Brigade HQ – MAHMOUD GAP.
On this day, the Brigade Commander, with the Commander 26 Armoured Brigade, made a recce for detailed counter attack scheme in the Mahmoud Gap sector as indicated in 38 Brigade O.O. No 7.
1 RIrF reported that they had interrogated a French prisoner, who had been abducted by the Germans to Tunis. He gave them information of a general kind and also said that by day Germans patrolled in burnouses. This was borne out by later events.
A letter on “active and passive deception” on the lines of one received from 6 Armoured Division on 30 December was issued to Bttns.
A report on 48 hr patrols 3rd and 4th Jan written by the Brigade Commander was forwarded to 6 Armoured Division (Appendix 4).
The commander mentioned the gallantry and leadership of Lieut Page, 6 Innisks and elsewhere recommended him for the award of the MC. He had also observations to make on patrolling in general – 1) There is no good lying up east of the Bou Arada – Goubellat road by day until all Arabs are cleared out of the area. 2) Patrols east of the road are liable to attack by armoured cars. It is thought that armoured cars will be of more use in getting patrols out of difficulties than the tanks which have been allotted, but which would probably be too late to be of assistance.
1 RIrF – DOUAR.
1630 The French civilian referred to in Appendix F attached rode into B Coy lines and was interrogated by Lieut Gallagher. His story is to be found in the Appendix.
6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.
0700 Lieut McKee is overdue but he was told to take longer if required and not to hurry.
1000 CO has conference with CO 2 LIR on patrolling and they put new suggestions to Brigade which are accepted in principle. The suggestions were: The night area will be patrolled in each Bttn in twins. “Stops” where small garrisons will be kept for the purpose of extricating a patrol in difficulties and giving patrols in forward areas a base further forward than Bttn defensive positions. The garrison at “stop” will be two platoons and Coy HQ and 2 pounder A/Tk gun and 19 W/T set. 6 Innisks and 2 LIR will always plan together except when specific orders are received from Brigade.
A report of Lieut Page’s patrol is related:
“The patrol left Bttn HQ at dusk – about 1800 hrs 3 Jan ’43 in unit transport and debussed at farm J 615194 and went on foot to 653179 and then SE on road. They found three rows of mines on a bridge and blew them up. They went three miles down the road and then marched on a bearing of 83 degrees magnetic and came to an impassable gully. Went along the gully for about a mile when an LMG opened up at close range. Cpl Wilson was shot while trying to get out a grenade and although wounded walked back to the HQ – about 10 miles – with the help of a fusilier. Cpl Wilson had a broken arm and wounded in chest and arms.
After Cpl Wilson was shot, Lieut Page ordered the 2” mortar to open up and it fired 12 rounds. This silenced the enemy and the patrol moved back about two miles, where it lay up in a farm until the morning. At about 0830hrs 4 Jan ’43 ten Germans were seen advancing on the position. Fire was opened and casualties were inflicted on the enemy. The patrol took cover in the haystacks and the enemy withdrew taking some wounded with them but leaving a German officer and 2 ORs on the ground. The officer was dead and Lieut Page went forward and collected some papers, pistol and binoculars off him. During this action, two of our fusiliers were injured. At about 0930 hrs the patrol decided to withdraw and left the farm in two sections, the forward section being 100 yards ahead. Soon afterwards, the forward section drew the attention of Mr Page (with the rear section) to 5 armoured cars approaching from the left rear with 40 infantrymen. Lieut Page went forward to the leading section which was now in a farm. This section was surrounded by the armoured cars but one fusilier withdrew and informed Sgt Beecham (with the rear section) that Lieut Page had been hit and collapsed. Sgt Beecham withdrew his section and returned to Bttn HQ. At 1550 hrs Capt Rowlette with a section of carriers and Sgt Beecham went to recce the area and with a view to giving possible assistance, but nothing was found. Arabs stated that Germans occupied the neighbouring farms in numbers nearly every night.
The strength of the patrol was Lieut Page, Sgt Beecham and 19 ORs.
Lieut Page was found in the farm owned by Mrs Nichant 665190 and evacuated to N.D.S. suffering from a wound in the head. The following casualties were also suffered: wounded and brought back – 2, missing and wounded – 1, missing – 7.”
No patrols were sent out 5/6 Jan except local protective patrols.
1100 Patrol Scarlet returned with two men of Patrol Indigo.
1100 Report of Patrol Indigo by Lance-Corporal Piddington and Lance-Corporal Furr – 20 enemy encountered at farms in area 7716. Patrol fired on by light machine gun. Three tanks seen in vicinity of farm. Captain Grant, Sergeant Silverman, Rifleman Sherriff, Rifleman Scanlon failed to return.
1800 Lieutenant Fletcher and patrol want to bring back wounded officer (identity not established) from farm 665190.