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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 – 6th to 10th April 1943


6th April

Brigade HQ.

0930 Brigade Commander attended conference at Divisional HQ.

Commanders 56 Recce and 16 DLI called during the morning.

1215 RE rep arrived this HQ and conferred with Brigade Major.

1430 Conference was held by Brigade Major to coordinate transport moves.

1600 Lt FJA Clarke was sent as LO to Divisional HQ, vice Lt JF Hall, who had been injured in a motor cycle accident.

1630 Captain Crofts arrived at this HQ as LO from 2 Hamps , who were to be under command for the forthcoming battle.

1820 6 Innisks reported that a farmer at Farm 386392 stated that tanks had been seen behind Nahel. He had no details, but was thought reliable, being well disposed and having previously given accurate information to the Recce Regiment. This raised the question of the Anti Tank plan for the battle. It was decided that the tanks allotted to 36 Brigade, together with their support artillery and A/Tk guns could deal with any threat and that the primary tasks of 254 A/Tk Battery was still to get guns onto the north east of Mahdi.

2000 6 Innisks reported mine laying detachment RE blown up at bridge 382407. Lt Adams RE was intercepted on the road and more sappers were found. They reached 6 Innisks at 2400hrs and the work proceeded.

On this day, a PoW cage was established by def platoon commander at brigade HQ.

An account of operations of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade 7-11 Apr is appended to original and duplicate copies.


1 RIrF.

Quiet day. Final arrangements made for impending operations.

1800 Conference all officers.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0530 Battalion all in assembly point after all night march. Everyone very wet through marching through very wet cornfields.

1000 O Group conference. Rest of the day, the bttn lies low.

Plan for attack on Mahdi. Bttn to leave assembly area 0030hrs in following order: A, Bttn HQ,  C, B (carrying tools), D Coy to go out to picket route with strong fighting patrols and then come into reserve. Captain Hanna and Intelligence Section to prepare route to start line and mark with tape together with section D Coy and Pioneer platoon to clear mines and prepare mines and prepare gully crossing at bottom of Mahdi 4141. Section RE to report to Bttn HQ for purpose of detecting mines.

2000 This RE section missed the route and blew up on bridge 393408. Delay caused in getting up new section, causing bttn to be 1/2 hour later leaving assembly area.

Died on this Day:

Corporal Ernest Brookes, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.



7th April

Brigade HQ.

0100 Command Post was set up at 350376.

0350 Divisional Artillery programme commenced.

0540 2 Hamps reported Kachbia captured.

0600 6 Innisks were on their objective.

0640 1 RIrF were released from Divisional reserve.

0650 Commander with CRA left Artillery Group left Command Post to recce with Commander 1 RIrF.

0700 78 Division ordered 16 DLI to be moved up.

0710 Commander 16 DLI left Command Post to move his bttn.

0900 1 RIrF moved forward.

1015 Army Commander visited Command Post and was given sitrrep by Brigade Commander.

1045 LO from 10 Brigade gave information of the “Chinese Attack” staged 2230 6 April in Hunt’s Gap area. There was no enemy reaction and our fighting patrols had no contact.

1225 It was decided to move Command Post.

1240 Divisional Commander visited the CP and discussed the situation with the Brigade Commander.

1355 Brigade Commander told 1 RIrF the importance of getting on with the attack and Divisional plan depended on protection of left flank being established.

1515 1 RIrF had taken most of north west of Mahdi.

1600 Pt 437 captured.

1700 Command left for new CP in gully 386392.

1800 Vehicles left for new CP.

Relief of 6 Innisks by 16 DLI commenced. This was completed during the night.

1930 78 Division message was received ordering intensive patrolling night 7/8 April.

2030 Sitrep sent to 78 Division.

2330 On other parts of the front, the day had been successful and information was sent to bttns in message form.

The Brigade’s account here.


1 RIrF.

Battalions attacked Mahdi.

1000 Bttn moved off with D Coy leading. A certain amount of shelling on the way up. No casualties. 1 mule party had considerable difficulty. One anti personnel minefield was encountered and a detour made round it.

1130 Arrived Innisks, who were on first bump of Mahdi and prepared to attack main feature.

1230 Orders for attack.

1300 Attack started. D Coy on right. C Coy on left. Attack took place along the east slope of the Mahdi. The two leading coys met very little opposition, a few Bosche gave themselves up and small groups were seen running down the gullies. They were engaged by our artillery.

1400 Leading troops on objective. Numbers of Bosche were seen running away in the plain, and a party of Bosche was seen advancing up Dr Bed Wadi. FOO brought down some very effective fire. Pretty heavy shelling and mortaring developed during the afternoon and small groups of Bosche had still to be mopped up. Bttns consolidated on reverse slops of Mahdi.

2000 Bttns dug in a position.

Captain CA Pierce, Lieut WJ Chapman, Lieut WDS Smith wounded.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Albert Heath, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Sidney Milton, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harry Rice, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Kerr, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Sergeant James Fraser, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Walter Gibson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal Samuel Megarity, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frank Ball, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0400 Zero. A Coy on right, D Coy on left. Bttn HQ centre rear. B Coy carrying tools, reserve coy D Coy to close and follow bttn at 0430hrs.

Artillery barrage 2-20-2 and then left from 2 to 2 and 50. Filed medium and heavies were used.

Owing to late start from assembly area, bttn was rushed at start line and went straight over.

0515 C Coy gained their objective with very little resistance, A Coy held up by MMG. CO went forward to support company and spotted MG post on reverse slopes. He directed the bren gunner to the target. The gunner was unable to follow his directions so CO called for the bren gun himself. Before the bren gun arrived, Lt-Col Allen looked up to keep the gun under observation and was shot down through the head. Major Bunch took over temporary command of the bttn.

0630 Enemy mortar fire became heavy causing casualties to all Coys. Position was taken by 1000hrs despite several half hearted counter attacks, but A Coy was pinned to the ground by MMG fire from their front. 30 prisoners from 2 from 334/AR were taken.

Transports on our right and rear flanks seemed to be meeting with success and enemy were seen running from farm houses and points of cover. Especially from O’Connor farm 436415 when Churchill tanks approached from the west.

1100 R group 1 RIrF arrived with object of going through bttn position and taking pt437 422452.

1330 Major J McCann arrived from Battle replacements to assume command.

1400 1 RIrF went through bttn position.

1630 Reinforcements from 16 DLI arrived to take over bttn position.

2030 Takeover by 16 DLI complete. Bttn marched back to area Plateau Farm J387393, arriving about midnight.

During the attack, the mules proved to be of immense value as country was difficult and supplies could not have been brought up by other means.

Died on this Day:

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Allen, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, attached from RUR.

Fusilier James McCarthy, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant Wilfred Jones, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Joseph Hunt, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Clarence Wootton, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Albert Tinman, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Leslie Gidney, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ronald Clough, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant Francis Ford, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Kenneth Davis, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Arthur Gower, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Trimble, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Mathew Coffey, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Evans, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant Herbert Owen, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Joseph Robinson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Edward Pickford, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

Lieutenant TA O’Connor (RUR) and Lieutenant WBB Glasgow (RUR) joined battalion.



8th April

Brigade HQ.

On this day, a “Special Order of the Day” by GOC, First Army was received.

0630 Commander left to visit bttns.

0935 Orders were received that 254 A/Tk Battery ceased to be under command 38 Brigade by 1200hrs.

0940 Commander 6 Innisks visited CP.

1110 Enemy tanks or SP guns were sighted at 470469. Infantry were also seen and a counterattack was thought possible.

1400 1 RIrF made sweep of gully 4444, which yielded 35 PoWs.

2020 Message received from 78 Division ordering one squadron of North Irish Horse in support 38 Brigade after conclusion of their operation with 36 Brigade in order to protect the forward troops on the Mahdi from enemy tanks.

2100 LO from NIH visited Brigade HQ reference above order and was sent onto Command Post. During the night, 1 RIrF carried out an unsuccessful tank hunting patrol, but captured a PoW area 4245.

2330 Conference was held at Command Post at discuss northwards sweep by 6 Innisks and 2 Hamps and Brigade OO No 16 was issued.


1 RIrF.

1100 A Coy went out on a sweep to mop up suspected enemy in a gully east of the Mahdi. A few prisoners were captured during the morning and at 1300hrs, A Coy reported enemy strong point with 3 MGs. They attacked successfully with artillery support capturing 38 prisoners.

1700 A Coy return.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Walter Lake, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Wilfred Winston, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – PLATEAU FARM.

On arriving back to Plateau Farm. Lt-Col TN Grazebrook was there to greet us and take over command of the bttn. A day of make and mend. During the evening, CO was warned to stand by for conference at Brigade. 

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Harold Ward, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

E & F Companies in company attack scheme on G & H Companies.

W/Captain JD Lofting (RUR) joined battalion.



9th April

Brigade HQ.

During the morning there was slight mortaring of Mahdi.

0900 Coordinating conference was held at Command Post.

1300 Captain P Strange, Brigade Signals Officer, was killed while establishing Command OP with Brigade Command. Sweep of 2 Innisks and 6 Hamps commenced.

1600 Coy sweep of 1 RIrF on Mahdi was carried out.

1810 Withdrawal of both Bttns ordered after a successful sweep had been made. 130 PoWs were taken during the day.

2200 Conference was held at CP to discuss operations 10 April. It was explained by Brigade Commander that if infantry were to advance to Djebel Guerinat (4349), but this was not practical politics unless the threat of enemy tanks in the area 4647 was neutralised. It was therefore necessary to use NIH’s Churchills to go in advance of the infantry on the night.

2330 Brigade Commander went to discuss the plan with the Divisional Commander.

2400 Command of sector changed from 38 Brigade to 12 Brigade (HQ at Farm 380368). During the night, 1 RWK took up the positions of 2 Hamps (3943), who retired to area 3840. 6 Black Watch lay up area 1 RIrF  on Mahdi.

In the afternoon, Brigade OO No 17 was produced dealing with reliefs 9/10 April.


1 RIrF.

Quiet day. B Coy did a similar sweep again today with artillery support. Total bag of prisoners 47. On both these sweeps, casualties amount to one killed and two wounded.


6 Innisks – PLATEAU FARM.

0030 CO attends conference at Brigade.

0630 O Group conference discusses sweep over area J 3944, which is still occupied by enemy.

0745 O Group go out and recce area. Adjutant goes to coys and puts them in the picture and warns them to be ready to move at 1000hrs.

0900 CO attends conference at Brigade and sends back message. Zero put back one hour.

0950 O Group returns from recce.

1100 Coys pass SP 392400. Zero is fixed for 1300hrs. Order of march B, Bttn HQ, A, C, D.

Plan A & B to take pt 361 (397447). When A had established fire plan, B Coy to go on to high ground on 3945. In the meantime, C Coy to go along gully running through square 4044. When B Coy had taken their objective, D Coy to clear gully 3944.

Bttn was slowed down during the approach march by shelling of bridge J 392407 with the result that the attack was to be late going in.

The attack was supported by 102 Field Regiment and battery of mediums.

1320 Artillery barrage.

1325 A & B Coys crossed start line.

1405 Coys reached foot of objective where B Coy stayed and covered A Coy, who went round and attacked up east side and took 8 prisoners 1/755 Infantry Regiment.

1445 B Coy went forward covered by D Coy covered from foot of pt 361, but were held up by MMG points and eventually made crossing of open ground between pt 361 and next objective.

A well dug in MMG post held up B Coy for two hours. Eventually they ran out from our Artillery and allowed B Coy to proceed to their next objective. C Coy’s advance was held up by minefield in square J 4044, where three of the Coy suffered casualties. It is indeed lucky that this field was not covered by fire. The Coy eventually was led out of the minefield by prisoners sent back by A Coy.

1625 A & C start up withdrawing covering each other’s route.

1715 B Coy’s second attempt to take their second objective failed and they were ordered to withdraw.

1810 Orders from Brigade for bttn to start withdrawal. During the sweep, 50 prisoners from 12 and 4 Coy 755 were taken.

1930 Bttn all back at Plateau Farm area (own casualties 2 killed and 12 wounded).

2000 Brigadier arrived and gave CO rough plan for sweep on 10 April over forward slopes of Mahdi.

Died on this Day:

Lance Sergeant Harold Walls, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Edwin Nicholls, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

1900 Battalion Scheme “Moon” 3 company attack at night.

Captain JD Lofting promoted A/Major.



10th April

Brigade HQ – BEJA.

0830 Brigade Commander left CP to establish Command OP 4244.

0900 1 RIrF began to move forward.

1020 Division reported NIH tanks had no found no opposition and suggested infantry move forward (this already been done).

1045 Division reported sending squadron 56 Recce to come under command NIH 4747.

1 RIrF captured at 4345 2 PoWs of Pion Btl 334, who appeared to be stragglers from the retreat. All the way up past Si Ameur, many slit trenches were seen, and there was a large store of clothing and equipment at pt 402 (4347).

1055 1 RIrF had reached end of Mahdi 4346.

1100 Forward troops at 43046.

1215 LO arrived from Division confirming W/T orders.

1245 “Things going well and pretty quickly 440479.”

1350 RE ordered to continue work on Mahdi track.

1420 Attack with artillery support on Guerinat.

1515 1 RIrF on objective unopposed.

1530 6 Innisks called forward to Si Ameur.

1730 Consolidation completed.

1830 Command Post moved to 420445.

1930 Brigade HQ moved to location Farm 386392.

Brigade A Echelon moved to 3734. Captain AA Dean, Royal Signals was attached this HQ from 78 Division Signals.

2100 Brigade Major attended conference at Division. 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF were to come back from Djebel Guerinat, whether relieved or not, and 2 Hamps were under command 12 Brigade. 10 Brigade were to make for Si Nsir and 1 RIrF to send coy off to cut off enemy.


1 RIrF – MAHDI.

Bttn advanced to Djebel Ou Guerinat 4256.

0930 CO gives out his orders.

1200 First phase of advance carried out without incident. Bttn HQ at pt 402 4347.

1255 Tanks report that they are being mortared from 4548.

1315 CO orders for continuation of advance. Enemy tanks reported 406583.

1330 B Coy lead off on second phase.

1507 Objective reached and consolidated. No opposition except a little mortaring on arrival at the objective.

1630 Command Group and later Bttn’s HQ take up position 425497.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Fred Nash, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – PLATEAU FARM.

0030 CO attends conference at Brigade.

0730 CO sends back for R Group to meet him on Mahdi on 0900hrs. Owing to a misunderstanding, O Group consisting of Coy Commanders, Adjutant and Intelligence Section met the CO, who takes them forward to the OP and view ground in front and points out features. Rough plan is for 1 RIrF to work forward and if held up we are to go through them. The features to be swept are ‘Gouning’ 4250 and 4349, ‘Diaman’ 4151, Tekla 4051.

0845 Bttn moves off from Plateau by march route and arrives at assembly area J 423449 at abut 1200hrs.

1505 CO is called to conference at Brigade and bttn is ordered forward to hold Gouning with RIrF over night.

1700 RIrF had met no opposition but B Coy found 18 enemy on the forward slopes of Mahdi waiting to give themselves up. They were 3/755 Infantry Regiment stated their officers had left three days before.

1900 By 1900hrs, Bttn reached J4248, where it was met by the RIrF, who said there was no room on Gouning for two bttns and it was decided to stay in area J 4248 overnight as no enemy could be found. Bttn takes up defensive positions and sends out early warning patrols.



 

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