At the start of July 1943, while the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) was continuing its renewed training exercises to the south of Tunis, the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) journeyed from Egypt to Sicily along with the rest of 168 Infantry Brigade to join up with 50th Infantry Division, and soon were in action at Fosso Bottaceto, just to the south of Catania.
168 Brigade had been designated as the 50th Division’s reserve brigade for the Sicilian campaign, arriving on the island three days after the invasion which had commenced on 9th/10th July.
The brigade was brought forward on 14th July, and prepared for a night attack on Fosso Bottaceto, which was planned for the night of 17th July. In a two battalion wide front, 1 LIR would be positioned on the left side and 1 London Scottish (1 LS) on the right, with the brigade’s third battalion, 10 Royal Berkshire Regiment (10 RB), held in reserve. As it was believed that the enemy had withdrawn from their positions near to the Fosso, it was decided that the attack would be a ‘silent’ one. However, German resistance during the assault was fierce, and after reaching the main ditch area, 1 LIR was engaged in vicious hand to hand fighting. On their right, 1 LS had also been fiercely opposed, and 1 LIR found itself with both flanks exposed and after a failed attempt to bring forward another battalion from the 50th Division to widen the bridgehead, it was reluctantly decided by Lt-Col Good, in consultation with the Brigade Commander, that the battalion should withdraw before daylight. During this, their first, action, 1 LIR lost 34 men, and more than a hundred were wounded, on one of the worst single days for the battalion during the entire war.
For the rest of July, 1 LIR remained in the line sending out numerous fighting patrols, and were engaged in several sharp actions including one failed attempt to capture a bridge where the Fosso Bottaceto crossed the main road.
In the middle of the month, Lt-Col Harry Rogers was appointed as CO of 2 LIR, having taken over from Lt-Col TPD Scott, who had taken up a Brigadier’s position elsewhere within 8th Army. On 25th July, along with the rest of 38 (Irish) Brigade, the battalion commenced its passage from Tunisia, and on arrival in Sicily, they immediately travelled north west from Syracuse to positions near to Catenanuova, in readiness for their part in a 78th Division wide assault on the area to the west of Mt Etna, whose objectives included Centuripe, Aderno, and Bronte. By the end of the month, the battalion was ready to go into action again.
1st July – 1 LIR sail from Suez to Alexandria, arriving there on July 4th.
8th July – 1 LIR embark from Alexandria on route to Sicily.
10th July – 2 LIR move to Sousse.
13th July – 1 LIR dock at Syracuse, and route march to Mellini.
13th July – Lt-Col Harry Rogers takes over command of 2 LIR.
17th July – 1 LIR join 168th Brigade attack on Fosso Bottaceto with 1 London Scottish.
25th/26th July – 2 LIR sail for Sicily, arriving near to Syracuse.
27th July – 1 LIR go into reserve south of Primosole Bridge.
31st July – 2 LIR move to Catenanuova area.
Roll of Honour, July 1943: