War Diaries – 16th to 20th January 1943

16th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Brigade Commander continued his detailed reconnaissance with CRA.

1240 Order was received that no vehicles be used on recces east of Grid line 65 between north roadway Pont Du Fahs-Bou Arada and south grid line 97. The object was to hide the intention of an armoured thrust towards Pont Du Fahs (Appendix 36).

During the day, there was considerable amount, indicating reinforcements of infantry, artillery and possibly tanks NW from Pont Du Fahs towards area 7115 (Appendix 37).

1900 Capt CPJD O’Driscoll, 1 RIrF, arrived at Brigade HQ to take up the appointment of Staff Captain.

1 RIrF – HILL 329 (Squares 6308 and 6408).

0200 The majority of the transport having been offloaded returned to a rear harbour. The bttn, incl C & D Coys, whose former position when under command 26 Armoured Brigade had been taken over by 6 Innisks earlier in the night being completely installed as shown on attached trace.

0930 CO left for Brigade O Group.

1300 CO returned and called a Bttn O Group conference at which a night attack on Two Tree Hill was discussed.  The basis of the CO’s appreciation was the problem of a) keeping direction onto the objective at night b) putting such few decisions as can be made at night into effect. A plan was mooted by which D Coy should get onto the objective, in the guise of three strong fighting patrols and that when they signalled their success the remainder of the battalion should follow up and occupy that feature, also One Tree Hill (688088) and Three Tree Hill (688096). Many difficulties were foreseen and plans to overcome these were discussed in detail. As a result of this, OC D Coy decided to take his 2.i.c. and go that night to Two Tree Hill and recce a) their best line of advance b) a suitable start line. The I.O. was also to go out and discover a forward concentration area for the remainder of the bttn to await D Coy’s success signal.

1800 Lieut PG Black and Lieut RV Dudley-Clarke reported and were posted to A and D Coys respectively. Capt JMO Barstow was posted to be 2.i.c. A Coy and Capt RM Cunningham reported to command HQ Coy. Capt CPJD O’Farrell left to take up the appointment of Staff Captain 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and Lieut DN Jefferies assumed the appointment of 2.i.c. D Coy. Lieut RCP Jefferies promoted Captain and appointed Adjutant.

2050 OC and 2.i.c. D Coy started out on their patrol.

2110 I.O. started on his patrol.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

The day is spent wiring and mining the position. The bttn area is shelled.

2 LIR.

0200 Battalion crossed start point. Other units in support 17th Medium Royal Artillery 152 Forward Regiment. 72 anti-tank.

0600 Battalion HQ established on farm 505987.

1800 Battalion moves to new forming up area. Arrived 2000 hrs. Battalion HQ established farm 615015.

17th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Patrols had nothing to report.

During the morning, conferences were held in the Brigade Commander’s room. Divisional Commander and CRA discussed problems over a cloth model of the Two Tree Hill area and later a rep RAF advised on bombing targets suggested. The date of the attack was provisionally fixed for 19 Jan.

One problem envisaged was the problem of getting support to the troops after positions had been captured. A possible solution lay in the use of mules which could be borrowed from the French Army. Bttns were asked to provide muleteers in case mules were available for the attack and subsequent phases.

1900 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Sitrep was issued, containing details of movement 16 Jan and the results of a tank-going recce area Bir Rabar 6609 (Appendix 38).

1730 A coordinating conference was held at Brigade HQ attended by CRA, Bttn Commanders and reps supporting arms and services to arrange the final details of the plan for attacking Two Tree and Three Tree Hills on 19 Jan.

2300 Orders were received that the attack fixed for 19 Jan had been postponed for 24 hrs. It was later revealed that higher Intelligence had information of a German regrouping and an impending thrust west of Pont Du Fahs.

1830 Lieut Osborn and Signals Officer (Lt S Lloyd) repaired a Brigade Commander OP on Grandstand (6507) with a view to the battle on 19 Jan.

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0040 OC and 2.i.c. D Coy returned.

0130 I.O. returned. The combination of these reports was as follows :

a) D Coy’s patrol having gone to a point 100 yards south of buildings 683087 found that Two Tree Hill was impossible of identification from the southern approach unless Argoub El Mehalla 6707 was climbed : that the southern approach demanded the traversing of the deep gully 680088 which would almost certainly contain MG fired lines and that the southern shoulder was difficult of recognition

b) I.O. went to One Tree Hill into the gully 680888, where he found the Germans digging positions, and back over One Tree Hill into Excavation Bowl 675091 where he lay and observed more digging at the northern end of the aforementioned gully. He reported that One Tree Hill was not, as was previously believed, held by the enemy: that from Excavation Bowl, Two Tree Hill is unmistakable and that the approach from this angle was a) simple and b) defiladed from MG fire

0900 Capt DJL Gray, an officer from 1 DY came, whose OP Two Tree Hill had been prior to its seizure by the enemy. His intimate knowledge of the locality in daylight supplemented and confirmed the reports of the aforementioned night recces, further stating that one could approach from Excavation Bowl to within 40 ft of the summit of Two Tree Hill. He also produced a mud model of the area which made the ground less confusing.

As a result of information gained from these three sources the CO decided that a simple plan of attacking straight up Excavation Bowl with two coys forward and seizing One Tree Hill, Two Tree Hill, Three Tree Hill and Greenpoint 669091, holding each with one Coy, the holding dependent on

a) Brer Rabbit 665095 and Ploughtop 673086 being held by other units

b) Hen House 698095 being cleared and secured by other units, Artillery FOOs being established on Two Tree Hill at first light.

Accordingly he asked Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade to reconsider the plan from this angle.

1515 A conference held at HQ 1 RIrF of Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade, 26 Armoured Brigade, 6 Innisks, 12 RHA, and CRA 6 Armoured Division. CO 1 RIrF’s plan approved so far as it affected the bttn, the remainder to be under consideration with Divisional Commander, the whole attack to take place night 18/19 Jan.      

1800 OC A Coy went out on patrol to Greenpoint to recce his approach to Three Tree Hill. This recce was successful and without event.

The rest of the night was spent in tying up the final arrangements for the night attack the following night, on which there was to be a Bttn O Group conference 18 Jan.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Wiring and mining continues. A Brigade plan is being hatched for the attack on Two Tree Hill by 1 RIrF and 2 LIR with 6 Innisks in reserve – for night of 18 Jan ’43. Bttn position is again shelled but only slight casualties are caused. All ranks have dug efficient slit trenches.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Ronald Pinchin, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frederick Taylor, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

18th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

No contact was made during the night

0001 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade O.O. No 10 was issued expressing the intention “38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and attached troops will seize and hold Two Tree Hill and Three Tree Hill features” (Appendix 39). The plan was for 1 RIrF to make the main attack while subsidiary operations were staged by 6 Innisks and 2 LIR to assist the advance by fire. 6 Innisks with in support two Troops A/Tk were to guard against counter penetration on the north. The attack was to be supported by three Field Regiments. A detailed artillery and air support plan were attached as Appendices and enlargements of the battle area with known enemy positions marked were distributed on a wide scale.

0240 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Administration Instruction No 2 was issued with intention “To maintain the Brigade in the role defined in O.O. No 10 (Appendix 40).

0730 6 Innisks were attacked by infantry east and south east of Grandstand Hill (652029).The day was marked by infantry fighting near areas 6 Innisks (6507) and 1 RIrF (6308) and tank activity in the plain NE of Bou Arada. Our artillery engaged both infantry and tanks with good effect. An account of the action is given in Appendix 41. One valuable document revealing the order of battle of the German forces in Tunisia was taken with a POW of 6 Innisks.

1227 HQ 2 LIR 615014 was dive bombed, 4 vehicles was damaged but the W/T remained in action and other casualties were slight.

1900 Reps RE carried out demolitions on knocked out enemy tanks area 6603 after dark. Much intelligence material (incl identification of II/7 Panzer Regiment) was recovered.

2030 Brigade Commander and OC 3 Squadron Signals with one L.O. moved to Brigade Command Post 638081 with W/T comms to bttns and 6 Armoured Division. Brigade HQ forward link set became an out station on the Brigade Command net.

(Subsequent to this date, the enemy operation order for the attack was captured (appendix 42). A deserter also revealed that very heavy casualties were suffered from our artillery fire, whose volume came as a complete surprise (only one of the three Field Regiments in the area had broken silence before the battle).

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0710 An enemy attack was launched on 6 Innisks position on Grandstand squares 6507 – 6508 by infantry advance from the south and north flanks supported by heavy mortar, artillery and MG fire. To give 6 Innisks a backstop and release one Coy for a counterattack role D Coy 1 RIrF took up position on spur 6460.

0830 Tanks first seen in the plain NE of Bou Arada. They numbered 24 and during the day penetrated to a point about 1500 yards SW of Bou Arada. They were turned back before noon, at last eight casualties being inflicted on them. They did not affect the battle in the bttn area.

1135 Four bursts of MG fire were heard from area 626086. At the same time an artillery OP, having observation over that area, reported a patrol of some sort operating in that area. The CO decided to send one platoon B Coy with under command 1 section Carriers to clear the area of enemy. The enemy however appeared to have been at least one Platoon in strength with several light and heavy MGs. So that as this platoon moved over the skyline was met with heavy fire and driven to ground. Lieut PJ Bryan commanding the platoon finding himself thus surprised and being himself wounded ordered the platoon to withdraw as best possible.

1425 On his platoon’s return, Carrier Platoon in to 2 LIR was put under command and were to RV at once at farm 625078, and another platoon was prepared to move up.

1330 Meanwhile 14 enemy had been observed on Hill at 637089. An OP of two fusiliers of Bttn I Section there was taken prisoner. One later escaped and reported that these troops had been paratroopers.

1620 Commander Carrier Platoon made a recce of the area to be attacked and reported that the enemy’s strength was not more than a Platoon but that it was scattered and dug in on numerous isolated positions and infantry were essential to clear the area, it not being Carrier country. The 3” mortars particularly had had good effect.

1650 CO 1 RIrF on this report decided not to wait for Carrier Platoon 2 LIR and the attack went in with another Platoon B Coy strengthened by one Platoon C Coy.

1810 It seemed quite definite that the enemy, their position having been discovered, were withdrawing with heavy casualties. Defence returned.

1930 A Coy 1 RIrF, which had been loaned to 6 Innisks for use in the event of a counter sweep, returning from making a sweep up to W Village 661084 where they had inflicted heavy damage on the enemy and cleaned him out. Some casualties were suffered by this Coy including the death of Major PC Murphy MC and the wounding of Lieut PJ Slattery. Captain JMO Barstow was also reported killed but the following day was found only to have been wounded. In the words of the CO 6 Innisks: “They did very well.”

2000 OC 1 RIrF heard the report of the force sent to clear area 625086, who stated that the enemy had not been more than 60 in number or with MGs, light and heavy mortars. He planned therefore the next day to put a platoon up there to clean up any remnants and prevent any re-entry into the area by the enemy. The attack on Two Tree Hill was cancelled.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Robert Patterson, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Percy Welbourn, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Corporal James Shortt, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Alex Webb, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier James McCarthy, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Thomas Rooney, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Joseph Wood, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal James White, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Major Peter Murphy, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal Richard Cousins, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert Crawford, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Harry Haywood, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0730 Enemy started to attack C Coy from east and south east of Grandstand Hill. Estimated enemy strength 3 coys.

0735 B Coy also engaged.

0745 Two enemy armoured cars were seen entering farm 648101. These were engaged by our artillery.

0830 Enemy have occupied W Hill, having failed to work south flank of one position. We were later heavily mortared from this position.

0845 Capt Spencer was killed by mortar shell. Capt Daly is sent to command Coy as Capt Wise has also been wounded.

0910 Coy 1 RIrF is sent to cross our flank and position there appears secure.

1015 Our north flank reported to be well held. Enemy infantry who tried to penetrate between B and D Coys were engaged by artillery and suffered heavy casualties. Enemy on high ground to the east were also killed.

1100 To enable 6 Innisks to sweep the front of position in front of Grandstand Hill. A Coy RIrF moved to 649081.

1200 Situation had quietened down and enemy appeared pinned to the ground although they had managed to bring up and put into position several MMG posts, and occupied Plough Hill. By 1225, Plough Hill had been heavily shelled.

1225 Squadron 17/21 Lancers were put under command and D Coy proceeded to sweep the gully to the east of Grandstand Hill. It was found necessary to employ A Coy however and it was not until 1550hrs that the spur and gully were reported clear. 15 POW were taken in this sweep.

1540 No enemy were now apparent to the west but now had established a Coy with 4 MGs in front of Grandstand.

1555 W Hill was heavily shelled by our artillery.

1650 A Coy 1 RIrF commanded by Major Duffy, under command 6 Innisks with 1 troop of Lothians went out to clear W Hill. The tanks returned at 1300hrs with prisoners but the Coy did not return until 1830hrs. Major Murphy was killed and Capt Barstow Coy 2.i.c. missing.

Dusk found the Bttn still intact on their hill. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy and 28 POWs were taken. Identification found I and III Bttns Hermann Goering Regiment, also II Marsch Bttn. All prisoners were willing to talk and all remarked on the weight and accuracy of our artillery, which they said was deadly.

Despite the fact one farm was shelled consistently all day – our casualties were fairly light. The exact figure being Capt Spencer and 8 ORs killed. Capt Wise and 21 ORs wounded and 9 ORs wounded.

Sitrep report sent in at 1900hrs is marked “D” and attached.

2350 C Coy reported green Verey light from W village and they can hear tanks.

D Coy RIrF is put under command. They take over D Coy positions and D Coy 6 Innisks take up position behind and to the left of A Coy.

Died on this Day:

Sergeant James Voss, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Herbert Sullivan, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Walter Chambers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Corporal Raymond Jeffery, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Kitchen, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Sergeant Eryl Lloyd, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Slater, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Jack Casswell, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Thomas Dangerfield, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Kenneth Hodson, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Captain Edward Spencer, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0725 6th Inniskilling Fusiliers attacked on right flank.

1200 Battalion HQ bombed and machine-gunned by three enemy aircraft. 2 casualties, 2 vehicles destroyed and 4 M/Cs.

1505 1 section of carriers and two detachments of mortars detailed to report to 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers

1530 F Company and 2 anti-tank guns moved out under command 26 Armoured Brigade.

1540 Area near battalion HQ bombed. No damage done. One Junker 88 brought down.

1700 Battalion less E Company ordered to relieve two companies of Rifle Brigade at 6599/6699.

1900 F Company under command of battalion established Point 281 G Company Pt 325(658997) H Company Pt 326 (664995).

19th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

The night was quiet though 1 RIrF patrolled north and north-west to re-establish contact if possible with enemy of previous day. 2 LIR (at least one coy) moved to area J 6500 under command 26 Armoured Brigade.

Fuller reports were received of contact night 27/28 Dec.

On this day a coy of 1 RIrF had a very successful action (J6824) against enemy force of approx some strength. 50 casualties in killed or wounded were inflicted for the loss of 2 casualties wounded on our side.

Redistribution of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade took place in accordance with Brigade OO No 4.

2100 Brigade HQ moved from Farm 586199 to Farm 542199. The move was completed without incident. 1 RIrF having left Goubellat booby trapped moved to new position 6325. Arrived 2350 without incident.

0800 Brigade was disposed as shown with 2 LIR (less than one Coy) under command 26 Armoured Brigade. 6 Innisks carried out recce and harassing operations as follows:

  1. W Hill 660085 was cleared and it was found that BIR RABAL (6609), Hill 286 (6606) and Sidi Barka (6706) were held, with an A/Tk gun on Sidi Barka.
  2. Coy Infantry and two troops Valentines supported by artillery attacked pt 286. Enemy 40-50 dug in on top and were chased down reverse slope, where MGs were sited. 20 enemy were killed for the loss of 7 Fusiliers (Appendix 43).

1445 Left flank: North and north west of 1 RIrF no movement was seen except that 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry engaged at 633136 a party of 12 enemy which retired west.

0400 Order was received by LO from 6 Armoured Division for 2 LIR with u/c AA and A/Tk platoon to be prepared to move at 2 hrs notice to area Pichon O7523.

On this day, 6 Armoured Division O.O. No 7 was received. Intention was “to dominate and destroy all enemy and tanks in area Bou Arada–Bigga–Argout,” 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade was to continue to “harass the enemy in Bou Arada sector”.

1900 Brigade Commander was summoned to Divisional HQ to receive orders for further infantry thrusts eastward. A plan was made for 2 LIR to attack pt 279 and pt 286 in morning of 20 Jan. This was part of a coordinated effort – 3 Grenadier Guards to attack Barka from the south.

2100 2 LIR arrived in assembly area 6306-6406 and reverted under command 38 Brigade.

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0715 152 (Artillery) Field Regiment opened up concentrations on Hill features 629086, 625083, and 637089 for five minutes preparatory to a move forward by one Platoon B Coy, who with the assistance of two detachments 3” mortars was to seize the first two features and the saddle between them and destroy any further attempts by the enemy at infiltration behind them. On arrival there, they saw no sign of enemy so they shelled known and likely positions by means of the FOO attached and mortared them. Still no movement was seen so they moved down well covered by their own and support weapons and searched the area. From the traces etc found it was clear that a party of paratroopers about 30 strong had been in heavily concealed ambush for several days, their equipment including mines. They had left in a hurry, as a great quantity of stores and weapons was left behind, and from the amount of blood left on the ground it was definite that their casualties had been heavy and serious.  This force was withdrawn at dusk.

1500 Two stretcher bearers of A Coy reported back to the bttn. They had been missing the night before after A Coy’s battle, but had returned early in the morning and had requested permission to go and recover the bodies of Major PC Murphy MC and Captain JMD Barstow from the battlefield. This was granted, the condition being that they should not go unless 6 Innisks, through whose lines they would be passing, would give them total protection. 6 Innisks were unable to give this having big commitments of their own but the stretcher bearers pushed on alone. They returned later not having found the bodies and, believing that it was because they were unable to penetrate deep enough without escort, they requested an escort from 6 Innisks a second time for  a protective body. This again being unavailable they set out once more and went forward until they could actually see enemy troops head and shoulder above their slit trenches watching the before starting to search for the bodies.

These Germans did not fire at them so long as they were carrying stretchers, but opened them up whenever they put them down. They failed to find Major PC Murphy MC despite thorough search, but they found Captain JMO Barstow still alive and apparently quite comfortable sunning himself on a rock, having moved, by himself, about a mile from where he fell. He was dazed and slightly delirious, and his eyes bunged with the dirt into which he had fallen, but refused to travel on the stretcher and walked some of the way back to the lines with the stretcher bearers.

Capt JW Dunnill promoted A/Major, Lieut PJ Brady and Lieut RLG Wood A/Capt, and Lieut DN Jefferies A/Capt pending re-grant of temporary rank. Capt DR Le P Gethin arrived commander C Coy, Capt DN Jefferies of A Coy, Lieut PG Black appointed 2.i.c. A Coy, Capt PJ Brady 2.i.c. B Coy, and Lieut MJ Macdonald 2.i.c.D Coy.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Albert Webster, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Tweed, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0040 Three enemy tanks heard going south in front of C Coy position on Grandstand.

0057 Enemy shell bttn area.

0122 Any immediate danger seems past.

D Coy changeover is completed.

0505 Message sent to all coys, that where not in sight of enemy, coys will strengthen and improve wire and generally check up defences.

0820 Lieut Uppington, Fusilier Fielden, and a section of B Coy sent out to recce area in front of Grandstand.

0925 C Coy patrol is in. No movement in W Village. There are about 9 Germans dead in front of 14 Platoon’s position. Lt Duggan is going out to investigate and bring in what he can.

1150 Resting in Command Post to discuss attack on Pt 286, a pimple south of Bttn position. Following attended the conference: CO, I.O., 2.i.c., Major Bunch (OC A Coy), and Colonel Barstow (cmd RHA).

1415 Two stretcher bearers of 1 RIrF bring in Capt Barstow, who had been missing from yesterday’s attack.

1425 Zero for artillery attack. Report of attack is marked E and attached in Appendix. Capt Hogan, who had only arrived from 1st reinforcements the night before and Lieut Hewitt were wounded. 3 ORs were killed and 4 wounded.

1605 Brigadier sees Coy in and congratulates them on a perfect attack.

1606 Bttn is attacked by Stukas but no casualties are reported. Bttn was given warning (that) raid might take place by Brigade half an hour before the raid took place.

1612 Three tanks return and take up hulled down formation behind position behind C Coy.

The Bttn was again shelled during the day.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Timothy Casey, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Kenneth Whalley, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier John Parry, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Leonard Boot, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lance Corporal William Harrison, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0900 Battalion ordered to move on right of Royal Irish Fusiliers positions area 259 (638070) and hill 640065.

1200 Companies moved to new area by march route via Bou Arada.

1500 G Company shelled area farm 633039. Second Lieutenant Hardwick wounded.

1800 Battalion in position as ordered. Battalion HQ established in Wadi 635072.

2300 Commanding officer to report to Brigade at 0100 hrs. Battalion ready to move. Intelligence Officer accompanied commanding officer.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman David Connery, London Irish Rifles.

20th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

0030 Orders for attack were issued in confirmation of verbal orders given out at Brigade Command Post (637081). “38 Brigade will seize hills 6606 and 6605, the attack to be carried out by 2 LIR with in support all divisional artillery engaging known targets, Red Roof Farm and Barka. FOOs to go forward at first light. One troop Crusader tanks to be under command 2 LIR at 6506”.

2 LIR moved off from assembly area under cover of darkness.

0700 Leading Coy had received south west of ridge 6606.

0810 First objective had been taken.

0850 Infantry had been established on second objective (pt 286) but tanks counter attacked and drove them off.

0950 A Squadron 17/21 Lancers came into position to assist 2 LIR to recapture second objective, which was achieved by 1000, the enemy withdrawing under shell fire.

1215 2 LIR were heavily shelled and dive bombed. This went on over an hour, but finally elements E Coy were able to reach pt 296. There they remained all day. During the whole time, our infantry was subjected to heavy and accurate artillery and mortar fire, in addition to dive bombing and MG fire. It was impossible to dig in and casualties were very heavy (including 15 officers – all rifle Coy Commanders, 3 CSMs, 14 Sgt and 30 Corporals). It was decided to evacuate pt 286 by night as soon as casualties were cleared and to consolidate around pt 279. 11 POWs were taken during the day’s fighting.

2200 Intelligence Summary was issued, including a note on Marsch Bttn.

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0330 2 LIR moved forward with string artillery support to seize features for 279 (6507), and 286 (6606). As the battle progressed and as day broke, they were met with very heavy enemy shellfire and found difficulty in seizing the second objective.

0930 As a result, Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade considered that in the event of enemy counter attack breaking though the already harassed 2 LIR, dispositions should be made to meet such a threat. Accordingly, B Coy 1 RIrF moved its positions to hill feature 641065 and one platoon D Coy occupied area farm 642077 and communication was established with them by No 18 set.

0940 Twelve Junkers 87s with fighter escort flies from south to north and dropped 4 “sticks” of bombs stride the bttn area, on stick straddling Bttn HQ and bursting around it. No casualties were suffered.

The Bttn passed the day in a state of readiness to assist 2 LIR should any threat develop, but beyond shelling of the bttn area, the bttn did not become further involved.  Carrier Platoon took over B Coy’s position during their absence as seconded above.

2015 Capt PJ Brady, leaving Bttn HQ after dark, fell into a slit trench, broke his leg and was admitted to hospital. A conference was held at HQ 1 RIrF by Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade of OCs of 1 RIrF, 6 Innisks, 12 RHA, and 152 (Artillery) Field Regiment RA, with their staffs and a representative 2 LIR. The plan in hand was for 3 grenadier Guards that night to come north across the plains from the road Bou Arada–Pont Du Fahs and seize Kaudiat Sidi Barka 6706 to give security to 2 LIR in their very confused positions on Pt 286 (6606), and Pt 279 (6506). 1 RIrF’s front in the battle was to create a strong diversion at about midnight 20/21 Jan on Ber Rebal 6609 which 3 Grenadiers attacked.

While the conference was in progress, Commander 6 Armoured Division decided, from a study of the wireless traffic during the preparatory stages of the attack, that the enemy would be fully warned and that the position could only be seized with heavy cost, and cancelled the action. 1 RIrF’s diversion was also immediately cancelled.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier William Bakewell, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier William Paddock, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

Fusilier Robert Turkington, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

2 LIR attack Pt 286, which had been re-occupied by enemy. The whole attack could be seen from this bttn position.

0815 Four prisoners from 3 Coy A/24 Marsch Bttn are sent to us for onward transmission to Brigade.

0834 LIR are on second objective.

0906 Things do not look too good and LIR seem to be withdrawing from the objective. They were driven off by tanks but another Coy is going in.

0927 Bttn was dive bombed. One plane crashed in front of B Coy position but in enemy ground.

0937 A Squadron 17/21 Lancers help 2 LIR attack from hulled down position and further help is on the way from 26 Armoured Brigade.

0950 2 LIR are again on Pt 286.

1120 Pt 286 appears to be task for both sides and enemy are withdrawing. Artillery is brought down on theirs. The artillery fire appeared to inflict many casualties.

1135 Enemy withdrawn in direction of Mahala with our artillery still chasing them.

1225 We sent stretcher bearers to help 2 LIR.

1255 Stuka attack. One bomb appeared to fall on Pt 286 the rest on the smoke screen we had prepared.

1300 A few LIR appear to be on Pt 286.

1308 LIR are dive bombed and shelled.

1350 We send a very talkative person to Brigade – he is a medical student. Reports he had been in Russia, but our artillery here is the worst experienced. If it continues, there will be wholesale desertions.

1415 2 LIR report 1st objective being held. 2nd objective is free of enemy.

1600 2 LIR occupy Pt 286 with one platoon.

1800 CO and Adjutant attend conference at Brigade for attack on enemy by 3 Grenadier Guards. This plan is cancelled half way through the conference.

2000 CO and Adjutant visit 2 LIR. They are trying to reorganise. They have lost all Coy Commanders.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier John Livingstone, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Captain Harold Hooper, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0145 Intelligence Officer returns with information that battalion is to attack Point 286 and Point 279 (6506). F Company 286. G & E Companies 279. H Company in reserve at 682069.

0245 Commanding Officer returns and gives orders for battalion to move from road and tank junction 47056 at 0430 hrs. Order of march – G,F,E and H followed by Bn HQ.

0420 F Company commander issued orders that 11 Platoon would take hill 286 from the front supported by 12 Platoon on the right flank and 10 Platoon on the left flank.

0520 Battalion HQ established on rear of point 279 with E Company on left.

0545 Machine gun fire heard on left forward of battalion HQ. The adjutant, Captain Laister, wounded.

0600 Battalion HQ retired about 100 yards and dug in.

0700 G Company report in position on Hill 286 and required assistance.

0715 F Company 11 Platoon retired from Hill 351 (652079) with enemy prisoners of war.

0730 Enemy using combined mortar and shell fire.

0730 F Company re-formed and move around west of Point 279 with objective Point 286.

0745 G Company moved back from Point 286 under heavy enemy mortar fire.

0830 A Squadron, 17/21st Lancers report 6 vehicles (tanks or self-propelled guns) moving around west at 6704.

0900 3 tanks north-east of Point 286.

0915 F Company retired from Point 286 with heavy casualties from mortar and machine gun fire. Lieutenant McGranaham killed Captain Ekin and Lieutenant Pottinger died from injuries. Company reforms in wadi 648057.

0920 Fourteen Junker 87s dive bombed guns at 630075.

0930 G Company retired to forward slopes of point 279 behind smoke screen ordered by accompanying POC (?) 15s FD (Field) Regiment.

0930 E Company ordered to take Point 286.

0940 Point 286 and forward slopes of 279 heavily mortared by enemy.

0950 17/21st Lancers report six enemy tanks moving North to South. 2000 yards Goubellat-Bou Arada Road.

1000 Runner reported that Captain Costello and four other ranks were on Point 286.

1000 Self-propelled guns reported firing from Argoub El Mahalla.

1100 E Company suffer heavy casualties in advance to Point 286 and retire with G Company to wadi 648057.

1100 Battalion reorganises.

1115 H Company ordered to rendezvous at battalion HQ.

1145 Commanding Officer hold Order Group with gunners, Major Steele 17/21 Lancers and Captain Lofting and orders H Company to occupy Point 286 supported from west of Point 279 by 1 troop of 17/21st Lancers B Battery 152 Forward Regiment giving support with fire on Argoub El Mahalla, Barker, Red Roof Farm and Cactus Plantation from 1225 to 1235.

1145 It is reported that Point 286 is clear of enemy.

1230 H Company take up position on Point 286 after being heavily shelled and mortared. Captain Henderson killed, Captain Lofting wounded.

1230 E & F Companies move up to Point 279 to support H Company.

1230 Battalion HQ established in wadi 648057.

1230 Reported Lieutenant Beechey killed, Major Tebbitt wounded, 2/Lieutenant McKenna missing.

1258 Junker 87s dive-bombed road 468075 and 12th Royal Horse Artillery gun positions.

1335 16/5th Lancers reported company of infantry facing south-south-west 7306.

1345 Prisoners of war taken by H Company at 6606. Identified as Medical Unit of 24th Marsh Battalion.

1355 A Squadron 17/21st Lancers ordered to remain where they are – west of Point 279.

1530 Prisoners of war brought in by H Company at 6606. Identified as Medical Unit 24th Marsh Battalion. (Prisoner said that when F Company attacked in AM only a platoon was on the hill. Battalion was then rushed up.)

1810 H Company in position on reverse slopes of point 286. 75 grenades, wire and tools taken up to them by carriers.

E Company casualties – Captain Carrigan killed, Lieutenant Rawlings and Lieutenant Joseph injured.

2200 Rations brought up for battalion and prepared by orderly room staff and RAP in culvert under road at Battalion HQ.

The CO’s account of Hill 286.

Died on this Day:

Corporal Edmond Hall, London Irish Rifles.

Lieutenant Victor Pottinger, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Themistolles Sinodorou, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Stanley Meager, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman John Baxter, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Robert Wallace, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Walter Viney, London Irish Rifles.

Sergeant George Rock, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Robert Norland, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Joseph Smyth, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Eugene Murphy, London Irish Rifles.

Sergeant Dennis Griffin, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Herbert Deards, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Dennis Connolly, London Irish Rifles.

Lieutenant James McGranahan, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman William Duncombe, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman William McDowell, London Irish Rifles.

Corporal Harry Robinson. London Irish Rifles.

Sergeant George Atkinson, London Irish Rifles.

Captain Joseph Carrigan, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Sergeant Patrick Crouchman, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Sergeant Joseph Whelan, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Ernest Cooling, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Thomas Cram, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman William Fourt, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman John Hamilton, London Irish Rifles.

Alfred Harris, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Joseph Loughbridge, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Robert McCracken, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman James Mills, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Gordon Trivett, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Frederick Waller, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Philip Williams, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Edward Gant, London Irish Rifles.