Stuka Farm, February 1943.
Captain Strome Galloway was part of a draft of Canadian officers who joined the First Army in North Africa during the early part of 1943.
Galloway joined up with the Irish Brigade in February 1943 and along with Captain Gale and Lieutenants La Prairie and Curry took a leading role within the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) during their period in the line north of Bou Arada.
Captain Galloway kept a diary of the two months he spent with the Irish Brigade and his memories of that time were published in his 1984 book “With the Irish against Rommel”.
As Second in Command of F Company in 2 LIR, he provides a most evocative account of the bitter fighting on 26th February 1943 at Stuka Ridge which we reproduce below.
Captain Galloway in his slit trench on Stuka Ridge on the afternoon of 26th February.
“I am writing this in a slit trench which I am sharing with Thompson the company clerk. The enemy launched a vicious attack all along the front before dawn this morning and our positions at present is not good. I have the remnants of F Company with me in a cactus patch several hundred yards behind Stuka Farm. The whereabouts of (Major Colin) Gibbs, (Lt) Willcocks and the vast majority of the Company are unknown to me – they may be either killed or captured.
At about 630am, a phone message from G Company warned us that men, believed to be enemy, were moving about in the nullah between their positions and ours. This seemed impossible, since we were well wired in there and a patrol in the hut out in front had reported nothing. I was in the Company HQ dugout, having made my tour of the Company positions earlier on.
Gibbs was out prowling around the sentries and LMG posts when the message came. Late last evening, an aircraft, believed to be of German make, flew slowly and ominously over our position and a message from Bttn HQ told us to be on the lookout for airborne troops. Although this was not disregarded and the outposts and platoon positions were duly warned that an attack from the air or across the plain might materialise, nothing untoward occurred until G Company’s message came through. During my tour, I had spent some time in the nullah and had peered out over the plain whilst talking to sentries.
The area was quiet; dawn was just breaking. It was foggy as I left the dugout to go in search of Gibbs to warn him of the phone message. I had hardly got out onto the footpath on the hillside ten yards from the dugout when Gibbs came running towards me. He was out of breath and shouted that there were about 30 Bosche in the nullah. He then told me to get the 2” mortars into play on them. We had these little weapons brigaded for just such a task and, after hurriedly rousing the mortarmen and detailing the task, I climbed the slope to O Pip where I found Gibbs organising a counter attack. Some small arms fire was coming from the nullah several hundred yards away…”
Read more of Strome Galloway’s account here.