Irish Brigade attack the Gustav Line, Italy

Tue, 05/16/1944

78 Div BadgeThe battle for what the enemy called the Gustav Line had begun at 2300 hours on 11 May when the Eighth (UK) Army and Fifth (US) Army launched Operation DIADEM. The plan included the 38 (Irish) Brigade Group leading the 78th Division attack northwards from the River Rapido towards Route 6 at first light on 15 May 1944.

(Right, 78th Infantry Division's Battle-axe Flash - © IWM (INS 6665))

The 38 (Irish) Brigade Group, in its concentration area at Presenzano, did not move until 0400 hours on 14 May when it set out for the Rapido. As the monastery on Cassino had not fallen, the area had to be shielded from observation by smoke screens, under cover of which the Brigade crowded into the narrow Rapido bridgehead where the forward troops were fighting against a stubborn enemy.

The Irish Brigade advanced at 0300 hours on 16 May with the 6th Inniskillings leading, followed by the 2nd Battalion The London Irish Rifles, and then the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers. The 6 Inniskillings and a squadron of the 16/5 Lancers smashed 1,000 yards into the Gustav Line and by 1210 hours had captured their final objectives. The Commanding Officer's Orders Group of the London Irish was struck by a German shell fatally wounding the COs of the London Irish and the 16/5 Lancers. Although the Second in Command, Major John Horsfall, assumed command, the attack by the Rifles was delayed for a variety of planning adjustment reasons. At 0900 hours the following day, the London Irish advanced under close-support artillery fire and through deadly accurate German defensive fire towards their objective - the Colle Monache ridge.

To read about the Battle Honour awarded for the fighting during this period, please click on: