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9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers – War Diary January 1944

1st January 1944 - Carniola

1100 Battalion moved from Lauro to Carinola in transport.

1230 Battalion HQ established 981875. A Company 982875. B Company 982877. D Company 993870,

2nd January 1944 - 4th January 1944

Battalion remained in billets and carried out training.

5th January 1944

0800 Battalion moved out of Carinola to allow 5 Division to come in. Battalion HQ San Giuliano with A Company, B Company at Cappelle 998930. D Company at Fontanelle 011935.

6th January 1944 - 7th January 1944

Battalion training on possibility of crossing Garigliano.

8th January 1944 - 9th January 1944

Companies practised assault boat crossing on the Volturno.

10th January 1944

CO and IO went to Brigade conference where they were told they were going to cross the Garigliano.

11th January 1944 - 13th January 1944

Recces of the approaches to likely crossing places were carried out by Major Delforce, Captain Brooks and Captain Birley.

14th January 1944

Battalion practised assault boat crossing on the Volturno. The first wave of boats each took a rope across. These ropes were made fast on each side of the bank so that the following waves were able to pull themselves across. This worked well.

15th January 1944

Divisional Command held a conference for all officers at Sessa Arunca Castle. He informed everyone of the details of the Corps plan. Company commanders only were told of the forthcoming landings at Anzio.

The CO gave out orders to the effect that:-

We would cross the Garigliano on the night of the 17-18 January under heavy artillery concentration. Crossing places were at 858944 and 860948. 8 Battalion Royal Fusiliers would cross first with the sappers, and were to establish a local bridgehead whilst the sappers slung ropes across the river. On the right crossing, one platoon of B Company were to cross with the sappers and make a bridgehead 100 yards in depth. Major Delforce was beachmaster on the left beach and Captain Brooks on the right beach. When these bridgeheads were established D Company was to cross on the left and move along the left of the railway to 848963 where the battalion was to form up prior to taking the final objective Point 237 Colle Salvatito. B Company were to follow their one platoon over the right crossing and behind them were to follow TAC HQ and A Company. Two platoons of 6 Cheshires were to follow D Company. The battalion was to form up at 898964 and then, guided by the Intelligence Section were to attack and consolidate Salvatito. Having done this B Company were to patrol to Monte Cerri and Ceracoli.

16th January 1944

1600 Battalion embussed and moved to concentration area 8995. Great care was taken over camouflage. Movement was very restricted. Battalion made final preparations and rested.

17th January 1944 - 843575

1545 Battalion began to move forward to river.

2100 First assault boats in the water at both crossing places. Current strong. Our artillery programme very impressive. Bofors guns firing just over our heads.

2200 All ropes across the river at both crossing places.

2205 Battle patrol and platoon of B Company formed local bridgeheads. No contact with enemy.

2250 Forward companies and Tac HQ over.

D Company and B Company held up by strong enemy opposition covering the railway embankment. D Company commander killed and many other casualties. Tac HQ moved along wrong embankment and walked into enemy MG post at 851967. CO and Adjutant missing after scrap with enemy. Four Basuto porters carrying stores ran away. Wireless communication nil. Intelligence Officer took remainder of Tac HQ to railway embankment where they linked up with elements of A Company and platoon of MMG. Decided to push along axis to RV. Enemy machine guns in houses along embankment. Engaged them with PIAT and bazookas. Enemy fled leaving weapons. RV reached no other companies there.  A Company commander decided to go on whilst Intelligence Officer went back to find rest of battalion. They were only just over the river with a number of enemy MG posts between then and A Company and were not able to push on. Adjutant had returned wounded. The CO who had been taken prisoner twice in two hours linked up with the small A Company force which then went firm on Salvatito.

18th January 1944

At first light A Company were firm on Salvatito, with the rest of the battalion under Major Delforce DSO moving up with tanks in support.

1000 Battalion consolidated on Salvatito A Company on left shoulder, B Company in centre, D Company on right. Tac HQ 843975 in house. Enemy snipers active. All identifications were Reconnaissance Battalion of 94 Division. Enemy had laid number of mines but these failed to explode.

1800 – 2200 Intelligence Section guided 44 Reconnaissance Regiment to Tac HQ. One squadron went to thicken up B Company. Another squadron took up position 837974. Third squadron was in reserve.

19th January 1944

0330 Enemy attacking on our front.

0520 Enemy finally beaten off after grenade battle with B Company and recce squadron. Artillery support had been excellent.

0910 Enemy active on our front, using machine gun ‘prowlers’ and snipers. One PoW taken.

1400 Recce regiment send out fighting patrol to catch ‘prowlers’. Very successful four enemy killed seven prisoners.

1740 All companies and Tac HQ heavily shelled.

1745 Stand to. Enemy forming up for counter attack. DF being fired. Excellent results, attack doesn’t materialise. Enemy screaming in terror.

1930 Stand to. Enemy still active with Spandaus. We are using grenades extensively with good results. Enemy active all night trying to infiltrate.

20th January 1944 - 843975

0130 A further enemy counter attack, approximately 1 company strong on B Company’s front. Enemy beaten off with grenades.

0230 Tac HQ heavily shelled.

0715 Battalion positions being shelled.

Enemy ‘prowlers’ active all day. Using caves as a base to work from which we cannot approach without coming under heavy small arms fire.

1700 Battalion area being shelled heavily.

1715 Enemy trying to infiltrate. Meeting with little success.

2000 Enemy still active. Battalion reinforced by the Brigade defence platoons from 167 and 168 Brigades.

Enemy attempted to infiltrate all night.

21st January 1944

0600 B Company deal with enemy that infiltrated in the night.

0815 German fighting patrol seen off by A Company.

0845 A Company being mortared.

0850 Heavy shelling on D Company.

1140 A Company kill four snipers, one prisoner.

1225 B Company take one prisoner.

Enemy tried to infiltrate all day. Nothing very serious. We are using artillery and our mortars with great effect. Brigade defence platoons returned to Brigades. Everyone very tired. Companies have had no sleep whatsoever as country is so close and enemy can approach unseen to grenade range.

1715 Enemy counter-attack strongly. B Company and Recce squadron holding firm. No communication with D Company. Attack developing, enemy using approximately three companies. B Company okay. No word from D Company.

2000 B Company and Recce Squadron beaten enemy off having inflicted severe casualties.

2015 B Company sent patrol to D Company’s position 841983 and find it in enemy hands.

22nd January 1944

0115 Intelligence Officer sent to London Scottish HQ at 845978 to ask them to counter attack.

0230 Two companies of London Scottish successfully counter attack D Company’s position.

0615 Situation now completely restored. Infiltration being kept under control.

0900 B Company take ten prisoners.

Enemy artillery active on our positions all day. Heavy calibre guns being used.

1700 Shelling stops. A quiet night. 7 Ox and Bucks came into our area and dug in at 840977.

23rd January 1944 - 843975

1125 Heavy calibre shelling of Tac HQ. Continued intermittently all day.

1300 Company of 7 Ox and Bucks tried to clear enemy from in front of our Forward Defensive Lines. Not very successful as enemy machine guns very difficult to locate.

1400 2/6 Queens passed through us to attack Ceracoli. They were held up on our Forward Defensive Lines but by concentrating our LMGs we helped them on. We were heavily shelled.

1800 Battalion relieved by 2/7 Queens.

24th January 1944 - Fontanelle

0230 Battalion arrived at Fontanelle 0193.

Men rested and cleaned up all day.

25th January 1944

Weapons and stores being maintained. The battalion had used over four hundred 36 grenades since crossing the river.

26th January 1944

Lieutenant-Colonel J. Cleghorn took over command of the battalion from Lieutenant-Colonel J. Sykes-Wright.

Major Coleman also left the battalion.

27th January 1944

Corps Commander visited the CO. Division Commander inspected the battalion.

28th January 1944

Battalion preparing to go into action.

29th January 1944

1730 Battalion moved from its present area by TCL to go to a concentration area at Rossi 8494. Colonel informed company commanders that the battalion was in divisional reserve.

30th January 1944 - Rossi

2130 Battalion moved forward and relieved 1/4 Hampshire Regiment in area Point 275, 842987 with A right, B centre, D left with one platoon forward. Tac HQ at 845978.

31st January 1944 - 842987 Area Point 275

0930 B Company on forward slopes of Point 275 were sniped from far crest of Damiano feature. 2 casualties. 7 Ox and Bucks were contacted and they sent out two sniping Brens to deal with the enemy snipers.

Major Warner MC, OC B Company returned from 175 with a  badly gashed forearm incurred the previous evening on a sharp rock. He was evacuated to B Echelon and subsequently to hospital.

1330 – 842987 B Company placed under command 7 Ox and Bucks.

1400 – 845978 A and D Companies moved back to area 845984. Tac HQ remained in same area. 8 Royal Fusiliers moved through us to positions forward us in area Ceracoli 8298.

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