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2nd Battalion Scots Guards – War Diary October 1943

1st October 1943

The battalion moved from Salerno with regret, to an area between Fisciano and San Severino. Here were vineyards, fruit, nuts and even a few eggs. A violent thunderstorm in the night caught most people unprepared.

2nd October 1943

Captain Lampson went as ADC to General Clarke, becoming the second officer at Army HQ to have a servant. B Echelon arrived to the battalion area.

3rd October 1943

A quiet day, mainly occupied in sightseeing. Many went to Amalfi and Ravello; while the Commanding Officer and Lieutenant Brown, accompanied rather to his own surprise by Major Wilburne, climbed the local mountain. Reorganisation was completed, and the battalion was a unity again. In the evening the battalion received orders to move to Acerra.

4th October 1943

The Brigade set out, but as it was discovered at the last moment that there was still fighting in Acerra, we were diverted to Cimitile, much to the discomfiture of the rear parties who had to find their way over devious and much demolished roads.

5th October 1943

An idle day - except for those who climbed Vesuvius.

6th October 1943

Another quiet day, the peace being marred by an evening order to move.

7th October 1943

Moved to San Prisco, east of Capua. Left Flank and F Company were on the line of the Volturno, some distance from it, with the American 30th Division on on our right and the Grenadiers on the left. On the opposite bank were the Hermann Goering Panzer Grenadiers. Preliminary patrolling showed that the Germans came across our side of the river at night.

One Other Rank killed:-

2698639 Guardsman Clark A.

8th October 1943

A series of night patrols, including a particularly good one by Lieutenant Bland, yielded information on the depth of the river (3 foot to 4 foot 6 inches) and the nature of the banks on our front. The Germans were also active on our side of the river, and in the course of a patrol Captain Gordon was killed. Three men were killed and two injured in F Company by shelling during the night.

Other Ranks killed:-

2692441 Lance Serjeant Harrison A.

2700831 Lance Corporal Gillespie A.

2700233 Guardsman Britton T.

9th October 1943

A particularly wet day and night were followed by further shell and mortar fire. One Guardsman, No. 2701023 Guardsman McGrath J., was killed in Left Flank.

10th October 1943

Lieutenant Thomson was killed by shell fire within an hour of joining Left Flank, and there was one other casualty from shell fire No. 2697062 Lance Corporal Armstrong A. In the evening the American left boundary was extended in our direction in order to give room for their bridging operations. Our two forward companies were therefore withdrawn leaving us responsible for only a small sector of the river. Captain Pike took Captain Gordon's place as 2 i/c Left Flank.

11th October 1943

Lieutenant Bowen-Colthurst took out a patrol across the river in the sector remaining to us, and found no opposition. Left Flank, who had moved back into San Prisco, had two shells on their billets, and Colour Serjeant Major Hope and three Guardsmen had slight shrapnel wounds. Enemy shelling had increased, and at Battalion HQ when the guard was being mounted the Guard Commander's orders could scarcely be heard because of our own guns 50 yards away and the enemy's replies thereto.

12th October 1943

An attack was mode by night all along the river line. On our immediate left beyond Capua 137 Brigade failed to get across; 46 Division succeeded nearer the sea, and the Americans crossed on our right. The efforts of 56th Division were entirely diversionary. G Company made a short excursion across the river and returned according to plan, having two men wounded by mortar fire. The carriers made noises off, while the Grenadiers built dummy boats.

13th October 1943

A quiet day.

14th October 1943

The Americans extended their bridgehead across the river on our right, Left Flank carried out clearing sweep across the river on our front. No enemy were found, but the wireless carrier was blown up by a mine on our side of the river, and on the other bank a corporal (No. 2698604 Lance Corporal Coulton G.) was killed and Lieutenant Reytiens and two Guardsmen injured. Captain Pike was blown up, but returned to earth unhurt. During the night the battalion was warned to move.

One Other Rank killed:-

2697435 Guardsman McGilvray A.

15th October 1943

The battalion moved across the Volturno by a bridge built by the Americans on our right. There was some shelling of the crossing, and we were lucky to escape with two casualties. The Brigade's role was to capture and occupy the Gervsalemme ridge running northwards and act as a flank guard to the division. The Americans were pressing up the valleys to our east.

Other Ranks killed were:-

2697013 Guardsman Fowler T.

2700617 Guardsman Flynn. J.

16th October 1943

Remained in position while the Coldstream and the Grenadiers reconsolidated more of the ridge to the north of us, including Monte Grande.

17th October 1943

In the afternoon we left the ridge at very short notice, marched up the valley on the east side, and up the ridge again between the Coldstreams and the Grenadiers, to occupy another ridge running westwards north of Bellona and Vitualazio. After a stiff climb the battalion crossed the col in a rainstorm and proceeded to occupy the ridge. There was no opposition on the ridge itself, but some Spandau pre from the right on forward slopes not cleared by the Grenadiers. There was also mortar fire, especially on Right Flank who were forward company and had one casualty. F Company, going along the bottom of the ridge through Bellona and Vitualazio had trouble with Spandau post, and lost two men. The battalion objective, a ridge one and a quarter miles long and 500 foot high and two large villages, was consolidated by last light.

Other Ranks killed were:-

2693629 Serjeant McCracken J.

2697956 Lance Corporal Kelly J.

2700429 Guardsman McDonald H.

2698464 Guardsman Woodward J.

2697272 Guardsman Hardie. G.

2698224 Guardsman Reed W.

2697499 Guardsman Kaulback K.

2696384 Guardsman Anderson N.

2698331 Guardsman Fairbairn P.

18th October 1943

These two villages had been rendered impassable by the demolition of houses across the roads, and the surrounding lanes were mined. These two villages had been rendered impassable by the demolition of houses across the roads, and the surrounding lanes were mined. Right Flank lost a jeep on a teller mine. Lieutenant Bland was wounded on a patrol beyond Vitualazio, and the carriers, under Lieutenant Brooking-Clark, did good work clearing mines in the line of advance. Bulldozers and reconnaissance between them produced a route, and in the evening the battalion had to attack again. The Coldstream had captured another ridge to the north of us, and after a night approach march of some five miles and a very steep climb the battalion formed up across the crest of the ridge above San Secundino to attack at first light.

19th October 1943

We were given an excellent artillery barrage which in fact turned out to have been unnecessary, for the long ridge was unoccupied, and the only casualty, was Lieutenant Mundy, who fell over and shot his own hand with a German machine pistol he was carrying. As there was no opposition, the Commanding Officer anticipated orders from the Brigade and went on to occupy the whole of the ridge, though It meant stretching the battalion to an alarming extent. Twelve enemy were driven off the far Iimit of our objective in some confusion. The sun shone and all was pleasant until enemy OPs from higher ground on the right directed their guns on us with unpleasant accuracy. The hills were absolutely bare, and digging was impossible, nor did any replenishments arrive for the forward companies. Two prisoners were picked up from the valley on our right.

20th October 1943

The companies as placed by Brigade were much too thick on the ground at the Giano end of the ridge, and after another very unpleasant day's shelling we had lost two killed and fifteen wounded. We were relieved at night by a battalion from 168 Brigade, preparatory to further mountaineering. During the day Lieutenants Brooking-Clark and Douglas took out recce patrols of dismounted carrier personnel and obtained good results from the valley beyond.

Other Rank killed:-

2699091 Lance Corporal Kelly P.

21st October 1943

The battalion marched by night, off the ridge to a valley on the west in the hope of spending a quiet day at Fontanella. It was all too short a rest for what was to follow, and even there we did not escape shelling. At 2200 hrs the battalion started to climb 2000 foot up the almost precipitous line of hills on which the Grenadiers were established. Everything had to be manhandled and the Coldstream Guards became carriers as well as several hundreds of others. Rations, water and ammo dumps were established at the top of Point 720.

22nd October 1943

Having arrived intact at the top, the battalion turned northward along the ridge behind the Grenadiers, who were to obtain an even higher feature at the end of it. If their attack was successful, the intention was that we should once again branch off westward at right angles along a further line of hills, capturing the village of Rocchetta E Croce on the way. The Grenadiers did capture their main objective (Hill 860), but to do so they had to divert a company whose business it was to take a subsidiary objective namely, Hill 520. Our plan of attack was therefore has adapted to include 520 as well as Rocchetta which should have been our first objective. The speed which was demanded made proper reconnaissance impossible, and Left Flank and G Company advanced round the shoulder of steep hill, supported by heavy artillery fire, Left Flank to take Rocchetta and G Company to take Hill 520. The enemy, hitherto unlocated, allowed both companies to get round on an almost bare slope before opening fire from several Spandau posts on Hill 520, and below Rocchetta, which were the opposite edges of a saucer rim. Left Flank were completely pinned, and were unable to move until at dusk a smoke screen was laid down by the gunners, and they were able to retire by the way they had come. They had been under heavy automatic and mortar fire for two hours.

Major Houldsworth, the company commander, was very seriously injured, Lieutenant Cuninghame was killed and there were twenty three other casualties, including four killed. G Company had been slightly higher up the hill and managed to get into some cover, but were unable to reach Hill 520. They lost five killed and four wounded. At dusk Right Flank and F Company attacked again with heavy artillery cover, Right Flank on 520, F on the village. The enemy was by now rattled and after loosing off all his MGs on fixed lines he left his position except on 520. F Company established themselves in the village without opposition, while Right Flank attacked Hill 520 through G Company. They drove the enemy from the first half of the hill, killing four of them; Lieutenant Rowe was wounded during the attack. During the night Lieutenant Loder went out on patrol from F Company and his body was found two days later by the London Irish.

Other Ranks killed were:-

755665 Serjeant Rennie J.

3054492 Lance Corporal Miller W. (MM)

2698400 Guardsman Beveridge A.

2698027 Guardsman, Davidson A.

2698991 Guardsman Kelly M.

2657365 Guardsman Mason F.

2694154 Guardsman MacRae J.

2694423 Guardsman Smith J.

2701027 Guardsman Shanks A.

23rd October 1943

F Company drove the enemy from the remainder of Hill 520 and G Company consolidated their position, while 168 Brigade arrived at night ready to advance in the morning along the ridge. The enemy's shell fire was accurate and there was a steady drain of casualties, including Lieutenant Morphett, who was wounded. The battalion was now very tired and very short of officers and men. We had been on the tills out of reach of our transport since leaving Fontanella, and were without even a blanket for the nights. Praise must be given for the management of the supply problem. .A dump had been established on the hills above Fontanella, and the Coldstream were turned into carriers. They performed Herculean feats and every night food and water arrived over the most difficult country for the other two battalions.

24th October 1943

At 1130 hrs, 168 Brigade continued the advance along the ridge westwards beyond Rocchetta. They had no opposition.

Other Ranks killed were:-

2699446 Guardsman Farquhar R.

7340490 Guardsman McGuigan W.

2698003 Guardsman Oliver L.

The grave of Guardsman McGuigan, killed on 24th October 1943, overlooks Rocchetta.

25th October 1943

The Commanding Officer was suffering from a heavy cold and was ordered to B Echelon for a rest. Major Steuart-Fothringham took command of the battalion. The position now was that the Grenadiers held the high ground on our right, and we were extended along the ridge running westwards and looking north and north west across the plain towards Teano and the next range of hills. The winding road up to Rocchetta was cleared of mines; company transport came up, and some of the amenities of life were once more available. Lieutenant Tunnard went down the hill to explore the railway at the bottom, and found it occupied by the Germans.

26th October 1943

The battalion rested and recuperated as much as possible. Lieutenant Douglas took out a patrol, one of which was killed by shellfire, namely No. 2697764 Guardsman Henderson A.

27th October 1943

The battalion were so short of men and officers that it was necessary to reconstitute it on a three company basis. Left Flank therefore went into abeyance, but even so we were 80 men short of three companies. Lieutenant Tunnard took out a daylight patrol; joined up with some Americans who were advancing across our right front; met some Germans on the railway, killed two and wounded another; and came away with two Spandaus.

28th October 1943

The battalion were still further extended to cover the whole of the ridge while the Grenadiers and Coldstream, concentrated in the plain behind us, a front of some four miles.

29th October 1943

A quiet day. The Commanding Officer returned.

30th October 1943

The Division's next objective was now given as across the valley to the north-west, including the town of Teano and the hills round it, which would give access to the plain and cut off the Massico feature running south-west to the sea. The battalion came down off the ridge, and concentrated in the valley, behind 168 Brigade on the right and 167 on the left, who were to begin the attack.

31st October 1943

The battalion spent a quiet day, while the attack proceeded. Teano was encircled and proved to be unoccupied.

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