Tunisia 1943 – Night Patrol Attack

On a fairly clear night with lots of stars in a clear sky, I was out on a fighting patrol of about eight men commanded by a Lt. Walsh. I was 2 i/c of the patrol. Our brief was to be as big a nuisance as possible to Jerry. The area to be patrolled was quite flat but contained quite a number of wadies and lay to the right of the main enemy position known as ‘Two Tree Hill’.

It is always necessary on these night patrols to go to ground frequently and listen for noises that are not normal at night e.g. voices, digging, vehicles etc. On one of these stops to listen we heard voices which appeared to come from somewhere in front and on either side of us. After poking about a bit we discovered that we were in the centre of a horseshoe shaped wadi and we had entered it through the open end.

Lt, Walsh and I discussed the situation in a whisper. We decided that six of us should crawl forward to a point in the wadi directly in front where there seemed to be the most enemy activity leaving two of the patrol to cover our rear. We were wearing leather jerkins over our uniforms and this combined with crawling over dry stubble sounded to our ears like a steamroller crushing fresh gravel. Having got to within 5 yards of the edge of the wadi the head and shoulders of a German Officer or N.C.O. appeared in front of us, shouted “Achtung” and other words we did not understand. I was in the middle of our group and I immediately opened fire with my sub-machine gun (Tommy Gun) and fired half a magazine (about 10 rounds) at the target, whilst the others lobbed in hand grenades. We then got to our feet and ran back the way we had come picking up our rear party on the way. After about 300 yards or so we went to ground to listen to what was going on behind, flares were going up and illuminating the whole area as well as M.G.’s firing in every direction. Clearly our opponents had received a late night surprise they had not anticipated.

The return trip to our own positions was fairly fast but great alertness had to be maintained throughout, enemy patrols may also have been around creating the danger of being ambushed ourselves.

On that patrol we thought we had stumbled on German units either waiting to go to positions on their main position ‘Two Tree Hill’, or else had come off the hill and were waiting to go back to a rest area to their rear, after having been replaced by fresh troops.

A few days after this event I was promoted to Sgt. – still a teenager.