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6th Battalion Grenadier Guards – War Diary October 1943

1st October 1943 - 656422                           

Various Warning Orders came from Brigade during the day reference the battalion move forward.

2nd October 1943

Still more Warning Orders but no move.

3rd October 1943                   

1000 A voluntary service was held behind Battalion HQ in the B Echelon area. There was also a Roman Catholic Service held in San Severino.

1035 Warning Order received from Brigade to say that battalion would move on orders to a leaguer area west of Nola 4458. The Battalion was put at one hour’s notice as from first light the 4th. 

1530 Advance party left to recce new battalion area.

1830 A platoon of No. 1 Company was sent to quell riots in Sarno. Civilians were reported to have broken into an unused hospital and were looting the clothes, blankets and medical instruments.

4th October 1943 - Cimilitile                            

0845 The battalion moved to Cimilitile (map reference 450597) and arrived at 1215 hrs.

5th October 1943                                                  

Companies paraded to clear demolition in the bombed town of Cimilitile. This was new work for the battalion, and judging by the amount of debris cleared away, it was enjoyed by all ranks. The local inhabitants were also “roped in” to clear away the rubble blocking their main street.               

1400 Parties of all ranks from each Company went sight-seeing to such places as Pompeii, Naples. Some of the men were rather disappointed with what they saw, owing to the bomb damage and German demolitions. 

6th October 1943                       

Operational Order sent that out for move on the following day.

7th October 1943                       

0840 Battalion moved off punctually and despite the complicated march table, the Battalion was clear of the SP at the correct time. 

1120 The battalion arrived at the D.P. rather early and in pouring rain.

1120 Capua No. 1 and 2 Companies moved forward into Capua itself, with No. 4 Company on the right rear and No. 3 Company in reserve.
The battalion was therefore facing the formidable obstacle of the River Volturno.
No. 1 and 2 Companies had OPs out by day and night and very active patrolling was done along the river banks by night with a view to finding possible crossing places.

8th October 1943

All patrol reports showed that the river was almost impossible to cross anywhere on our front. The main crossroads behind Capua was frequently mortared and shelling by the enemy, doing no harm to anybody except to the local inhabitants.

The Italians presented a great problem to the two company commanders in Capua. Therefore, it was found necessary to impose a curfew on the town and make use of the local police who were only too willing to help.

An interpreter was then sent up from Division. This enabled “Il Maggiore Commandante” of Capua, Major Marsham, to bring out his orders and comparative quiet was restored amongst the civilians.

Movement on the enemy side of the river was more noticeable as the day went on. We did not call for Artillery fire on the enemy as the Commanding Officer said that the Boche was becoming more and more careless and that it would be better to wait until the OPs had reported more information.

9th October 1943

0100 Patrol from No. 4 Company went out with two officers of the Scots Greys and one Royal Engineer and one Frenchman to find suitable places for tanks, bridges. The Frenchman was sent by Division to swim the river, collect information and swim back the following night. When the river was reached the Frenchman declared that he couldn’t swim!

0400 The Brigadier and the Commanding Officer decided that just before last light, artillery and MMG harassing was to be brought down on the various pockets of enemy that our OPs had pinpointed on the other side.

1820 After the barrage, No. 1 Company OP reported a brew up where it was suspected a German half-track vehicle was being used as an OP. 

10th October 1943

1940 In order that the Battalion could train for the impending attack across the river the Battalion was relieved by the Coldstreams. Owing to the possibility of heavy shelling and mortaring by the enemy, Nos. 1 and 2 Companies took some time to set out. This was also due to the fact that all the OPs had to be taken over as well. No. 1 Company suffered four casualties.

11th October 1943 - Caserta                           

The battalion was billeted in the damaged buildings of the Italian ‘Sandhurst’.

Each company in turn practised the use of assault boats in a pond in the grounds of the Palace in Caserta, and also scrambling up and down the steep slopes carrying the boats.                                             

1000 The commanders held a conference in the OR given the outline of the plan of the attack due to take place on the night of the 12th.
It was indeed a gloomy prospect. The phrase “it isn’t on” was frequently heard.

2000 The Commanding Officer arrived back from a Conference with the Brigadier saying that our attack was off and that the only part the Grenadiers were to play was in the deception plan.

2300 Major Hanbury and Lieutenant Hackett-Pain took out one platoon to dig their position on the river side on the east of Capua. This operation did not take long as they found some caves in the position which they had decided to occupy.

The 3-inch mortars under 2nd Lieutenant Smith were also to be used. 

12th October 1943                     

1815 The smoke bombs which No. 4 Company were going to use in order to make the enemy suspect that an attack was coming through had not yet arrived. Therefore, it looked as if the deception plan would be cancelled. However, No. 4 Company set off rather later than intended, and arrived without incident. The smoke then turned up (very late and without fuses!). With the help of the two remaining platoons of No. 4 Company and fifty Coldstream, the first smoke bomb was set off at 2020 hrs according to plan.

The 3-inch Mortar Platoon was under command of 3rd Coldstream Guards and took up the position west of Capua.

The deception plan was successful but only the Americans on our right were able to cross the river.

13th October 1943                     

0100 No. 4 Company arrived back without suffering any casualties.                                 

14th October 1943                      

1820 Battalion was placed under one hours’ notice to move.                                                      

15th October 1943                     

0145 The battalion moved off to cross the River Volturno to relieve the Americans, who had successfully made a bridgehead. Also, with their magnificent bridging equipment their engineers had made two good bridges across the river over which the Battalion marched. The Transport had to go around a longer route to cross the 2nd bridge used for heavy transport. One of our Portees blew up on a piece of road which had been swept by the Sappers and over which hundreds of vehicles must have passed including our own Carriers.

The order of march was as follows:- No. 3 Company, No.4 Company, Battalion HQ, Nos. 1,2 and Support Companies. A Echelon moved in rear of column. 

0615 Battalion HQ Map Reference 215835 The take over from the Americans was complete with companies in the following positions: No. 4 Company right, No. 1 Company centre, No. 3 Company left, No. 2 Company was guarding the rear on a separate feature. During the day, a few Mortar bombs fell in the area of Battalion HQ causing no casualties.                                                      

1630 No. 2 Company were relieved by the Scots Guards and took up a position between No. 1 Company and Battalion HQ.                                         

16th October 1943

During the night and early hours of the morning the Battalion area was shelled and mortared, again no casualties.                               

1100 A Warning Order was received that we were to be relieved in daylight by a battalion of 169 Brigade.                                                      

1645 Map Ref 221820 Battalion HQ moved back to A Echelon area and all companies concentrated in area Map Reference 215835.    

17th October 1943

The Commanding Officer and Second-in-Command set off to meet the Brigadier to reconnoitre and make plans for a new attack.                              

0630 All company commanders went forward to see their objectives at a distance. There were three, all looked very steep.                                         

0900 The battalion moved off in the following order Nos. 4, 3 2, 1 Companies, Battalion HQ.
No. 4 Company had to attack the nearest objective, No. 3 the second and No. 2 the third. No. 1 Company was held in reserve for mopping up.   

1030 Divisional artillery was in support, and our own machine guns and mortars were also used.                                              

1100 No. 4 Company began moving up to their objective. The lower slopes of the hill were thick with scrub, halfway up it became more open. Progress was therefore slow.

There was no sound of any enemy opposition and the artillery barrage was almost ordered to be stopped when it was reported that No. 4 Company had taken two prisoners.                                                                  

1230 Catazzo  By the time that No. 4 Company’s success signal had gone up, No. 2 Company was appearing in the open, halfway up the next objective without meeting opposition. No. 2 Company’s success signal was fired and No. 3 Company set out to their objective to the right of No. 2 Company, also with no opposition. Eight prisoners were captured without firing a shot. 

Map Ref 197866 No. 1 Company then moved forward to the right of No. 3 Company.

1630 The Scots Guards moved up on No. 4 Company’s left.

17/18th October 1943                                         

During the night a patrol of No. 1 Company reported the next hill clear of the enemy.

18th October 1943

0900 No. 2 Company made contact with the Americans on our right.

1400 Nos. 1 and 3 Companies moved along the ridge to Hill 720.

Formicola 1989 No. 2 Company moved into houses in Formicola. No. 4 Company took up a position on the eastern slopes of 720. Tac HQ remained in Formicola and main came up as far as demolition would permit.

2200 Rations which had to be carried over the demolition (it took Company LOB. personnel and 60 Basutos two hours to cross it with water and rations) were sent on to companies on the hill.

19th October 1943                    

1300 Secundino 160864 Battalion HQ was then situated on the eastern side of the ridge of hill which the companies were holding. With a view to future operations the Commanding Officer moved Battalion HQ round the west side. This entailed moving back to River Volturno, into the plain on the west of the hills. Owing to mines it was impossible to get further than Secundino.

Rocciano 158900 No. 4 Company which had been withdrawn from the lower slopes of 630, moved with Battalion HQ, debussed in Secundino and took up a position in Rocciano.

2100 Nos. 1 and 3 Companies now had to be fed from the west side of the hills.  The Basutos did not arrive till 2115 hrs and did not complete the task of refuelling the two companies until 0700 hours the next day.

20th October 1943                     

0930 No. 3 Company were ordered to move to Fontola 1791, still on the eastern side of the ridge of hills completely separated from the battalion.           

1015 Battalion HQ moved up to Fontanelli.

1000 No. 4 Company sent an officer and two other ranks on a recce patrol.                                    

21st October 1943

1100 The Patrol done by Lieutenant Huntingdon (No. 4 Company) proved to be an exceedingly good one showing that the enemy was thick on the ground on our front. Lieutenant Brocklebank’s patrol was equally successful and produced the same facts that the enemy was well dug in on Hill 860. It was then clear that the enemy’s line extended along the whole of our front.

Meanwhile tremendous preparations were going on in the Battalion HQ area. The complete Battalion of 3rd Coldstream and 800 Basutos were making dumps of food, water, ammo. These dumps were then to be moved up to the hills and as the Brigade moved forward so did the dumps.

1400 Commanding Officer gave out this orders to company commanders. Briefly the plan was this. At first light 22nd No. 2 Company was to attack 860 after heavy artillery concentration.

During the night 21st/22nd Nos. 1 and 3 Companies were to advance further north west along the ridge already occupied, to the second hill marked 720 on the map. When 860 had been captured, No. 1 Company was to attack hill 615 and No. 4 to attack 520, with No. 3 Company on No. 4 Company’s left.

During the conference an 88mm landed in Battalion HQ’s backyard covering us all with dust and plaster, wounded an Italian woman and burying a child in an air raid shelter which had collapsed. The conference was then resumed elsewhere.                                                                                                     

1700 Battalion HQ and No. 4 Company moved up the hill in rear of No. 1 Company.                                                      

22nd October 1943                                                

At first light the Barrage commenced and No. 2 Company attacked 860 was a very steep hill, covered with trees and thick shrub and progress was therefore expected to be slow even without enemy opposition. The barrage appeared to have taken the enemy by surprise and a large percentage of them fled. Figures were seen beating a very hasty retreat wearing underclothes only.

0715 To our amazement at 0715 hrs we hear the drummer of No. 2 Company blowing his company call on top of 860. It was reminiscent of Peter Evelyn’s hunting horn at Mareth. Major Potter had taken his objective at least two hours before it was thought possible. Quite a few dead Germans were seen on the hill, seven prisoners taken, six Spandaus and about sixty rifles, a most important objective captured without a single casualty.

No. 1 Company heartened by this success moved off to attack 615. It was quite some time before 615 was definitely reported held, owing to the fact that No. 2 Company reported a counter-attack which No. 1 Company helped to beat off.

The Commanding Officer went to a Conference at Scot Guards HQ (the Scots Guards by this time had come up to hill 720). At this conference it was decided that Nos. 1 and 3 Companies were to hold 615 and Nos. 2 and 4 Companies to hold 860, while the scots guards attacked our third objective. 

1500 Battalion HQ moved to the lower eastern slopes of 860. The battalion had moved a long way and the ration dump was some distance behind. None the less thanks to the excellent Coldstream staff work and the hard work of the Basutos and Coldstreamers the rations were ready for us at the forward Brigade dump. The guides sent back by us set off three quarters of an hour before dark, the rations did not arrive till 0100 hours the next morning. The guides lost their way, a very easy thing to do.

By this time the Coldstream were almost asleep on their feet with overwork. Nos. 2 and 4 Companies rations did not reach their destination until 0800 hrs; Nos. 1 and 3 were unluckier still. 

23rd October 1943 - Hills 615 and 860      

The battalion spend a very cold night on top of the hills but the supply problem was well under control by this time and companies were able to get their great coats.

24th October 1943 

168 Brigade passed through on our left to attack still more high ground north west of our position.

25th October 1943

The battalion was ordered to take over hill 520 which had been captured by the Scots Guards at the same time to hold 860. Accordingly, No. 3 Company moved off 615 to take over from the Scots Guards on 520, No. 1 Company came down also to an area behind Battalion HQ which had set up 300 yards east of the village Rocclietta e Croce. No. 4 Company remained on 860 while No. 2 Company came down to the old battalion area.

26th October 1943                     

Major Potter was sent for by the Divisional Commander to start and organise a Male? school. Major Hanbury went sick with slight tonsillitis. No. 2 Company relieved No. 4 Company on 860.                                                      

28th October 1943 - Petrulo 1190

0900 The battalion was relieved by the Scots Guards and we moved down into billets for the night in Petrulo.                                                      

2300 Three officers and eighty reinforcements arrived.

Lieutenant Harvey Bathurst, Lieutenant Nisbett and Lieutenant Cassy who became assistant Signal Officer. All duty reinforcements were allotted to companies in order that companies might send back other men to be LOB.

One unfortunate incident occurred when one of the 15-cwt trucks was accidentally driven over a demolished bridge. An Italian had taken away the red lamp for his own private use. One of the reinforcement Lance Corporals was killed.

29th October 1943 - Square 0890              

0945 Battalion moved again through Visciano onto the main road, Route 6 to take up a new position. Order of march, Nos. 4, 3, 1 Companies, Battalion H.Q., No. 2 Company.

No. 1 Company was first in position on the right, 4 Company forward and centre, No. 3 Company left, No. 2 Company left and in reserve.

2000 The Brigadier paid us a visit. He arrived somewhat angry. He had driven into a ditch which was supposed to have been roped off by the Pioneer Officer (the Brigadier’s brother-in-law). His orders were that a company was to move at first light on the 30th to relieve a Coldstream company and the rest of the Battalion would relieve the Coldstream when we in turn had been relieved by the Scots Guards.

30th October 1943                                                

The various change overs were completed by 1400 hours. The battalion was put at one hour’s notice as from 1200 hours the 31st.

31st October 1943

 Move expected but at two hours’ notice as from 1000 hours the 1st November.