38 (Irish) Brigade cross River Simeto, Sicily.

Thursday, 5 August, 1943
Wireless operator, Lance Corporal Kevin Gaffney MM

Having captured Centuripe, 38 (Irish) Brigade advanced to the south bank of the River Salso where the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) secured a bridgehead. The Irish Brigade then crossed the Salso on 4 August. With the 6th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers holding the Salso bridgehead, the Irish Brigade pushed the 2nd Battalion The London Irish Rifles and the 1st Faughs forward to the next river obstacle - the River Simeto. It was typical of the Sicilian terrain, a river running through a gorge with a steep escarpment in which many caves on the north bank were held by the enemy.

The Faughs reached the river sending C and D Company across to the north bank in the early hours of 5 August. At 0330 hours, C Company signalled that they were firm at the foot of the escarpment, albeit short of their objective. By 0530 hours, D Company had to withdraw due to an enemy attack. The London Irish had two companies digging in on the south bank by 0400 hours, while its third company moved to cover the left flank and link up with the Canadians. By 0600 hours, 38 (Irish) Brigade held a somewhat tenuous bridgehead.

While the Brigade prepared to attack at 1530 hours, fighting continued throughout the morning. The Inniskillings were moved forward and detached elements to reinforce the London Irish and the Faughs in the assault across the river. Following intense fighting with many casualties, the Brigade consolidated its bridgehead between 2000 and 2200 hours, while the enemy took advantage of nightfall to withdraw.

The Brigade and its supporting Artillery and Engineers had advanced from 1-5 August over a distance of some 25 miles, overcoming the enemy in three major intense actions at Centuripe, the River Salso and the River Simeto. As the other brigades in the 78th Battleaxe Division passed through and took up the fight, the Irish Brigade reorganised and recovered with five days of rest on the banks of the River Simeto.

The wireless operator, in the image top right, was one of those who received an award for his actions during the fighting; to discover more, please click on the recommendation for an award for Lance Corporal Kevin Gaffney MM.