On 2nd May 1945, there was full and final surrender of all German forces in Italy. Army Group South-West, under General von Vietinghoff, surrendered unconditionally to Field-Marshal Alexander. From the Commander-in-Chief came this message to the troops:
"After nearly two years of hard and continuous fighting, which started in Sicily in the summer of 1943, you stand today as victors in the Italian Campaign. You have won a victory which has ended in the complete and utter rout of the German armed forces in the Mediterranean. Today the remnants of the once proud army have laid down their arms to you-close on one million men, with all their arms and equipment.
You may well be proud of this great victorious campaign, which will long live in history as one of the greatest and most successful ever waged."
April 1945 proved a momentous month for the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles in Northern Italy as they both took leading roles in the 8th Army's assaults on German positions south of the River Po as part of Operation 'Buckland'. The two battalions were to meet on the battlefield for the first time during the war on the afternoon on 14th April... the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) had left Britain in August 1942 and the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) in November 1942.
During March 1945, the two battalions of London Irishmen had mirror experiences with the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) spending the first part of the month on the Senio Floodbank with 167th Brigade and the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) taking over positions on the Senio, along with the rest of the Irish Brigade, for most of the second half. Both units were able to celebrate St Patrick's Day out of the line, although 2 LIR's convivial activities were deferred until 29th March.
The start of February 1945 saw the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) continuing at rest and the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR), under command of 11 Brigade, were in the mountains near to San Clemente but, within a short period, their respective roles were reversed.
On the 4th of the month, 2 LIR were eventually relieved from the front line and travelled southwards to join up with the rest of 38 (Irish) Brigade for a short rest just to the north of Florence. On the 11th, the Irish Brigade moved to the town of Forli where they would remain for the next four weeks and they soon started to undertake training exercises in expectation of the next offensive, which was expected in the drier spring time.
The start of 1945 saw both battalions continuing in front line positions in Northern Italy - the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) with the 167th Brigade on the floodbanks of the Senio river and the 2nd Battalion in the mountains near San Clemente.
Although both battalions were in static positions, they continued to take part in regular nightly patrols and occasional raids forward - at Casa Tamagnin on the 3rd by the Battle Patrol of 2 LIR and one the next night by 1 LIR who, along with the London Scottish and Royal Fusiliers, were in action near Cassanigo Vecchio.
The 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) spent the first part of December 1944 with the rest of the Irish Brigade and still under 5th Army orders, in the area near Monte Grande taking part in patrolling and raiding party activity. After a short period of rest at Christmas, they were again back in the line at Casa Tamagnin as the year came to a close.
Meanwhile, after a major divisional reorganisation and, having joined 167th Brigade, the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) were called forward to the floodbanks of the River Senio. A prolonged period of activity, which was akin to trench warfare from the Great World War, commenced for the battalion and this experience was later to be replicated for 2 LIR in the New Year.
November 1944 was a relatively quiet month for both battalions of the London Irish Rifles in Northern Italy but the conditions in the line became increasingly wintry, a portent of the weather that they would face over the coming months.
The start of October 1944 found the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) at rest in Fermo near Ancona and it remained in this area for the rest of the month while the future of 56th Division was being discussed at a higher level.
After moving northwards from Taranto in expectation of joining up again with the 8th Army, the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) was instead moved westwards, along with the rest of the Irish Brigade, to take up positions near Castel del Rio under the command of 5th Army, in order to support an advance towards Bologna.
At the start of September 1944, the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) started its move back from Egypt to Italy, arriving at Taranto on 15th September before journeying northwards to the 78th Division's Concentration Area at Fano where they arrived on the 27th. Here, it was expected that the Irish Brigade would soon be re-joining the 8th Army as it continued its assault on the Gothic Line, but these plans would be changed in October.
Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) were ready to enter the fighting along with the other two battalions of 168th Brigade, 1 London Scottish and 1 Welch Regiment, on the road to Croce near a hill called Germano. On the night of 10th/11th September, and after a week of bitter fighting and suffering heavy casualties, the brigade was relieved and moved back to Morchiano for much needed rest.
August 1944 was a contrasting month for the two battalions.
Whilst the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) was at rest in Egypt, moving from Qassisin to Sidi Bishr to the north east of Alexandria at the start of the month, the end of the month saw the 1st Battalion (1 LIR) starting its northward movement to join the 8th Army's assault on the Gothic Line, which had commenced on the night of 25th/26th August 1944.
July 1944 was a month of transition for both London Irish Rifles' battalions.
After being withdrawn from the battle area near to Lake Trasimeno at the end of June, the 2nd Battalion travelled south to encamp east of Rome near Tivoli and this allowed an opportunity for all the men to explore the Eternal City. On 9th July, they visited the Vatican, this time in more relaxed circumstances than the visit in June and were accompanied there by the Massed Pipes and Drums of the whole Irish Brigade. The next day, the battalion entrained for a period of rest in Egypt.
The start of June 1944 found 2 LIR at rest in the Ripi area, as they awaited orders to move forward again and it was here that they heard that Rome had been liberated on 4th June. Eventually, they started to move forward again on 8th June and, at one point, came to guard Kesselring's former HQ in a cave complex at San Oreste. Whilst the battalion continued in their advance towards Civitella, a group of London Irishmen joined a wider Irish Brigade detachment, led by Brigadier Scott, which visited the Vatican to meet Pipe Pius. With the brigade's Pipes and Drums in attendance, this was one of the more memorable episodes of their whole time in Italy..
In May 1944, the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) took part in the 4th Battle of Monte Cassino before moving northwards along the Liri Valley and taking part in several sharp assaults on German defensive strong points in their advance to Ripi,
For the first three weeks of April 1944, the 2nd Battalion (2 LIR) continued in defensive duties near to the summit of the 771 metre high Monte Castellone, where their four company positions were named Arsenal, Chelsea, Celtic and Lindfield.