At the start of December 1943, the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles were in action on both the western and eastern sides of Italy. The 1st Battalion (1 LIR) joined the 5th Army’s assault on Monte Camino and the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) continued their drive along the Adriatic coast as the 8th Army gradually moved northwards towards the Moro River.
Following their successful capture of Fossacesia which contributed to the breaking of the German Winter Line, 2 LIR continued their advance and entered Rocca San Giovanni on the first day of the month, before continuing with the Faughs in an advance towards the Moro River, After a few sharp encounters, they were able to reach the banks of the river on 4th December, before the whole Irish Brigade was relieved by the 1st Canadian Division.
Their 61 day campaign on the Adriatic coast had come to an end, but due to traffic congestion southwards over the River Sangro, it took them several days to reach their rest camp well behind the line. After two weeks of reorganisation and after receiving a large group of reinforcements, the Irish Brigade were brought forward again to the Campbassso area with the expectation of returning to the front line soon after Christmas. At this stage, Lt-Col Rogers was replaced by Lt-Col Ion Goff, who joined from the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment, and Major HEN ‘Bala’ Bredin took over as second in command. The battalion was brought forward again to the Castel di Sango area and started taking up defensive positions near to the small village of Montenero on New Year’s Eve in awful blizzard conditions.
While the 2nd Battalion were completing their successful advance to the Moro, 1 LIR moved to join in the 5th Army’s second attack on Monte Camino. On 3rd December, having been placed under command of 167 Brigade, they joined in 56th Division’s direct attack on ‘Million Dollar Mountain’. A truly dreadful fight continued in terrible weather for over a week, before the German defensive forces were worn down and an outflanking assault on Monte Difensa was completed by an American Special Forces unit, and this led to a widespread German retreat towards the Liri Valley.
After two weeks of rest, on the last day of the year, orders were issued for 1 LIR to relieve the 7th Battalion Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on the banks of the River Garigliano.
1st December – 2 LIR enter Rocca San Giovanni.
3rd December – 1 LIR join 56th Division’s assault on Monte Camino.
4th/5th December – 2 LIR reach the River Moro before the whole Irish Brigade is relieved from the front line.
10th December – Lt-Col Goff takes over as Commanding Officer of 2 LIR.
11th December – 1 LIR move into reserve.
30th/31st December – 2 LIR move to the Castel di Sangro area and take up defensive positions near to Montenero on New Year’s Eve.
31st December – 1 LIR receive orders to move to the River Garigliano.
Roll of Honour, December 1943.