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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 – 26th to 30th April 1943


26th April

Brigade HQ – KELBINE.

0745 1 RIrF reported they could see their forward company on Ahmar, but they had no communication with it.

0945 Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and plans were made for the advance.

1235 1 RIrF reported all Bttn on Ahmar and ready to move forward when ordered.

1310 2 LIR reported coy on 620, two coys on Tanngoucha and remained still on Bettiour 5444.

1400 Brigade Command Post to 547448.

During the afternoon, it was difficult to get a picture of the Bttns’ progress, but it appeared that 1 RIrF, on the left, were having an unopposed progress, whereas 6 Innisks had met with MG fire from pt 416 (5948), which pinned the forward troops during daylight.

1630 78 Division Operational Instruction No 24 received.

1800 Brigade Command Post moved to area Tanngoucha 566454. 11 Brigade were to carry out patrols to link up on Brigade’s right flank and relieve 36 Brigade on Longstop. During the day, 1 RIrF had reached pt 443, but it was untenable and they had taken up positions around pt 484 (5849). 6 Innisks were in the gully west of pt 416.

PoWs taken 25/26 April and 26 April totalled 26.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

0745 C Coy, having left at first light, could be seen on Ahmar.

0900 Orders for advance of Bttn less one coy.

1000 Bttn advance from Butler’s Hill down the wadi to Ahmar. No opposition on the way.

1230 Bttn in position on Ahmar less one coy (D Coy). No opposition except a little sniping. Awaiting orders for further advance.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier William Alcock,  Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – GOULACH GULLY.

Intelligence from the higher command appreciates that the enemy has made a deep withdrawal; consequently the bttn is ordered to push forward a Coy a first light to gain contact. B Coy is detailed for this role and moves off soon after first light. Later, Brigade Orders are received for the bttn to advance with 1 RIrF on left along an axis of advance to the Tebourba Gap 15 miles ahead across extremely difficult mountainous country, making good a series of dominating features on route. Owing to a delay in getting forward the necessary mules, which had been sent back to Kelbine to water and feed, departure was delayed until 1400hrs. The bttn moved into Goulach village and along the Goulach valley to pt 283, where it was subjected to shelling and MG fire from Kef El Senach, which caused 2 casualties. Meanwhile B Coy, having advanced over the Ragbet El Halfa without opposition, began climbing the extremely steep and rocky western slopes of Kef El Senach. Having gained the first slopes without opposition, it reached within 100 yards of the second ridge, where it was met by heavy MG fire and forced to withdraw to the 1st ridge. Since it was without support and the remainder of the bttn was 2 miles away and under observation of the enemy in a narrow valley, it was ordered to remain there until dark and then rejoin the bttn. Meanwhile, the bttn having formed up in the valley behind Goulach village moved last at dusk and met B Coy in the valley.

Casualties suffered by B Coy during the day amounted to 3 ORs. The strength of the bttn today is as follows:

Btttn HQ – 6 officers, 78 ORs;

A Coy – 3 officers, 33 ORs (one platoon);

B & D Coys – 3 officers, 50 ORs (two platoons);

C Coys – 2 officers, 41 ORs (two platoons);

S Coy – 4 officers, 77 ORs (Mortar and MG platoons);

B Echelon – 7 officers, 180 ORs incl personnel in charge of mule echelons, LOB personnel and prisoners.


2 LIR.

0900 1 RIrF and 6 Innisks move forward against slight enemy opposition.

London Irish Rifles to take over positions on Tanngoucha and Point 622.

1200 H Company on Tanngoucha, F Company on Point 622, E Company and Battalion HQ still on Bettiour.

1930 H Company and Battalion HQ move from Bettiour.

2130 Battalion HQ established at base of Tanngoucha 466453.



27th April

Brigade HQ – TANNGOUCHA.

0300 Lt Seymour, LO with 6 Innisks brought back news.

0430 Brigade HQ moved forward to Nullah 571473.

0600 Arrived at new location. 2 LIR followed up and took up positions in area 5747 on high ground either side of the track.

The positions now was that US troops had not yet come up on the left and pt 416 had to be taken before any advance on the left was feasible. Therefore, 6 Innisks planned to attack pt 416. Zero hour was fixed at 1130. Artillery support of 2 batteries (mostly smoke) was provided.

During the morning the IO and, later, the Commander visited 1 RIrF.

1130 Attack started.

1155 6 Innisks reported pt 416 taken with 20 PoWs, who surrendered on top.

1215 Division demanded Bombline, which was passed as follows: “629499 – 615510 – 590514.

1315 Further report of PoW: “32 of A/50 and 10/756.”

1400 6 Innisks reported pt 416 had false crest. Enemy counterattacked from the top with MGs and mortars and drove the Innisks back, taking some PoWs.

1430 The possibility of 1 RIrF staging a counterattack on the left was discarded as, with both flanks open, the bttn could not be supplied if further forward.

1525 1 RIrF reported bringing in wounded German on their left front, J138 transferred to 756 Mountain Regiment.

1545 Commander emphasised to 6 Innisks, the importance of pt 416 for 1 RIrF’s advance, but appreciated the difficulties.

1550 Commander to Divisional RA L/T: “Full artillery programme needed. Pt held by two coys and physically worse than Tanngoucha. This was the key to the whole position and a prepared plan was required. The country had to be seen to be believed. A night attack was out of the question owing to the ravines and unevenness of the ground.”

1800 Brigade Commander’s Conference was held. 1 RIrF could work forward on the left, but this was precarious unless US troops come up. It was also possible to attempt pt 416 from the right, but this made artillery observation difficult to coordinate. Information from PoWs 26-27 April was produced for Bttn Commanders.

During the day, information was received from the rear Brigade that the idea of a Si Ahmed roadhead had been abandoned. The Brigade Commander had meanwhile ordered 214 Field Company RE to improve the mountain track in case this should happen.

A letter of Wireless Security was also received from 78 Division.

1945 6 Innisks reported HQ at track 593472 with weak coy either side, and coy part way up pt 416.

Night Quiet night and nothing to report.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Bttn still in position on Ahmar. No orders for further advance received.

1525 One wounded prisoner taken.

Nothing further happened throughout the day.

Captain HGC Garratt, Captain PJ Proctor, Lieut CLT Tomkins, Lieut MC Trousdell, and 2/Lieut JA Finlay joined the bttn.


6 Innisks – KEF EL SENACH.

0300 A and C Coys organised as one rifle coy of 3 platoons with two 3” mortars and advance Bttn HQ moved down Goulach gully with guides from B Coy to assembly area with object of attacking pt 416, which was yesterday occupied by an estimated strength of one enemy platoon. Remainder of Bttn stayed in its previous location ready to push forward to the succeeding Brigade objective. The attack was delayed owing to the difficulty in establishing communications between the FOO and 138 Field Regiment, which was in support. Start line was the first feature of the hill 300 feet up reached by B Coy yesterday. Enemy was seen on the second feature during the preliminary recce.

1130 Zero for the attack, supported by a lifting barrage of smoke and HE onto the second feature, which necessitated an extremely steep and rocky climb of 600 yards. Their objective was captured without difficulty and 22 prisoners were taken. A further false crest was then assaulted but the forward platoons came under heavy and accurate MG and Mortar fire. The Kef consists of no less than four bumps on false crests, all of which were occupied by the enemy and it became apparent that they had been strongly reinforced during the night. Meanwhile, wireless communication between the advance and rear Bttn HQ broke down for two hours and it became impossible to bring up B Coy, in time to carry all the objectives before a counter attack was made. A further difficulty arose in that the FOO was unable to find an OP from which he could recce further than the second false crest. The left platoon (C Coy) received heavy casualties from mortar fire and the right platoon was also held up by MMG fire. Under these circumstances, a withdrawal was ordered to the second ridge, which was held without difficulty. The remainder of the bttn moved up and took up positions on the reverse slopes of the feature.

Died on this Day:

Lance Corporal Thomas McMullan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harold Brown, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Campbell, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant William Heron, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant Norman Shimwell, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Joseph Connell, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Evans, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert McLaughlan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frederick Newman, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ronald Parkinson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frank Persechino, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Kevin Rice, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Swanson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0100 Battalion to move forward in rear of 38 Brigade to area Boulman 5747.

0450 Battalion moves

0730 Battalion HQ established 571473, E Company 565449 F& H Companies 572473.

0900 1 RIrF in contact with Americans on Brigade left flank.

1100 Battalion area shelled, 2 killed 10 injured.

1200 35 enemy prisoners of war brought to Battalion HQ. 33 from 1/756 Mountain Regiment including 2 officers and 2 from 1/754 Mountain Regiment.

1400 G Company move to 573471 under command 6 Innisks.

Patrol of G Company report enemy clear of Point 416.



28th April

Brigade HQ – TANNGOUCHA.

1110 6 Innisks reported their strength in forward area to be 18 + 279.

During the morning, the Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and went with the Brigade Commander and Commander 2 LIR to recce the area. A plan was in mind for 2 LIR to make round south of pt 416 and take Djebel Touila. This had to be postponed as 11 Brigade did not capture pt 202 and pt 160.

1330 A sharp exchange of firing was heard on the north flank, but it was difficult to see what was happening, even from the 1 RIrF OP. The US infantry had made a big advance, and were now being engaged by enemy.

1400 2 LIR were ordered to put coy on high ground to north of Command Post and command the gullies between pt 396 and pt 476.

1440 Enemy were reported on pt 396, but this was denied by 1 RIrF, who had a coy on the reverse slope.

Division sent information that enemy had attacked pt 341 from 592490 at 1200hrs and were now in strength on pts 315 and 299.

1450 1 RIrF reported enemy had just appeared on pt 396 with MG, but, at once, were shelled off.

1500 The wireless was deliberately jammed.

1550 1 RIrF reported enemy had attacked pt 484, but were driven off. “We can cover low ground between pt 396 and pt 476, but Germans were on pts 315, 312 and 341.”

There was no contact during the night.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Quiet morning.

1300 Pt 484 attacked by the enemy. C Coy held off the attack successfully. A gunner OP and two sections were winkled. D Coy moved up into counter attack positions behind C but were not required. Bttn HQ moved back one hundred yards.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier John Linton, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – KEL EL SENACH.

Bttn remained in yesterday’s position contact being maintained with the enemy. The enemy shelled the gully and a few casualties occurred to the mules. The greater part of the position is however out of shell fire owing to the steepness of the hillside. A muddy and filthy stream flows down the gully and provides useful washing water. The weather was very hot and humid today and no shade could be obtained on the rocks. G Coy 2 LIR came under command in the evening and took over the forward coy locality previously held by B Coy.

Died on his Day:

Fusilier Reginald Grosse, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0830 Artillery observation post report enemy seen on Point 416 – Confirmed.

1130 Battalion area and water point shelled.

1200 6 Innisks re-take first objective on Point 416 G Company take over this position.

1400 Enemy attack Americans on Brigade left flank and occupy hills in 5648/5649.

American counter attack and regain lost positions.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Harry McRory, London Irish Rifles.

Sergeant Arthur Norman, London Irish Rifles.



29th April

Brigade HQ – TANNGOUCHA.

0630 Sitrep sent by L/T through RA to Division:

“1 RIrF no contact. Protective dawn patrol nothing seen. Only night patrol was sent in front of pt 484. Other night patrols restricted owing to confused situation on left, Yesterday, about 1430, enemy attacks two seen in front of pt 484. Withdrew after hand to hand fighting with 5 PoWs. Position restored last night. 6 Innisks no contact. Recce patrol to 3rd bump pt 416 was followed by fighting patrol which established ambush this area but no contact. 3rd bump clear, but can see enemy moving about top and 2nd bump. 2 LIR patrol made contact with US troops 565479. Nothing to report. Left flank pt 341 and 315 occupied by enemy 1330. US artillery inflicted casualties and reoccupied by 1730. Also reported on pt 299.

0750 Division reported that Germans still held pt 202 and pt 160 and were reinforced last night by 6 lorry loads. Role of 38 Brigade now to wait.

1015 6 Innisks reported movement in wadis pt 543.

1115 1 RIrF reported US about to attack pt 356 and wondering how we can help. It was thought that we could give MG and mortar support, but could not occupy pt 443.

1130 Idea mooted that 6 Innisks should put a coy on pt 416 during the confusion, which would be caused by 2 LIR attack on Touilia.

1145 US troops to north were being attacked. 6 Innisks ordered to watch blind spots for 1 RIrF.

1215 US reported enemy (estimated one platoon) at pt 357 and fire coming from 587487 and 589489, but situation under control.

1345 Orders for moves night 29/30 April were issued. It had been decided to move 2 LIR to cover right flank in case enemy tried to capture Halfa or Tanngoucha and to take brigade command post towards that side.

1600 US positions on left flank were counter attacked. The enemy were repelled with losses from pts 315 and 299.

1900 Command post moved to 566463.

2 LIR moved to positions on Halfa.

1915 Rear Brigade sent information of a straggler of 10/756 captured by French CSM at Butler’s Hill with MG and four days’ rations. (There was not more than one straggler to be found in the hills – for example, a coy clerk 27 April, who was told “to bring three blankets as he was going to Canada”).


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Protective dawn patrol. Nothing to report. A quiet day. Nothing to report. Lieut JB Broadbent joined.


6 Innisks – KEF EL SENACH.

Patrols established the fact that the ridge in front of our positions is unoccupied by the enemy but it is untenable by day except on the reverse slopes, the occupation of which there is justification for. The Goulach gully was formerly the main German supply route to the Tanngoucha position and there is ready evidence of occupation. An 81 mm mortar and many bombs have been taken into use by the bttn.


2 LIR.

11 Brigade to attack area Point 202 (6147). Battalion less G Company to move to area 5746/5846 into Brigade reserve in preparation for attack on Point 413/6149, 38 Brigade move to 569463.



30th April

Brigade HQ – TANNGOUCHA.

0430 Dawn patrol 1 RIrF knocked out OP at pt 443, 5849, which was protected by two MGs.

A day patrol of 6 Innisks, backed up by one platoon, reached the top of pt 416, which was unoccupied. They were immediately engaged by mortars and MGs, sited further back and accurately ranged on the top, and suffered 10 casualties. It was therefore decided, when the advance was made, to push straight on through pt 416.

1130 Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and went with the Brigade Commander to OP, where the battle in the plain could be observed.

1630 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade OO No 25 was issued expressing the intention: “38 (Irish) Brigade will capture high ground east of Si Ameur.” The operation was to be carried out in 3 stages on 1 May

– 2 LIR with under command two troops NIH and in support 138 Field Regiment will attack pt 413 (616491) from south east at 0500hrs.

– 1 RIrF will be prepared to advance from positions now occupied by 6 Innisks to high ground area cross tracks 603487 supported by divisional artillery, 2 LIR and two troops NIH.

– 1 RIrF prepared to advance night 1 / 2 May to seize pt 453 (606496).

With the OO No 25 was issued a summary of information.

An LO from 6 US Armoured Infantry was attached to the command post with W/T set to facilitate liaison on the left flank.

1730 Commander attended Divisional conference at HQ 36 Brigade. Pt 202 had not been taken and plan of OO No25 was therefore cancelled. It was revealed that two mule borne French battalions were to relieve 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF, 3 / 4 May.

On his return, Commander gave the following information to Commander 2 LIR, and proposed no action under the relief. The ridge running north east from pt 443 would probably have enemy dug in on the sides and little on top. The curve to the left meant that enemy could easily bring fire to bear. One would be mortared from all sides as soon as one reached pt 416 (5948).

36 Brigade battle is described in 78 Division Intelligence Summary No 40.

Night 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF changed over and G Coy 2 LIR reverted to its bttn. Pt 443 and ground to north west, and south east was found occupied by enemy.


1 RIrF – KEF EL TIOUR.

Patrol one section went out to destroy OP 443. They returned with one man missing. Patrol commander reported OP defended by two MGs. He managed, however, to crawl up to the OP and throw in a grenade. Patrol was supported at first light by Vickers’ MG fire from A Coy.

1230 Missing man from dawn patrol returned wounded and reported the one German MG had had received a direct hit from our artillery, which was very accurate.

2000 Bttn change over with 6 Innisks on pt 416 carried out without incident. 


6 Innisks – KEF EL SENACH.

Contact was again made with the Germans by our patrols during the night and G Coy 2 LIR suffered 10 casualties from mortar fire. At 1700hrs, the Bttn was relieved by 1 RIrF and G Coy 2 LIR reverted to their bttn command. At the same time, the Bttn took over the positions occupied by 1 RIrF on Djebel Boulamourdjeb (pt 484), which had been reconnoitred the previous day. Dispositions were taken up as follows – C Coy forward on pt 484; A Coy in centre on north western slope; B Coy on left in contact with US 1st Armoured Division.

Lieuts Hodgson and McVie re-joined the bttn today from hospital.

A draft of 90 ORs joined the bttn mostly from 2 and 70 RUR.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Edward Green, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0600 Commanding Officer and Intelligence Officer recce area and route for battalion attack. Attack may be postponed for 24 hours as position on Point 202 is not clear. 11 Brigade to 8 Corps reserves.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Archibald Potton, London Irish Rifles.



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