The start of August 1943 saw the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) playing a full part in 38 (Irish) Brigade’s assaults on the strongly held German defensive lines to the west of Mt Etna in support of the 78th Infantry Division’s plan to cut all lateral road contact with Catania.
On the evening of 2nd August, 2 LIR was given responsibility for the taking of three 2000 foot high hills just to the west of German strong points in Centuripe. Their attack was timed in advance of the direct assaults of the rest of the Irish Brigade, with 6 Inniskilling Fusiliers (6 Innisks), and 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers (1 RIrF) fighting up precipitous cliffs into the village. A most famous success for the Irish Brigade was completed during the night, with Winston Churchill announcing the outcome in Parliament on the following day..
Over the next three days 2 LIR, along with 1 RIrF, followed the German retreat to the north, by crossing the shallow Salso River and the much deeper, and fast flowing Simeto River despite strong enemy resistance. Significant levels of casualties were suffered by the battalion during these two successful river crossings.
Following five days of rest, 2 LIR were again brought forward to join up with 1 RIrF in the assault on Maletto, the last settlement before Randazzo. 2 LIR’s task was to advance on the right flank of the attack, their objectives being Mt Speina and Mt Maletto, with 1 RIrF targeting Mt Capella, and the village of Maletto. The countryside was almost impossible to cross with lava beds and high walls blocking the path of all transport, including mule borne ones. During the final assault, Major Fitzgerald MC, OC of F Company, was killed near to Sperina.
Following the capture of Messina on 16th August, both battalions of the London Irish Rifles settled down for well deserved rest periods, with the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) on the east side of the island, and 2 LIR on the north coast – with plentiful supplies of fruit and close proximity to the warm Mediterranean adding to their sense of well being.
August 2nd – 2 LIR take part in the Irish Brigade’s successful assault on the hill top village of Centuripe.
August 4th – Successful crossing of the Salso River undertaken by 2 LIR and 1 RIrF.
August 5th – 2 LIR continue advance north along with 1 RIrF and form bridgehead cross the Simeto River.
August 11th – Attack on Mt Capella by 1 RIrF and on Mt Sperina and Mt Maletto by 2 LIR, which was the last action for the battalion in Sicily.
August 15th – 1 LIR move to a rest area at Fiumefreddo on the east coast, before moving to Piedmonte, north east of Mt Etna.
August 23rd – Elements of 2 LIR move to a rest area at Patti on the north coast of Sicily, and by the end of the month the whole battalion had moved there to start a new training regime.
Roll of Honour, August 1943: