War Diaries – 19th January 1943

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 arrivaal 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.

Fusilier Albert Webster, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

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 (and 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.

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.

Rifleman David Connery, London Irish Rifles.