56 'Black Cat' Division War Diary or Regimental history

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by vitellino, Apr 25, 2020.

  1. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello everyone,

    I need to know where the Division was in December 1944 and also what part it took (if any) in the liberation of Forlì.

    I have found this on BBC The People's War:

    We captured Forli in September, then pushed on to Faenza, our battery supporting New Zealand infantry. Appalling weather now slowed down our movement, and the New Zealand troops described Faenza as 'a bitch of a place to occupy'.

    I have found both Italian and British secondary sources which indicate that 4 British Division liberated Forlì (6 Black Watch) on 9 November 1944.

    Thanks in anticipation,

  2. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member


    I have all of 56th unit diaries - unfortunately my PC died and I am awaiting a replacement next week when I can move the hard drives over. Then I can have a closer look.

    I'm pretty sure 56th Division were not involved in the liberation of Forli (if November date is correct) - the division spent most of October and nearly all of November rebuilding and reorganising at Macerata. That is not say individual units continued to support other units - what unit is the quote above from? Elements of the division started to move up in early December - 169th Brigade (Queen's) operated with 46th Division during the attack on Faenza.

  3. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    The Division's reconnaissance regiment was the 44th, this edition of the Reconnaissance Journal has a report for that period, December 1944 the Lamone River crossing, see page 165.
    Reconnaissance Journal
    May be of some use.
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList

    56 Div appears to have been refitting at Macerata in early December, then dealing with Faenza around the middle of the month, Just before Christmas they moved up top the line on the R Lamone, eventually relieving 46 Div. Info from The Black Cats at War.
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    From 'The LIR at War' - Nov '44 war diaries attached:

    "The 1st Battalion rested in Fermo while the Allied advance progressed. By November 1944, Forli had been reached and it was not anticipated that the 56th (London) Division would be needed in the line for some time.

    Suddenly, however, plans were changed and the London Irish were ordered forward to make an extended bridgehead across the River Montone at Forli and so to create a diversion while the main attack went in elsewhere. To this end all preparations were made outwardly for a move by the whole division, but the only troops involved were the London Irish and skeleton forces from the three brigade headquarters. All the divisional signals wireless sets were kept in operation and the route forward bore the division’s signposts.

    Owing to casualties, A Company of the London Irish had been temporarily disbanded. B Company was commanded by Major A Blake, C Company by Captain RM Haigh MC, and D Company by Captain AD Hunter. The latter was injured in a jeep accident and command of the company reverted to Lieutenant D. Hutchison.

    After an all-night journey the battalion reached Forli and took up posts in the vicinity of the town and on the right bank of the River Montone, a deep and swiftly flowing stream about thirty yards wide. The enemy had blown the bridge and withdrawn, but it was not known how far back they had gone.

    Preliminary patrols were made and the pioneers, under Sergeant Parsons, dealt with a number of felled trees in which were hidden explosives and also with a number of glass mines which the battalion encountered for the first time.

    B Company was ferried across the river and advanced about half a mile while C Company took up positions on their left. A patrol of about twelve men went out from B Company under Lieutenant WEW Martin. Their main job was to find the enemy, but they failed to return. It was ascertained later that the party were trapped in heavy mortar-fire. Lieutenant Martin was killed and his companions, many of whom were wounded, were captured.

    B and C Companies went forward another half a mile the next day and Tactical Headquarters crossed the river, followed by D Company. Further progress was made and after several men in D Company were caught in heavy shell- and mortar-fire, B Company was ordered into action against a suspected German strongpoint. Gun- and mortar-fire was laid on in support, but when the London Irish attacked they were met with machine-gun and mortar-fire. Several men fell as Lieutenant E Little’s platoon gained their objective on the left flank. There was a spirited battle in which Lieutenant Little was wounded. Unfortunately the whole platoon were overwhelmed shortly afterwards by a powerful enemy counter-attack.

    The right-hand platoon, under Sergeant Hill MM, fought very well and succeeded in occupying and holding German positions on that flank. Ten prisoners were taken. Dusk and a heavy ground mist hindered observation, but Major Blake sent his third platoon into the fray to support Sergeant Hill’s left flank.

    The positions were secured and then German orders, strangely enough in “clear,” were intercepted. They indicated that another strong counter-attack was being prepared. Defence fire was called for from the medium and field artillery and the threatened attack collapsed. The Germans were caught before they had really started.

    The London Irish were then relieved in the line and went back to Ferno. The “Forli Affair” had lasted only a few days, but the fighting was bitter and the battalion losses in officers and other ranks totalled about fifty."

    Attached Files:

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  6. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Thank you everyone for this useful information.

    The person who wrote the piece I quoted above was Tony Walsh, 60th (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Anti-tank Regiment, R.A. (T.A. ), who before that says:

    our regiment...the 56th Black Cat Division, was transferred to the 8th Army, Adriatic Coast sector to join the Poles and the Canadians. The Germans were now retreating in some areas but strongly defending others. They were using any kind of delaying tactic: demolition, land mines, booby traps. We occupied San Marino, Rimini, Ravenna, always a little nearer to what must be our next serious obstacle: the River Po.

    I've now read in my well-worn copy of The Italian Campaign 1943-5 by G.A.Shepherd p. 323

    9 Nov Poles enter Forlì and capture Modigliana 12 November.

    JimHerriot likes this.
  7. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    67th Anti-Tank Regiment was the divisional anti-tank unit for 56th Division. Not sure who 60th were with.

    According to 2nd Royal Fusiliers it was the 6 Black Watch who liberated Forli.
    vitellino likes this.
  8. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    According to Bellis, 60th were with 1st Armoured Division from April to September 1944. They don't seem to have been allocated to an division after that.
  9. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    60th Anti-Tank Regiment went under the command of 5 Corps when 1 Armoured division was disbanded.
    Chris C and vitellino like this.
  10. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Hi Janet,

    if required, i do have a scanned copy of a reprint of THE BLACK CATS AT WAR The Story of the 56 (London Division T.A., 39-45.
    By David Williams.I think Gary Tankard once mentioned that a original copy is available? Silly money if it can be obtained?

    If needed then i will send on? Even the copies are not cheap.:wacko:

  11. vitellino

    vitellino Senior Member

    Hello Stu,

    Thanks for the offer. I only need the pages relating to November and December '44. I am trying to verify a statement in someone's testimony.

  12. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    Hi Janet,

    What statement are you trying to verify? That this chap was in Forli in September with 56th Division?

  13. Stuart Avery

    Stuart Avery In my wagon & not a muleteer.

    Just a thought, should we not be looking at Fourth Division? 6 Black Watch was in 12 Infantry Brigade along with 2 RF & 1 RWK.

    If the Squire that is Frank, reads this thread then I'm sure he will agree? Just been reading Chapter 23. The River Ronca and Forli. Fourth Division 39-45. The other brigades was 10 & 28. Two chapters that I'll read over the weekend.

    Will have to read the relevant chapter of the battalion history of the 6 BW.

  14. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member


    I think that depends on what Janet is trying to verify.

  15. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    Out of interest I was looking at the Grenadier-Regiment 992 unit history to see if there were any clues and came across this paragraph:

    "Am 15 November wird durch entsprechende Aufstellung der Gruppen und MG und mehrere glückliche Umstände ein Spähtrupp der 56. Englischen Inseldiv. (die Div. ist frisch eingesetzt, der Verf.), bestehend aus einem Offz. und acht mann, zwischen meinem Gefechtstand und Casa B in die Zange genommen. Der Offz. und ein mann fallen, die anderen ergeben sich. Beute: 10 MPi. Wir kramen unser Englisch aus und radebrechen italienisch."

    A rough translation (forgive my German skills):

    "On November 15th, by appropriately deploying the sections and machine guns and several fortunate circumstances, a reconnaissance troop of the 56th English Island-Division [I think this is a reference to Ireland as in London Irish] (the division is freshly deployed), consisting of an officer and eight men, was captured between the pincers of my command post and Casa B. The officer and one man were killed, the others surrender. Booty: 10 sub-machine guns. We dig our English out and broken Italian."

    This corresponds to the one line entry on the 15th November in the 1 London Irish WD that Richard posted - 'By 1850hrs no news of Lieutenant Martin's fighting patrol had been received although it left at 1000hrs.'

  16. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

    The view from the British side.

    From the London Irish missing file:


  17. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

  18. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member

  19. stckrrrw12

    stckrrrw12 Junior Member

    im trying to find some of my familys history maybe you can help as he was part of the black cats, i have uploaded a pic, this is all i have to go on

    Attached Files:

  20. Gary Tankard

    Gary Tankard Well-Known Member


    You should probably apply for his service records but from the photo it appears he was serving with the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles. What was your relative's name?
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