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2nd Battalion Scots Guards – War Diary February 1944

1st February 1944

The enemy shelled the village a certain amount but the Company areas were not paid much attention. The main square opens to the west so that anyone foolish enough to walk about there is very apt to provoke hostile action; most people realise this but there is one rather lonely donkey which sometimes wanders there and was several times the cause of shell fire. It has learnt to run to the houses for shelter when it hears shells coming but unfortunately not to avoid the square altogether.

Archie Elliott and Alistair Erskine each took out a patrol. Alistair killed two Germans in a house.

2nd February 1944

The OPs have been very busy ever since our move up. Their position is an extremely unpleasant one, particularly that of the Intelligence Section, which is on the top floor of a three-storey building and a very obvious target. Both the gunners and our ouwn mortar platoon have been regularly engaging opportunity targets.

3rd February 1944

The enemy have been using a weapon which cannot be accurately identified. It appears to be a rocket propelled bomb weighing about 250 lbs. When fired the cource of origin gves out a bright flash, the bomb makes very nasty noise and can be seen in flight; it makes a large crater but is apparently inaccurate, and has done no harm to us yet. In the early hours of this morning one landed just forward of the village, failing to explode. It will be dug up by some experts, after a discrete period has elapsed.

Eddie Crutchley took out a patrol of six men to form an ambush at a carefully chosen point on a track. They successfully intercepted a party of ten Germans, killing two and seriously wounding a third, who escaped but could be heard screaming for several hours afterwards. There were no identifications on the bodies, who were apparently also on patrol. Eddie and his men got back unscathed.

4th February 1944

The enemy shelled the battalion area intermittently all day. They used 88mm guns from quite a short range, also firing solid shot at the houses now in use as observation posts. In return our gunners and the mortar platoon engaged numerous targets on observation and shelling reports.

1600 F Company sent out a patrol with Hugo Charteris to a point slightly short of the scne of last night’s battle. The patrol first found some holes cut into the ground to take S-mines, and were then seen by two men who fired at them and ran. They had come on a mine laying party with a half-tracked vehicle, which immediately started up and departed with undignified haste, but they also had a formidable covering party armed with four Spandaus and a Bren. These all opened fire in the general direction of the patrol, but apparently without being able to see them; the patrol returned individually, with the exception of one man.

5th February 1944

The day was uneventful except for the customary two-way shell and mortar fire.

1500 The 2 i/c of the Grenadiers, and the company commanders, came up to make arrangements to take over after dark.

2000 The take-over was done in bright moonlight and unhindered by the enemy. The last company left the area at 2200 hrs. No.1 Company of the Grenadiers took over from Right Flank, No. 2 from G Company and No. 3 from F Company.

0030 The battalion marched down to the Appian Way where the column of TCVs were waiting, and drove to Noceletto.

6th February 1944 - Noceletto 

The day was spent in rest and ablution.

7th February 1944

Nothing to report.

8h February 1944

The move back to the line was expected on the night of Feb 9/10. This was postponed for 24 hours. As William Brown is going to a job in 56 Division Dicky Buckle has been made Intelligence Officer.

9h February 1944

Nothing to report.

10th February 1944

1700 The battalion left in RASC transport for a destination known to be in the Trimonsuoli area, but that was all. The weather changed during the afternoon to heavy rain, accompanied by an exceedingly cold wind. B Echelon stayed back at San Andrea.

As 56 Division are going to the Anzio bridgehead the whole of the front is being thinned out. All three battalions of our Brigade are remaining in the line; so instead of relieving the Grenadiers at Trimonsuoli we relieve 9 KOYLI on Monte Natale (3 Coldstream Guards being on the hill between). Heavy rain sets in and makes the take-over depressing. The KOYLI prepared their positions for fine weather (which they enjoyed throughout) and the platoons have no cover, and their trenches are rapidly filling with water. Even Battalion HQ dug-out does not keep out the rain. Left Flank placed as usual on the right, Right Flank centre, G Company on the left, F Company in reserve near Battalion HQ. The Commanding Officer decided to move Battalion HQ down to a house on the road. Take-over finished by 2130.

11th February 1944

As some platoons have exposed positions on forward slopes, difficulties arise about feeding them. Some food is cooked below and brought up in jeeps to the old Battalion HQ, thence by hand. Rain continues. Companies arrange to keep sentries in the forward positions in daytime and retire at first light to reverse slopes where they can construct shelter and rest. Fires are made in two houses on the main road below, to which parties are sent in relays to dry themselves and shave. A gang of prisoners awaiting court-martial are being used to improve roads and carry stores. The weather clears up towards evening. Mortaring on companies during the night. Sacha Carnegie (Left Flank) wounded.

12th February 1944

Commanding Officer saw company commanders at 1330. Frank Waldron took out a recce patrol to Salacciano, a small village across the valley, to our left flank. He found no enenmy and was back by 2100.

13th February 1944

Everyone is depressed by rumours of losses in 1 Scots Guards. Frank Waldron and David Tylden-Wright took an ambush party to Salacciano but tonight the enemy were there before them. A stonk was put down on the village by guns and 4.2-inch mortars.

14th February 1944

1 Yorks and Lancs took over from us. The battalion are to rest for four days. The Commanding Officer, Adjutant and company commanders and George Ramsey returned to B Echelon and were replaced by Patrick Fothringham, Frank Waldron, the company 2 i/c’s and Colin Dalrymple. Left Flank and F Company have rest billets in Minturno. Right Flank and G Company in houses near the railway. Battalion HQ moves to a house on the road near Brigade.

15-16th February - Minturno

Commanding Officer sees company commanders at 1330 and they recce the battalion counter-attack role, for which it is held in readiness during its rest. Sergeant Forsyth and two Guardsmen are killed while mending line, by a shell on the main road. Sergeant Forsyth had been the Signal Sergeant since Souk Ahras, and was universally liked and respected. Our brief rest was interrupted by an order to move back to Sorbello, across the river. It is obviously desirable to be out of shell range while resting, but the second move ruins our rest. The battalion left in TCVs at 1930 and owing to traffic confusion and the darkness, the move was not completed till two in the morning, although Sorbello was only ½ an hour’s drive away.

17th February - Sorbello 

Sorbello is a cleaner village than most and has an unusual number of empty rooms. A fine day. Baths and a cinema – both mobile.

Tufo 18th February

The battalion returned to the line and took over positions on hill 156, east of Tufo, from 2 Northants. The hill is covered in olives, ilex etc and is far preferable to Natale. All positions can be approached in daylight and cooking can be done in comfort. The policy on this sector is total defence so there is a quantity of wire about and far too many mines. Battalion HQ in one room cottage, fortified with sandbags, near the main road.

19h February

The Brigadier, paying his usual early morning visit, finds Battalion HQ, as usual, in bed. The four company commanders returned from B Echelon to take over from their 2 i/cs, who went back to LOB.

20-21st February - Tufo 

The CO returned from B Echelon and relieved Patrick Fothringham. Lance Corporal Bryson took a recce patrol at last light, to investigate crossing of the Reali brook which crosses our front and joins the Ausente on the right. He reported that it was narrow enough to cross anywhere; and gave information about the ground in front of us. Three men in G company were killed by a shell and two wounded during the night. The fighting posts are sent out nightly by the battalion; one in the area of a farm called Corpo, between Left Flank and the Ausente; the other at the bottom of the re-entrant which divides us from the Coldstream. Their task is to engage any German patrols who approach – a protective role. Gerald Winter took a fighting patrol out along the track from Point 156 down to the Reali valley but turned back as he suspected a minefield across the track and heard Germans on the pimple position.

22nd February

The Intelligence Officer and Gerald Winter went forward to make certain in daylight of a good route for future patrols. They visited San Vito farm in the valley and were given eggs by an aged Italian; then crossed the Reali and searched houses and ground on the forward slopes of the pimple for Germans. They found a line of wire and anti-personnel mines across the top of the pimple and went no further as they had no wire-cutters or arms. They saw no Germans. As the mines were of a type unknown to him the Intelligence Officer detached one from the trip wire and brought it back to Brigade HQ, where it was received with hysteria by the Brigade Major. (It was an improvised concrete post mine). Meanwhile at 1030 shells fell around Battalion HQ, seriously wounding the CO and less badly the MO, Drill Sergeant Parkes and Lance Corporal Ross; all of whom were evacuated. Major P. Steuart-Fothringham thus resumed command of the battalion. Dr. Fairbairn came from Field Ambulance as MO. Digby Raeburn again became 2 i/c and Jock Blackett-Ord took command of Right Flank.

23rd February

Brigade ordered us to prepare alternative positions and to elaborate wiring and mine defences: they also pronounced that the patrolling policy should be ambushes and fighting posts at night (nights being too dark for much movement) and specially selected recce and nabbing patrols by day. We are ordered to do nothing that might incur casualties and to reserve our strength for future more important tasks. The line is quite static.

24th February

The Intelligence Officer took the Brigade interpreter down to San Vito farm to question the old peasant who lives there but he was too old and stupid to give any information. The same negative results were obtained from an 84-year-old woman and her deaf-and-dumb daughter who were found at another farm nearby. The Intelligence Officer and a Sergeant went on to the foot of the Bulgarini hill but could see no Germans there or on the pimple. An ambush under John Nicholson, at a track junction near San Vito, saw dogs which they suspected of being used to give the alarm but waited all night in vain for Germans.

25th February

Battalion HQ moved to a group of buildings higher up the hill, nearer the companies. Rain. Several stonks round Battalion HQ, G company and Right Flank – the first for some time. During the afternoon, Eddie Crutchley took a recce patrol across Reali and a little way up the Ausente valley and reported rough wooden bridges over both Reali and Ausente, within 400 yards of each other. The Adjutant returned from a bout of impetigo to take over from Frank Waldron and order was restored. George Ramsey replaced Colin Dalrymple.

26h February

A party with a sapper went to lay mines on the Reali bridge but laid them on the Ausente plank in error.

27th February

Alistair Gordon took an ambush to the snout of our spur, facing the pimple, and reported Germans coughing and talking across the Reali but no-one came their way. Another party with a sapper had to go out and lay mines on the Reali bridge. Both of these mines on the bridges were timed to go off in three days if no-one had set them off before.

28th February

No patrols.

29th February

We heard that Colonel Boy Harris had died in hospital. Lance Corporal Bryson DCM has also died from a head wound received on 25th. He got his DCM in Norway and has always been a great character in the battalion – very brave and full of initiative. Another all-night ambush at the track junction at San Vito. A party searched the front of our spur for enemy listening in to our telephone lines as the Coldstream captured a party yesterday doing that. A minefield in the re-entrant between G Company and Left Flank was completed by sappers. A wet night.

The National Archives (TNA) WO 170/1353 2 Scots Guards