Monte Spaduro, October 1944

Discussion in 'Italy' started by bexley84, Oct 19, 2014.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    In the spirit of highlighting the continuing slog on the Italian front during the autumn of 1944.

    In a period when 78th Division were under 5th Army command, on the evening of 19th October 1944, the 1st Bttn Royal Irish Fusiliers (1 RIrF) were ordered to assault the Monte Spaduro massif, just to the north of Castel del Rio, in support of a putative (!) American advance on Bologna.

    The assault on Spaduro initially seemed to be going well but the Faughs ran into a determined German defensive force and both their leading rifle companies were reduced to a handful of men with a third one forced to retreat under heavy fire…two of their Company Commanders became casualties, including Major Maurice Crehan, an officer attached to the Faughs under CanLoan.

    The CO of 1 RIrF, Lt Colonel John Horsfall recalled: “Four days later, the whole of the battlefield was in our possession and, as we searched for them, Maurice Crehan, Sergeant Elliott and eight others of A Company were found there – dead behind their weapons with upwards of fifteen jagers around them.”

    The Faughs’ regimental historian noted: “It was believed that Maurice Crehan’s stand against the German counter-attack was worthy of the VC but, with no living witnesses, nothing could be done. John Horsfall, Brian Clark (Adjutant) et al spoke of him with great respect…”

    The Irish Brigade’s commander, Pat Scott, described the action as: “The fag end of an offensive and they will never learn until such things happen.”

    As well as the 23 Irish Fusiliers killed on 19th/20th October, another 183 men are listed on the CWGC data as having been killed on those two days in Italy….there would be another 194 days of hard slog ahead in Italy.

    I attach two MM citations awarded during that period of bitter fighting – one for Fusilier Birch, a stretcher bearer, and the other for Fusilier White, part of the mule team..

    You can read John Horsfall’s full account of the battle at Monte Spaduro here…

    Faugh a Ballagh !

    Attached Files:

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  2. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day bexley84.very senior member.19th oct spaduro,19th/20th.oct amazing link of a very brutal battle.each and every one of our men were true hero' those who did not make it home,may they rest in peace,regards bernard85 :poppy: :poppy:
  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Thank you..and thanks to all those who served with honour and later self effacement.

  4. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    38 Bde diary notes.
    11 Bde Bgde 38 Bgde attacked again some days later later, datails I will post later including some pics.

    Attached Files:

  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    It certainly did rain as we were bogged down near the banks of the River Savio and helpless to support 2nd Bde of the 1st Canadian Division- so two

    platoons of D company Seaforth Highlanders were broken down into Tank Busters - this was where "Smokey " Smith earned his V.C. well worth googling for

    him- he was a character and often rode on my Tank

  7. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Hello Richard
    Thanks for that update, always interesting to get these other bits as you know, and hope you don't mind my hi-jacking your post :) .
    Details from 38 Bgde diary for the following days.
    Maps from 'Clear the Way', R. Doherty; section from sheet 99 IV NW, Fontelice (British Library)

    Attached Files:

  8. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Details from 2 Innisk's diary at Spaduro P1030802.JPG P1030803.JPG

    Approach route to Ca Salara for Skins Italy Pics 047.jpg

    View of Ca Salara, objective of 'D' Coy (looking North) Italy Pics 062.jpg
    General view of Ca Salara (Spaduro behind building) Italy Pics 048.jpg

    View of Mount Spaduro from above Italy Pics 064.jpg

    View to Little Spaduro from same, 'B' Coy's objective Italy Pics 051.jpg

    Looking back to area of Pt 387 Spinello, from a position close to 'C' Coy's objective. Italy Pics 053.jpg

    View along track to Little Spaduro from close to 'C' Coy's objective of track junction Italy Pics 055.jpg

    View to Ca Salara from Little Spaduro Italy Pics 057.jpg

    View to Spaduro from Little Spaduro. On the horizon are the heights above San Clemente occupied by the Skins during November Italy Pics 060.jpg

    View from Little Spaduro across to the Lombardy plain Italy Pics 061.jpg
    dbf, Drew5233, 4jonboy and 2 others like this.
  9. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Thanks for the links etc. Fantastic story.


    Excellent - when were the photos taken (what time of the year)?

    I'm planning to be at Spaduro in April - and thence to the Po for the morning of 25th April when the Irish Brigade fired its "last" shots.

    Pat Scott's narratives a re always worth reading..

    I liked this bit from early December 1944.

    "On the 7th, the Skins tried a novel form of recce patrol. They suspected a minefield along the road to Casa Nuova and wanted to pin point it. That evening, just after dark, a patrol of four cows was launched down the road towards the enemy. The noise they made caused the Boche to put down their DF, which frightened the cows back into our own position. A little later, the performance was repeated, this time the cows got a bit further before the wily Teutons heard them and their DF came down behind them. This caused the cows to step on it and they careered forward towards the enemy through the suspected minefield, apparently unharmed. Next evening, the cows came sauntering back again and reverted to the Skins for future operations. They were none the worse."

  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Have a look at my article "Two Great Men " on the BBc series for the day after "Smokey" Smith earned his V.C.

  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

  12. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Hi Richard

    That tale did raise a wry smile with me when I read it in the diary.
    Was May this year that I re-visited Italy & Sicily, weather was good, but it can change in the mountains, as it did on my final day. One thing about visiting these areas is one gets a better idea of the dificulties, distances and terraine covered, in nightly patrols, from that, which you build up in your own mind when reading from the records!
    Will send you a PM ref some details.
  13. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    1] Looking back to Mnt Pieve [r of centre] from Spaduro. Gesso is off picture right, Casa di Spinello hidden by shoulder of Pt 387.
    2] From close to Pt 362 Little Spaduro, Pt 387 is left; Spinello can be seen centre; Mt. Pieve right.

    Attached Files:

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  14. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    great shots.. planning to film in that area next spring..and thence onto Argenta to commemorate the 75th anniversary of reaching the Po.

    best wishes
  15. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    :salut:Cheers Richard
    To continue
    Spaduro, Bgdr Scott wrote of it in Oct 1944 as being, '...a massive dark grey feature, with a few light patches of colour, built rather like a horseshoe with a great re-entrant in the centre...full of deep ravines and gullies, all grey and black and forbidding...Lookig down from Gesso are Hills 401 and 416 and then on 387 is reached...The approach to Hill 387, along a narrow track, is guarded by a house called Casa di Spinello.
    It was an unpleasing feature - or rather, series of features. Cold, black, and devoid of cover, they present an uninviting spectacle. Desolation is accentuated by a few ruined shell torn houses. Stoney, rugged and hard going for the infantry man, except along the tracks which became appalling bogs.'

    1] Spaduro left, from Gesso. Hill 416 is hidden by trees right. Spinello right of centre.
    2] Looking right of Spinello,
    Hill 416 is left.
    3] From Hill 416 to Hill 387 [centre], Spinello is right.
    4] Spaduro from 416, Hill 387 is right.The bowl in which the Faughs fought across, and London Irish Rifles sought shelter before withdrawing under smoke, can easily be seen.
    5] View back to Hill 416, [rise above the pond], Gesso is off picture right.
    6] Hill 387 from Spinello​

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
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  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    75 years today, 23rd October 1944, the 78th Division launched a renewed assault on the Monte Spaduro positions.

    Lt Nicholas Mosley, E Coy platoon commander recalled his part in the day's events, which led to the award of the Military Cross:

    "When Major Mervyn Davies had come to tell me of his plans for my attack, he had murmured, ‘This is an MC job’. This was army jargon for an assignment which, if it succeeded, might result in one’s being recommended for a Military Cross: if it failed, one was likely to be dead.

    So had Mervyn an instinct for what I might require?

    Desmond Fay’s patrol was amazingly successful. He went out with just his sergeant and came back with a prisoner, who had been half asleep in a trench by the farm buildings. The German talked: he said that Spinello was held by about thirty men during the day; at night, they were in contact with troops on the hills behind, who came up with more machine guns.

    There was some good news in this in that it seemed the Germans might not be in good heart if the man had been taken and talked so easily; but thirty men was a lot for my depleted platoon to take on and would not the capture of this prisoner mean that his colleagues would now have been alerted? My platoon was down to fifteen men, what with sickness and injury and, when it was time for us to form up, I wondered if there would be any who would say they could not go on. There was, in fact, only one, a senior corporal, who lay in the bottom of his trench and said he could not move. I talked with him for a time and then said – All right, don’t. He would not have been much use in a platoon that was otherwise behaving so admirably. But I think we all felt we might be on a suicide mission.

    I had two lance corporals, Tomkinson and McClarnon, who with their sections would go with me into the attack. My sergeant would be with the Bren gun of the third section to give us covering fire. The rest of the company would be ready to give more covering fire, if necessary, from the hill at the back.

    Desmond was to start off to show us the way he had reconnoitred, keeping out of sight of the farmhouse by moving under the brow of the spur. But even here, we would be in full view of the Germans on the hills beyond – so was it true they would be sleeping? Then, for the last hundred yards or so, we would have to break from the cover of the spur and run to the farm buildings across open ground; if the Germans had been alerted, this is what was likely to be suicidal.

    We moved off in our meagre crocodile quite openly, like people not trying to draw attention to themselves if they show sufficient insouciance. On our right, we could look across the valleys that stretched away towards Imola and the promised land of the northern plain. For the first time in weeks, the rain was holding off; it was almost a beautiful evening...."

  17. Quarterfinal

    Quarterfinal Well-Known Member

    843280 Lance Sergeant Nicholas Piskon DSC 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers

    Headquarters, U.S. Army-Mediterranean Theater of Operations, General Orders No. 101 (June 25, 1945)

    The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lance Sergeant Nicholas Piskon, Royal British Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy at Monte Spaduro, Italy on 23 October 1944 and again at Clo-Di-Maleto, Italy on 16 November 1944. Demonstrating great daring and courage as a section leader, 2d Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, Lance Sergeant Piskon led his section against heavy opposition into enemy defenses, killing and wounding a number of the enemy and successfully consolidating his section on their objective and then playing a major role in beating off an intense enemy counter attack. Later on 16 November 1944 he led a fighting patrol to a position which was in enemy hands. His patrol was ambushed and came under very heavy fire from all sides and was pinned down, however, Lance Sergeant Piskon demonstrating great courage, advanced alone towards a German machine gun nest firing his machine gun as he went. Then with the magazine empty he used his weapon as a club, killing two and capturing two of the enemy gunners, and then withdrew his patrol and prisoners into his own lines. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.


    Nicholas Piskon was a Manxman (Colby)

    Afternote: I see someone else noted his significant award and has sought more detail:
    Lancashire Fusiliers Photographs 2B WW2
    hitherto not expanded, but amongst other interesting pieces.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2023
  18. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Mist over Dartmoor

    Superb photos plus an admirable story of the fighting on the Gothic Line.
    Lack of replacements, shortage of fit men and an unpredictable enemy.
    The closer they got to the Po Valley the more the enemy reacted in force.

    From my notes:
    The 88th had fought their way as far as Monte Grande arriving on 17th October.
    Taking the Germans by surprise they set up a firm base in San Clemente Valley, they cut a Jeep track (The Boston Byeway)
    up the valley to fight their way onto Mt Cerere followed by Mt Grande, Farnetto and Frassineto.
    88th Division were well below strength, they lost 6000 men in the Apennines.
    The Division originally had 14,000 men, the infantry were in three
    Regiments 349th 350th 351st.
    By the 20th October the 350th captured Mt Cuccoli.
    To complete the seizure of the Monte Grande Mass the 350th took Farnetto.
    Frassinetto fell to the 349th but the 351st ran into trouble.
    Their 3rd Battalion fought its way onto Monte Calderaro on 23rd October.
    Company G attacked Vedriano two miles to the north east of Monte Grande.
    It stood on the road to Castel San Pietro Terme eight miles away and gateway to the Po Valley.
    They surprised 40 Germans who they took prisoner in the town.
    American signal interceptors heard the Germans calling for 1st and 4th Parachute Regiments to close in, retake it and hold it at all costs.
    The Companies fighting around Monte Grande could hear small arms fire but were tied down in fighting.
    E and F Companies tried to fight their way into Vedriano but failed. The sound of small arms faded and the German radio intercepts reported
    “Vedriano retaken 80 Americans captured.”
    (The Blue Devils in Italy, Kindle Edition)

    I think Bexley84 has shots that I desire. San Clemente, Monte Grande Mt Calderaro and Cerere.
    Looking forward to seeing the latest "All My Brothers" video.
    This is a reminder, must check the YT Channel.

    31st October news came through that 1st Division were to move over to the right to relieve the American 88 Division,
    so that they could withdraw and train for the winter offensive.
    This was to be followed by two and a half months of the worst weather that the Apennines could offer.
    88 Division never returned to Monte Grande.

    (Photos courtesy Mennell Famiy collection)

    446 Bty CP Clemente.jpg
    Christmas drinks San Clemente
    Christmas Monte Grande.jpg

    San Clem 1.jpg
    Rver Silaro in flood Nov 1944

    Gunners  Christmas Monte Grande Italy.jpg
    Christmas celebrations San Clemente

    Memorial Monte Grande & Cerere e1 en.jpg
    19th Infantry Brigade 8 Indian Division Memorial
    Mt Cerere

    San Clemente Valley Smoke Screen.jpg
    Smoke Screen San Clemente

    11 CAR San Clemente Valley.jpg
    9 Troop 11 CAR San Clemente
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2023

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