By the start of 1944, U.S. 5th Army under Lieutenant General Mark Clark had reached the Gustav Line, a series of defences along the Garigliano River. Among Clark's Army was Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery's British X Corps operating on the left of the Allied advance. A stalemate developed with the German army dug into ideal defensive terrain.
German Generalleutnant Bernhard Steinmetz’s 94th Division held positions on the Garigliano. The bulk of the division occupied high ground behind the river with one regiment holding the Minturno Ridge. The river was mined and both banks fortified.
2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers served under Major General G.C. Bucknall’s 5th Division. They would attack from the coastal sector with the aim of taking Minturno Ridge. The plan for the Fusiliers was to conduct a silent crossing of the river, clear the bridgehead, assemble and move up to the forming area, and to attack the German entrenchments.
X Corps’ assault on the Garigliano was well-planned. Engineers with bridging equipment would assist with the crossing of the large and fast-flowing river. Highway 7 was the only usable route for vehicles and so rafts, landing craft, and DUKWs would be needed to ship artillery and tanks across the mouth of the river. The offensive began at 2100hrs on 17th January 1944. D Company had already secured the home bank, however, found no available boats. Two were brought up before artillery alerted the enemy to the attack. In these two boats, a patrol established the bridgehead under machine-gun fire.
A Company reached the enemy bank under heavy artillery fire. Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel O’Brien Twohi received permission to move the artillery shoot, delaying Zero Hour from 0330hrs to 0530hrs.
Fusilier Patrick Joseph Campbell served in 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the assault on the Garigliano River during Operation Panther.
Serjeant William George Lavelle served in 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the assault on the Garigliano River during Operation Panther.
Fusilier Samuel Lucas of Co. Down served in 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers during the assault on the Garigliano River during Operation Panther.
Captain Henry Greer Macrory of Co. Londonderry died on 17th January 1944 as 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers began their attack at the Garigliano.
In the early hours of 18th January 1944, B Company moved to the left flank to make use of boats to cross the Garigliano. By then, A Company had sustained serious command casualties but had secured the Massa Rossi farm following a bayonet charge under Lance Sergeant Banton. Their company strength, however, was reduced to 20 men. By 0200hrs, B and C Companies had also crossed the river with machine guns and mortars. At 0530hrs, 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, although depleted, were ready for Zero Hour.
B and C Companies led the advance with D Company in reserve located with Battalion Headquarters in an apple orchard. The Commanding Officer and valuable signallers sustained injuries when an artillery round fell on this HQ.
At daybreak, B and C Companies continued their advance supported by a heavy artillery barrage. Pioneer Sergeant Boak led a skillful and courageous patrol that broke through the line, occupying enemy trenches. C Company beat off enemy counterattacks while B Company sustained 17 casualties in a minefield before also fighting through the line. Back home, B.B.C. radio announced:
An important breach has been made in the main defences of the Gustav Line.
Sergeant Thomas Alexander Blemings of Co. Tyrone fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they attempted to break the Gustav Line in 1944.
Fusilier William Erdis of Belfast died on 18th January 1944 as 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers engaged the enemy at the River Garigliano in Italy.
Major Albert Martin Grant of Belfast fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they attempted to break the Gustav Line on 18th January 1944.
Corporal William Kerr of Derry~Londonderry fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they attempted to break the Gustav Line in January 1944.
Lance Corporal Thomas Patrick Lambert of Co. Tyrone fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they attempted to break the Gustav Line in 1944.
Fusilier James Maguire of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they attempted to break the Gustav Line in 1944.
Lance Corporal Lawrence McCann of Co. Armagh died on 18th January 1944 as 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers took part in fighting at the Garigliano.
Corporal Robert Moffatt of Coleraine, Co. Londonderry fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they engaged the enemy in Italy in early 1944.
Fusilier Edward Mooney of Co. Londonderry died on 18th January 1944 as 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers took part in fighting at the Garigliano.
Lance Corporal Francis O'Kelly of Belfast died on 18th January 1944 as 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers took part in fighting at the Garigliano.
Fusilier John Sharkey of Greencastle, Co. Antrim fought with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as they engaged the enemy in Italy in January 1944.
These two companies of 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers beached an 800-yard sector of the Gustav Line. Despite these gains, other assaults on the flanks failed to make similar headway. On 18th January 1944, the battalion consolidated its position, improved logistical support lines, and planned a night-time attack to support the Wiltshire Regiment on its left flank.
German counterattacks began on 20th January 1944 and bitter fighting ensued. The Gustav Line would hold firm until May 1944.
Fusilier Thomas Alford of Derry~Londonderry served with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He died on 19th January 1944 while in the Italy.
Fusilier Samuel Anderson of Belfast served with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He died on 19th January 1944 while engaged in the Italian campaign.
Captain Harry James Christie D.S.O., M.C. of Belfast served with 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He died on 19th January 1944 fighting in Italy.
The following names appear on the Garigliano Memorial situated at the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Regimental Museum in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.
|Last Name||First Name(s)||Rank||Information|
|Barry||Martin Joseph||Fusilier||5509744 (H. Barry on memorial)|
|Blythe||George Vernon Baldwin||Lieutenant||265860 (G.V.O. Blythe on memorial)|
|Campbell||Patrick Joseph||Lance Corporal||6980607|
|Chapman||Eric||Fusilier||14339246 (B. Chapman on memorial)|
|Chester||Charles William||Lance Corporal||6982989|
|Christie||Harry James||Captain||176886 D.S.O., M.C.|
|Cunningham||William John Fraser||Fusilier||6984656|
|Hawkins||William Albert||Fusilier||6981160 (R. Hawkins on memorial)|
|Hewitt||Wilfred James||Fusilier||14337035 (H. Hewitt on memorial)|
|Lambert||Thomas Patrick||Fusilier||6979370 (T. Morgan on memorial)|
|Lavell||William George||Serjeant||697735 (H. Lavell on memorial)|
|Macrory||Henry Greer||Captain||117338 (Henry Green Macrory on CWGC)|
|Maguire||James||Fusilier||6978601- (J. McGuire on memorial)|
|Marsh||Alfred John||Corporal||5332292 M.M.|
|McKee||Martin Alexander||Fusilier||7044341 (N. McKee on memorial)|
|Moffatt||Robert||Corporal||6984532 (H. Moffatt on memorial)|
|Palmer||Arthur John||Fusilier||14310866 (J. Palmer on memorial)|
|Paulley||Christopher James Archibald||Lieutenant||176153|
|Plastow||Gordon Patrick||Fusilier||14310867 (C. Plastow on memorial)|
|Ringham||Ernest Robert||Lance Corporal||6196414 (F. Ringham on memorial)|
|Robinson||Leslie Edward||Fusilier||6983095 (H. Robinson on memorial)|
The soldiers of 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers below are recorded by Commonwealth War Graves but do not appear on the Garigliano Memorial.
|Last Name||First Name(s)||Rank||Information|
|Knight||Denis Walter Charles||Fusilier||14336432|