Saturday, 6 November 2010

December 1944 - Changes in battalion command

During December many important changes took place in the Battalion. We were delighted to welcome back from England Major Tighe-Wood, MC, who had been wounded at Caen. He took over command of his old Company from Major Sweeny, MC, who had been summoned by the Commander in Chief to a post on his staff.

Soon after this we heard that Major Donlea, MC, who had been Second in Command of this Battalion for nearly two years was leaving us to become Commandant of the Divisional Battle School. He was succeeded by Major Wheeler, who had joined us at Vaudry after the conclusion of his mission in Albania with Brigadier Davies.

Finally as the year went out we learnt to our sorrow that we were to lose the Commanding Officer, Lt-Colonel Harris. it is difficult to say how much Colonel Harris signified to the Battalion. In the months before D Day he had trained and moulded it into a fine instrument of war and, during the battles, he had inspired in officers and men alike an admiration and respect for him and a trust and faith in his leadership.

He genuinely loved the Battalion and was as tireless in his efforts to maintain and nurse its strength as he was loyal to the memory of those who had fallen. So it was with deep emotion on his side and sorrow on ours that he parted from the Battalion on the last day of 1944. We cannot think of a better summary of the Battalion feelings for both Lt-Colonel Harris and his successor, Lt-Colonel Drummond, who joined us from the 1st Battalion than to quote from "The Harp" of New Years Day.

"Today we say an revoir to our C.O. and friend Lt-Colonel I. C. Harris. Everyone of us feels with him, disappointment at his departure from the Battalion. He knitted us into a close fraternity. More so, perhaps, than any unit in any Army. Many of us do not spring from his beloved Ireland. Yet it is due to his team building spirit that we are "Stickies" to the core; our regard for the Battalion is second to none. As we listened to him saying "So long", a thought of Shakespeare's "Parting is such sweet sorrow" came to our mind. It is so. Wherever Lieut. Colonel Harris may be, the affinity between him and this Battalion will continue. We wish him great success in his new post".

"Welcome to Lt-Colonel J. Drummond, who is taking over the vacancy created. Many of us have previously served under him. We feel sure we will get along together in no uncertain fashion."

Before these changes took place we were fortunate in being able to celebrate altogether a Christmas which, considering the circumstances was magnificent. By happy chance Christmas coincided with the week, during which the Brigade was out of the line, and although the progress of the German offensive in the Ardennes coupled with the vast increase of activity on our own front meant that we must remain on the qui vive, we were able to relax and indulge in a manner which would have been impossible in the line.

Christmas fare was on a princely scale and none could complain that in this respect he had suffered a little by spending Christmas away from home. Officers and Serjeants at last were able in communal messes to shake out of the company blocks into which they had been forced by the dictates of operations, and all the traditional rites such as the football match between Officers and Serjeants - by common consent in fancy dress - were observed with relish and delight.

Dances and parties on a company basis were organised and thoroughly enjoyed and, of course, what seemed an infinite supply continental liquor was consumed with truly Irish revelry and abandon.

It was essentially a friendly and light hearted Christmas, symbolic of the happy spirit which has remained the principal characteristic of the 2nd Battalion throughout all the changes which had come about. It also provided a fitting summary for "the end of a chapter" which, as the year drew to a close, everyone felt the Battalion to have reached.

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