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We have been been contacted by Jan Clarke, the daughter in law of CSM Ashton Clarke, who served in Italy with the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles from 1943 to 1946 and where he was Mentioned in Despatches.
In her note to us, Jan explained that CSM Clarke had served overseas with the 56th (London) Division in Iraq, Egypt and Sicily, initially with the 10th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, before transferring to 1 LIR after the bitter fighting for 168 Brigade near Catania and where the London Irish Rifles, London Scottish and the Royal Berkshires all suffered very heavy casualties.
Quite remarkably, before his death, Ashton had compiled a 300 page memoir tracing the whole of his war time service and we have been honoured that the Clarke family has sent a copy of it onto us and we plan to add excerpts of this very evocative story to the website in due course.
During the recent Association visit to Sicily, we were delighted to receive a copy of a new book outlining the story of Piedimonte Etneo during the Second World War written by our friend Dr Felice Vitale. The book, which has been privately published, relates the background to the events of August and September 1943 when British troops stayed in the town after the final liberation of the island.
For the London Irish Rifles, in particular, it was a most memorable stay as the men, who had been engaged in very heavy fighting during July and August, were able to relax as well as commemorate the 28th anniversary of the Battle of Loos with a parade and service for the 1st Battalion who stayed in the town for five weeks. In fact, the war diaries state that “Piedimonte was the most confortable place the Battalion had stayed in since they left England”.
Felice’s own mother, Angelina, and his grand parents had witnessed the entry of the London Irish Rifles’ pipers into the town and this allowed him to gain a unique insight into the feelings of townspeople as they were being invaded by a large group of friendly Londoners with a very distinct Irish flavour.
The book is currently only available in Italian and can be viewed in the Regimental Museum and we hope to add a translated version to the website at some future time.
Great work indeed.
Within our extensive archives, we have recently re-discovered a document that sheds a fuller light on the recent history of the London Irish Rifles during periods of both war and peace.
Historians of a certain vintage, especially those who occasionally like to embellish the truth, are likely to be view these valuable insights in the same way as the discovery of the remains of ‘The Piltdown Man’. The authorship of the narrative below can probably be traced to some of the more upstanding members of our esteemed Regiment and we are delighted to add it to our annals for future historical research.
Like all good stories, it starts on a Sunday morning in early September 1939.
“1939-1945: Disgruntled Austrian corporal, annoyed that in his view the London Irish Rifles had previously changed sides – having fought for ze Germans in the 1870s, and then went on to beat his Hunnish buddies in the Great War – invades Poland. This sparks off another big war. Spin doctors realise that calling this the ‘Greater War’, which is the linguistically logical progression, might sound incorrect, plump instead for the Second World War. The LIR, never having heard of Poland, down their pints and enter the fray, but then get sent to a desert a couple of years later (Editor’s note – they were also sent to a djebel or two). They find Germans there, and bump them off, whilst getting killed in return. The Germans scarper across the Med, and sensing victory, the LIR chase them all the way from Sicily to Austria, sneering….or, in other words, winning.
Wer wird uns trennen.
1945-1989: The LIR go back on the beer, assuring themselves that after showing their prowess three times in the past (four if you count the Franco-Prussian thing), no foreigner is going to be stupid enough to kick off another scrap. The lads are told that funny Russian blokes called Communists and who want everyone to have no money, apart from those in charge, want to invade. The chaps shrug, thinking that this sounds very much like how things are in London. They are told that this is the “Cold War”. The boys look at black and white slides of T-52s T-64s, and T-72s, and are trained to shoot at these monsters with Charlie Gs that have wildly bent iron sights. Sighing, they go and see Eric for more drinks after each boring lesson. The Soviets decide not to invade Western Europe, having heard about the LIR’s nonchalance. The LIR win – of course.
кто нас разлучит
1989-2003: Drinks are on the house!!! Another win!!!…Cold War over!!!..In this hiatus period, the LIR continues to run one of the best TA recruiting centres in London, the ORs’ bar, subsequently re-named Mulqueen’s, is named after an incumbent who had worked for both the British and the Germans, very like some of his predecessors…winning every time.