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9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers – War Diary September 1943

1st September 1943 - Tripoli

Brigade Commander briefed company commanders, specialist officers and commanding officers at the Union Cinema. Commanding Officers then gave out their outline plans.

2nd September 1943

The Commanding Officer briefed company commanders, specialist officers, platoon commanders 6th Battalion Cheshires, FOO 64 Field Regiment RA and the naval FOO.

3rd September 1943

Battalion preparing to move.  Captain Doorn in charge of R scale transport.

4th September 1943

Battalion moved to race course camp where they spent the night.  The Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer embarked on LSI Sobieski.

5th September 1943 - At sea

Battalion embarked on the LSIs Sobieski, Ulster Monarch and Princess Charlotte. Company commanders briefed platoon commanders.  Boat drill.

6th September 1943

Boat drill.  Weapons testing and cleaning.  Practiced embarking it into LCA’s.

7th September 1943

Boat drill.  Final preparations being made.  Co-ordinating conference.

8th September 1943

The commanding officer informed all troops that Italy had surrendered but it made no difference to the operation.  We would have to fight just as hard.

9th September 1943

0100 Battalion embarked into LCAs.  A, B and C Companies with Battalion HQ from Sobieski.  D Company and duplicate Battalion HQ from Ulster Monarch.

0330 Battalion with one platoon 6 Cheshires, Naval FOO and FOO 64 Field Regiment RA landed in Italy.  B Company were landed correctly in the wake of the LCR.  A Company were too far east.  D Company were landed near Battalion HQ on 8 Battalion Royal Fusiliers beach.  C Company were landed correctly.  It took some time for the battalion to link up.  A and B Companies pushed on well and established local bridgehead (Oliver).  Opposition would have been stronger but for the LCR and LCS which demoralised the enemy.  The beaches were mined but did not cause many casualties.  Lieutenant Lewis was killed attacking a coastal battery.  This battery was later silenced by A Company of 8 Royal Fusiliers with Lieutenant Illes and his platoon.

0600 Sykes reported.  Companies as follows:-A Company – 775207, B Company -770 195, C Company -770203, D Company -776198, Battalion HQ – 773204.  Approximately 40 prisoners taken.  Opposition had so far been machine gun posts and infantry positions.  16th Panzer Division identified.  Farm tractors, horses, carts and bicycles were commandeered and the battalion was very mobile.

0900 Battalion moved forward with carrier screen in front.

0925 One carrier destroyed by enemy 75mm at 787214.

1000 A company attacked 787214 with two platoons.  Attack unsuccessful.

1105 A Company again attacked 787214.  Still unsuccessful.  Heavy casualties.

1300 B and C Companies attacked 787214.  Enemy had withdrawn.  Appear to have been two 75mm with infantry protection.  Transport was arriving continuously from beach.  LST carrying one of the battalion’s small arms ammunition trucks was sunk.

1400 The battalion and then consolidated on the Corgi Line.  A Company 787214, B company 799223, C Company 800216, D Company 796215. Battalion HQ 787210.

1430 The Battalion had a meal and co-ordinated defence.  We were told to stay here for the night.

1925 Orders from Brigade for us to take Battipaglia an occupy high ground to the north.

2300 Battalion advanced Battipaglia.  No opposition outside the town.

10th September 1943

0105 We cleared Battipaglia.  Only opposition was a few armoured cars.  D Company destroyed one armoured car with PIAT mortar.

0200 Company positions.  B Company 832232, D company 829237.  A and C Companies pushed onto the high ground which they occupied at 839245 and 841241. Enemy tanks were heard on our left flank travelling south west.  Identification obtained from German tented camp at 836240 was 64 Panzergrenadier Regiment.  A German dispatch rider drove into the camp and was taken prisoner.

0240 Troops of No. 5 Platoon covering road at 835243 and approaches to town.

0500 Enemy attempted to infiltrate through the town but were unsuccessful.

0640 Strong enemy infantry attack supported by self-propelled guns and armoured cars on A and C Companies.

0715 A and C Companies having suffered heavy casualties withdrew to Battipaglia and formed a composite company at 830236.  Battalion HQ at 829237.

0730 Enemy surrounded Battipaglia cutting our main axis in the rear.

0800 Commanding Officer gave the order to hold a town at all costs.  Five remaining anti-tank guns put in position.  Companies barricaded themselves in houses.

0945 Enemy testing our defences with tanks and infantry.  D Company beat off attack.

1000 Enemy tank destroyed anti-tank gun wounding Commanding Officer and 2 i/c.  Major Delforce took over command.

1130 Grenadier Guards linked up with us at 826237.

1155 Commanding Officer sent Intelligence Officer to look for anti-tank guns and information.  Communications very bad.  Captain Gerber and Brigade Assistant Signals Officer were killed trying to bring ammunition and a new 22 set through to us.

1300 Enemy attack to Battipaglia with one battalion of infantry supported by 12-14 tanks from all sides.  Anti-tank guns or pull out of action and the tanks entered the town, shot down the buildings and drove into them followed by infantry.  Major Delforce then gave the order to withdraw to the Corgi line.  The battalion was then disorganised owing to many men being cut off.  Six officers and fifty-two other ranks took up position on Corgi line whilst D Company and many others linked up with the Guards and the main holding the bridge at 828238.

11th September 1943 - 796220

0900 Captain Skillern, Captain Burley, Lieutenant Dale, Lieutenant Carter and approximately 130 other ranks rejoined the battalion from Battipaglia.  Major Delforce with Major Skillern as 2 i/c organized the Battalion into two companies.  No. 1 Company commanded by Captain Warner, No. 2 Company by Lieutenant Dale.  We had no anti-tank guns, no 3-inch mortars and no carriers.  No. 1 Company 798222 No. 2 Company 798218.

1915 Heavy mortar fire on the right forward company.

2000 8 Royal Fusiliers driven out of their positions on our right exposing our right flank.  We gathered some of them and put them in our positions.

12th September 1943

0030 Two companies of 2/4 Hampshires came to our assistance with supporting arms.

0130 Left forward company mortared.  Lieutenant Mence wounded.

1130 2/4 Hampshires took over our positions.  Our companies moved to rear of Battalion HQ prior to taking over from 7 Ox and Bucks.  Commanding Officer, Intelligence Officer and company commanders went on recce.  220 Field Company Royal Engineers came under command as infantry.  They were formed into No.  3 Company.

2030 Battalion moved to take over from 7 Ox and Bucks.

2230 Handover complete and done without incident.  Battalion HQ 809207 No. 1 Company 817207, No. 2 Company 813212, No. 3 Company 813207.

2300 Routine contact patrols sent out.  302 anti-tank battery took over anti-tank guns in this position.

We brought up all the spare men from B Echelon and put them in the line. We were using a large percentage of German and Italian weapons.

13th September 1943

0500 Stand to until 0600.  A quiet day.  Routine patrols.

2000 Sergeant Hogan and Corporal Gilder return from Battipaglia with valuable information regarding the enemy positions.  Lieutenant Frost and 35 other ranks still in Battipaglia.

14th September 1943

0500 Stand to until 0600.

1040 Enemy AFV approached No.  1 Company position as if on recce.

1120 Small force of enemy infantry crossed No.  1 Company front moving to our left flank.  Lieutenant Norris killed by a machine gun fire from AFV.

1400 8 Royal Fusiliers position on our left flank taken over by 44 Recce.

9 Royal Fusiliers now under command 23rd Armoured Brigade.

2210 Our own artillery fired short.  No casualties.

15th September 1943 - 809207

0500 No contact made for past 12 hours.

1100 Enemy sniper 200 yards from No. 2 Company.  Mortar brought to bear.

1330 Section of enemy with AFV seen at 820215.

1410 Section enemy 820209.

1415 Enemy setting up mortar or infantry gun at 824200.

1417 Enemy at 824200 shelled by medium artillery. 

1440 Enemy movement 832202.

1600 Enemy returned to 853207 having been shelled.

1640 Four prisoners (26 Panzer Division) handed over to us by U.S. paratroops.

1900 Enemy machine gun fire on our left flank.

1914 44 Recce report enemy tanks at K.  22.

1930 44 Recce report number of enemy tanks on their left.  Engaged by artillery.

1945 No enemies on our front.  Our artillery very active.

102 Army Field Company Royal Engineers joined us as infantry and took up positions at 809205.

16th September 1943

0835 Enemy tanks seen with infantry on our left and right flanks.  Engaged by artillery and then moved off.

0905 Tanks and half tracked vehicles in a wood at 825208.

0915 Enemy infantry 818219.

0920 44 Recce heavily mortared.

0925 One enemy tank destroyed.

0937 Enemy infiltrating between us and 44 Recce.

0939 Enemy pushing attack hard.  They approached within five yards of No. 1 Company’s position but were beaten back by 36 grenades.

0941 Enemy now between us and recce.  No. 2 Company now involved.

0947 Enemy tank penetrated No. 1 Company’s position but was destroyed by 302 Battery Anti-Tank.  Proved to be a Mark IV Special.  Crew were killed by a platoon of 6 Battalion Cheshire’s whilst trying to escape.

0950 Two of Recce Regiment’s armoured cars on fire.

0951 Our artillery doing first class work.

0955 The enemy tank at 815215 in No. 1 Company’s position.  302 Battery disabled it but it is still firing it’s machine gun (Mk IV Special).

0958 Recce report that they are surrounded.

1001 Recce Regiment’s right flank pushed back by tanks.

1012 Royal Scots Greys coming up.  Destroy Mk IV in our area.

1031 Enemy positioning gun 824207.

1045 Recce report situation grave.  Have lost a number of armoured cars.

1048 102 Field Company moved up to cover our left flank.

1056 Recce Regiment pushed out of their position.

1110 Brigade warn us to counterattack on Recce Regiment’s front.

1240 We counterattacked Recce’s old positions with 102 Field Company Royal Engineers and two platoons 9 Royal Fusiliers.

1245 Enemy retreated to 819219.  Front now back to normal.

1258 Recce Regiment resume their positions with 102 Field Company under command.

1300 Enemy movements at 821208.  Mediums engage.

1308 Enemy tanks move round to our right.  Engaged by Greys.

1323 Greys disable one tank and one anti-tank run.

1440 Enemy in full retreat.  Navy shelling

1540 Battalion HQ shelled by 105mm.  No casualties.

1635 All quiet on the front.  Routine contact patrolling.

1930 From Greys HQ "Three Mark IVs , one armoured car and two anti-tank guns (3.7cm and 75cm) and one half tracked vehicle destroyed and two hundred enemy killed (later amended to six hundred).

1945 Our artillery very active.

17th September 1943

0640 Enemy shelled our right flank after a quiet night.

0735 Enemy AFVs at 831225.  Withdraw after being shelled.

2100 1/5 Queen’s took over our positions.  We move round to 167 Brigade at once more come under our command.

Our positions on the front we handed over had been minds, but great care had to be taken in laying these so that they would not interfere with our own tank's manoeuvres.  We had very few casualties in this area.  Major Coleman arrived and took over command of the Battalion.

18th/19th September 1943 - 7347

Battalion moved into rest area at 7327.  Men bathed, washed their clothes, maintained their weapons and were reorganised.  Battalion now consists of three companies.  No. 1 Company and No. 2 Company commanded as before with a Support Company consisting of heavy Breda, 81mm mortar and 75mm infantry gun.

20th September 1943 - 683314

0745 We have to take over positions from 5 Hampshires.

1400 Rear Battalion HQ 684311.  Advanced Battalion HQ 683314.

1515 No. 1 Company in position 687323.  No. 2 Company 684321.

1530 Support Company in position 683314 to be used as counter attack force if necessary.

1700 German machine guns reported at 674340.

2010 No. 1 Company report the sound of half tracked vehicles on Ogliara road.

2200 Fighting patrol of twenty-five other ranks under Second Lieutenant Meake left to harass enemy at Ogliara.  If no enemy there they are to lay minefield.

21st September 1943

0241 Control report are no enemy into Ogliara.  Minefield not laid owing to inexperience of patrol who had been sent to us as trained infantry reinforcements. 

1005 Three enemy armoured cars seen on a road west of Ogliara.  Artillery set one alight.

1209 Enemy mortaring to our left.

1334 Enemy mortaring.  Very ineffective, no specific target.

1615 One German prisoner (67 Panzer Grenadier Regiment) wandered into No. 1 Company’s position.

1640 Brigade ordered us to have patrol standing by to go out at night and destroy machine gun post.

1755 No. 1  Company positions shelled.

1905 Battalion HQ and forward positions under shellfire.

2020 No. 1 Company reports sound off half tracked vehicles on Ogliara road moving east to west.  Artillery engage.

2130 Sounds of motor transport movement indicate a large convoy on Ogliara road.  Our artillery shooting very effectively.  German shouting and screaming.

2200 Our patrol cancelled.

22nd September 1943

0731 OP report last night shelling most effective.

0800 Artillery shelled road again.

1040 Forward positions being mortared.  Sound bearing 338 degrees from No. 2 Company.

1210 169 Brigade in a Mango.  Brigade ordered us to send standing patrol to take up positions from 633333-667335.

1535 Patrol reported out.

1835 Our standing patrol returned and reported machine gun nest and mortar at 685338.  Most of patrol missing.

23rd September 1943

0900 Enemy gun on bearing of 330 degrees from No. 1 Company.  Our artillery engaging.

1535 Enemy shelling factory at 659316 with Nebelwerfer.

1550 Nebelwerfer on Brignano.

1726 Our patrol reports no enemy in Brignano or wood 673330.

1903 Enemy mortaring Ogliara road junction.

24th September 1943

1638 A quiet day.  Battalion ordered to concentrate prior to move. Protected OP’s manning company positions.

25th/26th September 1943

We stayed in our positions waiting orders to move.  Weapons cleaning.  Battalion reorganised.  Men resting.

27th September 1943

0510 March off from concentration area to enbussing point at 655313.

0910 Passed brigade SP.

1015 Forward body held up by heavy mortar fire at Baronissi.  9 Royal Fusiliers to do left flanking and occupy high ground west of Baronissi via Carezanno-Coperchia-Pelezzano-Capriglia.  Intelligence Officer recced route. Coperchia free of enemy. Royal Engineers checking for mines.

1250 Battalion move off.  D Company advance guard.

1433 Battalion debussed at Capezzano.

1600 Battalion moved through Coperchia.  Tremendous welcome from civilians.

1700 Pellezanno clear.  Battalion push on to Capriglia.  Battalion HQ established 642368.  A Company defend town.  B and D Companies to occupy high ground at 6338.  B and D Companies not able to reach their positions owing to precipitous wooded hills and darkness.  To move on at first light.

28th September 1943

0440 A Company moved off to join B and D Companies.  TAC HQ moved up to 638386 via Cmo Sarogano.  Main Battalion HQ in Capriglia.  Civilian population becoming a nuisance with a great hospitality.  Five Germans (HG Division) gave themselves up to B Company.  Morale low.

2000 No contact with the enemy but the worst thunderstorm we had ever experienced.  Administration was very difficult owing to the nature of country.  Basuto porters we had attached were not much use.

29th September 1943

0630 Companies to proceed to enbussing point at Curteri.  Battalion then moved to Ospizia via Baronissi-Penta-San Severino-San Angelo where they concentrated.  Battalion at two hours’ notice to move.

1715 No move likely today from Brigade.

30th September/1st October 1943

Battalion still in Ospizia at two hours notice.  Men resting and being re-equipped.

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