War Diaries – 11th to 15th January 1943

11th January


0300 6 Innisks moved to take over positions of 10 Rifle Brigade (J6507) and went under command 26 Armoured Brigade. Coy 2 LIR took over from 6 Innisks, Squadron 2 Lothians and Coy 2 LIR were to be prepared to operate south of Goubellat supported by 152 Field Regiment; object to cover 6 Innisks’ occupation of the position.

0805 Squadron 2 Lothians moved south from Goubellat  were engaged by A/Tk  guns from farms 652175, 663174 and 648183. Some of the tanks were bogged and H Coy 2 LIR was sent to their assistance. The orders to 6215-6517.

1500 Infantry had reached 6518 unmolested and enemy were withdrawing under heavy artillery fire to farm 662173.

1700 H Coy were relieved on the first objective but could not take the second objective before dark. Enemy fire from wadi and trenches to the east of the farm and the Coy was withdrawn with 5 killed and 12 wounded (see Appendix 25). One object of the attack had been to allow the bogged tanks to be recovered. This project had to be abandoned, but it turned out that of 8 tanks, 5 were undoubtedly u/s while only 1 was certainly worth recovering.

During the morning, Commander 72 A/Tk Regiment made a recce with brigade I.O. for a tactical minefield (Appendix 22).

Intelligence summary for 11 Jan was issued. “Lessons from action by H Coy 11 Jan 43” a report from Commander 2 LIR is attached (Appendix 24).

2105 Brigade Commander visited GOC at Divisional Command (Farm 553025) returning at 2359 hours. During the day, further attempts were made by 10 R.B. to capture Hill 6809, but enemy remained in position. Vehicle movement from the east indicated either supplies or reinforcements.


Details of the activities of this night are given in the Appendix.

0500 B, C and A Coys reported tanks moving south from the area Goubellat and 2/18 Bttn Infantry reported a smoke screen in that area. An L.O. sent from brigade informed CO that am 10 Jan enemy estimated 2 Coys in strength had reached area main road 6507, first seizing 10 Rifle Brigade OP in area 6808. Two companies 10 RB, supported by ½ squadron of 17/21 Lancers, attacked north and seized high ground astride Rd 6508. At 0300 hrs, 6 Innisks moved via El Aroussa and Bou Arada to take over this farm from 10 RB coming under command 26 Armoured Brigade.

0615 At first light, one squadron of 2 Lothians moved south to cover the occupation of this position. They were shelled by the enemy and deploying off the road, 8 became “bogged”.

1000 They were then attacked with HE and A/Tk fire and… which set one on fire and rendered the others not worth recovering.

1400 G & H Coys 2 LIR observed advance across the Plaine De Goubellat eastward to destroy the enemy who were harassing the tanks. They appeared to be making good progress in the face of MG fire.

1700 1 RIrF ordered to cooperate with 2 LIR in forming a bridgehead in the Plaine De Goubellat east of the road Medjez-el-Bab to Bou Arada behind which sec vehicles would come up under cover of darkness and save the tanks that were still worth recovering. A Coy with under command one platoon D Coy were ordered to hold the road..on the approaches to Goubellat. This was just being put into effect when H Coy reported that it was unable to take its second objective, although G Coy had taken over from them at the front. This made it impossible for the recovery project to be carried out. The orders were cancelled, but in case an alternative plan necessitating moves by 1 RIrF during the night should arise, all patrol activity was also cancelled. Capt HFW Holmes left to take up staff appointment.

2300 Adjutant summoned to Brigade to receive orders for 12 Jan from Brigadier on his return from Divisional HQ.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0115 CO see 2.i.c. Coys Capt Little who were to go out on recce and takes the recce party forward to recce possibly at 0200hrs (see att O.O. order). Coy 2 LIR are to take on the bttn position. D Coy cannot move until it arrives.

0200 No sign yet of TCVs which Brigade has ordered up. It is confirmed that only 16 will be available instead of 20 as 4 have been bogged in treacherous slippery roads.

0315 13 TCVs arrive (three more having been bogged) owing to bad road and dark night.

0400 Bttn moves off for a tricky drive of about 25 miles to be attached to 26 Armoured Brigade via El Aroussa.

0715 Bttn arrives in dribs and drabs at de-busing point west of Bou Arada.

0915 Bttn is reported all in less than one platoon of B Coy which is not yet un-bogged.

A minimum of transport is brought up. The rear link Gin Palace is not considered as a vehicle to bring into forward areas. The forward link 8 cat is therefore used as rear link and CO carrier as forward link. CO carrier unfortunately broke down before a mile had been covered and forward link is transferred to D Coy 19 set.

1025 CO and I.O. with party return from recce. The Bttn comes under command 26 Armoured Brigade Gp.

1035 The Bttn moves forward on foot about 5 miles to take over front..taken for the enemy this morning. The bttn moves up with about 100 yds between sections and 300 yards between coys. D, A & B in that order going via Bou Arada and C Coy across country west of Bou Arada.

1115 Bttn HQ consisting of CO and I.O. in AA 8 cwt. Adjutant in rear link move up to Bttn HQ.

1200 Message received for CO to see Brigadier at 1230.

1215 Coys arriving in coy areas. The bttn takes up position astride Bou Arada–Goubellat road. D forward on left of road. C on forward slopes of road with B on their right and A further back covering right or left rear flank. Bttn in A Coy area.

Coys set to work to dig themselves in. “Dig or die” being the motto. Much to be accomplished in the next 48 hrs to make bttn safe from counter attack.

1500 I.O. interviews two British war correspondents.

1530 Battery Commander D Coy 12 RHA arrived and tied up ends about defence of guns, D/F etc.  CO goes around coys during afternoon but is cut short with order to proceed to Brigade HQ at 1630hrs.

1700 CO returns with news that bttn is going to put in an attack on Two Tree Hill . O group conference is ordered and as much rest for remainder as role allows.

A wet night.

2 LIR.

0100 E Company at normal conditions.

1230 H Company relieve crew of tanks of A Squadron, 2nd Lothians. Under fire from enemy anti-tank guns and were bogged either side of Goubellat-Bou Arada road. H Company were ordered to attack farms 651176 and 662173.

1300 G Company moved off to support H Company.

1530 H Company took first objective.

1612 Eight tanks withdraw into Goubellat.

1700 G Company took over first objective from H Company

1700 H Company come under heavy machine gun and mortar fire and were unable to advance past Wadi 6617.

1800 E Company ordered to withdrawn to original battalion position. G Company also moved back leaving one platoon to patrol area of battle.

Result of battle: 2nd Lothians had nine tanks knocked out or bogged. H Company had three killed and 12 wounded. Casualties were inflicted by the enemy. Enemy identification Hermann Goerring Regiment (12th machine gun company).

2355 H and G Companies returned to former positions by TCV.

Died on this Day:

Lance Sergeant John Hogan, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Sergeant James McLoughlin, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman John Griffin, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman John Hogan, London Irish Rifles.

12th January


Patrols were purely local and no contact was reported.

0100 Commander 1 RIrF was called to brigade HQ and received orders to recce area Bou Arada (6201) taking a Coy Commander to recce for probable attack on Hill 6809.

0155 Paybook and documents of Thomas Windhofer, 12 MG Coy Coy II/HGJR, were received from 2 LIR. A W/T identification was passed and the documents despatched at once to 6 Armoured Division.

Brigade Commander made recce of Medjez area with a view to the thrust NE by 6 Armoured Division.

On this day, there was considerable movement on the Brigade front of armoured cars, trucks and a few small groups of infantry. Farm 662173 continued to be active.

Intelligence summary for 12 Jan was issued, containing an account of Coy 2 LIR 11 Jan (Appendix 25).

1920 Two coys 1 RIrF moved off from positions 6524 to Bou Arada.


0730 Adjutant returned bringing the information that 6 Innisks had successfully occupied the position and that two coys 1 RIrF were to be at 2 hrs notice from 1700hrs to move south to take the hill feature 680090 (Two Tree Hill) concentrating first in area El Aroussa and that recce parties should be sent south immediately to a) concentration area for i) Two coys, ii) the attack on Two Tree Hill.

1100 The CO, OC C Coy and….NCO of Carrier platoon moved off as a recce party.

1200 The recce party called at Brigade HQ, where it was decided to call OC D Coy up to make the recce of the attack with OC C Coy in day light.

1315 OC D Coy joined the party, OC C Coy and NCO of Carrier Platoon had already left to recce concentration areas in El Aroussa.

1445 The entire recce party arrived at 6 Innisks where CO 1 RIrF received orders from Commander 26 Armoured Brigade under whose command D and C Coys were to be. The.. had been changed. Two coys 1 RIrF  as soon as possible after were to take over 6 Innisks positions and 6 Innisks were to attack Two Tree Hill at dawn 13 Jan. CO 1 RIrF accordingly arranged that D Coy under command C Coy should have also under command two MMG detachments, three detachments 3” mortars and two sections Carriers. He then tied up with CO 6 Innisks the handover and leaving C and D Coys to recce their area as laid in his orders, returned to HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade. D Coy was to take up position area 652078 and C Coy 645080. On re-arrival at Brigade HQ he a) instructed 2.i.c.1 RIrF to move the two Coys as soon as ready b) told him that there would be no concentrating at El Aroussa but that the force would move direct to Bou Arada, where OC C Coy would meet them and guide them to their positions and c) tied up the admin with the Staff Captain now that force was to be under command 26 Armoured Brigade.

1920 The force left bttn area for Bou Arada.

Capt RM Cunningham posted to D Coy as 2.i.c. Capt JMO Barstow arrived and was posted to command HQ Coy.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

A busy day preparing for the attack tomorrow. Zero is fixed for 0545hrs 13 Jan ’43. It is not expected that a great deal of opposition will be met. Six reinforcement officers arrive posted to Coys as shown: Lt Hampson, HQ Coy 2 i.c. Weapons Platoon and Vickers’ MMGs, Lt Moorhouse to A, Lt Harland to B, Lt Dicker to C, Lt Dawson to D, Lt Uppington to Carrier Platoon.

All Coy and Platoon Commanders look at Two Tree Hill and go around it from C Coy area during the afternoon. Sgt Lloyd the ..Sgt goes out at dusk and recces track that will be the bttn axis of advance.

CO has strenuous day tying up ends especially with the supporting arms and the heavy artillery programme that is laid on.

2200 CO holds conference for O Group and all supporting arms. This conference lasts for some time. CO went to Brigade for conference at 1800 hrs and does not get back until after 2200hrs. An appalling night. Thunderstorms and tropical downpours and gale. All roads became almost impassable with mud. The wind plays havoc with conference room. The lamps keep going out – blackout is impossible and the maps blow about the room. It is thought owing to the state of the ground, the attack may have to be postponed.

2 LIR.

1800 Lieutenant Lees and Lieutenant Rawlings and a patrol of carriers platoon and E Company go to fetch back wounded from point 663185.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Donald Fraser, London Irish Rifles.

13th January


No local contact was gained by patrols. Farms 662173 and 651176 was reported still occupied.

0545 6 Innisks (u/c 26 Armoured Brigade) put in bttn attack on objectives Two Tree Hill (679090), Three Tree Hill (678091), and Hen House Hill (687095). Enemy MG fire was intense and the recent rain made the going very heavy for the infantry, who had to advance 4000 yards to the attack. The first objective, Two Tree Hill, was gained, but the troops were withdrawn as the position proved untenable.

0330 Troop position of 12 RHA in Bou Arada sector was raided. 6 ORs were captured, 38 Intelligence Summary including a “Note on Area 6517–7116–6913”

2330 Order was received from 6 Armoured Division for 18 RCT to relieve 1 RIrF on position 6425 on night 14/15 Jan (Appendix 27).

A letter was sent to bttn calling for a report (demanded by 6 Armoured Division on 12 Jan) on Brigade Intelligence Sections (Appendix 28).

1700 Brigade commander attended a conference at HQ 6 Armoured Division returning at 2200 hrs.

2300 Brigade Commander held conference of Bttn COs impending move of entire Brigade to Bou Arada with a view to attack on Hill 680090 was discussed. 18 RCY was to relieve 1 RIrF  and 5 Northamptons to relieve 2 LIR. Brigade HQ had to move night 14 Jan (5 Corps reported battle on Goubellat, Bou Arada want to be controlled by HQ, Koch, ie on Brigade level). During recent fighting it had been noticed that the enemy, in all cases, had been careful to construct many positions for MGs, Mortars etc, also for A/Tk guns, and they were changing their positions frequently in the same area. Trenches were deep and carefully prepared, and trees (with ladders) were often used as OPs.

The Skins account is attached.


Patrol Boot of 1 NCO and 15 Fusiliers laid an ambush in the eastern approaches of Goubellet. Returned at 0600hrs with nothing to report.

Patrol Galter of 1 Officer and 15 Fusiliers laid an ambush at 679252. Returned at 0620hrs 13 Jan with nothing to report.

During the day, normal activity carried on by the battalion less two coys. B Coy observed and shelled enemy troops and vehicles 702216.

CO & Adjutant went to Brigade HQ where the Brigade Commander on his return from Division gave orders to the effect that 6 Innisks having failed to capture Two Tree Hill, the remainder of 1 RIrF was to move into concentration night 14 Jan ’43 at El Aroussa thence to area of C & D Coys’ positions night 15 Jan ’43.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier William McNamara, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Patrick Quinn, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Edward Pusey, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Capt Little is afraid the carriers will not be able to function. During night two coys 1RIrF under Major Horsfall take over bttn position.

0100 FOO arrives and joined coys.

0400 Breakfast.

0445 Final Coordinating Conference. By this time, the worst of the storm was over but the ground was in a terrible state.

0515 Rum issue.

Extract from orders is marked ‘A’ and attached as Appendix.

Orders are marked ‘B’ and attached as Appendix B.

0545 Two forward coys, C on right and by Capt Ferris and D on left, and by Capt Rowlette cross start line on time. Bttn HQ followed behind the leading coys along the track which was to be the axis of advance of Carriers as follows:

First Carrier – CO, Adjutant, 2 Signallers and driver with 19 set as rear link and 18 set as forward link.

Second Carrier – CO 12 RHA.

Third Carrier – Signals Officer and 3 Signalmen and spare 18 sets.

Fourth Carrier – 2.i.c. and 2 Signalmen.

Fifth Carrier – I.O. and 2 Signalmen.

Sixth Carrier – Sgt Lloyd… Actually this carrier led the way as Sgt Lloyd knew the track.

Bttn HQ was followed by A Coy right and by Major Bunch and B Coy left commanded by Capt Spencer.

1530 The withdrawal to our position was by now complete. The bttn was ordered back to farms west of Bou Arada….were packed in Coy transport and coys marched off. The last Coy leaving before dark. The bttn took over farms from Rifle Brigade, who were most helpful and thoughtful and did everything in their power to assist.

The officer casualties during the battle – Lieut Warren killed, Capt Ferris wounded, Lieuts Buck, George, Strickland and Poer Power also wounded. Of the other ranks, 11 were killed, 55 wounded and 16 missing. CSM Stevenson was also wounded.

Died on this Day:

Lieutenant Desmond Warren, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Higgins, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Sipson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Arthur Holbeche, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Ellis, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harry Birds, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harry Marlow, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant Joseph Boyle, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Edward Alcock, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Derrick Murphy, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Bruce Ponton, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Wilson Pidcock, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Handley, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Skinner, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frederick Ager, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier James Battersby, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal George Brownlee, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant Francis English, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant William Hadden, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Daniel McAteer, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal George Osborn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Kenneth Dumelow, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Patrick Fray, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William King, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Joseph Martin, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Siviter, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Twells, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier George Tyler, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0900 Day patrol under Lieutenant Beechey under mortar fire from farm 655145. Patrol retired to Wadi 6216. No casualties.

Patrol (Gluckstein) under Lieutenant Stigant contacted enemy at 672197 about 30 strong and were fired on my light machine gun.

Patrol (Salmon) under second Lieutenant McKenna contacted several enemy at farm 663174. Dispersed by hand grenades. No casualties.

No contact made by local night patrols.

2100 Battalion ordered by Brigade to prepare for move to high ground south-east of Bou Arada.

14th January


Patrols made no contact near are 1 RIrF or west of rd Goubellat-Bou Arada. Forty enemy were reported in Farm 660199. Farm 662173 was still also held.

An account of the battle of 13 Jan and the 26 Armoured Brigade O.O. for the attack are given in Appendix 29.

1500 Brigade HQ moved to new location J5216. This was bare scrub land east of road and vehicles had to be dispersed and well camouflaged with cuttings of coniferous scrubs. The day was wet and there was no air activity.

During the day considerable vehicle movement was observed in area Pont Du Fahs (8706).

1000 A general picture of the Brigade’s front was submitted to 6 Armoured Division (Appendix 30a). Notes on propaganda to the enemy received from 6 Armoured Division. Desertions had already been noticed and it was desired to take advantage of low morale.

1830 Brigade HQ left location 542199 and arrived without incident at new location J 553025 at 2015hrs. Brigade Commander then visited 6 Innisks and HQ 6 Armoured Division.

On departure of Brigade HQ, 2 Lothians came under command 2 LIR in counter attack role.


Patrols were sent out to lie up in the areas track junction 635247, rd and track junction 638255 and Dar Hadj El Manech 6623, and one to move between the first two. Negative reports given by all.

0030 CO & Adjutant returned.

0730 Preparations, including warning order, were made for the move of bttn.

0830 Commander, 1/18 Bttn Infantry US Army came to Bttn HQ and with CO 1 RIrF arranged for this bttn to take over from 1 RIrF position during 14 Jan ’43 in time to allow 1 RIrF to move out at dusk.

0900 The CO moved off to recce the ground in area Two Tree Hill and observe the progress of the battle. With him, CO HQ Coy to recce HQ concentration area at El Aroussa.

0930 O Group conference with the American Bttn taking over to settle the final arrangements for the handover and the move.

The morning spent packing up.

1300 Bttn guide parties left for El Aroussa where they were to be met by OC HQ Coy.

1800 Troops of 1/18 Bttn Infantry US Army arrived to take over the bttn position.

2100 Tail of Bttn Column reported clear of old position.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD. 

The bttn spends the day sorting itself out. All ranks are situated in comfortable farms found for us by 10 RB. Brigadier 26 Armoured Brigade and Divisional Commander visit bttn during afternoon and the story of the battle is gone through on flannel model by various ranks, who were on the spot. The Divisional Commander says a few words to bttn on the “Good Show” they had put up.

Died on this Day:

Corporal Samuel Smith, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Sergeant Sidney Wood, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

1100 Commanding officer went to Recce new area.

1620 Day patrol of E Company under Captain Carrigan mortar bombed in area 6314 and took refuge in wadi suffering two casualties.

15th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Patrols had no local contact, but reverse slopes Two Tree and Three Tree Hill were reportedly strongly held.

Brigade Commander and Brigade Major were engaged in reconnaissance area Grandstand (6507) for forthcoming attack.

1600 Divisional Commander visited this HQ to discuss details of the attack. Battalion commanders attended later for the same purpose.

On this day, Battery 12 RHA moved into position 649062 – 649058.

1800 Little movement was reported on the front during the day (Appendix 35). RA 6 Armoured Division’s O.O.s 6 and 7 were received. The intention was to deploy preparatory to supporting the attack of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and to “provide for the adequate artillery support of the Medjez position during the absence of that portion of the artillery required to support operations in the Bou Arada area”.

A report on 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade front up to 14 Jan was sent to II/8 RCT and 5 Northamptons reported to 6 Armoured Division.


0300 Tail of Bttn column arrived in new position.

0930 Bttn O Group conference near which the arrangements for a move that same night into a position in Bou Arada were discussed and a description of the attack on Two Tree Hill by 6 Innisks was given.

1010 Bttn O Group and guide parties moved forward to recce bttn position in area Bou Arada where, the O Group having completed their recce and returned to El Aroussa, the guide parties returned to await the arrival of the bttn.

1845 Bttn Column passed SP (El Aroussa).

2000 Bttn de-bused in Bou Arada, the transport driving on up to the position and the troops marching. The transport and the marching troops were met at the road junction 647076 by guides who led them into position.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Frederick Woodley, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Bttn spends another day on admin and prepares to move forward again at dark to take up its old position on Grandstand Hill and relieve 2 coys 1 RIrF and 1 Coy 10 RB. The takeover is completed without incident. The Coy lay out is as follows: A Coy right forward and flank slopes, C Coy along Grandstand ridge facing Two Tree Hill and B Coy left slopes with D Coy behind and across road Bou Arada-Goubellat covering the road and flanks of A and B Coys.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Michael McLaughlin, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

2300 5th Battalion Northants (11th Brigade 78 Division) took over battalion area.