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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 – 21st to 25th April 1943


21st April

Brigade HQ – CHAOUACH.

During the day, there was some shelling and mortaring 1 RIrF area. Casualties were however light. 138 Field Regiment reported enemy guns located at 567523, 576524, 603467, 625462.

1205 An order was issued for moves preparatory to the attack 22/23 April.

1245 78 Division issued message enjoining strict vigilance by all ranks on account of the enemy’s anticipatory attack night 20/21 April in 4 Division area. A similar message was issued to Bttns at 1620.

1400 Brigade Major explained to all ranks, with the aid of a sand model of Tunisia, made by Intelligence Section, the general situation and plan of attack. He hazarded a guess that our troops would reach Tunis by 7th May.

1630 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade OO No 20 was issued, expressing the intention: “38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade will clear the high ground north west of the River Medjerda between Tanngoucha and Djebel El Aroussa 7054.”

1800 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Admin Order No 4 was issued in conjunction with the above OO.

1955 138 Field Regiment’s move forward was postponed and 1 RIrF, who had been warned to provide protection for the move and new location, were informed accordingly.

Night Patrols has no contact, but it was considered by recce that Tanngoucha was held in the same strength as previously. During the night, there was intermittent shelling of olive grove 5340.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet morning.

1400 Lt-Col BH Butler returned from Brigade.

1600 Bttn HQ severely mortared. Lieut HT Emmins (signal officer) killed. Lieut RH Brown C Coy wounded.

2000 Bttn HQ moves to 547447.

Major H Rogers returns to B Echelon at LOB.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Albert Sanders, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Henry Emmins, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Albert Mallen, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Porter, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – DJEBEL ANG.

A quiet day with much less mortaring on Djebel Ang. Preparatory plans for forthcoming attack on Tanngoucha.

CO talks to bttn and explains the forthcoming offensive is the final push with Tunis as objective. 8 Army, 1 Army, French and Americans are all to close in together on Tunis. Our tank superiority is about 1 to 10 and artillery and air superiority is overwhelming. 78 Division task is to clear hills north of River Merjerda and seize high ground at Tebourba Gap 7055. The only transport will be mules and everyone must be prepared to live hard for a few days.

During the evening, 5 Northants take over operational role of bttn and relieve A and C Coys on Djebel Ang. Bttn has a night rest.


2 LIR.

0030 Enemy shell Bettiour from general easterly direction for half an hour.

0900 Enemy mortaring 55149 18-20 bombs.

0945 24 Bostons bomb Longstop.

1230 Red Cross flag observed in Heidous. Artillery ceased fire. Enemy shouted at to surrender. A few minutes later flag is taken down. 2 short bursts of light machine gun fire and rifle shots heard in village. Artillery re-opens shelling.

2300 Captain RWR Jelf (KSLI), Lieutenant Haywood (RIrF) and Lieutenant O’Gorman (RUR) joined battalion.



22nd April

Brigade HQ– CHAOUACH.

A Special Order of the Day by the Army Group Commander and one by the Army Commander were received and passed on to bttns.

A letter stating Intelligence requirements was issued to bttns.

The day was quiet except for some shelling (0520-1600) of pt 491 and the road below it, which started when marching personnel of Brigade HQ attempted to advance. Lt R Doumic (4 RTT) was slightly wounded and one OR hit.

This day, a warning was received that air OPs in Taylorcraft would be operated by moonlight.

1700 Brigade Major and Brigade IO moved to command post 538439. Marching personnel followed up after dark. Rear brigade moved to Kelbine (5345).

Attack 22/23 April. See summary.

LOs were sent to 6 Innisks and 2 LIR to obtain first hand news of the battle and report by 0530hrs.

2015 2 LIR attack Heidous.

2040 Heidous covered in mist and smoke. Enemy SA fire and DF coming down.

2100 6 Innisks attacked Tanngoucha.

2110 2 LIR report fight continues.

2125 DF in front of Tanngoucha but no SA fire yet.

2210 2 LIR side little activity. Plenty on Tanngoucha.

2225 6 Innisks having trouble with MG fire from pt 622.

2255 Fighting continues in Heidous.

2315 Considerable MG fire from pt 622 and pt 620. Out of touch with forward coys (6 Innisks).

2345 2 LIR report situation not cleared up and comms bad.

2355 Innisks still held up by 5 MGs on Tanngoucha.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day. CO gives orders and explains policy of 1st Army in the coming attack. Details of this is in the attached Appendix.

2105 D Coy attacked rocky ridge and pt 622. A Company moved into D Company’s old positions. D Company was met with very heavy machine gun fire from very well camouflaged positions, which were impossible to get at. There was no communication except by runner to the company and information was therefore scanty. It appears that they held up before they reached the top but Lieut GF Sillem and six men managed to get there. Under very heavy MG fire they managed to inflict several casualties on the enemy with grenades. The company was forced to withdraw just before daylight. A lot of enemy MG fire came from the flanks. Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall was wounded by a grenade in this attack and Lieut D Sutherland was wounded.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier William Kellett, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Sergeant Joseph Hobbs, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Hesketh, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – DJEBEL ANG.

0900 O Group Conference. Plan for attack tonight on Tanngoucha is as follows: B left, D right will attack Tanngoucha under cover of creeping barrage of 78 Division artillery barrage. S/L track running south from pt 622. Bttn HQ will follow B and D. A and C Coys in reserve with probable role of clearing south east and exploiting north. By daylight, the bttn will be dug in facing north and be prepared to go forward to El Halfa 5746, by which time 2 LIR will have taken Heidous 5544 and have cleared enemy for about 1 /2 mile to east of it.

The RIrF on the north will have cleared high spurs 300 yards out of pt 622 and mopped up Bergerine 5546.

Bttn is allotted 105 mules. These are divided into F1, F2 and A Echelons.

1530 CO attends conference of COs and Brigadier at HQ 2 LIR.

1700 Final coordinating conference of Coy Commanders.

2100 Zero for Brigade attack on position Tanngoucha, pt 622, Butler’s Hill.

Bttn objective – Tanngoucha.

Bttn attacked with two coys forward. D right, B left. Both coys got onto their objective under an artillery barrage, but D Coy, on reaching the rocky outcrop, was unable to dislodge the enemy concealed in caves and crevices, and became pinned down under heavy fire at short range. On the left, the RIrF failed to clean up pt 622; consequently B Coy was exposed to heavy fire from both flanks.

Died on this Day:

Lance Corporal Samuel Millard, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Clarence Horsfield, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Henry Vann, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Ronald Graham, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Addie Poole, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Irwin, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0030 Patrols of 1 and 3 from E and H companies reccce area and approach to Heidous.

1400 Commanding officers O Group for attack on Heidous and Sandy Ridge. 1st Phase – F Company right.

1400 G Company right to clear village and wadis and area NE. 2nd Phase – E & H Companies to clear Sandy Ridge.

1420 Enemy shell area near Bettiour.

1830 Enemy air burst shells over Bettiour.

1945 Artillery begin barrage on Heidous, Sandy Ridge, Tanngoucha, Pt 622 and Longstop preparatory to large scale attack by 78 Division.

Read the Battalion’s account.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Thomas Ross, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Wilfred Palmer, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Bertie Watkins, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Frederick McDonald, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal John Hamilton, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Arthur Doherty, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Richard Linihan, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Walter Pasby, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Robert Mannall, London Irish Rifles.



23rd April

Brigade HQ – KELBINE.

0005 1 RIrF D Coy have not gained pt 622.

0035 D Coy have met difficulties.

0205 Fighting it out in Heidous.

0330 D Coy, 1 RIrF will have to withdraw.

0340 Coy 6 Innisks on Tanngoucha counter attacked.

0403 Commander I RIrF said D Coy would have to withdraw. Told to consult 6 Innisks before doing so.

0420 2 LIR: “MGs in crags, cannot get into village.” One coy 6 Innisks on Tanngoucha ridge. One pinned down 50 yards from objective, and one at bottom.

0600 6 Innisks: “Right forward coy pinned down against rock. B Coy got to top but driven off by counter attack.

0620 1 RIrF report coy about to attack pt 622. This was subsequently cancelled.

0645 Red Cross flag seen in Heidous.

0650 2 LIR reported gun, believed A/Tk, and several MGs were knocked out in Heidous.

0700 138 Field Regiment made smoke screen to help 6 Innisks down Tanngoucha slope.

0700 LO sent out to Divisional HQ with news of the battle.

0715 6 Innisks report coys at 562453, 561453, 565453, 567453. Enemy did not intend to withdraw and was also strong on Butler’s Hill 560460 and with MGs and by mortars. Estimated one bttn holding from pt 620 and 622 and behind the ridge.

0715 1 RIrF reported D Coy withdrew 0430 and positions of bttn unchanged.

0720 Plan made with Troop Commander NIH to help 2 LIR.

0830 2 LIR were on original Bettiour (5444) positions.

0835 6 Innisks reported the capture of 20 PoWs on Tanngoucha.

0840 Rear Brigade given full picture.

A message was sent to 6 Innisks, in position at the foot of Tanngoucha, that Heidous was still in enemy hands. They were ordered to watch the right flank. The difficulty was observed in this battle, which always occurs when one unit (in this case 2 LIR) has L/T comms, while others have only R/T comms.

0930 The Commander’s appreciation was as follows: “36 Brigade are attacking Longstop 0915. Therefore, enemy will be restricted. But not very likely to be pushed out of Heidous even from the east, much less from the north east. If Heidous is not on, tanks might assist 6 Innisks by demonstration against Tanngoucha. If tanks get infantry into Heidous, they are to come back to the shoulder of Bettiour.”

0950 6 Innisks report PoWs as belonging to A 26.

1005 F Coy 2 LIR consists of 2 officers and 25 ORs.

1010 Message to all bttns: “3 Tanks RV 534446 to help either flank.”

1020 Brigade Commander to Division as follows: “Heidous strongly defended. Event tanks would not help much due to difficulty of finding MGs. Might be a good plan to pinch out Heidous from right. Perhaps better to take tanks up Tanngoucha than against Heidous.”

1130 Movement seen at pt 322 (ascertained to be the enemy).

1215 Divisional Commander reported that Heidous must be taken. Planned to attack with troop tanks as soon as possible.

1300 Tanks reported in position of observation high ground 543446.

PM Divisional Commander visited Brigade Command Post and discussed the advisability of attacking Heidous. It was decided instead to send strong patrols there to prevent the enemy from slipping away unnoticed.

1805 These orders were taken by Brigade IO to Commanders 1 RIrF and 6 Innisks at their HQs. It was decided to arrange an attack by 1 RIrF on pt 622 and Butler’s Hill (5646).

2030 Commander 1 RIrF attended conference at Command Post (Commanders Troop NIH, 138 Field Regiment also present) to plan attack.

2335 Brigade OO No 24 (sic – no 21, 22 or 23 issued) was issued in confirmation.

Night Patrols to the north flank reported positions held by the enemy. Patrols to Heidous were engaged by fire from around the village. Listening posts pinpointed positions at pt 620.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

0330 D Company had to withdraw.

0430 D Company had withdrawn. Bttn positions unchanged except D and A Coys had changed company areas. CO went to Brigade to discuss further plans for attacking pt 622 and Butler’s Hill.

Lieut JS Clarke, Lieut DCH Hayward and Lieut O’Gorman joined.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Patrick Dunne, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Hand, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Maurice Schofield, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – TANNGOUCHA.

Bttn HQ moved forward 1000 yards beyond start line and dug in. A Coy was sent forward behind D Coy but was unable to reach the rocks, while C Coy was ordered to clear pt 622, which is an outcrop of rock 500 yards long with sheer cliffs 50 to 100 feet high and which the enemy has converted into a fortress. C Coy was unable to advance along the whole of its length and thus B Coy was exposed the full effects of fire from both flanks, and when counter attacked by two coys was forced to withdraw after fierce resistance and heavy casualties, 3 out of the 4 officers being killed or missing.

At first light, D Coy was sill pinned down at point blank range in an untenable position. Smoke shells were put down to get them away but this was used by the Coy to go forward and capture 22 prisoners and 4 MGs, before the withdrawal was made in the face of a counter attack. Of the .. men and officers who came back, only ..were un-wounded.

Meanwhile on the right flank, 2 LIR had failed to clear Heidous village, which was now behind the bttn position. The situation was therefore: A Coy dug in on the right in an exposed position; Bttn HQ in line with it. And C Coy on the ridge to the left. Movement by day was extremely limited, but, in fact, the amount of sniping and mortaring received by the bttn was surprisingly light. The remnants of B and D Coys were reformed with a single company under OC B Coy and the A/Tk platoon was brought up as an infantry platoon to reinforce it. Total casualties during the 24 hrs were 4 officers and 43 ORs.

Supplies of fuel, water and ammunition were brought up after dark on the mule track.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Harold Hilton, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Williamson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Captain Edwin Hill, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Captain Ian Megginson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Pierce Mahony Royal Ulster Rifles attached to Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Frederick Notley, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0300 E Company advance to Heidous to relieve F Company – situation untenable and withdraw back to Bettiour.

0500 E Company take up F Company positions on Bettiour.

G Company withdraw under platoon commanders having lost Captain Thornton, their company commander who was wounded and taken prisoner.

0800 Battalion back in position except F Company. No news of F Company left in Heidous. 30 men have returned but fate of remainder is unknown.

3 Churchill tanks of 142 RAC at to go down and support E Company endeavouring to get information of F Company.

1700 Reports of Longstop taken by 36 Brigade and tanks.

1800 Smoke shells and propaganda leaflets dropped on Heidous and Sandy Ridge.

1900 Enemy aircraft bomb between Medjez and Goubellat.

2000 Enemy shelling large hill about 5 miles NW of Bettiour.

Lieutenant Haywood and Lieutenant O’Gorman posted to 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Ronald Potter, London Irish Rifles.



24th April

Brigade HQ – KELBINE.

0100 – 0130 Enemy mortars engaged area 5645.

6 Innisks HQ (560453) were intermittently shelled.

0400 Dawn patrols on north flank saw no sign of counter attack.

During the day, there was slight sniping of 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF’s; positions remained the same.

1630 Sitrep sent to 78 Division.

The attack of 1 RIrF was postponed and in the afternoon, the Divisional Commander visited the Command Post.

The idea was discussed of waiting until the US infantry caught up, but Tanngoucha had to be taken as trouble was coming from there in attacks on Longstop.

On this day, Lt JF Harrison (LO) was admitted to 152 Field Ambulance and struck off the strength.

A letter was sent to Bttn on the right and wrong use of the R/T code.

Night Quiet night. LOs again spent night with 6 Innisks and 2 LIR. 1 RIrF again found signs of occupation in the Butler’s Hill area.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Heavy mist all the morning made further attacks impossible. A quiet day. Captain WG Biggar wounded by sniper.


6 Innisks – TANNGOUCHA.

Retained previous positions on lower slopes of Tanngoucha. Slight mortaring and machine gunning from the enemy, which was answered by our MGs and mortars from positions in rear in area of the original start line. Weather warm with mist in the morning and evening.

CO called to Brigade conference at midnight back near Kelbine and was provided by Brigade with a horse for the return journey. Casualties for the day: 8 ORs. B Coy remained in reserve, re-forming.

Died on this Day:

Lance Corporal Eric Jennings, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Francis Bygrave, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Hall, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Frederick Hall, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0530 Patrols last night all report contact with enemy. Enemy mortar located in gully of Red Roof House towards Heidous. Patrols fired on by mortar and machine guns. One enemy machine gun put out of action by 2” mortar.

Night patrols to Heidous – G Company patrol put enemy machine gun out of action by hand grenades.



25th April

Brigade HQ – KELBINE.

0620 6 Innisks reported being sniped.

0755 Rear brigade reported 3 deserters of Z/962. These were interrogated and gave information of MG post, which was communicated to 138 Field Regiment, 1 RIrF and Troop NIH.

0915 After consulting RA, Zero was fixed for 1230hrs.

1040 Information was received that a deserter captured by 36 Brigade said the garrison had been ordered last night to withdraw. 2 LIR were ordered to see if Heidous was clear and, if so, go on to pt 322.

1045 Commander 138 Field Regiment notified that registration completed. US troops now at pt 485. Two enemy coys withdrew up Farm Du Bed Valley. During the morning, a mule train reached 6 Innisks unmolested.

1140 2 LIR reported our artillery had been engaged saddle pt 620 and 622.

1230 Zero hour for 1 RIrF attack.

1235 1 RIrF reported left coy on start line and no opposition.

1305 D Coy nearly on pt 622. Some trouble in Butler’s Hill.

1340 6 Innisks were to take advantage of 1 RIrF attack to work their way forward and at 1340 their smoke screen could be seen on Tanngoucha.

1400 6 Innisks to 1 RIrF: “Coy on right can get in with grenades. Only a few snipers.”

1405 Identifications reported: “Butler’s Hill 10/756, 3/962 and 1/962.

1410 Decided to send coy 2 LIR as 1 RIrF reserve.

1415 White flag seen on Tanngoucha. 6 Innisks occupied pt 620.

1 RIrF reported Butler’s Hill and pt 622 taken with over 30 PoWs.

1420 Forward move of artillery discussed. Essential to cover ground while this being done.

1540 Decided to send wire to Bttns, and keep tanks forward (as measure against counter attack) until last light.

1600 1 RIrF coys reported at 562456, 560460, 555455, 558457.

1610 6 Innisks ordered to hold pt 620 and patrol to Halfa after dark.

1620 6 Innisks said day patrol to Halfa reported no sign of enemy or trenches – this was confirmed by a PoW, who said his coy (10/756) had moved east from there.

1815 2 LIR reported coy moving forward to Heidous. No opposition.

1820 Entering Heidous.

1845 6 Innisks coys at 569457, 567454, 564454.

6 Innisks and 1 RIrF were ordered to get forward companies on Halfa and Ahmar and prepare to go forward after first light 26 April.

Night Quiet Night – 6 Innisks patrolled Halfa and both Bttns started getting their forward company up without incident. 2 LIR kept a coy in Heidous, there was nothing to report.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

A Coy attack Butler’s Hill and D Coy point 622. Zero hour 1230. A Coy come under heavy MG fire and had difficulty in getting on. Troop of tanks in support managed to get onto Butler’s Hill and helped neutralise fire. A Coy suffered heavy casualties. Coy Commander Captain MT McDonald was wounded

1415 Butler’s Hill and pt 622 reported taken. Full account of attack on 622 by D Coy in Appendix.

1600 Disposition of coys 562456, 560460, 555455, 558457.

1745 Received orders for further advance. Ordered to send one coy to Ahmar 484.

Read the Battalion’s account.

Died on this Day:

Lance Sergeant Hugh Blair, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal William Ball, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Peter Sillem, Welch Regiment attached to the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Tilson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Douglas Constable, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Michael Rogan, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Cyril Willis, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Duval, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal James Clarke, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Leonard Keating, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Anthony Young, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – TANNGOUCHA.

38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade makes third and successful attempt to capture the strong and dominating Tanngoucha and pt 622 features. The RIrF on our left attack pt 622 and Butler’s Hill, while we were to get onto Tanngoucha as opportunity offers. B Coy move up to take over right rear coy of 1 RIrF.

Zero at 1230hrs. A Coy and smoke put down by FOO with 6 Innisks are able to give material assistance to the capture of pt 622, where a number of prisoners were taken. As soon as this is complete, A Coy and C Coy advance under small arms covering fire from B Coy and 1 RIrF to Tanngoucha and the saddle on the left. Little enemy resistance is encountered and occupation is complete by 1440hrs. Remainder of Bttn comes up to consolidate with A Coy at the forward end of Tanngoucha, C Coy at the rear, B Coy in reserve on the middle between Tanngoucha and pt 622. MMGs and 3” Mortars are distributed under commanders of coys, and Bttn HQ remains in previous location. Considerable quantities of German and captured British equipment were found on the rock.

59 prisoners were taken. Casualties today were: 16 ORs. The body of Lieut Hill was found and removed for burial.

After occupation, the position was heavily shelled by the enemy but without causing casualties. Patrols during the night failed to make contact with the enemy.

The Battalion’s account here.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Henry Boyd, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

Battalion to patrol into enemy territory to ensure that they do not evacuate positions unknown to us.

1 RIrF to attack Point 622 (5645) at 1250.

1030 Several enemy ran from Pimple as our artillery shell it.

1200 Artillery lay barrage on Tanngoucha and Point 622.

1230 1 RIrF advances on Point 622 on 2 company front supported by 5 Churchills, C Squadron 142 RAC.

1250 Artillery lay heavy smoke screen across Tanngoucha. All opposition overcome.

15 prisoners of war taken.

1340 6 Innisks advance on to Tanngoucha. No opposition.

1430 Enemy shell Point 622 and Tanngoucha. 48 shells.

1500 G Company under command 1 RIrF take up positions on Point 622.

1730 E Company advance on to Heidous and Sandy Ridge.

1900 E Company established.



 

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