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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 – 23rd April 1943

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.

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 unwounded.

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.

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.

Rifleman Ronald Potter, London Irish Rifles.


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