Crossing the Garigliano River - 40 CDO Royal Marines
Force 2. (A.P. and X troops). [40 CDO RM War Diary]
The day of 17th January was spent in the lying up area until 2015 hrs when the area was left and the River Garigliano crossed in rear of the 8th Royal Fusiliers. The crossing was made under spandau and mortar fire at 858969 and a slow advance was made to area 845978 where the rest of the night was spent A. troop and i platoon of P. were sent to ring contour 279 to contain that feature and to deal with machine gun fire from oposite spur. X. troop was held in reserve in area Cemetery and 1 platoon of P. troop made its way onto the SALVATITO feature with orders to clear enemy opposition and take up a position on the forward slope at the eastern end of the feature. By daylight A troop had contacted a company of the 8 R.F. on ring contour 279 and the situation appeared to be quite stable. During the bight number 6 platoon of P. troop had contacted the enemy in several places and had cleared them off most of the Salvatito feature (this was the intitial objective of the leading infantry Bn.). At 0800 hrs 18th
6 platoon Comdr. (Lieut. Smith) put in an attack on a position consisting of about 16 Germans, Who after a sharp engagement withdrew suffering 8 killed and several wounded, our own casualties being Lieut. Smith wounded, 1 Cpl. killed, and 2 Rs wounded.
At 1000 hrs a patrol of X troop under Cpl. Porton were sent to deal with a spandau position 844980, resulting in 1 enemy killed and 7 P.O.W.
Our own Patril suffered no casualties. About 1100 hrs A. troop was ordered to Pt.411 to reinforce the 8 R. F. position. All positions were heavily mortared throughout the day and in the evening a further patrol was sent out under Capt. Marshall. The intentions of this patrol was to go through the enemy positions and to get on the high ground of ROTONDO and await the advance of the infantry.
The force consisted of X. troop, A. troop and 1 platoon of P. troop, and the plan was to split up and move off at half an hour intervals and join up again at ROTONDO, where it was to contain the feature, cut the road, destroy and harass the enemy in the vicinity until relieved by the infantry. The going was very hard and finding one's way was very difficult. Apart from hearing
German voices in the distance, no contact was made with the enemy.
On reaching the low ground at Pt. 820003 a German sentry was seen guarding what appeared to be a barracks, it was by-passed. At this time owing to the darkness, the force had become split up and the men badly needed a rest, so it was decided to lie up for a short period in the area 826003.
Here 2 Italians were brought in who gave us very useful information as the strength and dispositions of the Germans. The strength of the force was 2 officers, 1 TSM and 10 R's.
Daylight arrived and it was obvious that the attack by the infantry had not materialised, and as it was impossible for such a small force to hold ROTONDO we turned ourselves into Guerillas and proceeded to act as such.
Several telephone lines were cut and M/C combinations were knocked out, the occupants being killed. One amoured car appeared which was fired upon, but it continued on in the direction of CASTLEFORTE and was lost to view. German voices were heard to the right of our position and on investigation it was found to be a gun emplacement. A sharp engagement followed and a great deal of 'Pepper Potting', the site was captured, containing 2 field guns which had already been prepared for demolition. These were destroyed.
A quick reconnaissance was made and an assortment of motor cycles, staff cars, and 2 amoured cars were discovered at the side of the road. The position was attacked and owing to to the closeness of the country, the enemy's fire was not accurate and only one casualty was sustained, the armoured car put up a stiff resistance but was eventually knocked out by a 77 grenade, one German being killed and one wounded. A Red Cross armoured car got away during the attack but was manned by machine guns which opened fire at our troops, although we were unable to reply.
A road block was being constructed when the first thing that came along was a 1k.iv Tank, this was engaged with 77 grenades which set the tank alight and although not knocking it out, the tank made away in the opposite direction.
By this time 3 more Mk iv Tanks had arrived and they opened up on the rest of the party at point blank range, the patrol redel
Officer alighted from one of the tanks and in perfect english said," Come here, I have orders for you," to which the reply was a burst of L.M.G. fire.
By this time the Germans were far more numerous and with their tanks had a greater fire power, and the force under Capt. Marshall made its way into a gulley. It was also ascertained that ammunition was getting very short, the force commander decided to return. After concealing themselves during daylight hours, our own lines were reached by about dawn having passed through one of our own artillery concentrations. Thus ended a very useful patrol which did a considerable amount of damage.
After the return of the patrol at 1100 hrs 20th January the force moved up to area 9993 to assist the Ox. and Bucks. in their defensive position. At approx. 154 3. 12. men under Lieut. Atkinson attacked a spandau position at 839994.
The attack was met with heavy fire including grenades and 4 casualties were sustained, the position being held by approx. a company. One spandau was silenced but the patrol had to withdraw owing to the difficulty of the ground and the heavy fire, Shortly after this and enemy counter attack resulted in the withdrawal of the Ox, and Bucks about 200 yards. No further action took place until 0300 hrs on the 21st when the Ox, and Bucks and the Commando were relieved by a Bn, of the Royal Berkshires. During the period of the occupation of the DAMIANO
feature, 5 platoon of P. troop had been on the forward slopes with the F.0.0. and had been responsible for directing several salvoes into the enemy positions with resultant casualties.
The force returned to area 851975 and at dusk took up a defensive position.
The force returned to area 851975 and at dusk took up a defensive position in conjunction with 8 R. F. covering the ground down to the river. Heavy shelling during the night resulted in 3 casualties but attempts at infiltration by the enemy were driven off. The following day, Saturday 22nd Jan, heavy shelling continued 3 more casualties being sustained.
At 1900 hrs on 22nd A., troop was sent to reinforce 8 R.F. in the area LORENZO. At midnight a patrol was ordered to recce, the area of a Wadi 857989 to find out the enemy were forming up for a night attack, Capt. 0'Brien, the patrol commander, returned at 0230 hrs and gave the information that apart from a patrol of 8 germans the enemy were inactive in that area. Just previous to the appearance of the enemy patrol Capt. O'Brien's patrol had set off an S mine booby trap resulting in 8 casualties, Capt. O'Brien himself was badly wounded when he brought back this information.
During the next day, active patrolling took place in order to find out whether the area was clear of enemy which was confirmed.
At approx. 1900 hrs on the 23rd Jan. the force returned to S. AGATA where, together with force one, the Commando was placed in Corp. reserve.
Related 'Dits' here
Tank Attack - With a Pistol - Capt. Marshall MC (Bar)