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Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


War Diaries – 16th to 20th April 1943


16th April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

1430 A conference was held at Command Post with a view of an attack on Tanngoucha. Commanders attended. The artillery plan was to bring down concentrations on other areas to gain surprise and lead enemy reserves in the wrong direction, then to give Tanngoucha by concentrations just before the attack. Zero was fixed for 0001hrs 17 April.

1800 The following came under command 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade: 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, 5 Buffs, 56 Recce. 2 LIR and 1 RIrF remained responsible for same areas as previously (Bettiour and Kef el Tiour). 56 Recce were relieved by 5 Buffs on infantry positions guarding the east approaches to the Chaouach and 56 Recce and a coy 5 Buffs concentrated area Chaouach. 2 LIR were ordered to send recce patrol to find out if Heidous was occupied.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

0000 A thick mist had come down by this time, reducing visibility to a few yards. Owing to this fact, Bttn HQ and HQ Coy did not arrive. Communication between command group and the adjutant had broken down, and no information as to our whereabouts could be passed back. Runners had to be sent out to find the adjutant and lead Bttn HQ and HQ Coy up. Coys also had some difficulty and getting up the remainder of their stores.

0400 Bttn was complete less the adjutant and rear link wireless. A thick mist still made visibility bad. C Coy report having take 30 prisoners on 659 and a 3” mortar.

0500 Patrols were sent out by coys to give warning of possible counter attack. Several of the patrols were lost in the mist, some returned when the mist lifted.

1000 The mist lifted and the enemy put in attack on A Coy’s position. Machine gun fire and sniping continued with varying intensity throughout the day.

1200 A Coy reported that the situation was under control, but that they had had some casualties. Evacuation of these was difficult owing to the sniping. The gunner OP Captain Brown was wounded. A German officer crawled to within ten yards of his trench before he realised it. When he saw him, he stood up in his trench and shot him. Lieut MG Trousdell was also wounded in this action.

1230 The adjutant arrived with the 21 set and communication established with brigade. He reported that rear Bttn HQ had been attacked in the night on Bettiour. The rest of the day was fairly quiet with intermittent sniping and mortaring.

Captain WH Harvey RAMC was wounded by a splinter from a mortar bomb.

Captain DL Jefferies MC was reported having died of wounds in Beja.

Died on this Day:

Captain Nicholas Jefferies MC, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal Thomas Addey, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal George Flowers, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Albert Grice, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Isaac Henry, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – CHAOUACH.

0130 B Coy leave to picket road at area 526413.

0200 D Coy leave to picket road area 519412.

Lieut Ablett left bttn to take up duties as instructor at 3 GRU.

Lieut Lambert Porter and 57 ORs arrived as reinforcements.

Captain Kingsmill left bttn 14 April to return to Canadian Army in England.

1245 CO goes to Brigade and receives orders for bttn to attack Djebel Tanngoucha J5645. To right 1 RIrF hold pt 622 J560455 and pt 633 J5545. 1 East Surreys are on Djebel el Ang J5445. 2 LIR on Djebel Bettiour J5444.

1415 Bttn O Group goes to Brigade OP to view ground.

1500 CO attends conference at Brigade to work out artillery fire plan. 2 Field Regiments, 1 Medium Battery, and one of Heavies are in support.

1730 Bttn leaves by march route to assembly area 542445 via Kelbine 535431. O Group goes forward to HQ 1 RIrF to view ground on arrival, It is found that 1 RIrF have not taken pt 622 J 560455, which is still in enemy hands. It is decided that 1 RIrF will capture that point as first phase.

Plan for attack: C Coy right, A Coy left, S/L track running south from pt 622 J5645. D Coy and B to follow two hundred yards behind C and A respectively. When A and C have reached objective, B and D will go through A and C, search forward and then consolidate on reverse slopes. C and A each to have one mortar under command. Hundred beehive mines will accompany B and D Coys with a section of sappers to each coy. 1 RIrF will take and hold pt 622 before zero. Zero is 2359hrs. Coys to be formed up by 2345hrs. Essential stores to be taken in carriers to mule point at Kelbine 530430 and then on mule pack. Compo rations for 17 April will be broken down and carried on the man.

1930 Bttn arrived in assembly area. At last, it is found necessary to change round D and C Coys.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Henry Mandy, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Picker, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant Arthur Fenton, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert Curzon, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

1000 RIrF occupied position Point 623 (5645). F Company taken over company positions of 5th Northants. Enemy shelling track 543433 – nine shells in two minutes. Five more in south-west of this.

1030 Own artillery shelling 577448.

1045 Own artillery shelling Tanngoucha.

1100 Enemy mortaring E & G companies at Point 668.

1535 Bettiour shelled by 2 or 4 field guns. Firing from easterly direction for five minutes.

1540 Area again shelled. Intensive for several minutes.

1600 4 prisoners of war surrendered to H Company.

2200 F Company send out local patrols – no contact made.

2200 Innisks pass through our lines prior to attack on Tanngoucha.

Died on this Day;

Rifleman William Carrig, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Hyman Reuben, London Irish Rifles.



17th April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

0001 6 Innisks attacked Tanngoucha (5645) from south west. The objective was reached, but there was a heavy counterattack. Bttn could not dig in as mules (which had been allotted for the attack and were carrying beehives and tools) were shot or bolted under enemy MG and mortar fire. It was also found that enemy snipers and MGs were in strong positions at pt 622.

0600 2 LIR reported Heidous occupied.

0700 6 Innisks were concentrated west of Djebel Bettiour (5444).

A letter on subject of mules was sent to bttns. The shortage of mules was pointed out and the necessity emphasised of preventing exhaustion of mules and muleteers and casualties from MG and mortar fire by bringing mules up too soon.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day. Periodic sniping and mortaring. Lieut WH Lang RAMC joined the bttns.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier David Crawford, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Wild, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Mason, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal James Given, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Wilfred Dicken, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Albert Smith, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – TANNGOUCHA.

0001 Leading coys advance under lifting barrage. Unfortunately one gun fails to lift and wounds twelve of D Coy including Captain McCaldin MC and Lieut Lambert Porter.

B and D Coys managed to get on to the objective without much opposition taking 5 Bosche MGs and 16 prisoners. When the barrage lifted, however, a number of enemy Mortars and MMGs opened up from the flanks and could not be silenced.

Tools were now sent forward on mule pack, but in the bright moonlight were spotted and shot up from the flank. The Arab muleteers panicked and the tools never arrived with the coys. A patrol was sent out from Bttn HQ to silence one MG firing from the left flank, but it was found to be sited in a cave on the cliff face and could not be reached. Another was similarly placed on the cliff face at pt 620 and although Mortar and Piat fire were directed at it, this also could not be dislodged.

Both C and D Coys had had their 18 sets put out of action and Captain Bradley O/C A Coy managed to coordinate these efforts, while B Coy on the left of the objective continued to try and silence flanking MGs.

0430 However, at 0430, it became obvious that the bttn position would be untenable during daylight owing to these un-destroyed weapons, particularly so, since these coys had been unable to dig in. The CO then went forward to see how serious the situation really was likely to be under these circumstances and after a recce gave the order to withdraw. A Coy reported a counter attack was developing from the eastern slopes of pt 620 J568455. The bttn then withdrew under artillery support without serious enemy pressure to the lying up position at J542445. Total casualties 4 ORs killed. Captain McCaldin MC and Lieut GF Lambert Porter and 34 ORs wounded.

The bttn lay up by day.

1730 Orders were received to relieve 1 East Surrey Regiment on Djebel Ang J5445 and 2 Lancashire Fusiliers on Dar Mahdouna area 5444 and 5344 tonight. Both these bttns were reduced to the strength of two rifle companies.

1915 After the OC had met with the OC 1 East Surrey Regiment, orders were issued for the relief to take place as follows: A and C Coys under command Captain Bradley with two MMGs and one mortar under command to Djebel Ang  (J5445). B, D and S Coys on Dar Mahdouna and Bttn HQ 538437 and one Coy LIR in support at 546443. Late arrival of mules delayed forward move of the bttn but relief was completed by 0115hrs.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier James Grant, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal James McKane, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Rabone, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

6 Innisks occupy Tanngoucha – unable to hold owing to mules stampeding and carrying away digging in tools.

0800 Observation post reports movement seen on Tanngoucha – men digging in etc.

0915 Enemy shelling Djebel Bettiour & Djebel Dar Mahdouna.

1000 Sitrep. Unidentified troop movement on Tanngoucha – Engaged by our artillery – Enemy mortared Bettiour and shelled Djebel Dar Mahdouna from general easterly direction. One shrapnel shell burst at approx 500 ft above Djebel El Hamra. Own artillery shelled Tanngoucha at 0945 and Heidous at 1025.

1215 RIrF ask for artillery to counter attack on top south and west slopes of Tanngoucha.

1225 Intensive fire on Tanngoucha.

1230 Commanding Officer goes to Brigade HQ to report on recce.

1330 Company commanders recce Heidous area.

1445 12 enemy bombs in 4 minutes on 543448.

1715 12 enemy bombs in five minutes on Heidous.

1730 6 MEs bomb south-east of Bettiour – Area of fall not seen – Bomb line south-west – north east – 1 shrapnel shell 1 mortar bomb on 543448.

1815 English and American bombers escorted by Aircobras attacked 8 MEs – One ME brought down.

1900 6 Innisks take over G Company positions on Djebel Dar Mahdouna. E Company remain in same position on Djebel Dar Mahdouna – G Company on hills 543444 and 543443. Platoons of H and F companies join their companies. H Company 544446 and F Company 54555”. Battalion HQ 100 yds east of G Company.



18th April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

1400 Corps Commander visited this HQ. Went to OP with Brigade Commander.

1600 Brigade Commander saw Divisional Commander. It was decided that there was no object in attacking Heidous and Tanngoucha at present and that it would be better to coordinate a new plan.

Warning was received of enemy activity and laying of booby traps behind the lines in the Si Nsir sector.

PM Pt 491 and Olive Grove 5340 were shelled during the afternoon.

1500 Army Group Commander visited Brigade HQ. Brigade Commanders were introduced. Brigade Commander conducted him to OP at pt 491, whence Tanngoucha and Heidous could be observed.

Night Artillery HF programme on Heidous was followed by 2 LIR harassing patrol (2100hrs), which fired LMG, PIAT, and mortar into the village 2200hrs. This was followed by recce patrol of 56 Recce Regiment.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

0800 Bttn HQ moved to 549453 its previous location being too exposed to Tanngoucha and Heidous, both still in enemy hands.

1000 Patrol from B Coy went out to area 548.

1400 Patrol returned with nothing to report.

Captain J Ray and Lieut D Sutherland joined the bttn.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Leslie Bishop, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Jewels, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – TANNGOUCHA.

One coy Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders  holds Djebel Bon Diss 5244 and 1 RIrF hold pt 622 (5645) and ridge 556454. Djebel Ang position is valuable OP looking north and is consequently a target for possible enemy artillery and mortar fire. By day, only, one platoon C Coy occupies forward slopes with the remainder of the garrison on the reverse slopes. One OR was wounded by artillery splinters. Movement Djebel Ang is nearly restricted to hours of darkness. Bttn suffers from water shortage particularly Djebel Ang, where there is no material supply, water is limited by the number of containers available and amounts to 32 gallons per day for all purposes. Many French and German trenches and equipment are evidence of previous occupation.

Enemy mortar played on Djebel Ang occasionally during the day.


2 LIR.

0800 Sitrep – Recce yesterday revealed a camouflage net on Heidous. This was subsequently engaged by ‘Mediums’ and proved to be an A/Tk gun which with ammunition was destroyed. Buffs reported that feature immediately south of Heidous was shelled yesterday and casualties inflicted on enemy – the feature is still held. 6 Innisks relieve 1 Surreys and 2 Lands Fusiliers on Djebel Ang and Mahdouna. 2/LIR – 1 RIrF – 6 Innisks – 5 Buffs and 56 Recce Corps and 1 Surreys under command 38 (Irish) Brigade. 1 Surreys south of Rherarif (5243) 38 Brigade supported by 132 and 138 Field Regiments.

11th Brigade, less 1 Surreys, moving out night 17 April 43.

1040 One shrapnel shell 522433 another at Kelbine from easterly direction.

1600 Observation post reports artillery shelling Heidous. Hit pill box and several enemy ran away into village.

1700 Two enemy tanks of self-propelled guns observed east of Longstop.

1800 From tomorrow 19 April 43 observation post will be established x48444. Known as Ginger Company observation post 544445 ‘Pepper’.

1800 Mortars ranging on Heidous. Village south of Heidous set on fire by mortar fire.

2030 Operations with artillery support to discover DF tasks of Heidous area. Table of events.

2030 Artillery shell Heidous for 10 minutes intensive fire.

2031 Enemy machine guns firing from Tanngoucha.

2040 Occasional mortar shell on Bettiour and east of it.

2050 Shelling of Heidous ceased.

2100 Corporal Palmer’s patrol leaves F Company. Our machine gunners fire from above F Company HQ. Enemy shell Bettiour from north-east of Tanngoucha.

2105 Enemy continues to shell Bettiour with groups of three shells. Own MMGs firing bursts from F Company HQ. Light machine gun open up from Corporal Palmer’s section on right of F Company position. Own mortars fire on Heidous.

2107 Purple verey light fired on Heidous.

2110 Light machine guns fire from right flank and F Company HQ. More shells on Bettiour.

2115 Enemy machine gun firing towards their left flank across the plain also from right flank between Tanngoucha and Bettiour. Enemy mortar Bettiour.

2117 Own machine gun fire from right flank and further forward also sections fire PIAT on Heidous.

2120 Machine gun from F Company and mortar fire on Heidous. Enemy shell Bettiour.

2140 Corporal Palmer and patrol returns.

Enemy shelling low ground south west of Heidous from area of Longstop. 2 guns firing. We send up red verey light. Own artillery shell beyond Tanngoucha.

2145 Light machine gun right of F Company position, Enemy shell in front of Heidous and Bettiour.

2150 We fire green verey lights.

2200 Own artillery send intensive fire on right side of Tanngoucha.



19th April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

0800 Brigade IO interviewed Sergeant 56 Recce Regiment, who had been on night patrol to Heidous. With the help of air photos, information of MG posts were tabulated and taken by IO to 2 LIR.

1000 Brigade Commander attended Divisional Conference.

As a result of letter from 78 Division, bttns were asked to give their opinion on the following points;

1) Range of 3” mortar can be increased if weight of bomb reduced to 7lbs. Is this recommended?

2) Is there a requirement for 3” mortar to be fired from carriers?

3) Is indirect fire equipment recommended with Vickers’ MG?

(The answer from Brigade was: 1) Not advisable to reduce weight of bomb. 2) No. 3) No).

PM. Howard Marshall and a Russian colonel visited this HQ. A Battalion Commander’s Conference was held at the CP.

Lieut HND Seymour, RUR was posted to Brigade HQ as LO.

Night: the LIR harassing patrol was repeated and HF by forward and medium artillery put down on Heidous area.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day with very little sniping but severe mortaring on Company areas.

Major DR Le P Gethin and Lieut B Osborn wounded.


6 Innisks – DJEBEL ANG.

Captain Magginson arrived as reinforcement and is posted to B Coy at 2 in command.

Captain Hanna (IO) goes to hospital with tonsillitis. Lieut Hamilton is brought in to act as IO.

CO goes to Brigade and learns more about the future plan.


2 LIR.

0445 Enemy shelling and mortaring Kelbine.

1450 4 ranging shells and 4 high explosive on 537437.

1615 21 shells on Bettiour.

1800 12 shells on Bettiour over a period of half hour.

2100 Spasmodic shelling and mortaring of general area Bettiour.

The following night operations to discover enemy DF tasks on Heidous took place. Tine table of events

2100 Own artillery shell Heidous.

2122 Enemy artillery shell Heidous.

2322 Enemy light machine gun from Tanngoucha.

2125 Patrol went out.

2130 Enemy mortar and machine gun fire from Heidous.

2150 Our mortars lay smoke on Heidous.

2145 Four enemy shells on right of Bettiour from behind Tanngoucha.

2150 12 enemy shells in area of our mortar and MMG positions.

2215 3 enemy guns firing from behind Longstop (110 degree north) shelling area in front of Heidous.

2225 Spasmodic shelling in area in front of Heidous by one gun from behind Longstop.

2227 Corporal O’Brien propaganda speech.



20th April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

78 Division OO No 9 was received expressing the intention “78 Division will attack and secure the high ground at Tebourba Gap to protect the left flank 1 Division and be prepared subsequently to operate towards Chouigui or Djebel Djedieda.”

It was indicated that First Army was attacking in conjunction with Eighth Army with the object of expelling the enemy from North Africa.

A message to First Army from Air Marshal Coningham was received.

1230 A Brigade Commander’s Conference was held at CP to discuss a joint attack on Tanngoucha and Heidous.

1400 Brigade Commander and Battalion Commanders attended cloth model discussion at 78 Division HQ and were informed of the larger picture.

PM Camp Commandant went to 538439 to prepare a new command post for the battle.

2100 Conference of Brigade staff with Bttn Commanders, Commanders 138 Field Regiment, and 214 Field Company RE was held at Brigade HQ. Ways and means of attack were discussed and a subsidiary operation by 1 RIrF was planned. For the discussion, annotated air photos and marked enlargements of the battle area were provided.

Night 5 Northamptons moved into position 5243 as ordered. A patrol of 6 Innisks 540457 was engaged by MG. 2 LIR patrols found signs of occupation round Heidous and recce-ed routes for the attack.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Lt-Col BH Butler went to Brigade for a conference. Major H Rogers arrived to take over the bttn.

Nothing of interest happened during the day. The company areas were under constant mortar fire. Most of the day, we retaliated with artillery.

Captain J Ray attached US 1st Division.


6 Innisks – DJEBEL ANG.

Djebel Ang is mortared and shelled during the day. Casualties – 7 ORs wounded.

1400 CO attends conference at Brigade at which both Corps and Army Commander spoke.

2000 CO attends conference at Brigade HQ.

2300 Patrol to J544576 found the enemy occupying it. The patrol dogs were used for the first time. So far, 1 dog and 1 dog handler are missing.


2 LIR.

0800 Shell report: four air burst shells above Bettiour. 4 above Djebel Ang. 2 shrapnel shells over point 404 5344.

0900 Enemy air burst shells over 545435, 538440, 535446 and 543444 from gun firing very close from general direction east.

0945 Red flag seen flying on top of Longstop.

0950 Enemy shelling point 604 and north slopes of Djebel Dar Mahouna. Gun quite close possible direction 557463.

1500 Artillery reports house blown down in Heidous revealed A/Tk gun. This they subsequently destroyed.

1615 Enemy mortar Bettiour from north to south with 21 bombs. 1 man killed in G Company.

1800 Enemy again mortar Bettiour with 18 bombs. Bombs fall on the main rock above H Company, Battalion HQ and E Company causing a few casualties by falling rock. Companies send out local patrols. Voices heard on Heidous at 2030 hrs and sounds of digging at 2215 hrs.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Charles Mizon, London Irish Rifles.



 

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