The 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) spent the early part of February 1944 at rest near to Campobasso before they were transferred, along with the rest of 38 (Irish) Brigade, to join the New Zealand Corps and started to ready themselves for a possible early further assault on German defensive positions at Monte Cassino. The battalion would ultimately not be required to support the attack by Kiwi and Indian forces, which had commenced soon after the bombing of the Benedictine Abbey on 15th February. For the remainder of the month, 2 LIR would continue to undertake training, including intensive practice at crossing rivers.
On 3rd February, the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) had landed at Anzio and were immediately moved forward into front line positions to meet the ongoing German offensive onslaught to the north of Aprilia, a town which was known as the “Factory”.
The morning of 7th February saw renewed German assaults on the Factory, which was on the direct route south towards the sea and over the next few days 1 LIR undertook desperate defensive actions and were ordered not to give up any ground. During this period, D Company was completely overwhelmed on the morning of the 9th February, and B Company was forced to retreat, before A Company attempted a counter attack to stabilise the battalion’s positions At this stage, due to the heavy casualties, the three surviving companies were combined and a company of London Scottish were also transferred to come under battalion command before, on the night of 10/11th February, 168 Brigade were moved out of the line for a period of rest and a company of new men joined up with the London Irish.
A renewed German assault on the bridgehead forces commenced on the morning of 16th February and, on the following day, 168 Brigade was moved forward to become a reserve unit within 56th Division before being ordered to search for the remnants of 7th Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry who were reported to have been cut off on Buonriposa Ridge. By this stage of the battle, 1 LIR had suffered 80% casualty rates, and the commanding officer, Lt-Colonel Good, was ordered to take a rest with Major Stopford now taking over command of the battalion. On the evening of 18th February, although holding a bulge in the middle of the bridgehead, the German forces began attacking again, this time on the eastern side of the bridgehead perimeter. The London Irish continued in their search for the survivors from the Oxford and Bucks but met a strong German Paratrooper defensive force and the attempt ended in failure with C Company suffering a number of casualties.
Soon after, the German forces again switched their line of attack towards 56th Division’s positions to the west of the main Anzio road, but several attempts to make a breakthrough were repulsed. The London Irish now continued in their attempt to find the Oxford and Bucks LI and with one rifle company being formed from the remnants of the original four, they were finally able to bring out some survivors and only suffering limited amounts of casualties in doing so. It was only now that they were able to take some further rest and Major Harry Lofting took over command of the much depleted group of London Irishmen as the battalion reformed into two companies to continue their support to the Anzio bridgehead.
3rd February: 1 LIR arrive at Anzio.
To 29th February: 1 LIR continue in the Anzio bridgehead.
Roll of Honour, February 1944: