War Diaries – 17th January 1943

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 unmistakeable 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) Henhouse 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.

Fusilier Ronald Pinchin, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Fusilier Frederick Taylor, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.