King's Own Royal Regiment Museum
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In 2000 the museum ran a battlefield tour to Italy to visit Montone. The tour study pack is reproduced here.
MONTONE, July 1944
‘sweat saves blood’
1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster)
The Campaign in Italy May 1943 - June 1944
Hostilities in North Africa and the Western Desert ceased on 9th May 1943. The Allies would now turn their attention to ‘Fortress Europe’, the decision having been made at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 to invade Sicily.
The Allied Invasion of Sicily began on 10th July 1943 and the campaign lasted thirty-eight days.
On 3rd September the Allies landed in mainland Italy. The Germans had withdrawn most of their armour from the Calabrian Mountains and started to organise a plan of defence in readiness for future events. The Italians, by this stage, had no part in the German defensive plans as it was evident that they were completely unprepared for any eventuality.
The Italians had signed an armistice on 3rd September, which came into effect on 8th September. The Italians were out of the war but the Germans were fully in charge of the defences. Allied forces (the British Eighth Army) landed across the Straits of Messina on 3rd September at Calabria. This was followed by larger landings at Taranto in the East and at Salerno in the West on 9th September.
By far the largest action was at Salerno. The plan was to land the US Fifth Army at Salerno and seize the port of Naples, thereby preventing the Germans from establishing a coherent front in Southern Italy.
Lieutenant General Mark Clark, commanding the 5th Army, had approximately 85,000 troops, against an estimated defending force of 50,000 Germans - mainly from the Tenth Army.
The battle was a close run thing - the Allies seriously underestimated the speed and weight of the German reaction. The beach-head was quickly contained and subjected to determined counter attacks, which came dangerously close to pushing the allies back into the sea. Reinforcements were rushed to the beach-head and, with the approach of the Eighth Army, which had landed at Taranto, the Germans broke contact and conducted a skilful withdrawal to the north.
Naples was not captured until 1st October, by which time the Field Marshall Kesselring had established a German defensive front on the line of the Volturno River and on the ‘Adolf Hitler’ and ‘Gustav’ lines.
The Volturno was swollen with the autumn rains and all the bridges crossing it had been blown. The ‘Adolf Hitler’ line barred the Liri valley which gave access to the North along the coastal strip and Highway 6 to Rome. The ‘Gustav’ Line was the Germans’ main structure of defence in Italy. It crossed the peninsula in its narrowest and most mountainous region, where the mountains extended from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic.
Field Marshal Kesselring saw the political importance of holding Rome. Rome could be approached from the South by one of two routes - namely Highway 7 on the coast or Highway 6 inland. Highway 6 crossed the mountains at Cassino, where the Gustav line was strong - aided by the River Rapido.
The Allied advance moved slowly northwards as the winter weather of 1943 set in. The advance to the ‘Gustav’ Line cost a great deal of men and materials to the 5th Army, and as the main battle had not yet even begun, new resources were required to guarantee a positive result in the future operations.
In January 1944 a major attack was launched upon the ‘Gustav’ Line, centred upon the town of Cassino. Between 17th January and 22nd May 1944 four battles took place, with over 300,000 Allied troops thrown into battle against 180,000 Germans. Cassino finally fell on 18th May and the northward advance could again begin.
Whilst this action at Cassino took place, a sea landing had taken place at Anzio, 30 miles to the south of Rome. The aim was to outflank the ‘Gustav’ Line and break the impasse at Cassino. The beach-head was quickly contained by the Germans when the force consolidated its perimeter rather than advance inland and secure the Alban Hills. It was not until 23rd May that the allied force was able to break out and advance on Rome; despite the plan to cut of the retreating Germans.
Allied forces first entered Rome on 4th June, only two days before D Day. This overshadowed the Italian Theatre which became the forgotten campaign.
The German Forces withdrew northwards and the Allied forces followed up their retreat. The Germans were forced to withdraw on the Adriatic sector simply because of the allied advance in the West. The lack of activity on the Adriatic sector saw some formations switched to other parts of the front. This was the case with the 10th Indian Division, which included in its 25th Brigade 1st Battalion The King’s Own Royal Regiment, Lancaster.
1st & 8th Battalions King’s Own 1939-1944
The 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) was one of two regular battalions forming the Regiment. At the outbreak of the Second World War the battalion was stationed at Napier Barracks in Karachi, India. They remained here until April 1941 when the battalion was airlifted to Iraq. The pro-German Iraqi Prime Minister Raschid Ali had organised a coup d’etat, and promptly declared war on Britain on 28th April. The Battalion was airlifted to RAF Habbaniya to the west of Baghdad and provided the ground defence of the airfield.
In early May the Battalion attacked and overran enemy forces threatening the plateau overlooking the airfield. Between 19th and 22nd May, supported by Gurkhas and Iraqi Levies, the battalion moved east to defeat an Iraqi counter-attack at Fallujah, thus opening the way for Baghdad. For this action the Regiment received the unique Battle Honour ‘Defence of Habbaniya’.
The Battalion then moved to Northern Iraq to secure the airfield at Mosul for the RAF, and, along with other units of the 25th Indian Infantry Brigade, it provided an occupying force for a further twelve months.
In May 1942 the 1st Battalion moved to the Western Desert, where they held a defensive position on the Libyan-Egyptian frontier, until the fall of Tobruk when the Battalion withdrew. During the Western Desert campaign a large number of men were killed, wounded or captured, and the remainder left Port Said for Cyprus on 17th August aboard Princess Marguerite, which was torpedoed en route, causing further loss of life - one officer and 23 other ranks.
Eventually the remainder of the Battalion reached Cyprus. On arrival the Battalion was reformed with men from the 1st Battalions South Wales Borderers and Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. After training in Syria and Palestine in 1943 the King’s Own were sent to the Greek Island of Leros in November 1943. The King’s Own and three other British infantry battalions were subject to a German airborne and sea landing on 12th November. After fierce fighting the island surrendered on the 16th. The 1st Battalion lost 54 killed, and an unknown number of wounded and prisoners-of-war. A total of 58 men escaped from Leros and made it back to Palestine.
In Palestine the 58 men were absorbed into the 8th Battalion King’s Own Royal Regiment, and this battalion assumed the title of the 1st Battalion on 30th January 1944, and joined the 10th Indian Division.
The 8th Battalion had been raised as a Pioneer Battalion in February 1940, with the role of carrying out construction work, mainly the building of defences for units of the British Expeditionary Force, although they were still expected to carry out normal infantry duties when required. The personnel for the 8th Battalion came from all over the country and contained soldiers from almost every Regiment and unit in the Army.
The 8th Battalion arrived in France in April 1940. Following the German invasion on 10th May, the 8th Battalion made its way back to Dunkirk, lacking much of the basic infantry equipment, such as carriers and bren guns. On return to the UK they were switched to coast defence duties in the UK.
In July 1941 the 8th Battalion left Scotland for Malta. En route, on 23rd July, HMS Manchester, carrying the majority of the Battalion, was torpedoed and had to limp back to Gibraltar. The Battalion finally arrived in Malta on board other ships on 2nd August, and remained on the island until November 1943. The Battalions main role was to provide the defence for the various airfields on the Island. In November 1943 the Battalion moved to Palestine, where the remaining men of the 1st Battalion were absorbed and the unit, re-titled to take the identity of the 1st Battalion.
As a result of hard work the battalion completed company training by the end of February. Support company platoons were tactically efficient; battalion headquarters and the signal platoon could both function in the field and the MT discipline and vehicle maintenance had been mastered. In addition to the tactical training which involved a considerable march to and from the training areas, strenuous PT was carried out daily and cross-country weekly. March had been earmarked for the battalion training, and as the battalion had never operated as a unit it was something of a bomb-shell to find that a large-scale divisional exercise was to be held on 2nd March, which was the final test before embarkation for active operations in Italy. It turned out that the experience gained in these nine days exceeded anything which could have been achieved in a month of normal training. Every conceivable difficulty was encountered in the most realistic and exhausting battle conditions. Exercise ‘Crocodile’ virtually made the battalion.
1st Battalion King’s Own in Italy
The 1st Battalion landed in Italy on 28th March 1944, as part of the 25th Indian Brigade which was in turn part of the 10th Indian Division. The battalion moved to a tented camp just north of Taranto, and for the next seventeen days undertook such training as was possible. All the key officers and non commissioned officers had been called forward to carry out reconnaissance in connection with the future operational role of the division. On 20th April the battalion took their place in the line on the Adriatic Front.
Within the 10th Indian Division each battalion did approximately twelve days in the forward positions and six in brigade reserve. For the King’s Own the latter were spent on intensive training particularly in co-operation with tanks with which, of course, the King’s Own were entirely unacquainted.
By the end of May the battalion was about 15 miles away from Cassino. Then followed a month of intensive training, primarily for operations in hilly country. The technique of mountain tactics and climbing, and the use of special equipment, mule pack etc were practised. In addition a number of river crossing and tank co-operation exercises were held. The battalion were soon fighting fit, properly trained for the first time and ready for anything.
On 26th June the 10th Indian Division moved north to the Tiber Valley.
The Campaign in Italy June 1944 - July 1944
The 20th and 25th Indian Brigades were to advance up the Tiber Valley to the east of the river, and the 10th Brigade up the west bank.
On 30th June the 1st Battalion put in its first attack since reconstitution. Only rearguards confronted it that day and the operation was a complete success; all objectives were taken as were a number of prisoners. As the troops approached Umbertide, a market town twenty miles north of Perugia, resistance stiffened, but the battalion continued to be successful in a number of minor operations, amongst which was the attack on Pierantonio on 3rd July, a village overlooked by a hill which was strongly defended. When his platoon was held up by a light machine gun, Private AJ Baldwin set out alone to crawl towards it. By skilful field craft he approached unseen to within grenade range and captured single-handed the five Germans in the trench. At the same time the section commanded by Lance Sergeant H T Ashby outflanked another enemy position, destroyed three machine gun posts and overturned a lorry which was pulling out loaded with troops.
Later the village was evacuated under cover of fire of Sergeant Ashby’s section. Although Private Baldwin was wounded he refused help of stretcher-bearers and insisted on walking back two miles over difficult and mountainous country. Lieutenant J H Thornton, posted wounded and missing, was afterwards discovered to have been killed.
To the east of the town of Umbertide, which 1 King’s Own entered at the head of the division, the enemy made a stand in strength along a small stream between Montone and Carpini. Montone was the key to the position, standing upon a high hill with steep bare approaches which were strongly defended. It dominated the whole Tiber Valley and several attempts to capture it were repulsed with heavy loss.
The King’s Own were called to attack it, and planned to do so from the rear. At 9.30pm on 6th July the battalion swung away on a twelve mile night march across difficult and little-reconnoitred country. The men were in single file, closed right up and led by the Intelligence Officer, Lieutenant G E Johnson. After A Company, which formed the advanced guard under Captain J A Stewart, came battalion headquarters and the gunners OP, both 22 sets being humped by members of the Support Company, prised from their vehicles for the occasion. Then came the Regimental Aid Post and the other
three rifle companies followed behind. They crossed five ravines with scarcely a track to indicate the easiest route, along great features, through woods and across fields, then down a slope across the Pietralunga road, and up a steep and difficult incline. So far the column had moved in complete silence; not a word was spoken and the sound of marching was deadened by the soft ground. Suddenly a dog barked from a farmhouse and in the stillness of the night it seemed enough to warn every German for miles around. The wretched animal continued to bark furiously while the whole battalion filed past.
The strain was beginning to tell and as the men climbed up and up they gasped for breath, but at last, unseen and unopposed, they arrived below their first objective, Monte Cucco, the feature which dominated from the rear their second objective, the village of Montone. An ‘O’ Group was called which the CO led to the very top of Monte Cucco, whence Montone could be see silhouetted in the moonlight. Owing to the exhaustion of the troops it was decided to postpone the attack until 7 am and an anxious quarter of an hour ensued while the gunners worked furiously to establish contact with the guns and postpone the opening bombardment. The managed to do so and the men lay down to sleep, still undiscovered although they were lying out for a considerable time in broad daylight within eight hundred yards of the village.
B and C Companies attacked under Captains F E Brooker and D C Warren respectively. They moved to the fringe of cyprus trees on the edge of the hill, some six hundred yards from the sheer bastion of the village. Before the concentration had finished, the leading platoons were running down the slope in extended order, and some of the first men got to the other side and almost reached the only apparent entrance to the village before the enemy fired a shot. On the other hand, some of C Company were pinned down by a few Germans on the bastion above them. Second Lieutenant J W Lowe made a valiant attempt to reach a position from which he could return their fire and he actually gained his objective before he was killed. Then followed hours of stiff house-to-house fighting in which all the advantage was with the defenders.
Montone was a maze of streets and alleyways, most of them effectively covered by German machine guns, which made C Company’s task of clearing the town extremely difficult. Disposing of the posts was largely a matter of finding a window close enough to overlook them, a task in which a number of civilians assisted. The wounded were being tended in a small chapel, and at one time heavy fire was coming through the door from a light machine gun until it was silenced by Lance Sergeant W H Evans, who took his section round to a flank and led the charge which captured it. Largely due to the able leadership of Captain Warren, the task was gradually completed, and at about 1pm the last twenty-seven Germans were brought out from a drainage tunnel in which they had gone to ground.
Twenty Germans were killed and eight-five prisoners taken for a cost of five killed and twenty three wounded. These figures do not give any idea of the feat which the battalion had accomplished, for the garrison of what the enemy believed to be an impregnable fortress was destroyed, an entire company being captured.
In the counter attack which took place on the 7th, battalion headquarters was actively engaged and the Commanding Officer’s batman claims to have killed a German sergeant.
SUBSEQUENT ACTIONS AT CITTA DI CASTELLO
After Montone the battalion was out of the line until 13th July when they rejoined in the area of Santa Lucia, some six miles south of Citta di Castello. The whole position was under direction enemy observation and a number of casualties were suffered from well aimed shell fire.
Two days later the battalion carried out their first night attack. In retrospect the plan appears somewhat ambitious for a first attempt. The enemy were holding a ridge opposite, some 600 yards away, in fair strength. A deep valley separated the two positions, with steep slopes and thick undergrowth. The simplest plan would have been a frontal attack with two companies up.
This meant, however, attacking through the probably enemy defensive fire, and even if the first wave succeeded, the follow up companies might well be isolated. Consequently it was decided to go wide round the right flank and to clear the ridge by a series of leap frog attacks passing companies through one another. This involved a difficult direction finding operation to each start line and an artillery and mortar programme depending on the success of each company attack. A deception plan was introduced to give the impression that the attack was frontal.
The leading company, D, left the concentration area at 22 45 hours followed by B and A at forty five minute intervals. A long period followed when all communication with the three companies broke down, in keeping with precedent. In the middle of this the enemy opened up with Machine Guns, Artillery and mortars and it was impossible to discover exactly where the fire was coming down. Still no messages from any of the companies. At about 01 30 hours D company were heard and seen on their objective and shortly afterwards they fired their success signal. Meanwhile, in the valley, confusion reigned. In fact, the enemy defensive fire fell exactly where it was expected to, just missing B and A companies who were forming up for their phased attacks. Not a single casualty was suffered from this defensive fire. In the confusion the company commanders decided to withdraw, but shortly afterwards the defensive fire ceased, communications were restored and the remainder of the operation could get underway as planned. Luckily the Germans did not regard the position as vital, as a quick determined counter attack on D company would have caught them isolated during the period of confusion in the valley. Complicated though the plan may have been, it did achieve surprise. The alternative, that is a frontal attack, would undoubtedly have failed in the face of the intense defensive fire which the enemy actually put down.
Thereafter, the brigade were involved in a slow steady advance in the mountains East of the Tiber. At one stage the battalion occupied Monte Altuccia which stood 4000 feet above sea level. No major actions were fought apart from an occasional attack in conjunction with tanks.
On 12th September the battalion were withdrawn to Arezzo, where they spent six days resting, cleaning and smartening up.
From Arezzo they were switched back to the Adriatic Front.
In October the Battalion fought in the Adriatic sector, talking San Martino, followed by the heavy fighting to secure and retain Pideura Ridge west of Faenza in December 1944. The Battalion was on the River Senio in January 1945 and later at Monte Grande until April 1945; it was resting at Ferrara in northern Italy when the campaign ended on 2nd May 1945.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Anderson (Commanding 1st King’s Own)
Lieutenant Colonel Anderson joined the 2nd Battalion King’s Own from Sandhurst in 1927 and served with them until 1939 when he attended the Staff College and was employed on the Staff until 1944. In early 1944 he took over the command of the 1st Battalion. He was awarded the DSO for his leadership at the capture of Montone.
Anderson later commanded the 2nd Infantry Brigade in Palestine when he earned a bar to his DSO. In 1956 he was promoted to Major General and commanded the 17th Gurkha Division in Malaya from 1955 to 1958. He was Colonel of the 10th Gurkha Rifles from 1959 to 1966.
In 1958 he became Vice Adjutant General at the War Office and in 1960 was promoted Lieutenant General and became General Officer Commanding Middle East Land Forces in Cyprus. In 1963 he became General Officer Commanding North Ireland and held that appointment until he retired from the Army in 1965.
He was Colonel of the King’s Own from 1957 until its amalgamation in 1959, and took over the Colonelcy of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment from Major General Blomfield in 1961.
He died on 4th September 1979 at the age of 72.
Captain John Alexander Stewart
Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant 22 February 1941. 8th Battalion 29th march 1941. Acting Captain 20th August 1941. Commanding A Company 1st Battalion as advance Guard in Capture of Montone, 5/6th July 1944. Wounded (lost leg on mine) War substantive Captain and Temporary Major 8th January 1945 to 12th August 1945. Mentioned 1945. Retired Honorary Major August 1946.
Captain Frederick England Brooker
Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant 21 December 1940. ITC to 8th Battalion 4 January 1941. War Substantive Lieutenant 21st June 1941. Lieutenant 21st June 1942. Temporary Captain 1st Battalion 20th April 1944. Commanding Company at the Capture of Montone. To 1st Class A Release 23 February 1945. Out of Army List December 1946.
Captain Donald Cooper Warren
Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant 25 Feb 1940 from 163 OCTU. Joined 8th Battalion 11th July 1941. War Substantive Lieutenant at Malta 25th August 1941. Temporary Captain Specially Employed 7th September 1942. Transferred to 1st Battalion 1944. War Substantive Captain and Temporary Major 8th March 1945 to 1st July 1945. Military Cross from service in Italy. Retired Honorary Major, August 1946.
Lieutenant George Eric Johnson
Emergency Commission as 2nd Lieutenant 1st March 1941. Infantry Training Centre to 8th Battalion Malta 15 March 1941. War Substantive Lieutenant 1st September 1942. Transferred with 8th Battalion to 1st Battalion, 1944. As Intelligence Officer 1st Battalion he led the way to Montone, 5th Jul 1944. Temporary Captain 12th September 1944 to 25th November 1945. Military Cross 1945. Retired 1947.
Roll of Honour of the Action at Montone:
Demographic Breakdown of the 1st King’s Own
From the few statistics which are available for the time:
The average age of the soldier in the 1st Battalion was 27 years.
Approximately 71% of the battalion had enlisted prior to mid 1942.
About 16% of the battalion were original King’s Own enlistments - the others were transferred from other units.
Home areas of soldiers:
The remainder came from all parts of the United Kingdom.
MONTONE - one company of approximately 105 Germans holding a heavily fortified village on a hill.
At this time in the war a German Infantry Battalion had an establishment of 653 men, mainly as a result of serious manpower shortages.
The Battalion would be comprised of 3 Rifle Companies, each containing three platoons plus 10 machine guns.
A Weapons Company would have 81mm Mortars and 8 heavy machine guns.
This establishment suited a defensive war - which was all that they were asked to fight.
The battalion would be armed with 436 rifles, 111 pistols, 105 submachine guns and 33 machine guns. The pistols were issued to the establishment’s 16 officers, plus the machine gunners and many of the NCO’s and Weapon Crews.
The most deadly of the German machine guns was the MG 42 - the Maschinengewehr 42. It could fire 1,300 rounds of 7.92 ammunition in a minute. It was nicknamed the ‘spandau’. It was one of the few items of German kit that if captured or found by the Allied solider would be used against the Germans themselves. To be fired the machine gun required a three man gun team. The guns were difficult to hold steady, and they tended to walk away from the firer on the bipod. One member of the gun team would be responsible for guiding the belt in the feedway to ensure that it did not become jammed.
Between 1942 and 1945 over 750,000 of the weapons were made.
Brigadier Arderne's Account
Extracts from his personal memoirs.Source: Brigadier Arderne Memoirs at the Imperial War Museum, London.
The Germans had concentrated most of their strength on the Western Coast and it was there at Anzio and the monastery of Cassino that the fiercest battles were fought. 10th Indian Division from Taranto slowly made its way up the East Coast of Infantry.
Brigadier Arderne commanded 25th Brigade, which included 1 King’s Own.
“We met fairly strong opposition at most of the major towns as we advanced. The enemy was mostly Italian and an infantry attack supported by artillery and tanks, if they could be spared, was sufficient to turn them out.
It often seemed that all that was required from the Italian side was a strong enough opposition to show their German masters that they were still in the war. At some stage of our advance my Brigade happened to be stationed in the lovely old university town of PERUGIA. From there my next objective was the town of UMBERTIDE, about 8 miles further north. For this operation I was able to deploy all four Battalions of my Brigade, which was something that rarely happened.
The 3rd Punjabis were to advance down the main road with UMBERTIDE as their objective. The Garhwalis were to move on the right flank. Their role was to cover the open right flank of the 3rd Punjabis and deal with any possible opposition in the open country. The King’s Own and Sikhs moved down the main road in close reserve. When the Punjabis reached UMBERTIDE their main attack was made down the central street. It took them about three hours to clear the town. There casualties were not heavy but their Colonel was killed during the first attack.
It was 18 00 when we suddenly discovered that the village of MONTONE which overlooked UMBERTIDE was still held by the enemy. “Andy” of the King’s Own was with me and I said ‘can you do it?’ ‘Yes, with artillery support’. My Gunner was there and he nodded. ‘Go’ was the only order I gave.
Andy, an excellent commanding officer, who rose to higher rank put in a well timed attack within the hour and MONTONE fell. When the Divisional Commander came up he said ‘You took a chance’ he must have been pleased, however, as he gave Andy a well deserved DSO. I also got a DSO for saying ‘Go’!
The day after the capture of UMBERTIDE we continued our advance in a North West direction with the SIKHS in the lead followed by the King’s Own.
The Country was hilly and open with scattered farmhouses. Andy told me that he had used one of the farmhouses as an OP. They had spotted him going in and had started bracketing on the farm with very accurate artillery. He just had time to get out and run for it.”
Account by George Simmons, September 2000, former private in the 1st Battalion.
“It seemed like 20 miles from the starting point.
The Indians had attacked three times from the front and each time were beaten off.
Anderson was up and down the ranks as we marched. Half way through the night march there was a dog barking from a farm but we all got passed. Every Jerry for miles around must have heard.
We assembled below Monte Cucco and then A and B Companies attacked Mt Cucco - but there were no Jerries there. From there we could see people on the battlements on the town. We moved off in single line. B Company on the left of us in A Company. My platoon was under Lieutenant Lowe.
We got up to the walls. There was a farm house and Captain Brooker stopped at the farm house. There were Italians clapping and cheering as they do.
There was ‘spandau’ fire from the right. Lieutenant Lowe went off to sort it out and got shot through the head.
Mortars were being fired onto the road from the battlements by this time.
We moved past the Church and then into the village. B Company were already in the village. We had been delayed for quite a while.
About 150 Jerries were taken in the village. We were lucky that the Jerries were stood down - it was daylight hours - and they were getting their breakfast.
A Company was cut off and receiving shell fire from the rear. We were all cut off until the afternoon until about 4 pm when the Maharattas came forward.
We did not get food until late that night. We had hardtack rations. There was some German food knocking around but we did not fancy that.
Contemporary Account Unknown Author
Source - document in museum collection author unknown.
On 26th June, the division moved North to relieve the 8th Indian Division for offensive operations in the Tiber Valley. On the 29th the King’s Own took over from the 4th West Kents on the East Bank of the Tiber, not far from Perugia.
The following day they put in their first attack. It was a complete success, all objectives were taken and a number of prisoners captured. Further minor successes followed and more prisoners were taken. The King’s Own were the first troops to enter Umbertide up to which point they had led the Division.
After only six days fighting, the battalion were called upon to undertake one of their hardest tasks during the whole campaign, namely the capture of the strong point of Montone. This village dominated the Valley and was vital to the enemy. It stood on the top of a large hill, with steep, bare approaches and was a very strongly defended. Previous attacks by the Punjabis, which had been frontal, had been repulsed with heavy casualties.
The Commanding Officer, acting on the principle that sweat saves blood, decided not to repeat a frontal attack but to approach it from a flank. His plan, aiming at surprise, involved a twelve mile night march across extremely difficult and un-reconnoitred country, followed by a right flank and rear attack at first light, proceeded by a heavy artillery concentration.
To the great credit of Lieutenant Johnson the Intelligence Officer, and Major Prideaux, their gunner, the battalion reached the concentration area an hour or so before dawn. It was found, however, that the men were so exhausted that the attack had to be postponed until 07 00 hours. Fortunately the enemy never discovered the battalion’s presence, although they were lying up for a considerable time in broad daylight within eight hundred yards of the village.
B and C Companies, very gallantly led by Captain Brooker and Captain Warren respectively, left their start line on time and actually entered Montone before the enemy fired a shot. After many hours of stiff house to house fighting the village was cleared. 20 Germans killed and 85 prisoners taken at a cost of 5 killed and 23 wounded.
It was decided that in addition to holding the village it would be necessary to hold the feature of Monte Cucco which overlooked Montone and from which the attack had been launched. Battalion Headquarters and two companies therefore remained on this feature for the night. At about 0200 hours the anticipated counter attack came in, but was beaten back. Battalion Headquarters themselves were actively engaged and the CO’s batman claimed one German sergeant killed.
The action was a fitting end to a successful first week’s fighting. In view of the fact that Montone had come to be regarded as almost impregnable, it was undoubtedly an extremely fine achievement which was quickly recognised by the Corps commander who personally directed that Lieutenant Colonel Anderson should be recommended for an immediate DSO.
© 2007 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum