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6th Battalion Grenadier Guards – War Diary March 1944

1st March 1944 - Minturno

At first light it was still raining hard and the mud and water in the trenches made the conditions for the men as hard as they could be. Visibility was naturally bad.

1500 The weather improved and both sides opened up with their guns and mortars.

No. 3 Company had quite a few shells in their area slightly wounding one Lance-Sergeant who remained at duty and the Gunner OP had some very near misses.

This action on the part of the German guns was probably due to three American Generals who without asking either permission of for a guide from the Battalion walked straight along the skyline in front of the OP.

1st/2nd March 1944

The night was the quietest that the Battalion had had since coming into the Minturno sector.

2nd March 1944

The Gunners supporting the Battalion were given orders that they were to be relieved 2/3 by an American outfit and in fact the whole of 5 Division front was going to be taken over by the Americans, 201 Guards Brigade being the last to be relieved.

3rd March 1944

0500 The Americans had completed the take over and we were now supported by 105cm a much heavier gun but not so many of them. Their system of supporting the infantry was rather different and, although they were good gunners, we were somewhat nervous if there happened to be a large scale counter-attack. DFs were entirely down to them.

A fighting patrol from No. 3 Company came back with nothing to report.

1000 The Corps Commander visited Battalion HQ.

2000 No. 1 Company sent a fighting patrol to some suspected German positions but found them unoccupied.

4th March 1944

During the afternoon officers and sergeants of the relieving Battalion began to pour into a very small Battalion HQ. They were an American Battalion which had never seen action before.

By 2000 fifty had arrived, by 2200 hrs the chaos had subsided and they had been xxxx to their various companies. One got the impression that they had come to stay judging by the amount of kit they bought.

2300 A patrol from No. 3 Company arrived back from the usual ambush position with nothing to report.

5th March 1944

2000 A patrol under Lieutenant Wilson, No. 2 Company set off to search the are of house 785977 timing their arrival there just after it had been harassed by our 3-inch mortars in the hop that they might catch some Boche. On arrival there the area had been abandoned and the weapon pits were empty. However, he did see a Very light fired from S. Maria Infante.

The patrol came back and the town was harassed by the American 105s twice during the night.

6/7th March 1944

The battalion anti-tank guns were relieved by the Americans during the night without much difficulty.

2100 The first party of Americans arrived in their jeeps for the take-over.

2145 The marching troops arrived and the relief began and by 2350 it was complete without incident. Then the long march back to the TCVs began. Owing to the enemy shellfire on the main road the transport was parked two miles farther back down the road.

8th March 1944

0200 The convoy waited at the side of the road and was met by the RQMS with hot tea, rum and biscuits. From then onward the convoy went very much faster.

1000 A very tried but cheery battalion arrived Piano di Sorrento about 10 miles south of Naples. The billets were extraordinarily good, with electric light and hot water which unfortunately stopped working just as we arrived.

9th March 1944 - Sorrento

The battalion slept solidly till the evening. Baths, cleaning up, issue of new clothes went on all day.

Many friends were seen from the 24th Guards Brigade which was gradually filtering back from the Anzio beachhead.

11th March 1944

The Commander and Adjutant went to a conference at Brigade HQ where it was learnt that the battalion was to send reinforcements of officers and men to the 5th on Monday 13th March to the tune of 17 officers and 410 ORs approximately.

Although it was known that this change over was to take place, the figures were staggering.

12th March 1944

1015 A Drumhead service was held in the cinema, the Brigade Commander read the lesson.

After the service the Brigade Commander addressed all Officers, Warrant Officers and Sergeants of the battalion saying how sorry he was that the 6th Battalion should have to be broken up after such a fine record and also gave some of the reason for it.

13th March 1944

Before the transfer of personnel to the 5th Battalion the Commanding Officer spoke to the battalion in the cinema. He spoke for a quarter of an hour explaining the facts, the reason and finally he wished the members of the 6th Battalion who were leaving good luck.

1410 15 officers and 287 Guardsmen were transferred to the 5th.

15th March 1944

A further 100 Guardsmen were transferred to the 5th. This made the battalion up complete to War Establishment plus reinforcements and it was hoped that this was to be the least draft.

17th March 1944

The Major-General and Brigade Major arrived in this country and the Battalion was to expect a visit from them the following day. We were to know whether the plan made by the Brigade Commanders of the 24th and 201 Guards Brigade would be accepted.

0945 Battalion paraded under the Adjutant in the town square.

Forty-five ORs were sent on leave to Salerno.

18th March 1944

The battalion played a football match against 105th Light AA Regiment at Castellamare. Result Battalion 0 AA XI 2.

1800 A further conference was held in Battalion HQ, the two Brigade Commanders were present. It was decided that the battalion could take home 100 ORs approximately and the remaining 200 ORs would go to the IRTD as reinforcements.

19th March 1944

1015 A Drumhead service was held in the cinema.

21st March 1944

The Concert Orchestra of the Irish Guards gave the Battalion a concert in the afternoon and the swing section of the same orchestra gave a session in the canteen for an hour.

22nd March 1944

Vesuvius, which had been erupting for some days, was becoming dangerous to the surrounding villages and huge clouds of ashes were being blown all over the country. Fortunately, the wind was not in our direction.

23rd March 1944

The wind began to change and the clouds began roll over our billets and the filthy dust and ash came down on top of us. By the 24th the dust was an inch deep.

24th March 1944

The Eighth Army Commander was intending to pay a visit but either owing to the volcano or the weather he was unable to come.

29th March 1944

This was another sad day for the battalion. Another draft of officers and men were sent to IRTD leaving only eight officers and 118 ORs of the Battalion.

Three subaltern officers from the Scots Guards to do duty with the Battalion till the time of departure.

30th March 1944

Forty-eight Coldstreamers arrived from the IRTD to duty with the battalion but also go home with the battalion as they had all been overseas for nearly five years.