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2nd Battalion Scots Guards – War Diary December 1943

1st December 1943

An excellent smoking concert was given in the Sergeants' Mess.

2nd December 1943

The object of the various preparations which had been going on was now made clear. The Mount Camino feature had to be captured in order to clear the way to the plain beyond; and we were to go up the hill again, though this time as part of an attack in which two corps were involved, and not merely one brigade. 

The battalion left Zuni with regret and went by MT along the well-known road to Conca. From there we marched by night to an assembly area just short of San Clemente and slept in the open. This march was the first time the battalion had practical experience of rucksacks. They contained three days' rations, a blanket, ammunition, gas cape, spare clothes etc and were a vast improvement on the normal web equipment. During the night 167 Brigade were attacking Calabritto and climbing Barearse slope to capture Point 819. At the same time 169 Brigade were attacking Razorback and the monastery from the east, while the Americans attacked Monte Difensa and Monte Remetanea. As the battalion marched to its concentration area, it had an excellent view of the enormous artillery concentration on the objectives. This was made more spectacular by a couple of Bofors Guns which joined in the fun and fired their tracer shells at Barearse. The effect of the concentrated Corps artillery was great, and many Germans were so shaken that they surrendered the next morning rather than face another bombardment. The plan of attack also included an advance by 46 Division between the River Garigliano and the western edge of the hills.

3rd December 1943

In the morning it began to rain, and continued on and off all day and the next night. The Grenadiers had been quartered in billets in Cici nearby, and when they moved up the hill at 0300 hrs the next morning the battalion moved into their billets to get dry.

4th December 1943

The Commanding officer and the Intelligence officer set out up the hill at 0500 hrs to Brigade Tac HQ which was with the Grenadiers who had concentrated to the left of the Mule Track under Barearse Cliff. The Coldstream had gone up the previous day, and this morning had captured their objective, which was the ridge formed by Points 683 and 615 running north and south and to the west of Barearse. They were, however, under mortar and small arms fire from their flanks, and as it was not possible to make a reconnaissance of our next objectives which lay beyond them the Commanding Officer returned, and the battalion remained in Cici during another wet day.

A shell fell directly on Brigade HQ, killing the signals Officer and the Grenadiers Liaison Officer, and wounding the Intelligence Officer, the Assistant Signals Officer, and the Scots Guards Liaison Officer. The Brigadier suffered from shock, and Lieutenant-Colonel Kingsmill took command of the Brigade.

5th December 1943

In the afternoon the Commanding Officer and his order group went up the hill and spent the first part of the night with the Grenadiers. There was still some shelling of the San Clemente - Mieli road and the Mule Track, and the monastery had defied all attempts to capture it. The battalion left Cici at midnight and marched up the hill via the Mule Track. Then they went to the left of Point 819 and across Bare Arse. It was broad daylight before the battalion were across the hill, and their progress was hurried by mortar fire while they were on the open slope.

G Company moving through San Clemente on 5th December 1943.

6th December 1943

A rather weary battalion break fasted behind the Coldstream ridge. This was a most unpleasant place because not only were we subjected to intermittent mortar fire, but were also continuously sniped from Formelli, which had been cleared but not occupied, and to which the enemy had returned. From the top of the Coldstream ridge could be seen our objective – Acquapendola. The last of the ridges running north and south before the comparatively flat ground leading to the River Garigliano. The maps of this district were so inaccurate that no proper appreciation of the ground could be made until it was actually seen. while making his reconnaissance Captain Malone was killed by a mortar bomb and Captain Stainton took command of the company. Major Pike was wounded in the hand, but continued to command his company. The same shell which killed Captain Malone also wounded Lieutenant Mackenzie, it seemed not seriously, but he died some days later of a fractured skull.

The attack was to be made over the top of the Coldstream ridge. The Grenadiers on the right were to take the northern part of the Acquapendola ridge and an isolated feature - Point 470. We were to capture the southern part of the ridge and the saddle between it and the northern part. The objective was about 1000 yards from the start line on the top of the Coldstream ridge, and it was necessary to descend through very thick scrub, cross a comparatively flat stretch of holding clay known as "The Lawn", and then climb the steep side of the Acquapendola ridge. The artillery fired for thirty minutes on the intervening country, and then for ninety minutes of mixed smoke and HE on the final objectives. There were a few casualties from shelling during the advance including Lieutenant Duberley who was severely wounded and died soon afterwards. Fortunately, the objective was not held by the enemy - at least not when we arrived on it. The position was taken without further loss save that of sweat, and was consolidated with G Company forward on the right, Right Flank on the left, and F Company on high ground on the left flank. The Grenadiers also captured their objectives but they found that the ground between them and Rocca D' Evandro to the north was strongly held and precipitous,

The Durham Light Infantry had in the meantime gone up the hill and captured the low ridge running south-west downwards from the Coldstream positions and entered Cocuruzzo.

7th December 1943

The next morning all was quiet. From Acquapendola the enemy could be seen withdrawing transport along the river road. Lieutenant Buckle grew tired of waiting for mortar targets, walked down the hill and brought back a German whom he found asleep. The Intelligence Officer winged one of a retreating section of Germans from the comfortable distance of 1200 yards. Fired by these martial exploits the Adjutant and Drill Sergeant Lunn went out to see what they could find, but came back empty handed. The monastery peak was surrounded and finally surrendered after a very gallant defence by about a platoon of Germans. At night Lieutenant Buckle took a platoon out to cut the military road which ran along the base of the hill 1000 feet below.

Scots Guards casualty being brought down from Monte Camino, 7th December 1943.

8th December 1943

In order to cut off any remaining enemy who might be retreating northwards between the hills and the river F Company were ordered down the hill - some 1500 feet - to attack San Nicola and capture the junction of the river road and the military road which ran along the base of the hill. Contact had been made with the Lincolns who had relieved the Durham Light Infantry in Cocuruzzo, and they had been ordered to do the same thing. The Lincolns proceeded along the military road, and after some fighting got their objective during the night. F Company met stiff opposition from enemy in houses, and were closely engaged at nightfall.

The Commanding officer then took Right Flank down to help, with orders to push on through the Lincolns, and dominate the road leading out of Rocca D' Evandro. The move was made at night; F Company withdrawn and replenished; and Right Flank sent on through the Lincolns to a position at the northern foot of the Acquapendola ridge. The Grenadiers were unable to make any progress down the ridge towards Rocca.

9th December 1943

In the morning F Company resumed its advance in thick mist. This mist continued during practically the whole of this day and the next, making location difficult in the valley and observation impossible from the top of the hill. But communication through 38 sets never failed. F Company however went on through Right Flank to cut the road leading down from Rocca. Isolated parties of Germans still remained, but made off in the mist helped by the very close nature of the country. The opposition in front of the Grenadiers, finding itself cut off, melted away and the Grenadiers proceeded to occupy Rocca, the enemy's supply base for the whole of the Camino feature. As the Americans were more or less in control of Monte Maggiore to the north east the second battle of Monte Camino was now won. Lieutenant Buckle took out a patrol to where the Rocca road crosses the River Peccia, a tributary of the River Garigliano running north-eastwards across our front. Our own casualties in the operation amounted to no more than fifteen.

10th December 1943

When the mist lifted, comapnies were re-sited slightly and Battalion HQ moved to just below Rocca. G Company, who had remained on top of the hill throughout, first occupied the Grenadiers' position on the top of the Acquapendola ridge, and then moved further along the ridge to the northern end of it. It. Sir David Moncreiffe took out a standing patrol to the same area as that patrolled last night.

11th December 1943

There was intermittent shelling and mortaring all day, but no casualties. Odd prisoners were picked up by both forward companies. Company Sergeant Major Lumsden of F Company went out on patrol and slipped, injuring his back. At night the battalion was relieved by the Lincolns, and marched round the base of the hill via Cocuruzzo and Calabritto to Galuccio whence TCVs took us back to Terra Corpo and Grottola, where we had gone last time we had come back from Monte Camino. It was a weary march; partly in the rain, but we went happy in the knowledge that we had done all that we had been told to do, and had accomplished, or rather helped to accomplish, what three weeks before we had been unable to do.

12th December 1943

The battalion did not reach billets until 0600 hrs, and most of the day was spent resting. Lieutenant-Colonel F.H.H.B. Harris took over command of the battalion.

13th December 1943

Reconnaissance was made of a new area in Mondragone, on the sea at the end of Massico ridge.

Monte Camino terraces. On the right is the mule track which goes down to Mieli but it was not so pronounced during the battle. On the left is G Company's temporary cemetery. Today the area is far less open and wooded.
The Scots Guards 1919 - 1945. D. Erskine.

14th December 1943

The Brigade moved to its new quarters, in a town which was overcrowded, ruinous and fly infested.

15th December 1943

A large draft of officers arrived at the battalion For the new Order of Battle see Appendix A. A preliminary reconnaissance was made of the new area in which we were to operate. This was on the north side of the Massico ridge, between it and the lower reaches of the Garigliano where it turns westward for the sea. The country, especially near the river, was flatt and marshy, with the Germans mainly on the far side of the river, but established on this side at certain points. The main role was to be patrol work.

16th December 1943

A Church Parade was held. Company commands reccied their new areas. Some officers found some excellent snipe shooting on the marshes nearby. A cinema show was provided.

17th December 1943

The Brigade moved to its new positions. The Grenadiers were forward on the right, and the Coldstream on the left, while we were in reserve along the Northern foot of the Massico ridge.

18th December 1943

Company training was resumed.

19th December 1943

Lieutenant A. Brown and Captain Cambridge proceeded on a week's leave. Companies continued training. Grenadier and Coldstream patrols had nothing to report.

20th December 1943

Company training. Rained in the morning for the first time since moving into new area. Grenadier Guards and Coldstream Guards patrols - nothing to report.

21st December 1943

Commanding officer told that the battalion would be moving forward to take over the left half of the Coldstream battalion front, the area was reccied in the afternoon by Commanding Officer, Intelligence Officer and Signals officer. Company training.

22nd December 1943

Rained all day. Company commanders made recce of new areas and at last light the battalion moved forward to take over from Coldstream Guards. A standing patrol of five ORs under Lieutenant E. Crutchley was sent by F Company for 24 hours to the area of Pontafiume. This was extremely successful and obtained all the information required and confirmed that Pontafiume was not held by the enemy.

23rd December 1943

Rained intermittently during the day. Companies all in billets except G Company which is in bivouacs in the sand dunes. The country side is almost completely submerged by floods and supplies to G Company have to be manhandled. Lieutenant I. Mcc. Tait took out a fighting patrol of eighteen ORs to relieve Lieutenant Crutchley with the object of holding Pontafiume. Commanding Officer attended a conference at Division HQ.

24th December 1943

The peace of Battalion HQ was rudely disturbed during the morning by a young Italian rushing in shouting “Facisti, Facisti!” and after much gesticulating we gathered that an enemy Facist was in his house. At once everybody at Battalion HQ sprang to life and gathered up arms preparatory to the chase. As the 'Hounds' approached the house in question a man ran out of the front door. Immediately everyone gave chase, one overzealous guardsman let fly with his Tommy Gun, but failed to make contact. The man was soon caught and it turned out that he was a much sought for Italian Spy who had previously escaped from captivity.

Lieutenant D. Deane relieved Lieutenant I. Tait's patrol at Pontafiume. Nothing to report.

25th December 1943

Christmas Festivities have been postponed to a more suitable day. Very little enemy activity during the past few days apart from occasional shelling and mortaring of fud positions. Lieutenant Torrence relieved Lieutenant Deane's patrol at Pontafiume. Nothing to report.

26th December 1943

Lieutenant M. Sharpe relieved Lieutenant Torrence's patrol. A recce patrol under Lieutenant G. Winter made a reconnaissance of the river bank for mines and to find out if the enemy were our side of the river. The information was that the enemy were in the area of the bridge.

27th December 1943

Lieutenant Sir David Moncreiffe and Lieutenant J.V. Rowe took out the relieving patrol from Right Flank. About 2350 hrs the Right Flank patrol at Pontafiume was attacked by a superior German patrol and after the two officers had been wounded were compelled to withdraw to G Company position, leaving behind the FOO and five ORs one of whom turned up on December 30th, having spent three days in the area.

The Commanding Officer was ordered to restore the position at Pontafiume, so he sent out a platoon from G Company under Lieutenant Tait to retake Pontafiume. About 0200 hrs Lieutenant Tait's platoon moved forward and soon made contact with the enemy. In the ensuing attack they failed to drive out the Germans and withdrew leaving Lieutenant Tait and four ORs either missing or prisoner and one man killed. The Battery Commander, Major Irvine, was also wounded when going forward to see what the position was. The enemy mortared the Pontafiume area all through the day and no further attempt was made to retake it.

28th December 1943

Position remained unchanged.

29th-30th December 1943

About 0600 hrs two deserters handed themselves over to Right Flank forward platoon. One of them volunteered information concerning the enemy dispositions on the whole of our own and the Coldstream front - a very opportune arrival. At last light Right Flank and F Company moved forward from their Company areas to their assembly positions 1000 yards south of Pontafiume prior to the night's attack. The plan was for F Company having taken Pontafiume to move west along the river bank and hold it prior to moving across the river to form a bridgehead through which No. 9 Commando could withdraw. Right Flank was to be kept as a reserve with one platoon guarding F Company's left flank. At 2200 hours the stonk came down on Pontafiume and by 2300 hrs F Company and the Right Flank platoon were in position on the bank. Almost immediately the Germans began to mortar them and continued to do so all through the night at irregular intervals inflicting a number of casualties, none of which were fatal. The party of Commandos who should have made contact with F Company failed to land, otherwise the position would not have remained so unpleasant. F Company were unable to fire back not knowing where the Commandos were on the far side. It was not until about 0430 hrs that the first Commando party showed their recognition signals on the far bank and F Company sent their boats across, most of which were unserviceable owing to splinters from mortars having punctured them. The Commandos informed the battalion that they would form their own bridgehead and they began to ferry their men back across the mouth of the Garigliano in DUWKS.

0530 Permission was given by Brigade to withdraw the forward company.

0630 Everyone, including the Commandos, withdrawn from forward area. Enemy mortared forward areas during the day.

1030 Dive Bombers attacked positions they thought were held in front of a Queen's company who had relieved Right Flank and no damage was caused. G Company sent out small standing patrol to watch the area of the river bank.

31st December 1943

No further activity. A party of F Company found the body of one man of the G Company platoon outside Pontafiume. At last light the battalion was relieved by the 2/7 Queen's and in a torrential rainstorm made their way by transport to Mondragone.

The National Archives (TNA) WO 169/10170 2 Scots Guards