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6th Battalion Grenadier Guards – War Diary November 1943

1st November 1943                                               

Owing to the fact that the other two Brigades were capturing the objectives which we were supposed to take the move was again cancelled.

2nd November 1943                                             

Companies paraded under the Adjutant for Drill.                                                                                                      

3rd November 1943                                              

The Corps objective had been reached and we had hoped for a rest, but it appears that we shall not be out of the line for three or four weeks.

A battalion Battle Patrol was formed consisting of two Subalterns, Lieutenant Hackett Pain and Lieutenant Leake, one Colour Sergeant and eighteen Corporals or Guardsmen. When companies have to advance over hills companies carry all weapons and ammo possibly do an attack and then dig in. It cannot be expected that if a patrol is ordered the best results will be produced. Therefore, it was decided to form this Battle Patrol, which would take no part in the actual attack and the men would be fresh to go out on patrol. 

5th November 1943 - Roccamonfina

Recce parties from each company were sent to recce our next location.

1650 The battalion moved to area north of Roccamonfina arriving there at approximately 2040 hrs.

On returning from Brigade HQ the Commanding Officer met with an unfortunate accident. His Jeep went over the side of a precipice, turned over five times, a distance of about fifty feet with the commander still inside. Badly bruised and shaken but with no bones broken the commander returned.

Although very much against his will, the commander was unable to command the battalion. Later he had had a few days’ rest. Major Sir Hugh Cholmondeley Bt. then assumed command. 

6th November 1943                   

0700 The Commanding Officer went to meet the Brigadier at an OP from which our next objective could be seen approximately three miles away. There the plan of attack was formed. Roughly, after the Coldstream made their attack on Calabritto (a town in the valley between the OP and our objective) the battalion was to scale a very high, rocky and precipitous mountain on which were three pimples, 819, 727 and 615. At a distance they did not look like pimples. If the Coldstream attack failed, the battalion was to assist in the capture of the town. If successful push on up to mountain. Both attacks were to be done at night, our first objective was 727, then 819, make good the ‘saucer’ between and then push a company forward to 615.

While the Coldstream attack was going on we were to occupy three villages. San 9604 with No. 1 Company and Battalion HQ, Cigi with No. 4 Company and Lamarata with Nos. 2 and 3 Companies. A fighting patrol under Mr. Hackett-Pain was to follow up the Coldstream and make good the line of a cleft 1/3 of the way up a slope which we chose to call “Bare Arse” (self explanatory), with a feel to preparing our start line. Battalion was timed to be on the start line at midnight and to attack at 0230 hrs.                                                           

1330 The Coldstream moved slowly off with the battalion following behind.                                              

1645 The Coldstream began their attack with the battalion still behind maneuvering into their correct positions. After a time, it became apparent that the Coldstream attack was meeting staff opposition. Accordingly, the acting Commanding Officer went forward to make contact with the Coldstream Guards. After a conversation with the Brigadier, the Commander moved the battalion down a sunken track to tie up with the Coldstream Guards.             

2200 The orders were given to Mr. Hackett-Pain’s Patrol to move off.                                                           

2345 The battalion moved to the start line. Order of march -  Nos. 4, 3, 2 Companies, Tac HQ, No. 1 Company, Main HQ.

Progress was slow and while passing through No. 4 Company Coldstream Guards position (area of pill box house on a spur below Bare Arse hill), Spandau and Bren gun fire was encountered. This cause a few casualties to the Patrol, but No. 4 Company bypassed this area followed by the battalion. The whole of the side of the hill and pill box house was lit up by large fires either started by the Boche or our own smoke shells. Main Battalion HQ remained in the area of No. 4 Company Coldstream Guards.                                                           

7th November 1943

After an incredibly hard climb over slippery rocks the battalion arrived west of 727 (No. 4 Company’s objective) with only half an hour to first light.

0535 No. 4 Company was in position on 727, Nos. 2 and 3 Companies also reported themselves in, but movement was quite impossible owing to Spandau fire coming from Monastery Hill, a large feature overlooking the centre battalion position from the east. No. 1 Company and Tac HQ (the Commanding Officer and 2 signallers) were unable to get as far as the Saucer because of the MG fire and also as it was broad daylight. They were on Bare Arse hill in full view of the enemy and without any sort of cover from small arms, mortar or shell fire. It was therefore decided by the Commanding Officer that 615 could not be taken.                                              

1030 - 1500 The companies that were on their objectives remained there but No. 1 Company and Tac H.Q. were under constant and accurate mortaring, suffering a few casualties at each ‘stonk’. A thunderstorm came, and making full use of the mist and pelting rain No. 1 Company and Tac H.Q. moved into a cleft behind No. 4 Company on 727. A few prisoners were taken, all from our old enemies, the Panzer Grenadiers.

Various caves and holes blasted by the Boche and abandoned by them when the attack started were occupied by No. 1 Company and Tac HQ.

7/8th November 1943

The night of 7/8th was one of intense cold, everybody being soaked to the skin, no movement possible, no hope of any hot tea or drink and under continuous MMG fire and shelling, which, as before caused a few casualties each time.

8th November 1943

Point 613 was still in Boche hands and in order to help F Company of the Scots Guards find the right route and approach to attack this feature Mr. Hackett-Pain took out a recce patrol.

Another patrol was sent out to locate some of the Spandau positions on the front and flank. But owing to intense fire it was quite impossible for the patrol to advance any distance.

During the night F Company of the Scots Guards arrived expecting to find the battalion all set for another attack. The plan had been changed and the commander was to use the company as a counter attack force.

Meanwhile, in none too safe surroundings and extremely wet and cold main Battalion HQ were making the usual hectic preparations for restocking the battalion on the top with water, food and ammo and any other sort of comfort that was available.  

2030 Captain Maxwell, the Adjutant and Mr. Snell set off up the hill with a large carrying party of all sorts, shapes and sizes. Guardsmen, Basutos, Mauritians, men from the London Irish and Queens.                                                  

2345 No. 1 and No. 4 Companies were easy to supply but it was a dangerous job to get rations 2 and 3 Companies, a feat which Mr. Snell and a party accomplished.

9th November 1943

0015 There was an earthquake! Slight but very noticeable.

Wounded officers and Guardsmen were taken down the hill by the returning carrying party. Lieutenant Ware, No. 2 Company; Lieutenant Sainsbury, No. 1 Company; Lieutenant Hervey Bathurst, No. 4 Company.

Dawn broke with the situation the same as before with the Battalion thinner on the ground. Very early on in the morning it was clear that it was the Boche’s intention to remove the Battalion from the hill.

1000 Counter attack after counter attack was beaten off by Nos. 2 and 3 Companies, the artillery OP was knocked out by a direct hit.                            

1600 After the 9th counter attack a platoon of No. 2 Company overrun and No. 3 Company advanced HQ were overrun. During these attacks Lieutenants Henshaw No. 3 Company, and Cholmondeley, No. 2 Company were killed.

Major Cook, No. 3 Company wounded and lying in a slit trench of the No. 2 Company platoon which had been overrun.

2000 The Scots Guards company under Captain Rathbone attacked and made contact with the remnants of Nos. 2 and 3 Companies who had collected together.

As on the previous night a large carrying party went up but it was impossible to get the rations to Nos. 2 and 3 Companies and the Scots Guards company or evacuate the wounded owing to at least three Spandaus trained on the position ready to shoot at the least sign of movement.

Lieutenant J.R. Brocklebank was killed during the day.

Mr. Hackett-Pain again took out another fighting patrol and met about twelve Germans. Six Germans were killed, one of our Sergeants was wounded. The two remaining Companies of the Scots Guards arrived up the hill in splendid form, a generous rum issue had wisely been given for this attack. They improved the position by clearing up three Spandau posts.

10th November 1943

0600 Nos. 2 and 3 Companies and Scots Guards Companies were again counter attacked and were without a doubt in a poor way. The reported enemy closing in on all sides, but by a magnificent effort they still managed to hold thanks to the splendid leadership of Captain Watman No. 3 Company and Captain Howard No. 2 Company who commanded his company from a stretcher having been wounded twice.

1030 News was received the Battalion was to be relieved by the Coldstream Guards and a battalion of the Ox and Bucks. The plan was that 1 and 4 Companies would be relieved by Coldstream Guards and the isolated Companies by the Ox and Bucks.

1400 The Coldstream Guards commander and company commanders arrive at Tac HQ and the takeover was arranged.

Owing to the difficulties of passing this information to the isolated companies over the 38 set without giving the handover away to the enemy Captain Adair and two Guardsmen were sent out to get the news through.

Shortly after No. 2 Company came up on the wireless to say that Captain Adair and a small party had set off carrying Captain Howard but were forced to return by a Boche patrol.

Over a hundred casualties had passed through to the RAP and there were still twelve in the cut off company areas. Captain Adair must have remained behind to help some of these cases and as he did not return with Nos. 2 and 3 Companies when they were relieved.

2230 The Coldstream Guards arrived to take over. The Boche had clearly no idea of what was taking place and apart from the usual ‘stonk’ on top of the hills, Nos. 1 and 4 Companies and Tac HQ came out without incident.                                                                                                                      

1400 Saraceni Main HQ was in the village of Saraceni. Preparations were made to move from there to the village of Cavelle some 700 yards away in which the battalion was to concentrate. Recce parties were sent to find company billets, blankets, rations and water and underclothing put in each billet and Company cooking kit was sent for. Unfortunately, when the mules were fully loaded with all this kit in Saraceni a more accurate ‘stonk’ than normal came down - lifted the roof of the RAP (no casualties) stampeded the mules and the Italian soldiers who were acting as drivers. After the pandemonium had quietened down, it was found that one mule and three Italians were missing.                                                                                                          

11th November 1943 - Miele                               

0200 Nos. 1 and 2 Companies Tac HQ arrived at Miele.                                                                                                 

0400 The remnants of Nos. 2 and 3 Companies and F Company Scots Guards arrived.

The battalion went up the hill 483 strong, only 263 men came down on foot.

During the day there were twenty-five cases of trench foot due to damp, cold and exposure. Otherwise the battalion slept, guarded by the LOB personnel and Support Company. 

12th November 1943 - Miele

Our little village was anything but quiet, shells and mortars were falling all too frequently and all too close. Most of the men were in a cave or in solid houses.

1030 A Conference was held in Battalion HQ and it was decided that Nos. 2 and 3 Companies would be made up to reasonable numbers by turning most of the MG and Anti-Tank Platoons and some Carrier personnel into rifle platoons in those two companies.
Major Britten with Captain Maxwell as Second-in-Command took over command of No. 2 Company.

13th November - Miele

The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Kingsmill MC arrived back, looking very much better for his few days’ rest. During the course of the morning companies reorganised filling up gaps with LOB personnel and men of Support Company.                                             

1700 The Brigadier, Brigade Major and Brigade Intelligence Officer arrived at Battalion HQ from the hill with orders for the Commanding Officer.
The four sat outside Battalion HQ. Suddenly two mortar bombs arrive very close, the party quickly got up to come inside but, alas, it was too late. A third and fourth arrived, the last landing just outside the door. Unfortunately, the Brigadier did not quite get inside and received three wounds, one in each arm and a piece in his body.

The lights had been blown out and the room was full of dust. The doctor was telephoned for. The stonk by this time had moved down the track towards the RAP. The doctor (Captain Hepburn) and Lieutenant Freeman Attwood, a medical Sergeant and an orderly set off. The jeep was blown into the ditch with the medical Sergeant underneath, the MO, Lieutenant Freeman Attwood and the orderly arrive within 10 minutes on foot. The Brigadier was then quickly taken away to a nearby ADS.

The Commanding Officer then assumed command of 201 Guards Brigade, and Major Sir Hugh Cholmondeley Bt. once again took command of the battalion.

Before leaving, the acting Brigadier gave out very basic outline plan for abandonment of the whole feature and the town of Miele on the following night.

14th November - Miele                    

1000 The Brigadier held a conference in Battalion HQ with the three commanders of the Brigade and the commander of the Ox and Bucks battalion.

1200 A conference was held in Battalion HQ. The Commanding Officer gave out the orders for the withdrawal as follows: - the reason for the withdrawal is not because the action was not successful, but because of the lack of troops to cover the ground and the lack of porters to feed the battalions on the hill.

At 1745 hours No.s 2 and 3 Companies and Main Battalion HQ are to move out of Mieli on foot to the end of a track some 7 miles away where they will be lifted by transport to area of Roccamonfina.

Nos. 1 and 4 Companies will move to take up defensive position in order to protect the two tracks down which the battalions on the hill will come. The battalions, Coldstream, Scots, Ox and Bucks will gradually thin out starting at 1800 hrs and finally abandon the position by 1830 hours. Nos. 1 and 4 Companies and Tac HQ will abandon their positions as soon as the last man of those battalions had passed.                                                           

1745 The operation began. The whole plan could be completely ruined by a stonk on any one of the places that they had previously landed. Casualties could have been extremely difficult to carry and evacuate.

Time went on, platoons, companies streaming past our HQ being checked as they went past, tired, cold, weary men.

The one thought in the mind of ever Grenadier Guards who had been on the top of that hill was of frustration and disappointment. We had taken and held it with one battalion. More troops had been thrown in and just when we though that the next attack was going in to ensure success. The hill was abandoned leaving behind many dead Grenadiers, unburied, and many others who were lost and missing which we may never know about.                    

2245 Dame Fortune was on our side and by 2245 hrs the last man was reported past by the Adjutant to the Commanding Officer. The Commander then ordered Nos. 1 and 4 Companies and Tac HQ to start their journey back. It was an incredible operation, the only casualty in the Brigade was one Coldstream Guardsman who twisted his ankle on the way down the hill!

The rear party of the Battalion arrived at the embussing point at 0200 hrs.                                        

15th November 1943                              

0200 No transport, there had been a hold up on an already churned up road. We arrived eventually at our very muddy destination at 0545 hrs. Nos. 2 and 3 Companies had arrived at 0230 hrs. Our new camp was a depressingly sight. Pouring rain and thick, thick mud. Great credit must be given to the Quartermaster and staff who had put up bivouacs, arranged a meal in a very short space of time.

Rain, rain and still more, every stitch of clothing we had was wringing wet.

The Intelligence Officer Mr. Llewellyn set off for Caserta with A&Q of 56 Division to take over barracks which we had occupied before. He arrived back in the middle of their night saying that the barracks were ours.

16th November 1943                              

0800 Advance parties were dispatched to make preparations for the arrival of the battalion - dry blankets, cooking arrangements etc.                            

1000 First part of the Battalion set off in the TCVs in the usual rain storm.

The main difficulties were our ‘A’ and ‘B’ Echelons where all our dry clothes and comforts were. ‘A’ was well and truly stuck, there wasn’t even a Jeep track. ‘B’ was well entrenched in mud, but by dint of much digging, pulling, sweating and shortly vehicles began very slowly to come unstuck.

1800 Caserta The last of the Battalion less A and B Echelon arrived at Caserta barracks.

17th November 1943

During the night 16/17th B Echelon began to arrive and by first light all ‘B’ vehicles were in.

0900 The began the task of cleaning up, drying, organising baths and entertainments and more important still, the reorganisation of the battalion.
Sick parade was quite naturally very large, most of the men were suffering from desert sores and very painful feet.

18th November 1943

0800 All Officers and Warrant Officers set off to attend Divisional Commanders lecture at Roccamonfina, the place we had just left.

1000 The Divisional Commander began his lecture which lasted for one and a half hours. He began with an account of the fighting on the divisional front during the last month. Secondly, he told us what training we had to get through in a fortnight. It was an enormous programme. Thirdly he ran through the lessons learnt in fighting against the Boche in the in the mountain. Fourthly he stressed the important of soldier’s welfare in battle and where at rest.
During the course of the day A Echelon under Captain Neviison arrived.

While this was going on, companies were having their first hot shower for many days.

The battalion was allotted a few vacancies at leave camps for Officers and men at Naples, Ravello and Amalfi.

1800 Parties of Guardsmen were transported to S. Maria to an excellent concert there. We were lucky enough to have 100 seats in the theatre for us for the remainder of the week.

19th November 1943

More leave parties were sent off. Many officers set off for Naples with comforts and kit, air letter cards for the men in the hospitals there.
In the barracks itself, the Sergeants Mess was started. The men’s canteen and quiet room opened.

20th November 1943

1350 The Acting Brigadier Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsmill paid us a visit bringing us some good news that we were possibly staying here until the 25th.

1830 The theatre in Caserta Palace was taken over by the battalion for a special cinema show, the film being “Bing Crosby in The Starmaker”.

21st November 1943                                                      

A battalion church service was held in the B Echelon area.

The band of the Irish Guards (seventy performers) suddenly arrived in the barracks. This was somewhat disconcerting as it wasn’t expected till the following day. It arrived at an opportune moment. The “swing” section played at the Sergeants Mess Social which was a great success.  

22nd November 1943                            

0900 Companies did a half hour’s drill and the NCOs paraded under the Adjutant.                                    

1400 The Band of the Irish Guards gave a performance to the battalion in the Caserta Cinema. It was magnificent.

An urgent signal was received that the battalion was to be inspected by the Divisional Commander on the following morning.

23rd November 1943                              

0800 A further signal was received to the effect that either General Alexander or General Clark 5th Army Commander would inspect the battalion.
Also the battalion would move to area of Petruli on the 24th.

0915 The battalion moved to Caserta in transport in pouring rain plus the band of the Irish Guards for the inspection. Just before General Clark arrived the rain stopped and the Battalion was able in the nick of time to form up in the square. General Clark arrived at 1025 hrs. The general salute was given and the General inspected the battalion. Finally, the battalion marched passed the General with the band leading and marched back to our own barracks.

1700 Another pleasant surprise was the arrival of the divisional concert party. As before, since no warning order had been given we were caught unawares. Again the Quartermaster produced an excellent meal, bedding and a first class stage.

1900 An extraordinarily good concert was given and enjoyed by an appreciative audience. After the concert “Vino and Wads” were provided for all. Then followed a “jam session” by the swing band of the concert party, somewhat noisy for the people trying to sleep beneath.

24th November 1943 - Petruli, MR 1291

1130 The battalion moved to area of Petruli. The same rather squalid little village that the battalion occupied after the 860 battle.

25th November 1943                                                      

All Officers and WOs attended a lecture at Corps HQ given by the Corps Commander.

26th November 1943                                                      

The battalion began training for mountain warfare bringing in the lessons learnt in the previous campaign.

27th November 1943                             

1300 Eight Officers and two hundred other ranks arrived as reinforcements, a large percentage of them being old 6th Battalion men. Some were immediately sent to re-join their old companies. The remainder, after No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4 Companies were made up complete to War Establishment, were sent to No. 2 Reinforcement Company.

The officers were Major Ardee, Captains Glyn and Bagshawe, Lieutenants Holt, Buchanan Thwaites, Gurney, Turnbull. Lieutenant Thwaites re-joined the battalion, having recovered from the wound he received during the initial landing.

28th November 1943

1000 Lieutenant Colonel Kingsmill MC re-joined the Battalion from Brigade HQ having handed over the Brigade to Brigadier Colvin.

1115 The new Brigadier came to see the battalion and was introduced to all the Officers and Warrant Officers.

29th November 1943

1400 The battalion went to a mobile cinema held in a monastery in a nearby village. 

29th November 1943

1400 The battalion went to a mobile cinema held in a monastery in a nearby village. 

30th November 1943                              

0900 The Commanding Officer went to Brigade for a Conference with the Brigadier. Details of our next attack were discussed.