Who's got a 56th Division History?

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by Drew5233, Mar 31, 2017.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Can anyone tell me what 56th Division were doing in Italy during December 1943. I'm looking at a Signalman who's buried in Monte Cassino but didn't think that show started until January 1944? I did wonder if he was buried there after the war from a field grave but there's no info on CWGC.

    CWGC details
    Casualty Details :poppy:
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Give me a nudge Sunday evening if no-one comes up with the goods in the meantime...
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  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Cheers-Obviously I'm 4 years'ish out of my depth :lol:
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    And a couple of hundred miles, them being a London Division and you a plastic pudding, or whatever Yorkshirepersons are called.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    a number of men are buried at Cassino CWGC from the time of 56th Div's assault in early Dec on Monte Camino - here's an excerpt (!) of the LIR's Regimental history covering that period. As you know 1 LIR was at this time in 168th Brigade (with 1LS and 10RB) and usually with 56th Div although the Brigade could be detached on various occasions (eg Sicily, Anzio etc).

    THE first attack on Monte Camino took place in November 1943, and was carried out by 201 Guards Brigade. The attack started from the positions of the 1st Battalion London Irish in the vicinity of Sipicciano, and despite very gallant efforts the Guards were unable to complete their task. It was a stupendous one for a single brigade and eventually they were withdrawn. Their magnificent fight was in the Guards tradition, and though they were ordered back they did so coolly and methodically. Some of the ground they had taken at the foot of the mountain was held, and it became the jumping-off place for the second attack.

    During the whole of November, therefore, the 1st Battalion remained around Sipicciano. There was some shelling but casualties were light. Visiting the companies on their wide front was a lengthy job and involved traversing open ground, which often drew mortar fire. This was more disturbing than accurate.

    The month was very wet and the battalion still lived in “bivvies” in the open. The most common bed was leaf-mould, which though soft was seldom dry. Sleep of necessity was short, because of the need regularly to “stand-to.” If one did not happen to he on duty in the period immediately before, to get up needed considerable effort. That, of course, was part of the routine of a soldier’s life and applied to all ranks.

    News then came that the 56th (London) Division had been selected to take part in a further attack on Monte Camino, the operation coinciding with an attack by the Americans on the twin feature of Monte la Difensa.

    Monte Camino, rising a sheer three thousand feet from the surrounding valleys, was crowned with a small monastery, and the whole feature was about six thousand yards wide and seven thousand yards in depth. The Americans were on the north-east section and the British on the south-east. The mountain was rocky, steep, and bare, and on the British side the only approach for laden men was up a steep, zigzag mule-track leading from a village called Mieli. The existence of this track was well known to the Germans and was marked on all the maps. On the western side Monte Camino was less steep, and on the German side it sloped down to the Garigliano River.

    Rocca D’Evandro, a village connected by a twisting road to the valley below, was on the western side. This road was invaluable to the enemy because they could transport supplies by lorry, while our so-called mule-track was largely too steep and rough even for mules, and everything had to be manhandled. A patrol base was established in the Mieli area, and on one occasion Rifleman W. Garrod, a mechanic in the transport section, escorted three bantams carrying rations to the patrol. While leading the way in the darkness his motor-cycle and two of the bantams drove into a large shell crater filled with water. The trucks were immobilised by the water, but Rifleman Garrod repaired the damage in the dark and they set off once again. The rations got through.

    The second attack on the mountain was timed for December 3. 169 Brigade (The Queen’s) was to attack the Monastery Peak on the east of the feature and a knife-edged spur leading south from it. 167 Brigade was to go in north and north-west from Mieli, up the axis of the mule-track, with 168 Brigade passing through later. 201 Guards Brigade was to capture the south-western part of the mountain. At the same time the 46th Division had to clear the low ground to the south-west, while the Americans, on the right, tackled Monte la Difensa. In the first part of the operation the London Irish were placed under the command of 167 Brigade.

    The attack opened with a tremendous shoot by the gunners, which was the biggest bombardment since El Alamein. Everything passed overhead on to known enemy positions. The night was lit up by Bofors tracer and the cannonade from six hundred guns brought a lurid glare to the sky. General Mark Clark subsequently observed that Camino should be called the “Million Dollar Mountain” as so many shells were fired at it. The total was estimated at one thousand three hundred tons, an amount of explosive equivalent to a major air-raid on Berlin or other large German city.

    The fight was a bitter one. The infantry had an almost super-human task for, despite the terrific bombardment, the Germans held on grimly to their mountain fortress. In the darkness and in drenching rain the heavily laden infantry slowly climbed the wooded lower slopes of the mountain towards the rocky barren crests. Above them the enemy sheltered in entrenchments which had taken weeks of forced labour to prepare, and in machine‑gun posts which had been excavated out of solid rock. Lightly equipped fighting patrols went on ahead and the, assault troops followed. Air and long‑range photographs of the mountain had been studied in great detail and the way upwards had been carefully planned to a time‑table. One complete brigade passed through a narrow gap in single file. There was only room for one man at a time, but the long approach climb was carried out as planned and almost to the minute. Jumping‑off places for the assault were below the jagged peaks. There was some cover, but it was impossible to dig in. Rough sangars were hastily built, but they were inadequate against the enemy's fire and many men were hit. The attack went in and the Germans resisted fiercely.

    Small vantage‑points were gained after bloody combat, but progress was slow. Almost every yard might cost a life. For eight days everyone clung on. Rain came in torrents and the nights were intensely cold. Gradually a strangle‑hold was obtained when the Allied troops took vital ridges overlooking the German supply‑lines. The London Irish did their part. A Company captured Formelli, a small village on the track to Rocca D'Evandro, the Germans' supply artery. 201 Brigade and 169 Brigade manfully made frontal assaults among the heights, and when the American 11th Corps secured most of the Monte la Difensa, it was the beginning of the end.

    Captain D. A. Gibson, of the London Irish mortars, directed and co‑ordinated the mortar fire of four battalions in an all‑out effort to subdue the enemy on Monastery Hill. There was enemy counter‑fire, but the men at the mortars remained steady and their accurate shooting added to the gradual demoralisation of the enemy.

    The defenders of the Monastery Peak realised they were losing all chance of escape and one night the monastery was unexpectedly abandoned. Within a day or two the Germans had left the whole feature. The London Scottish passed on to Rocca D'Evandro and the London Irish were withdrawn, very wet, tired, and dirty after an eight days' gruelling attack. They had been in it longer than anyone else, though chief credit for the success of the well‑planned operation must go to the Queen's of 169 Brigade, the Royal Fusiliers of 167 Brigade, and the Guards, who fought with great dash and spirit despite heavy losses.

    The London Irish were fairly fortunate in their casualties, which totalled about eighty. Among the killed was Lieutenant Terry Barry, a capable and gallant officer. It had been a very hard battle, requiring dogged endurance, with none of the exhilaration of the quick attack. The carrying-parties had a gruelling time. Every night almost the entire personnel of A and B Echelons carried supplies of all kinds up the Mieli mule‑track under constant shelling by the enemy. It was most exhausting work and the journey took several hours. Many men did it twice in a single night, a remarkable test of stamina and endurance.

    The stretcher‑bearers of the battalion again worked splendidly in succouring their wounded comrades. During the occupation of Formelli a signaller of the gunners' observation‑post party was wounded while putting down a line on the track leading to the village. Piper E. Riley and Rifleman H. Hughes, the stretcher-eaters of A Company, volunteered to bring him in. German machine‑guns swept the road and twice they were forced back. Undeterred, they made a third attempt by another route, reached the wounded man, and brought him back to the London Irish lines safely.

    Excellent work, also, was done throughout by the signals section of the London Irish under Lieutenant H. D. Miller. He led frequent parties to repair lines broken by enemy fire. Communications were vital, and when they were interrupted they never remained so longer than could possibly be avoided.

    Many men died on Monte Camino, in the two attacks. Several months later French mountain troops trained there for the attack on the main Gustav Line, and they were so impressed with the achievement that they erected on the summit a memorial to the fallen.

    With the capture of Monte Camino an important change‑round took place. The 46th Division took over that sector of the front, and the 56th Division moved to the coastal sector facing the Garigliano. We were sorry to see 201 Guards Brigade leave the division, for they had been stalwart comrades.

    The London Irish had by this time reverted back to 168 Brigade, and the brigade went out of the line for the first time for two months.

    The closing weeks of 1943 saw the battalion in billets in Cascano, a pleasant little town six miles from the Garigliano.
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  6. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member

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  7. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Andy, it might just be worth checking the Queens' history to see if there's anything about casualties at HQ 169 Bde?
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  8. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Two signalmen from 56 Division who died between 3-5 December 1943, presumably in this battle, are buried in Cassino War Cemetery. One was brought in from what the CWGC describe as an 'isolated site' on the concentration form. By putting the
    Graves Unit Reference 2107 into the co-ordinate translator http://www.echodelta.net/mbs/eng-translator.php# this would appear to be in the region of Sant'Angelo d'Alife. Don't know if this helps,

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  9. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

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  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I don't suppose either of those two Signalman are named are they?
  11. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Do you mean the two signalmen mentioned by Vitellino? There are four altogether who died between those dates:

    Two from 56th
    Your John Ruddy


    Jack Adamthwaite (reburied as Vitellino said)


    John Terrance Hoare


    William Hastie Johnstone

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  12. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    The two signallers attached to 56 Div. were Adamthwaite and Ruddy.

    There is no concentration form for Ruddy. Adamthwaite was brought in to Cassino from an 'isolated site'.

    Visit the CWGC website, enter Adamthwaite and when his name comes up click on to it and then choose 'documentation'. You can download the concentration forms (there are two) from there.

  13. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member


    If you want chapter and verse on 56 Inf Div activity on Camino send me an email.


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  14. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    On the 9th of June, one will be at the CWCG Cemetery between the hours of 10.45-12.00. If anybody can provide the grave Nos, then one will take a picture or two. With the help of Frank, I managed to take all the photos of the headstones of the 2/7 MX Regiment at both
    the Anzio cemetery's.

    This may be of help? No need for a shed load of grave No's.:cool:

  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Thanks all - I can put this to bed now. The family don't appear to want to know anymore since I told them he couldn't have been killed at Monte Cassino as his date of death was too early for that battle.
  16. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Glad you've been able to put someone's mind a rest. Every little helps.
  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Re Andy's initial question on this thread - does anyone actually have the 56 Division History? I've seen that there are a few copies for sale on internet but they are all in the £75 range and I wondered if anyone had a copy so I could see a couple of sample pages before raiding the piggy bank.

    Thanks in advance,

  18. idler

    idler GeneralList

    At risk of getting in trouble as I forgot my promise to Andy...

    IMG_20170424_194553178.jpg IMG_20170424_194620266.jpg IMG_20170424_194645619.jpg
  19. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Damn, I quite fancy a copy of that now--is it a decent read?
  20. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I haven't properly read this one, I'm afraid, just dipped into it on occasion. It's a slim volume but quite densely packed, as you can see. And it has an index!
    It certainly seems to be holding its value...

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