Recce took up its first overseas assignment in April of 1943 when it transferred with the 1st Airborne Division to North Africa. Recce did not take part in any action in Africa, nor did it partake in the invasion of Sicily in July. Recce finally went into action on 13th September as part of the invasion of Italy. The invasion was split into three prongs, the first of which was Montie's 8th Army, which landed at Reggio on 3rd September. The second prong was formed by 'Operation Avalanche', the landing on 13th September of the US 5th Army and the British 10th Corps at Salerno. At the same time the British 1st Airborne Division land from ships at Toranto.
Under the command of Hackett's 4th Parachute Brigade the 1st Airlanding Reconnaissance Squadron took up the vanguard of the right hand prong. After the unopposed landing at Toranto Recce were charged with reconnoitring the route up the East Coast. This task was divided between three groups forming 3 parallel routes. The Eastern most route to Martina Franca was taken by B troop of the Squadron, the centre route through Massafra and Mottola to Gioia del Colle by the rest of the Recce Squadron and the Western route by 2nd SAS who would circle round by Matera and Altumura. All three groups would converge at Gioia.
Lieutenant Dougie Galbraith's leading section of A troop made the first contact just North of Toranto on the centre route. This contact turned out to be an elderly Italian who gave the rather lame excuse of thinking they were Germans. Italians were by this stage our allies, but none of the men were particularly keen to trust the Italians. Both Recce and the SAS took to searching and interrogating the Italians soldiers they met at roadblocks along the way, after they had been made to lay down their arms. Carrying along the centre route the Recce patrol came under fire again, this time from an Italian roadblock. Thankfully the fire was inaccurate and an SAS member attached to Recce who spoke Italian informed the Italians of their mistake. In order to prevent such an occurrence happening again the Italian officer at the roadblock was taken, on the bonnet of the lead jeep, along to point out further roadblocks.
As Recce pressed on into the dawn of the second day they neared Massafra,
A troop came under fire, the accuracy of the tracer rounds indicated that it was coming from high calibre German troops.
The enemy turned out to be 1st German Parachute Battalion. The encounter turned out to be brief, following flanking fire from
Galbraith's section the remainder of the troop stormed into the town on their jeeps just as the Germans left.
On the winding road nearing Mottola the troop again came under fire. Machine-gun rounds struck the haversacks on the bonnet of the lead jeep. Dismounting and seeking cover it was apparent that the Germans maintained two positions, the nearest being a line of trench positions on a hillock, the other a row of pillboxes just outside the town. Both machine-gun and shellfire was falling from these positions onto the Recce men. An attack was put in on the enemy positions on the hillock, covering fire coming from the Bren guns while an assault was launched from the left flank, which was entirely successful. The newly won positions were consolidated while the men waited for 156th Parachute Battalion to come and clear the pillboxes. Recce remained in constant touch with the rearguard of the retreating German Airborne Division.Not until after 10th Parachute Battalion had taken Gioia on the 16th September and Recce had taken up position just outside was news received about B troop, who were taking the Easterly root through Martina Franca. B troop had run into a bad ambush at Locorotondo. As the jeeps reached a 'Y' junction, the enemy opened fire with machine-guns and grenades. Very few managed to escape, most of those who were not killed were captured.
After a short rest at Gioia, Recce pressed on to take Bari, with A troop
leading the squadron drove into Bari with no resistance whatsoever. The squadron took over a school for accommodation and HQ
was set-up in the Imperial hotel on the sea front. From here they continued their probes, never taking their finger from the
As elements of the 78th Division came up Recce were off again, up the coast to Barletta and on to Foggia. On reaching Barletta they found the locals, mosquitoes, to be most unfriendly, biting mercilessly. Next morning they were glad to leave the swamps of Barletta. With great speed they reached Foggia within the day. Their orders called for a report on the Foggia airfield, which the Germans were using as a base. By the end of the Night Major Gough was able to report that they had captures the base, aircraft and all.
This concluded 1st Airlanding Reconnaissance Squadron's work in Italy,
they returned at the end of September to the UK and their new base at Ruskington near Sleaford in Lincolnshire.
Work began to bring the Squadron back up to strength, though B troop was never re-formed. The men became fully parachute trained
and the unit was renamed 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron to reflect this. Major Gough worked tirelessly to get improved
equipment for the squadron, the most notable success was with the mounting of a Vickers 'K' machine-gun on each of the jeeps.
However Gough had tried to get two or even four such guns along with armour for each of the jeeps similar to that which equipped
the SAS jeeps.