26th February

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

1 RIrF found, as ordered, standing patrols to cover approaches from the hills, but these patrols had nothing to report.

An enemy patrol raided position of A Coy 1 RIrF in Olive Grove 5704 and took PWs, also killing three and wounding four.

0645 Enemy launched an attack on 2 LIR positions. The main events are given in diary form below:-

0645 Enemy attacked 611083 from north.

0840 Enemy occupying hill 611083, 624088 and gully 634081.

0850 Enemy had infiltrated between left coys, 2 LIR.

0910 Enemy line 6109 – 6408 with pocked at pt 683. Hill 6208 infiltrated on three sides.

1020 Counter Attack by Brigade reserve cleared Farm 637082 and gully to east but enemy on hill 623088.

1120 Enemy had withdrawn north from 623088.

1200 623083 held by us.

1420 Enemy still at 624088 and between two Coys (area 6308).

1650 1 RIrF (less three coys) arrived 613065. Platoon and two 3” mortars put at disposal 2 LIR.

1700 6 Innisks reported: captured 20 PW 641085. No penetration to plain was observed all day.

1800 Sitrep sent to ‘Y’ Division.

The Brigade’s account here.


1 RIrF – REST AREA.

0400 The enemy threw in an attack on Tally Ho Corner 5217, making at the same time, a thrust on the positions held by 2 LIR along the line of features facing the Goubellat Plain and running west from the road Goubellat-Bou Arada making some penetration.

0700 D Coy on 15 minutes notice and A Coy on 30.

1000 A platoon of 2 LIR having been overrun on Si Krelfi 5808, B Coy ordered to clear ridge 635084–625090 with under command squadron Churchill tanks and one section Carriers, started to attack.

1015 Carriers moved to feature 557056 and in position at 1040. Enemy reported moving south at 639089.

1055 Squadron Churchill tanks and carriers with one platoon B Coy in position 631083.

1130 B Coy recaptured Farm 637082 and this taken over later by two platoons C Coy.

1130 ‘Butler Force’ formed comprising skeleton HQ, A Coy, some Churchill tanks and support arms including one squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry under Major BH Butler. Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall MC assumed command of 1 RIrF.

1200 Butler Force moved off to RV at A Echelon 527052.

1430 1 RIrF, less those coys, ordered to move to area 608065.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier James McCabe, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Ernest Graves, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0200 Vehicle travelled to and from pt 286

0230 Enemy patrol signalled but not engaged 100 yards in front of minefield farm.

0550 Mortar and MG fire head on 2 LIR positions. Fire developed during the morning. 2 LIR being attacked by enemy (strength not known) in hills NW. Mortar fire from east of Goubellat to Bou Arada road from area gullies north of Ber Rabaz and also east of pt 286. Mortar fire heavy on F Coy 2 LIR front at about 0830 hrs.

0915 D Coy reported mortar position in gully east of pt 286. This was engaged by our own artillery and the mortar fire ceased.

0945 C Squadron 142 Field Regiment RAC reported on move. MMG fire had now almost ceased.

Capt Kingsmill was posted forward of Sidi Aik as OP. This proved invaluable and kept command post supplied with news of the situation.

1045 Our infantry seen advancing from Stuka Farm 637082 to north west.

1055 Our troops seen withdrawing on crest near Stuka Farm.

1120 25 enemy and 15 transports seen proceeding north east at 641085. B Coy on Grandstand told to be ready to engage them. 4.2” mortars engaged this target.

1147 611083 reported clear of enemy and they have been driven over the crest 663083. Information from Brigade that a PW has stated that a full scale attack is taking place. HGJR is attacking our northern flank and another force is attacking the 1 Parachute Brigade positions whilst A 24 by pass us and go through Bou Arada.

1200 Patrol from D Coy went out to recce any enemy concentrations or positions in area pt 286 and Barka.

1230 B Coy RIrF have occupied area Farm 637082 with platoon after driving enemy from it and inflicting casualties on enemy.

1310 Enemy digging in on north and west slopes of Hill 623088.

1415 Enemy still in gully between F and H Coy 2 LIR.

1545 Information from Brigade that enemy may be re grouping for tank attack from north to east.

1630 Lieut Boyle and platoon of B Coy do a sweep along ridge in front of Stuka Farm. This turned out to be a great success and stabilised our position for the night. Lieut Boyle was killed in this attack – also L/Cpl Reid. Fifteen to twenty casualties were inflicted on the enemy. The attack was preceded by our artillery, who lay down a heavy concentration for twenty minutes before zero.

The other part of the day’s battle as it affected this Bttn and is told as an appendix by Capt Daly, who with a 2 Section Carriers was sent to help 2 LIR and subsequently took over command of that particular area. Capt Daly’s determined tactics and energy continually proved too much for the enemy and he was able to remain on pt 384 until relieved by 2 LIR when they had reorganised on 28 Feb 43.

A very wet night.

Died on this Day:

Captain Anthony Boyle, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Robert Reid, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0645 One of our carriers carrying rations runs into the enemy.

0650 E Company HQ attacked from wadi north-east of their positions. Very heavy mortar bombing on G Company and towards Battalion HQ.

0655 F Company and H Company out of touch by line but immediately come up on wireless.

0700 G Company being mortared. Machine guns firing on them from 623090.

0715 Enemy attack on Castle Hill 623090. Successful and they now occupy it.

0740 G Company now out of touch by line.

0755 F and G Companies and C Battery of 152 Field Regiment (AY) through by wireless. E Company by line and wireless.

0800 E Company ask permission to withdraw to small hill behind their headquarters as they wish to make greater use of 3 inch mortars. Permission granted.

0825 E Company hill still occupied by the enemy.

0842 F Company report enemy still advancing on their left. They are in danger of being surrounded.

0845 G Company report enemy around rear. One hundred enemy seen moving to 5909. Enemy still heavily mortaring G Company.

0850 Enemy on north side of Steep Hill. F Company and F Company HQ. Still holding on but need more help.

0920 F Company heavily mortared.

0930 F Company report enemy MMG out of action. Heavy mortaring on Stuka Farm.

0950 H Company report enemy approaching their positions.

1035 Stuka Farm attacked from behind forward positions.

1100 13 Platoon on Booby Trap Hill, 14 Platoon in old position. 15 Platoon have suffered heavy casualties.

1130 F Company HQ and 11 Platoon at Stuka Farm. Ammunition running low.

1200 G Company report two sections of Para troops in gully north side of Rear Hill. Artillery shell 70-100 Germans west side of wadi 600088.

1230 Support group move to 597063 to protect gunners rear.

1430 Party from Battalion HQ comprising officer commanding HQ company (Major DW Conroy), the Adjutant (Captain TC Osborn), CSM Girvin, Colour Sergeant Dann, Sergeant Gardiner (Provost Sergeant), Sergeant Bridgen (Cook Sergeant), Sergeant Chubb (Bugle Major), Corporal Limb, Lance Corporal Chance, Lance Corporal Prout and a few riflemen attack and occupy Rear Hill, taking 14 prisoners of Herman Goering Jaeger Regiment. Heavy casualties inflicted. Casualties – Major Conroy wounded, Captain Osborn wounded, Colour Sergeant Dann wounded, Sergeant Gardiner killed, Bugle Major Chubb wounded, Sergeant Bridgen wounded, Rifleman Hale wounded.

1530 Enemy platoon proceeding towards H Company Farm WEST. G Company pinned down by machine gun fire.

2000 Belgium deserter arrived at Battalion HQ and states 150 enemy on Castle Hill.

Other casualties sustained were, Major CAF Gibbs wounded, Captain VJA Lillie-Costello MC wounded, Captain CJ Reidy wounded. Lieutenant Fergusson killed. Lieutenant Wilcocks wounded. 20 other ranks killed, 48 other ranks wounded and 25 other ranks missing.

The Battalion’s account here.

Died on this Day:

Corporal Archie Kawalsky, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman William Ruddock, London Irish Rifles.

Company Quarter Master Sergeant Frederick Brooks, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman David Scott, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Reginald Brooks, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Stanley Roberts, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Charles Hamilton, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal William Dunsmuir, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Charles Mills, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman James Turner, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal John Tryers, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Stanley Metcalfe, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman George Watts, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman John Carey, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Thomas Booth, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Dennis Flaherty, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Robert Henderson, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Martin McGrath, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Alfred Crush, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Robert Church, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman James Smith, London Irish Rifles.



27th February

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Quiet night.

0905 Enemy digging Farm 645102. Artillery engaged.

1000 All quiet. Enemy believed still 611083.

1350 Coy at 663107 approaching Farm 645102.

1420 30 enemy going west same area.

1620 Position at 611083 restored.

1815 Message to bttns ordering 6 Innisks to take command of F and H Coys 2 LIR.

Brigade Intelligence Summary was issued (including a list of place names in common use in the Bou Arada sector).

2130 Sitrep sent to ‘Y’ Division.


1 RIrF – REST AREA. 

Night quiet – nothing to report – whole night spent consolidating new position.

0700 AA platoon and one section carriers occupied hill 5906.

1000 This detachment relieved by one platoon 2 LIR. An OP established and maintained on Sidi El Bacchi 5605 of two I sections and one section Carriers.

1400 One section Carriers and one detachment 3” Mortars support attack by 2 LIR to re-establish themselves on Hill 6108 with Medium and Field Artillery support. This was accomplished with little opposition.

1500 Estimated 50 enemy crossed Wadi north of Farm 647102 from east to west. C Battery, 152 Battery (Artillery) Field Regiment fired at them a concentration of 400 rounds. The battle on the bttn front then abated slowly rounding off with heavy Artillery duels.

2359 Butler Force returned to the bttn. Major BH Butler resumed command of 1 RIrF.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD. 

A quiet morning but everyone was very much on the lookout. Artillery have busy morning shooting up Gubaia and Barka where considerable enemy can be seen.

1330 100 enemy reported moving south west at about 663107. They were engaged by our artillery and dispersed.

1520 Three shrapnel shells in the bttn area.

D Coy report location of enemy OP on Mehallah. There was considerable air activity during the day.

During the night 27/28, much salvage of our own and enemy is collected from area Stuka Farm. It is sorted and redistributed – first priority being given to F Coy 2 LIR, who have now been reformed under Capt Kingsmill and one now under out command.

The bttn now has three extra coys under command – F and H Coy 2 LIR, and C Coy 1 RIrF with B Coy 1 RIrF in readiness for immediate counter attack. The layout was as follows. 6 Innisks in same positions, H Coy in gully 647081. C Coy 1 RIrF holding Stuka Ridge and F Coy 2 LIR on that hill.


2 LIR.

0700 Battalion HQ established Olive Grove 603064 and Forward Battalion HQ at 608065. 9 Platoon moved from position to 591095 with 7 prisoners.

0900 Pioneers and A/A platoons take up positions on Hill 601069.

1200 E Company attack and occupy former Company HQ Hill 612083.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman James Taylor, London Irish Rifles.



28th February

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Fighting patrols to Farms 633105 and 617112 had nothing to report. Some west to east movement of enemy vehicles was reported north east of the position.

Brigade Intelligence Summary was issued.

0800 2 LIR captured two men of A.24 at 611082, who had been wounded and stayed behind their coy.

1350 A Coy 1 RIrF advanced to 623090, and found it clear. Trace showing dispositions at Appendix 75.

Thirty men approached pt 286 and took up position. Sign of a relief. Patrol of 1 RIrF with object of harassing enemy supply lines made contact 633134 and inflicted casualties of enemy post of 8 and 2 MGs. Patrol attacked occupants, again laid up and took Cpl and L/Cpl PW. These were 1/A.24 and stated their bttn was cooperating with I/HGJR.


1 RIrF – REST AREA. 

Two patrols were sent out but neither achieved any result.

A Coy moved off to occupy Castle Hill, which it did without opposition.

The events of this night are recorded in detail in the Appendix. A trace is attached showing bttn layout.

Butler’s Force.

At 1100 hrs, 26 February 1943, orders were issued by Brigade for Major BH Butler, who was then acting CO to hand over command of the bttn to Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall MC and move with a command group to A Echelon at 528054 and take command of a force consisting of a force consisting of half a squadron of 142 (Suffolk Regiment) RAC, A Coy 1 RIrF and one group of 72 A/Tk Regiment. This force was to deal with the threat created by a force of enemy tanks accompanied by a lorried infantry moving southwards down the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa. Under orders of ‘Y’ Division, one squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry were already employed in a delaying role in keeping the enemy in debauching into the valley El Aroussa-Bou Arada until such time as the tanks could get into action.

On arrival at A Echelon, it was found that the tank squadron had already moved to deal with the threat under orders from Divisional HQ. After receiving orders from the Divisional Commander, Major Butler eventually contacted OC tank squadron, who was then in action at 489081 and had, by that time, stopped further progress by the enemy’s armoured units and had already knocked out a number of enemy tanks. At approximately 1600 hrs, a staff officer arrived from ‘Y’ Division with orders that the infantry Coy was not to be committed to any forward movement but was to fall back to positions on the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa for the night covered during the move back by the tanks, who was then to be withdrawn behind the positions as soon as the infantry was established.

At 1830 hrs, A Coy 1 RIrF had established themselves in or around Farm Mtat El Kremguit 481048 when a liaison officer arrived from ‘Y’ Division ordering Major Butler to HQ ‘Y’ Division with A Coy 1 RIrF to form a defensive island at that place for the night. The object of this move was to protect Divisional HQ against an expected attack by a German Parachute Bttn known to be in the mountains to the north. The squadron of tanks was ordered into an anti tank position covering El Aroussa, which was also to form a defensive island. Major Butler and A Coy established themselves at Divisional HQ shortly after dark. During the night 26/27 February, heavy rain fell but no attack developed.

At 1700 hrs 27 February 43, the situation on the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa having been partially cleared, Major Butler and A Coy were ordered to return to the bttn.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Unusual enemy activity noticed.

0930 Enemy aircraft activity – flying high in air by artillery and vehicles.

0930 Mortar shelling on hills behind.

0945 Mortar shelling on Grandstand.

1000 Mortar shelling on Grandstand.

1300/1340 Mortar bomb on Sidi Aik.

1410 We put down Monkey target on Stop Farm.

1700 Three Stukas dropped bombs in HQ Coy area.

1930 Unusual dog barking in W village. Flashing of torches on Two Tree Hill.

To sum up, the month was one of active patrolling and endurance. The strain is beginning to tell on many of the men and the number of nervous cases is on the increase.

Patrol programme and reports are attached for the month.


2 LIR.

1200 9 Platoon take up former positions. 7 Platoon move to Mosque Hill.

1230 Patrol from G Company move to top of Castle Hill.

1530 One company 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers take over Castle Hill from patrol.

1630 Three Junkers 87s dive bomb near road on front of brigade positions.

1900 Battalion HQ moves back to former position in wadi 623077. During the morning the ground east of E Company positions was heavily mortared.