridgehead established by the Scots Guards.

The battalion plan was - one platoon from each company to line the river bank and with the help of illuminating flares fire on anything that looked like a target on the other side. If no targets they were to fire anyway. 3-inch mortars to fire HE and smoke to cover the battalions supposed crossing. A platoon of MMG under command harassed selected targets and a troop of Bofors under command fired tracer at suspected enemy positions. This, we felt, would frighten the enemy a little. the remainder of the platoons to hold firm in their present positions.

Night 29th/30th December 1943

The battle on the left started first and seemed to go according to plan, we let off a great many rounds at nothing in particular without retaliation.

30th December 1943

During the early hours of the morning reports began to filter through from the other battalions that the scheme was going well although the commandos had landed one hour late. We suffered no casualties and by 0530 platoons had returned to company areas.

1345 Recce parties from the 2/6th Queens arrived to visit company areas with a view to taking over the battalion position on the night 31st December/1st January.

31st December 1943

1630 2/6th Queens advance party arrived.

1715 Remainder arrived and the change over commenced under bad conditions (not unlike a prolonged cloudburst).