- Operation Date
- 03-05 October 1943
Report on landing and subsequent operations of
40 R.M. Cdo. in area TERMOLI
Report on landing and subsequent operations of
40 R.M. Cdo. in area TERMOLI
Ref.Map. ITALY 1/250,000. Sheet 30.
OBJECT OF OPERATION.1.
To land west of the town of TERMOLI, capture the town and port. To form a rd. block 7977.
The Cdo. was to land about 1 mile West of TERMOLI from 2 LCI at 0230hrs.
LCI 181 embarked Adv.Hq. B.X. and Y Tps.
LCI 136 embarked A.P.Q. Tps. and Mortars.
The Cdo. was to pass through the bridgehead formed by No. 3 Cdo. and advance along the axis of the railway line to their objectives.
A Tp. to take the port and then protect the left flank of the town.
Q Tp. to capture the East side of the town and hold the bridge over the railway.
Y Tp. to capture the West side of the town.
B and X Tps. were to move out and for the rd. block at 7977.
The Mortar Pl. was to move with A Tp.
The force sailed from MANFREDONIA at 1200hrs. 2nd.Oct. The passage was uneventful until when about 4 miles East of objective and 1½ miles off shore, 3 LCI grounded on a sandbank. The LCA's were slipped in order to allow the LCI to go astern. This caused slight delay but the release position was reached at 0115hrs. when the bridgehead paty (No.3 Cdo.) were transhipped into LCA. The flotilla formed up and hit the beach about ½ mile West of TERMOLI.
The LCI's 181 and 136 were signalled by the flotilla officer and hit the beach about 0230hrs. The calling in of the LCI's was very well carried out resulting in both LCI hitting the correct beach at the arranged time.
Unfortunately there was a false beach and the LCI's were unable to beach nearer than about 50 yards from the shore, and the depth of the water through which the tps. had to wade varied between 5 and 6 feet. This caused disembarkation to be slow and also all wireless sets were drowned making them non-operational throughout.
The Cdo. formed up on the rlwy. line and moved off in an Easterly direction towards the town of TERMOLI at about 0300hrs. Q Tp. leading followed by Y.P. and Adv.Hq. with A.B.X. in rear so that they could break off to their respective objectives.
There being no wireless touch, all communication was carried out by runner which necessarily slowed down the flow of information.
The leading Tp. Q. Tp. advanced with no opposition until reaching the railway bridge when an enemy sentry challenged and it was appreciated that the house contained a German HQ. An attack was ordered on the house by Lieut.Hill, the Platoon Comd. The attack consisted of very close fighting, and they enemy was cleared with grenades.
About 20 Germans were killed and the remainder approx. 30 surrendered including the Colonel of the Paratroops. Lieut.Hill was badly wounded in the legs by a grenade.
Meanwhile the remaining tps. were clearing the area around the station where snipers were prevalent with automatic weapons, having been aroused by the earlier firing by the action of Q Tp. P Tp. was ordered to clear two houses containing snipers behind the station. This was carried out successfully and two Germans were killed, and an ammunition truck was hit in the town causing a great deal of small arms and tracer to be flying about. In the station area another 20 prisoners were taken, who consisted of a German demolition squad who had orders to blow the station and water tower, both of which were prepared for demolition to be fired by match fuses.
The demolition party was surprised and gave themselves up. The station and water tower having the charges taken out.
At this time, first light was appearing and I was out of touch with A Tp. and 2 i/c Major Hellings whose task it was to capture the port. A patrol was sent to contact them and the information that the port was clear was brought back.
Information as to the general situation was sent back to Bde.Hq who were now fairly adjacent to Cdo.Hq. further along the railway line.
A Tp. was now moving out to the left of the town and it was here that Capt.Ephraums,M.C. was killed by a sniper and his TSM was wounded in the arm.
Being first light the Cdo. was ordered to remain in the area of the station and No.3 Cdo. moved up to a position on the perimeter of the town South of the railway line.
Q Tp. at this stage was mortared and an 88 m.m. brought fire down, wounding the Tp.Comd.Capt.Bradley, Lieut.Laidlaw and TSM Lees. The Germans put in a counter attack from the left flank from the direction of the valley consisting of about 30. The enemy were engaged very successfully, 12 being killed and a further 8 wounded, the remainder making a swift withdrawal.
Half an hour later a second attack was put in, but it was small and lifeless, about 15 Germans tried to infiltrate our positions. Six were killed by snipers from windows in the houses we were holding and the stragglers withdrew.
At this stage the left flank was firm, A Tp. having joined up with Q Tp. and 1 Pl. of Y had been ordered up in support of Q.
At 0800hrs. a report from X Tp. arrived to say the rd, junc. was successfully blocked at 0430hrs. and the tp. had dug in and formed a defensive position.
B Tp. having moved up to Pt.169 which they were holding. 1 Officer and 1 O.R. of the Paratroops had been captured walking down the road, 2 lorries and 2 M/C captured at the rd.block killing 6 and capturing a further 4 prisoners.
At 0800hrs. the immediate area of the town had been cleared and the Cdo. was ordered to form a strong perimeter in the vicinity of the rd.block and Pt.169 along the road running N and S to TERMOLI.
Q and A Tp. were left to protect the left flank while Cdo.HQ,P and Y Tps. advanced towards Pt.169. P. Tp. in advance was almost immediately held up by heavy fire from the left flank, from the direction of the valley. Capt.Marshall, the Tp.Comd., took two sections to the left, ordering the remainder to continue the advance along the axis of the road. On reaching the ridge he found the position was held by approx. 40 Germans containing 2 M.G. and 8 automatic weapons. Being initially surprised, and not having time to afford himself covering fire he spread his two sections in line and advanced down the hill with bayonets fixed, and automatic weapons being fired from the hip. The initiative, leadership and extremely courageous action by Capt.Marshall completely shattered the morale of the enemy and although the firing from the position was heavy, the sight of cold steel made their aim erratic and he suffered no casualties. The enemy casualties in this action were 10 killed 8 wounded and 20 prisoners were taken. This assault cleared enemy activity on the left and P and Y Tps. reached their positions without further incident.
Later, at about 1100hrs. A,Q and Mortars were brought up to the Cdo. position in the vicinity of the rd.block.
P Tp. was ordered up to Pt.169 to strengthen B Tp. also 1 detachment of Mortars.
Q was ib support of X Tp. at the rd.junc. A and Y Tps. had taken 7 trucks at their rd.block killing a certain number and taking prisoners. The trucks were appearing down the road coming towards TERMOLI and it was quite apparent that the presence of the Cdo. was completely unsuspected. One lorry contained the mail and NAAFI ration for the tps. in the vicinity of TERMOLI.
B Tp., holding Pt.169 sent a patrol to S.GIACOMO in order to investigate. A number of Germans were holding the village and were mostly armed with automatics. At this time they were unable to send a larger patrol to deal with the situation, as they were ordered not to weaken their position on Pt.169 until support arrived. From this position a motor cycle combination was picked off by a bren gunner moving along the road at about 800 yards range. The bike crashed into the hedge and a patrol sent down found two wounded, one of which died later and a paratroop officer and 1 O.R. were captured.
The situation in this sector became quiet from 1200hrs. and the Germans seemed to be withdrawing, towards GUGLIONESI. Also from civilian reports the enemy were in GUGLIONESI in fair strength. This information was sent back to Bde. in order to ask for an artillery bombardment.
At approx. 1500hrs. a machine gun opened fire on B Tp. position at Pt.169 from a house in S.GIACOMO. A detachment of 3" Mortars engaged the house which they hit with the second bomb and continued to plaster the vicinity. The machine gunners were neutralised and no further activity took place.
The bridge on the road to VASTO at 7877 was found to be prepared for demolition and was demobilised by the demolition section.
At 1700hrs. the Cdo. was closed in, in order to shorten the line for the night and B Tp. was withdrawn from Pt.169 into Cdo.reserve.
Active patrolling was carried out during the hours of darkness, and a certain number of prisoners consisting mainly of German stragglers were brought in.
At 0800hrs. a Recce Bn. passed through our position and advanced down the main road to PESCARA.
At approx. 0900hrs. 8th.Bn. A & SH passed through our position along the GUGLIONESI road.
At approx 1100hrs. mortar fire was brought down in the Cdo.area and an attack came in from Pt.169 on the A & SH position, about 50 infantry and 3 tanks were sighted on the far ridge.
The Cdo. withdrew to a concentration area towards TERMOLI and in the afternoon went into billets in the town. The Cdo. had orders to be at 2hrs.notice and to be prepared to form a perimeter around the town.
At 0830hrs. the Cdo. was called out to form a perimeter outside the town together with the Lancashire Fusiliers. X Tp. and P Tp. were on the left, with Y and B on the right, with A and Q Tps. in reserve. The Lancashire Fusiliers were holding the centre of the line on the main TERMOLI road and a close liason was kept with Lt.Col.McKenzie.
The Germans were reported to be holding Pt.169 and that there was fairly extensive fighting at the head of the valley. Large numbers of A & SH started filtering down the road through our positions, many were unwounded and mostly had exaggerated ideas of the strength of the enemy.
At approx. 1215hrs. the Cdo. was ordered to return to billets - at 1245hrs. the Cdo. was ordered to take up their position on the perimeter again. The right flank required strengthening and Q Tp. was moved over to the right also A Tp., to prevent any infiltration into the town, either along the railway line or the beach in order to support S.R.S.
During the whole afternoon our positions were heavily mortared and the town was shelled intermittently all day.
As night approached, the situation deteriorated on our right flank, again due to exaggerated situation reports by tps. withdrawing without orders. A Carrier Pl. from the London Irish withdrew to their carriers leaving the right flank completely exposed. I took them under command, sent the carriers away, and ordered the bren gunners to take up a position protecting the town on the right, along the railway and beach. Q Tp. was ordered to go and hold the high ground at the cemetery and A Tp. was put in support in order to prevent the enemy getting into any buildings on the right. These positions were held throughout the night. The enemy being on the far side of the WADI. An artillery barrage was arranged to be called for on the Code word BISON. This was used twice the following morning.
Just before darkness fell, two 6 pdr.A/Tk.guns were put under my command for the immediate defence of the town. The guns came from the Recce.Corps and were placed in position by their officer. After spasmodic mortar fire, the guns were left by their crews, and Royal Marines manned both guns throughout the night. White Vereys lights went up around the perimeter of the town, showing the positions the Germans had reached for the night.
During the evening, about 0200hrs. Lt.Col.Butler of the Irish Fusiliers arrived and I showed him my positions, alos we liased with Lt.Col.McKenzie, the Lancashire Fusiliers. His Bn. was disposed in a close perimeter of the town, with one Coy. in support of my right flank.
The flank attack with the Irish Fusiliers was due to go in on the left at 0800. Similarly, at this time the Germans counter attacked on the left, down the valley with tanks, but were unsuccessfully driven off by P Tp. together with the Lancashire Fusiliers. Two tanks being destroyed by 6 pdr.
At this time an attack commenced on the right flank, and enemy infantry commenced to infiltrate over the Wadi and were attempting to come down the railway line and the beach. The S.R.S., A Tp. and B Tp. were heavily mortared, but held their ground and held the enemy, about 50 in number, with small arms fire. German casualties were sustained.
The Pl. of Q Tp. occupying the cemetery was forced to withdraw about 50 yards from its position due to intensive mortar fire. Three times they went back and regained their position when there was a lull in the firing.
The supporting Coy. of the Irish Fusiliers was then withdrawn for the attack on the right flank, that was being put in at 1500hrs. X Tp. was withdrawn from the left which was now quiet and put in support of S.R.S., - and - Tp. Also 4 Sherman tanks were brought up in support from the CLY. These tanks did magnificent work and got out to the cemetery and forced the enemy to withdraw back to the reverse slope. At the same time a 4.2 mortar came under my command and effective fire was put down over the ridge.
At 1400hrs. the leading Coy. of the London Irish passed through for their attack on the cemetery. The Cdo. was ordered to give as much fire support as possible, also the 4 tanks. X Tp. support Pl. was moved up and the bren guns were pulled with S.R.S. Two 6 pdr. which had been abandoned by their crews were manned by the Cdo. Both Cdo. 3" Mortar detachments were put into action also the 4.2 mortar.
The enemy withdrew and were engaged by the bren groups along the railway line. Able support was given to the infantry by the tanks.
At 1500grs. the London Irish consolidated the position.
At 1630hrs. the Cdo. was ordered to withdraw to the town and return to billets and remained at 2hrs. notice.
Estimated Enemy Casualties at Landing.
10 Oct. 43.