David Rowlands: Military Artist
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The O Group at Monte Cassino   The O Group at Monte Cassino

On 15th May 1944, during 8th Army's Cassino offensive, 2nd London Irish Rifles were preparing to advance when German shell and mortar fire mortally wounded the Commanding Officer. Major John Horsfall assumed command. Brigadier Pat Scott, the Irish Brigade commander, Lt-Col Bala Bredin, the CO of 6th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, whose battalion was already on its objectives, and Major Paul Lunn Rockliffe, commanding the supporting battery of 17th Field Regiment RA, joined Major Horsfall for an Orders Group at 1700 hours to plan the next stage of the advance.

John Horsfall, who has written several books about his soldiering days, described the scene to me in graphic detail. The ground was full of banks and folds. Olive trees reduced the visibility forward. 'A wrecked German 56-mm anti-tank gun was dug in nearby, and an awful lot of smashed kit was lying about.' John always wore his Sam Browne belt and leather pistol holster. Fusilier Clanachan prepares to hand him a mug of rum. Pat Scott typically smoked his pipe, as they spread aerial photos (joined up on boards) on the bonnet of a jeep. (His caubeen is now in the Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum). Paul Lunn-Rockliffe, 'almost always seen wearing shorts', was on the No.19 radio set, directing the fire of his guns; the jeep was probably his, and bears the RA tactical sign and the Battle-axe badge of 78th Division.

The Regimental Aid Post was operating in the base of a once substantial building, now wrecked, and wounded soldiers were being stretchered in. A Sherman tank of 16th/5th Lancers is nearby. At left is a carrier bearing the tac sign (56) of 2 LIR, at the spot where the CO was killed earlier. Riflemen of the London Irish lie in shallow foxholes about the position. Monte Cassino dominated the area, its monastery on top, brightly white in the late afternoon sun.

I visited the home of Major-General 'Bala' Bredin, who also had a clear account of the O Group. He was certain he wore the grey caubeen of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Cassino (which were made from the cloth of captured Italian greatcoats). Besides the Battle-axe badge, the three infantry officers wear the shamrock of 38 (Irish) Brigade on their sleeves. Many others who were at Cassino also gave me their recollections.

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Printed image size(s): B2 only (58 x 38 cm)

Owner: 1st Bn The Royal Irish Regiment

Price(s): 70