We were given the task of striking north at once to capture Strangolagalli. As soon as the Faughs had changed their armour, they started probing forward. The country, during the next three days, proved to be worst tank country we had ever met. It was a very hard test on an Armoured Regiment trained in the desert. The work they put in to getting their tanks across this abominable country was most praiseworthy. With the best will in the world, things were going pretty slowly with both infantry and tanks. Opposition was quite considerable, nebels and mortars were very active. The Faughs eventually reached their objective to the south of Strangolagalli about midnight, having done very well after a hard day’s fighting.
After making sure of their midday meal, I directed the Irish Rifles on to the high ground to the Faughs’ left flank.
Here is their CO’s own account of it:
“Progress was very slow for most of the day owing to the difficult tank going. We were then given the dual task during the afternoon of acting as back stop to the Faughs and also thrusting forward through the hills to their south ie coming up on their left flank. The difficulty here was the entire absence of tracks and the route was passable for no vehicles of any kind. The dominating feature for many miles was Hill 255 – about two miles south of Strangolagalli. E Company, under Mervyn Davies, was sent off in the middle of the afternoon to act as a probing force, and they accomplished their very difficult cross country approach by 6pm when they ran into Bosche in strength on 255 itself.
Accordingly, they took up positions about 600 yards south of the hill to await us. The Faughs, meanwhile, launched their attack on Strangolagalli at dusk, which released the rest of us for 255 and we set off on foot at 3pm. Mike Everleigh and his Hussars were just told the plot and asked to help if they could. We eventually reached Mervyn after an arduous hike across the hills by 10pm. The trip was uneventful except for being Nebelwerfer-ed several times during the first part.
We found Mervyn and his boys established in a farm on the end of a spur, which was a very good view point in the moonlight. The attack was laid on for midnight with E Company doing the main assault while G Company cleaned up the north flank and H Company supported the attack from the nearby houses. I, in the meantime, got busy on the artillery plot. E Company duly waded in at midnight behind a 20 minute concentration by the Divisional artillery.
They went off their bearing slightly but it was rather advantageous than otherwise for they came up on the flank of the Bosche’s main positions and were behind them before the opposing team realised it. When they did, a fierce hand to hand struggle broke out which lasted about a half an hour. The Bosche eventually ran for it. A special word of praise here is due to the 17th Field. The concentration was perfect and fell heaviest where the German trenches were thickest and the Bosche were only half dug in. The 17th Field had had no time to range and they had only moved into position in the late afternoon. Furthermore, they only had half an hour in the dark to lay their shoot on. It was decisive. We had no casualties. There were at least eight dead Huns on the objective and many signs of other casualties. They had abandoned most of their weapons and a lot of other equipment. By 2am, the whole area was consolidated and we had linked up with the Faughs, while our patrols probed north. The latter ran into a number of Bosche and heard a lot of enemy vehicle movement.
In the meantime, the difficulty was getting our vehicles and finally Ivan Yates got through with jeeps by a route, which must have taken him almost through the Bosche lines via Route Six. Finally, however, we linked up with S Company, who came through Strangolagalli via the Faughs.”
Later in the evening, I moved the Skins up to the right rear of the Faughs and sent a patrol into Strangolagalli to see what the form was. They found it unoccupied. Apart from quite a fair amount of enemy opposition during these few days, our chief headache was an engineering one. Pushing roads through was an absolute headache and their rate of progress really governed the speed of the operation. I never fussed about this because I knew quite well that Ronnie Denton and his lads would always be working at top speed. It was just absurd to hustle them. All I wanted was the best possible estimates of time required for a task at frequent intervals. This I got and, on it, based the plan.