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6th Battalion Grenadier Guards – War Diary September 1943

1st September 1943 - Tripoli

The battalion moved to a concentration area – the Tripoli Racecourse Camp, which resembled nothing more or less than a POW cage. However, in the evening a first-class concert party paid the camp a visit. Lots of the division appeared to be there.


2nd September 1943

1100 The battalion marched down to the docks to embark on the three LCIs. This was accomplished with the minimum of fuss.


3rd September 1943

The three LCIs were still in Tripoli harbour.


4th September 1943

1630 Our convoy set sail. The sea fortunately calm.


5th September 1943

The sea became rather rough and a great many Guardsmen felt and were very sick.


7th September 1943

Sicily was sighted at first light.

1000 The three LCIs were anchored outside Termini.

1005 The water was full of officers and men having their first decent wash since embarkation.

1700 The convoy set sail again.


8th September 1943

September 1943 8th was an exciting day. First came the news that Italy was out of the war, secondly at 1600 hrs we saw in the distance the isle of Capri.

When darkness came the convoy was sliding slowly towards the beaches. It was an unpleasant sensation being bombed at sea but the spirited defence put up by the flak ships and destroyers was comforting. The LCI on which the Commanding Officer had a very near miss.


9th September 1943

0715 No. 3 Coy were the first troops of 201 Guards Brigade to set foot on Italian soil. It was an unopposed landing and dry shod. The two assaulting brigades had cleared the beaches and there was no difficulty or opposition in moving the Battalion to its assembly area.

1000 When the LST and LCIs were unloading the beaches were under shell fire. One portee received a direct hit and two Guardsmen were killed and Lieutenant Thwaite wounded.

1600 The battalion was ordered to move to increase the size of the bridgehead. The 3-inch mortars were used and while Lieutenant Ridpath was observing from an OP, the building received a direct hit and Lieutenant Ridpath was killed. Captain Vaughan was wounded in the same building.

The battalion was forced to delay its advance but by dark, orders were received to move on to the Main Road No. 18 to conform with 167 Brigade on our right.


10th September 1943

0515 No. 3 Company attacked again, this time with more success and the enemy were pushed back. Lieutenant Drake was killed in this action. No. 3 Company suffered some casualties here chiefly due to Spandau fire. No 3 Company reported some tanks and AFVs to their immediate front and so no further advance could be made.

1030 One squadron Greys appeared at Brigade HQ but did not have to be used as the enemy had moved back.

1200 The Battalion moved forward to area of Battipaglia. No. 2 Company attacked the town with the help of two platoons from No. 4 Company.

1600 No. 4 Company right, No. 2 Company centre (less one platoon in Battipaglia), No. 1 Company left, No. 3 Company reserve. 


11th September 1943

During the day our position was heavily stonked by mortars and shell. During one of these stonks Captain Hermon was killed.

1615 No. 2 Company reported enemy infiltration through their lines supported by tanks.

At this time No. 2 and No. 4 Companies of the Coldstream Guards were under command holding the gap between No. 2 and No. 1 Companies.

No. 2 Company Grenadiers and No. 2 and No. 4 Companies Coldstream were forced to withdraw over 350 yards and took up a position just left of No. 3 Company. Major Porter (No. 2 Company) could only at that time muster thirty men of his company.

The Scots Greys who were under command had remained in their position during the hours of darkness a feat which tanks cannot usually perform. The risk was well taken and one German tank received a direct hit at 200 yard range and was completely brewed up. Battalion HQ, meanwhile, owing to the confused reports received, burnt all its secret papers, marked up maps, intelligence logs, and even the RAP put out the Red Cross flag.


12th September 1943

However, by first light the line was retaken and position stabilised.

1600 During conference held in Battalion HQ, No. 1 Company reported that Captain Wigram had been killed by a shell.

The Brigade was then ordered to shorten its line and the battalion had to move out of a position which might be attacked at any moment.

Careful preparations were made by the Commanding Officer for thinning our artillery support and MG support.

2000 The right-hand company began thinning out and by 2040 the battalion had finally abandoned its position which it had held so well. If any withdrawal can be called a success, this one was. Thanks to the splendid cooperation of the Gunners the Battalion withdrew without a single casualty to an assembly area, where companies sorted themselves out. As soon as any company was complete it moved off to its new defensive position at Verdesca.


13th September 1943

The battalion's new line was as follows:

No. 1 Company right, No.  2 Company centre, No. 3 Company left, No. 4 Company in reserve behind No. 2.

During the day Nos. 1, 2, 3 Companies laid mines in front of their position and necklaces of 75 Hawkins grenades were made to be pulled across the roads if necessary.


14th September 1943                     

While the Commanding Officer was paying No. 4 Company a visit an 88mm airburst exploded some distance away and a piece of shrapnel wounded him slightly in the right arm.

Lieutenant Hackett-Pain was ordered to take a patrol out back to Battipaglia to find and bring out if possible, some men of the 9th Royal Fusiliers who had been there while the Battle for Battipaglia was being fought. The task was a difficult one. On arrival at Battipaglia it was found that the house in which the man had been hiding had been hit by a bomb and so the patrol came back.


15th September 1943

1935 The Guards Brigade was then ordered into Corps Mobile Reserve, which meant that at half-hours’ notice the Battalion was to move anywhere on the 46 Division front in transport. The Second-in-Command, Major Sir Hugh Cholmondeley, had to report to 46 Division HQ. Fortunately he returned at midnight saying that the role was cancelled.

The following Officers joined the Battalion from the IRTD.

Lieutenant Cholmondeley to No. 2 Company

Lieutenant Basterd Intelligence Officer

Lieutenant Williams to No. 3 Company

Captain Willis - Second-in-Command No. 1 Company.


16th September 1943                     

The Corps Commander’s appreciation of the situation then came through that the enemy had withdrawn. Each battalion of the Brigade was therefore ordered to send out a fighting patrol.

The Master of Saltoun with 19 men of No. 1 Company set off in the dark to find if Battipaglia was occupied. On reaching the Railway is which just south of Battipaglia the patrol was fired on and got split. Some of the men came back but no officer. Lieutenant Fraser was still missing the next day and did not return until the early hours of the morning of the 17th. He arrived hungry, but happy and full of reliable information. The only casualty suffered from this patrol was one Guardsman killed.

The night of the 14/15th was a most successful one for the Coldstream on our right and for the artillery. They were heavily attacked, withstood and repelled it with heavy losses to the enemy. This was good news.


17th September 1943                     

The balance to light scale transport arrived.

18th September 1943    

1415 Commanding Officer went to a Conference with the Brigadier and the battalion was put on half-an-hours’ notice to move. No. 4 Company was ordered to accompany 44 Recce on their advance up the road to Olivano.

The Battalion then moved forward to the north side of the Main Road into Battipaglia. We were on the right of the Brigade front.


19th September 1943                     

During the night 18/19th there were no signs of the enemy.

Battalion then received orders to move to Salerno to relieve the Sherwood Foresters (46 Division). The battalion was allotted TCVs for this move and by 2030 hours we were slowly moving along the main road to Salerno.


19th/20th September 1943                          

In spite of the awful difficulties of the country the relief of the Foresters was carried out without incident.

No. 1 Company right, No. 2 Company centre, No. 3 Company left. No. 4 Company had not yet re-joined the Brigade.

Battalion HQ 654312.


20th September 1943     

1445 No. 4 Company returned and were put in reserve.

2000 The Royal Engineers laid anti-personnel mines in front of company positions.

At this time, although we could not see much enemy movement, there was plenty of noise. Rather heavier shelling than we had hitherto experienced and it was quite obvious that the enemy, though thin on the ground, had a great many automatic weapons.

2040 Lieutenant Brocklebank from No. 2 Company took a patrol out through No. 1 Company lines in order to brew up German vehicles in a road 1100 yards in front of our lines. This was one of the only roads which the retreating Germans could use to get onto the main road running North from Salerno. The patrol met trouble before they reached the road from a large cemetery which was obviously held by a strong enemy post. The patrol got split but reformed again in No. 1 Company lines and started off again but met with the same result. Lieutenant Brocklebank was very slightly wounded in the arm.


21st September 1943      

0820 A Guardsman from No. 2 Company was blown up and killed on his own company minefield. This was due to sheer stupidity. That warning ought to have been enough, but two men from the MG Platoon blew themselves up on the same field.

Increased shelling of our positions was noticeable but did no harm.

A patrol was sent out by No. 3 Company to recce up the road on West side of the river to map reference 653323.


22nd September 1943     

0330 The patrol returned with two Guardsmen missing but with information that three Spandaus were round the wood north west of the cemetery and that there was a fixed line down the main road.

This was a day of active patrolling, both No. 2 and No.4 Companies sending out patrols. Both brought back useful information of enemy positions.

2030 No. 1 Company sent out a Patrol to recce the cemetery again under Sergeant Gilbert.


23rd September 1943     

0700 Warning order received that the Battalion must be prepared to move any time after 1030 hours.

Sergeant Gilbert’s patrol returned with valuable information bringing back with him a German CSM.

The Italians in a town (Ponte Pratta) surrendered the CSM to Sergeant Gilbert’s Patrol.

The civilians also stated that the Germans had left stray rear guard posts but their main defensive line was some miles back.

1230 No. 1 Company sent back ten Germans to Battalion HQ from the cemetery. All were Panzer Grenadiers.

1530 The battalion was ordered to move. Order of March - No. 4 Company on the main road followed by No. 1 Company on the left subsidiary road, elements of the Recce Corps, No. 3 Company, Battalion HQ, No. 2 Company followed by Support Company.

1645 Very heavy enemy mortar and shell fire on the left-hand road, making progress very slow. The Adjutant, Captain Alington was wounded in one of these stonks and at the time it appeared not too badly.

1738 Battalion HQ moved to underneath a solid tunnel.

No. 2 and No. 3 Companies moved off the road on left-handed, No. 2 Company on the right and No. 3 Company higher up the hill on the left.


24th September 1943                     

Continual enemy shelling and mortaring. Two of our Carriers received direct hits on the road and 1 portee was damaged.

1130 A shell landed at the west end of the tunnel in which Battalion HQ was situated wounding Lieutenant Lawrence (Pioneer Platoon) and two Guardsmen.

The battle was now clearly going to be fought in the hills, which were high, steep and with very thick undergrowth.

Captain Rowan from No. 2 Company became Adjutant.

A rumour which we had heard, was unfortunately confirmed that Patrick Alington had died of his wounds.

Captain Howard and Captain Whitaker joined the Battalion and joined as Second-in-Command No. 2 and 3 Companies respectively.

1430 Nos. 3, 2 and 4 Companies which had just moved up, began their slow climb forward.

1630 Our first sight of Me 109s, their bombs went wide of the Battalion Area.

Communication with companies was now non-existent, except for No. 1 Company who were on the right of the main road. No. 1 Company could see the companies moving in the hills and kept Battalion HQ informed as best they could.

1905 No. 1 Company reported that our men were fighting on their objective Hill 270 and it looked as if the attack had been successful.

2200 The Commanding Officer returned to Battalion HQ from the forward Companies saying that our three companies had been counter attacked off Hill 270 and have reformed on a firm base on the forward slope of Taborra.

No. 3 Company right, No. 2 Company centre and No. 4 Company were left on the saddle of Hill 270.

The difficulties of evacuating wounded, feeding forward companies with ammo, rations and water had to be seen to be believed.

Basutos were allotted to the Battalion for carrying parties. Ammunition was first on the list and by first light on the 25th all companies except No. 4 Company had been restocked.


25th September 1943

All through the morning Basutos were climbing the high hill to reach Nos. 2 and 3 Companies with their water and food. While No. 4 Company rations and water were going up forward, a heavy stonk came down near the Basutos who dumped the stuff they were carrying and fled. Unfortunately, No. 4 Company therefore went without rations or water for 24 hours.

Mention must be made of the heroic work of the RAP. Captain Chestnut, the Battalion MO, his staff and stretcher bearers carried all their kit almost to the top of the Spur which was called Taborra.

This in itself was no mean feat. We had suffered quite a few casualties and the Stretcher bearers had to come from Companies to the RAP through thick undergrowth and treacherous slopes. The Germans must have thought that the house near which the RAP was, was being used as an OP since it was continually being hit by shells and mortars.

1140 The Coldstream Guards who had come up behind us now began to pass through us with Hill 270 as their objective.

1400 Hill 270 was reported in our hands, but the Germans were shelling it heavily.

1625 Nos. 2 and 3 Companies moved forward to take up positions on the left of the Coldstream Guards on 270.

1715 Battalion HQ moved to a house on the side of the hill Taborra.

The Scots Guards were to take over our old position.

No. 3 Company had sent out a patrol to find out whether a certain pillbox was occupied by the enemy or not. The Patrol had not returned, when the Brigadier rang through to enquire about it. The Adjutant began to explain that it hadn’t returned. The Brigadier’s voice was then heard to say “Shut up, man, can’t you see I’m thinking?”

2100 No. 1 Company commander Major Marsham appeared at Battalion HQ and reported that his company have been relieved by the Scots Guards.

No. 1 Company are ordered to move forward to the reverse slopes of 270 on the right of it.

It was not possible for No. 1 Company to get that far owing to the ground and darkness but moved there at first light on the 26th.


26th September 1943     

1300 Nos. 1, 3 and 4 Companies sent out recce patrols to their front, as it was suspected that the enemy had withdrawn.

All patrols returned saying that the enemy had abandoned their positions, which had been well dug-in, sandbagged and in some cases, even concreted.

1600 Two officers, Lieutenants Wheatley and Llewellyn arrived with eighty-five reinforcements to help carry the supplies as all the Basutos had been recalled.

2330 News was received that the Brigade was to be withdrawn in to divisional reserve and that the battalion would move out at 0800 hours 27th. The battalion was to concentrate in its A Echelon area.


27th September 1943                     

The night 26/27th was quiet. Behind main Battalion HQ dumps of rations and water and ammo were being made. Carrying parties made up of the new reinforcements, were working through the whole night taking up supplies forward to companies in very hard conditions. It was pitch dark and raining hard and it was well-nigh impossible for the carrying parties to find any company areas through the thick bushes and undergrowth. However, companies were fully supplied by first light.

0800 The battalion began thinning out, No. 1 Company first and by 0845 hours positions were completely abandoned.

0915 No. 1 Company arrived in Salerno to find that QM had had each Company billet, a block of flats, swept out ready for immediate [use]. Battalion HQ found itself in a very large house, complete with cutlery, crockery. In fact, all ranks were able to make themselves very comfortable.

The Commanding Officer decided that while the battalion had to fight in the hills, it was essential to have two Signals Officers owing to the difficulties of communication. Lieutenants Basterd and Lyttleton were the Signal Officers and Lieutenant Llewellyn became Intelligence Officer in place of Lieutenant Basterd.


28th September 1943                     

The battalion spent its first 24 hours out of the line since its landing in Italy. The Guardsmen spent the day washing the clothes which they had been unable to take off for three weeks, bathing on the Salerno beaches, in fact having a well-deserved day of rest.

1815 A joint service with the Coldstream Guards was held in the Salerno Stadium. It was the first service the battalion had had since the landing and was well attended by both battalions. Unfortunately owing to the darkness, it was impossible to read the words in the hymn book and the last hymn was left out. The service ended with a splendid rendering of God Save the King.

2000 A very bad storm of rain, thunder and lightning suddenly sprang up. Fortunately, all the men were billeted in bombed out flats and so the Battalion spent another restful and dry night.

2200 The most cheering news of the day was phoned through to the battalion from the Brigade Major “No move before the 30th”.


29th September 1943     

0800 Another pleasant day of rest. A few preparations were made for the impending move forward.


30th September 1943

1000 Lieutenant Yuill reported at Battalion HQ that the remainder of the battalion transport disembarked at Salerno harbour at 0820 together with thirty-six reinforcements.

1200 Commanding Officer spoke to the Battalion, which was assembled in the Salerno Stadium. He said that he, an officer of the reserve, considered it a great honour to command the 6th Battalion. The battalion was then addressed by the Brigadier who congratulated the battalion on its fine performance in the campaign just completed and expected as good in the next.

1230 The parade ended with the battalion marching past the Brigadier who took the salute.

1400 A warning order was received from Brigade to the effect that the Battalion would be ready to move at ½ hours’ notice as from 1600 hours.

Lieutenant Newman joined the Battalion from the Allied School of Infantry Battalion BNAF. He joined Support Company as Pioneer Officer.

1630 The Battalion moved off in transport to an area just outside San Severino. Order of March: No. 1 Company, Battalion HQ, Nos. 4, 3, 2, Support Companies.

1945 The Commanding Officer reported to Brigade that whole battalion was present in its new location.