2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at the Battle of Garigliano

In January 1944, 2nd Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers as part of X Corps became the first Allied unit to break through the German Army's Gustav Line.

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.

18th January 1944

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.

19th 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.

The Garigliano Memorial

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
Adams William John Fusilier 6980667
Alford Thomas Fusilier 6980795
Anderson Samuel Fusilier 6977438
Barry Martin Joseph Fusilier 5509744 (H. Barry on memorial)
Bell Maurice Watt Lieutenant 277993
Blemings Thomas Alexander Serjeant 6977259
Blythe George Vernon Baldwin Lieutenant 265860 (G.V.O. Blythe on memorial)
Bradley James Captain 153935 M.C.
Campbell Patrick Joseph Lance Corporal 6980607
Cave Ronald Harry Fusilier 6981936
Chapman Eric Fusilier 14339246 (B. Chapman on memorial)
Chester Charles William Lance Corporal 6982989
Christie Harry James Captain 176886 D.S.O., M.C.
Collis Walter George Corporal 5335895
Connor Edward Fusilier 5958871
Creighton John Serjeant 6980706
Cunningham William John Fraser Fusilier 6984656
Ealey Reginald Archer Fusilier 14339257
Erdis William Fusilier 6982593
Goss Joseph John Fusilier 14273957
Grant Albert Martin Major 76010
Hawkins William Albert Fusilier 6981160 (R. Hawkins on memorial)
Hewitt Wilfred James Fusilier 14337035 (H. Hewitt on memorial)
Kerr William Corporal 7013556
King William Fusilier 6981035
Lambert Thomas Patrick Fusilier 6979370 (T. Morgan on memorial)
Lavell William George Serjeant 697735 (H. Lavell on memorial)
Lucas Samuel Fusilier 6980484
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.
McCann Lawrence Lance Corporal 7043680
McKee Martin Alexander Fusilier 7044341 (N. McKee on memorial)
McDonald John Fusilier 2720263
Moffatt Robert Corporal 6984532 (H. Moffatt on memorial)
Mooney Edward Fusilier 6985143
Morgan William Fusilier 3774370
O'Kelly Francis Fusilier 6980512
Packwood George Fusilier 6983079
Palmer Arthur John Fusilier 14310866 (J. Palmer on memorial)
Paulley Christopher James Archibald Lieutenant 176153
Plastow Gordon Patrick Fusilier 14310867 (C. Plastow on memorial)
Plunkett John Corporal 5436983
Rainford Thomas Joseph Fusilier 3774201
Ringham Ernest Robert Lance Corporal 6196414 (F. Ringham on memorial)
Robinson Leslie Edward Fusilier 6983095 (H. Robinson on memorial)
Russell Thomas Lance Corporal 6983747
Tacey Derek Fusilier 6986295
Trappe Benjamin Fusilier 7018667
Winckle Arthur Bray Fusilier 6981461
Woodhall Frederick James Corporal 6982391
Wylie Andrew Stewart Fusilier 7014320
Wylie William Serjeant 6977238

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
McKearney James Fusilier 7018636
Sharkey John Fusilier 6976645

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