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1st Battalion Irish Guards


The 1st Battalion Irish Guards was a regular army unit based in the UK at the start of the war. As part of 24 Guards Brigade, It formed part of the expedition to Norway in April 1940 before being evacuated back to the UK in May. It then remained in the UK until March 1943, when it departed for North Africa as part of 1st Infantry Division. The battalion saw heavy fighting from the end of March through to the Axis surrender in Tunisia May 1943.

After the conclusion of the Tunisian campaign, 1st Infantry Division remained in Tunisia until early December 1943, when it moved to Italy. Here 1st Infantry Division was identified as the British component for the Anzio operation and 1st Battalion Irish Guards landed in the second wave on the 22nd January 1944. After suffering appreciable casualties while participating in an unsuccessful attempt to advance out of the bridgehead at the end of January, the battalion suffered further heavy losses in the defensive fighting that followed throughout February. 

The severe casualties suffered by all three battalions of 24th Infantry (Guards) Brigade resulted in it being replaced in 1st Infantry Division by 18th Infantry Brigade. The battalion was withdrawn from the line on 25th February 1944 but remained at Anzio until 7th March when it was transported to Naples.

The battalion was severely understrength and there were virtually no Irish Guards reinforcements available in Italy or North Africa. This resulted in the decision to return the battalion to the UK. It was replaced in 24th Infantry (Guards) Brigade by 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards from 201st Infantry (Guards) Brigade with 1st Battalion Irish Guards going in the opposite direction.

The battalion left Italy on 11th April 1944 with 201st Infantry (Guards) Brigade, arriving back in Liverpool on 22nd April 1944. The battalion served in a training role for the rest of the war, providing reinforcements for the two Irish Guards battalions in the Guards Armoured Division fighting in northwest Europe.

Commanding Officers

The following were the Commanding Officers of 1st Battalion Irish Guards during its service in Italy from December 1943 to April 1944.

25 February 1943 - 09 April 1944Lieutenant-Colonel C.A. Montagu-Douglas-Scott DSOLeft the battalion when it returned to the UK. He took command of 28th Infantry Brigade in 4th Infantry Division. Awarded a Bar to his DSO for service at Anzio.


Of the 64 officers that can be identified as serving with 1st Battalion Irish Guards from December 1943 to April 1944, 6 were killed in action, 13 were wounded, 0 died of wounds and 12 were taken prisoner of war.

These figures have been largely compiled from WE return forms with additional information from the war diaries, WO 417 casualty lists and available published sources.

For details of the officers see The War in Italy 1943 - 1945 - 1st Battalion Irish Guards - Officers.

*Note that of the 64 officers, eight joined after the battalion had returned from Anzio. Most of these were officers from 1 IRTD who had served with the battalion previously and were returning home to the UK with it.


When the battalion arrived in Italy in December 1943, it was organised as a standard British infantry battalion per WE II/233/2.  Its rifle companies were named No. 1, No.2, No.3 and No.4.

Due to heavy casualties at the end of January and early February at Anzio, the battalion reorganised on a three-company basis on 5th February 1944 (Nos. 1, 2 and No. 4). Further losses necessitated another re-structured on 15th February 1944 to two rifle companies (No. 2 and No. 3). At some point after being pulled out of the line on 25th February 1944, the battalion formed just one company (No. 2) before the transfer from Anzio to Naples. At the same time as these reorganisations the battalion also kept a reserve company to manage reinforcements.

As part of the reorganisation of the Guards units in Italy, it was decided to return 201st Infantry (Guards) Brigade to the UK. Due to the lack of Irish Guards reinforcements in Italy, it was decided to replace 1st Battalion Irish Guards with 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards in 24th Infantry (Guards) Brigade and return the Irish Guards to the UK with 201st Infantry (Guards) Brigade.


The following table is based on the WE returns in the war diaries.  The standard infantry battalion war establishment at this time (WE II/233/2) for an Irish Guards battalion comprised 36 officers and 817 NCOs and ORs, for a total of 853 personnel. The WE included the Regimental Medical Officer and attached personnel such as cooks and mechanics and these are included in the figures below. Personnel not part of the WE (i.e. the attached chaplain and his driver) have not been included.

DateOfficersORsOfficer +/-OR +/-

Awards and Decorations

The following were the number of decorations awarded to 1st Battalion Irish Guards during its service in Italy from December 1943 to April 1944 . This is based on the citations available in the National Archives and potentially the numbers could be higher..

AwardNumber Awarded
Bar to Distinguished Service Order1
Distinguished Conduct Medal5
Distinguished Service Order1
Military Cross7
Military Medal12
Second Bar to Military Cross1
NumberNameAwardLG DateDate of Action
2718510Gdsmn. R.J. AdamsonDistinguished Conduct Medal15 Jun 4421/22 Feb 44
2740564LSjt. G. BanksMilitary Medal21 Dec 4429/30 Jan 44
156081Lt. A, BellMilitary Cross21 Dec 44Periodic
2721887Gdsmn. J. BranthwaiteMilitary Medal15 Jun 4421/22 Feb 44
101405C.F. 4th Class D.R. BrookesMilitary Cross21 Dec 44Periodic
99560T/Capt. S.H. CombeMilitary Cross24 Aug 4403/04 Feb 44
2722217Gdsmn. A.H. CrossMilitary Medal15 Jun 4427 Feb 44
2721127LCpl. A. DoddsMilitary Medal24 Aug 4403/04 Feb 44
2718336WS/Sjt. J. DunneDistinguished Conduct Medal15 Jun 4428 - 30 Jan 44
2720247LCpl. J. FanyMilitary Medal24 Aug 4403/04 Feb 44
7309T/Maj. G.P.M. FitzgeraldMilitary Cross15 Jun 44Jan/Feb 44
63088Capt. D.M.L. Gordon-WatsonSecond Bar to Military Cross15 Jun 4403/04 Feb 44
2717328Sjt. C. GundelDistinguished Conduct Medal15 Jun 4421 - 25 Feb 44
186929Lt. T.C. KeigwinMilitary Cross15 Jun 4403/04 Feb 44
94576T/Captain D.M. KennedyMilitary Cross15 Jun 44Jan/Feb 44
2718419Sjt. R. McConnellMilitary Medal15 Jun 4403/04 Feb 44
31921T/Lt.-Col. C.A. Montagu-Douglas-ScottBar to Distinguished Service Order21 Dec 44Periodic
2718746Gdsmn. W.W. MontgomeryDistinguished Conduct Medal15 Jun 4429/30 Jan 44
2718472Sjt. M. MoranMilitary Medal15 Jun 4429/30 Jan 44
2718497Gdsmn. M. MoriartyDistinguished Conduct Medal15 Jun 4429/30 Jan 44
2722392Cpl. R.H. MurphyMilitary Medal15 Jun 4421 - 23 Feb 44
2718785Gdsmn. M.T. O'BrienMilitary Medal15 Jun 4429/30 Jan 44
106849WS/Capt. D.F. O'NeillMilitary Cross21 Dec 44Periodic
2718210Gdsmn. J. RyanMilitary Medal15 Jun 4421 - 25 Feb 44
3312196Gdsmn. H. TaylorMilitary Medal15 Jun 4429/30 Jan 44
2718341LSjt. C. WeirMilitary Medal15 Jun 4403/04 Feb 44
67098T/Maj. L.S. YoungDistinguished Service Order15 Jun 4426 - 30 Jan 44

The individual citations for the awards can be read here - 1st Battalion Irish Guards - Award Citations - The War in Italy 1943 - 1945.

National Archives Files

The following are the files in the UK National Archives that cover the service of 1st Battalion Irish Guards during its service in Italy from December 1943 to April 1944.

TNA File NameDescriptionDates
WO 166/150681 Irish Guards1944 April - July
WO 169/101681 Irish Guards 1943 July - December
WO 170/13541 Irish Guards 1944 January - March

The following are the currently transcribed war diaries.

War DiaryTNA File Name
1st Battalion Irish Guards War Diary December 1943WO 169/10168
1st Battalion Irish Guards War Diary January 1944WO 170/1354
1st Battalion Irish Guards War Diary February 1944WO 170/1354
1st Battalion Irish Guards War Diary March 1944WO 170/1354
1st Battalion Irish Guards War Diary April 1944WO 166/15068


The following published literature includes coverage of 1st Battalion Irish Guards during its service in Italy from December 1943 to April 1944.

Fitzgerald, D.J.L. History of the Irish Guards in the Second World War. Aldershot: Gale & Polden Ltd., 1949. 615 pp.