Captain Richard Haigh MC 1918 - 2015.

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by bexley84, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    I just learnt that Richard Haigh, who served with the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles in Italy, recently passed away at the age of 97 years.

    Quis Separabit.​

    I had the privilege of meeting Richard last year and, at the time, I recorded some of the detail on the Regimental Association web site - it was a great day. Richard would write to me later correcting some of my original draft notes.
    "From his home at Charter House in Bedford, Richard vividly recalled his time serving with the 1st Battalion, London Irish Rifles (1 LIR) from 1943 to 1946 and then again during four years of post war service as part of the reconstituted Territorial Army.

    Following the German invasion of Belgium and France, Richard enlisted with the Royal Fusiliers, with whom he served for two years with their 2nd Battalion and becoming a corporal. Richard recalled his time with the Fusiliers: "The Londoners were fantastic characters and, though it was tough to start with, I became one of them, though not in speech." In 1943, Richard entered an Officer Cadet Training Unit and although he had absolutely no family connection with Ireland, he was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR), and joined up with them in Northern Ireland.

    After several months stationed at Larne with the RUR, Lieutenant Haigh volunteered to join a reinforcement draft which journeyed to Algiers in the middle of July 1943. Richard was then sent onto a holding camp at Philippeville and in early August was posted to 1 LIR, who were at this time resting on the east coast of Sicily. One of his first assignments was working as a Movement Coordinator supervising the crossings of troops from Messina to Reggio di Calabria. Richard remembers serving there alongside Lieut-Colonel Sieff, later to be Chairman of Marks and Spencers, who was working on the beach at the same time and also when he took an unauthorised round trip across to Reggio “to see what Italy was like”. The movement unit had been ordered to dispatch 4,000 vehicles in 5 days but actually achieved 5,000 vehicles in 4 days – a success for which Sieff was rewarded with an OBE.

    After two months in Sicily, 1 LIR rejoined the 56th (London) Infantry Division, which formed part of the 5th Army’s move northwards from Naples. In January 1944, after a short spell in hospital recovering from a bout of jaundice, Lieutenant Haigh returned to the battalion as they were involved in several days of sharp actions near to the River Garigliano. Richard recalls joining up there with the LIR’s bridgehead forces as they prepared to attack Castelforte for a second time but, before they were able to do so, he was“relieved” to hear that the battalion was being sent instead to a place called Anzio.

    As second in command of ‘C’ Company, Lieutenant Haigh was called forward to take command of ‘B’ Company during the battalion’s desperate defensive action near to Aprilia (known as ‘The Factory’). It was on February 7th 1944 that Lieutenant Haigh was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and, in common with other men from that era, Richard prefers to remember the bravery of others rather than his own part, but the MC citation clearly describes his actions on that day:

    "On 7 Feb '44 when Captain Hardy, in command of ‘B’ Coy, was wounded, and the other officers of that Company had become casualties in action near the ‘Factory’ area of Caraceto, Lt Haigh was sent to take over the Company. Just after he took over, the enemy put in another fierce attack on the Company position which was preceded by a very sharp artillery and mortar bombardment together with MG fire from close range on the right flank. During the bombardment Lt Haigh moved about the Company areas reorganising the defence after the previous attack and steadying the men, many of whose leaders had become casualties. During this time, he was wounded by small arms fire in the arm but continued his task without the slightest hesitation. Later he found the enemy had got into part of the group of house occupied by his Company HQ. At once he personally led an assault on the enemy in the houses and drove them out with grenades. During this phase, he was again wounded in the arm and leg with small arms but continued to control and direct the defence with great personal gallantry, resource and coolness. His personal example and display of leadership was of the very highest order enabling the Company he had taken over at such short notice to maintain its positions."

    Richard was evacuated to North Africa but was able to convalesce successfully and rejoin 1 LIR as they travelled back to Egypt for a much needed period of rest. The battalion would return to Italy during July 1944, and take part in several bitter battles on the Gothic Line during September before spending the winter near to the Senio River. It was during this period that Richard remembers meeting with Colonel Macnamara, former CO of the Regiment, when he visited the 1 LIR in December 1944, and just before both he and Lieutenant Jack Prosser MC were killed by a sudden mortar bombardment.

    Richard had become temporary Company Commander on a number of occasions during 1944 and 45 before being promoted to Captain and assuming command of ‘C‘ Company as 1 LIR took a leading role in the 8th Army’s final decisive breakthrough offensive to reach the River Po in April 1945 and then taking part in post war peacekeeping duties at Pola and near to Trieste.

    After the war, Richard returned to his family's home in Devon, before moving to Eastern England, when he was able to combine his working day with training nights spent with the London Irish Rifles at the Duke of York’s HQ in Chelsea. He would spend the next forty years working in a variety of business roles, including taking over the family’s agricultural business in the early 1970s, before eventually retiring in 1988.

    During four hours of enthralling conversation, Richard Haigh clearly recalls the distinct personal and military attributes of many of his fellow London Irishmen – Monty Stopford, Jack Cantopher, Bill Byrne and Harry St George Gallaher amongst others - and provided a fascinating insight into the workings of an infantry battalion during war time.

    At the age of 95 ¾, Richard Haigh continues to epitomise a group of men whose levels of valour has no equal."

    Attached Files:

  2. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    :poppy: Richard Haigh MC. RIP :poppy:

  3. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Richard Haigh put up a brilliant defence at Anzio on 7-8 Feb 44. 1 London Irish had its four Rifle Companies deployed on the outskirts of The Factory - D Coy at the top nearest the Germans, A Coy bottom left, C Coy bottom right and B Coy top right in the Cemetery. The Battalion was attacked by two entire Regts - 725 and 29 Pz Gren Regts, each of three Battalions. B Coy took the full force of 29 Pz Gren Regts who infiltrated onto their positions down two large ditches. It was a wonder that 1 London Irish held on until 10 Feb 44.

    Richard Haigh put up quite a fight and his MC was richly deserved. His action took place on the same night that Philip Sidney won his VC with 5 GREN GDS just over to the left of 1 London Irish.


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  4. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    London Gazette 29/6/44

    Attached Files:

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  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Paul and Frank.

    From the Daily Telegraph:

    Richard Murton Haigh. Died peacefully on 14th July 2015 aged 97 years at Bedford Hospital. Husband to the late Marion, father to Anne and grandpa to Sally and Mollie. Funeral Service to be held at Norse Road Crematorium, Bedford at 10 a.m. on Monday 3rd August 2015. All enquiries to A L & G Abbott Funeral Directors, 150 Bedford Road, Kempston, Bedford, MK42 8BH..— Tel: (01234) 843222.

  6. cheekyphil

    cheekyphil Junior Member

    Hi, does anyone have any info on him being in 2 SAS as I came across him on SF ROH but no detail thread. So wondering if its an error and he wasnt in SAS

    SAS - Haigh, Richard Morton (or Murton)

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