1st January

Brigade HQ – MAHMOUD GAP.

GOC’s conference was held at Div HQ. Two troops of tanks allocated under command 38 Brigade in area 1 RIrF wef 3 Jan 0700hrs. Points discussed were as follows-

  • Defended localities will be made as secure as possible by digging, wiring and mining.
  • All suitable artillery targets will be subjected to the heaviest possible fire.
  • Offensive sorties by tanks will be made whenever suitable opportunity offers.

1120 Tomahawk Fighter made forced landing area 6416. Pilot, who was unhurt, was picked up by Carrier Section 2 LIR. Carriers were fired on by enemy mortar when they approached the wrecked plane.


1 RIrF – DOUAR.

It was decided to withdraw C Coy from the exposed forward position it had occupied on Ragoubet Lalla Hanna 6525 since 25 Dec’42 and replace them with B Coy.

1615 B Coy moved over to the hill to take over.

1900 B Coy assumes responsibility for defence of position.

2200 Contact made B Coy with standing patrol of 2/18 Infantry Bttn (US Army).


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0800 CO holds conference in command post – fixes new Coy areas, which are to be dug in and fortified as it is understood the bttn may be in this position for some time.

Pioneer officer spends days going round advising on defences in Coy areas and finding out what RE stores would be required.

1000 Field General Court Martial on Fusilier Denton and Fusilier Clemence for destroying an order given by superior officer. Major Gibbs 2 LIR is President. Both are found guilty and are awarded 56 days Field Punishment.

CO spends morning working out new patrolling policy.

Lieut McKee takes patrol to one old farm as standing OP and he remains until dusk.

1500 CO attends lengthy conference at Brigade to discuss patrolling within the Brigade which considers is not good.

1700 CO returns with new patrolling policy. Lieut McCaldin takes out patrol east of Goubellat with orders to be back by 0200 hrs, and beat up any Bosch he can find.

Lieuts McKee and McCaldin are warned to be ready to go out on 36 hr patrols tomorrow night into enemy territory.

1830 A Tunisian soldier is sent to us from Brigade to be attached. It is suggested he may be useful on patrols and will be able to find out information from French and Arabs. He cannot speak English.

CO, 2.i.c., Adjutant and N.O. have a guinea fowl for tea exchanged with the farmer for some of our rations. N.O. produces some hot punch which is greatly appreciated this very cold night. Two American officers who called looking for 18 Combat Group greatly appreciated it.

1800 Lieut McKee and 20 Fusiliers went out on a watching patrol with instructions to be in before first light. Capt Knaggs is still back with A Echelon on Steamroller Farm convalescing. He became run down through overwork and lack of sleep. The Signal platoon is overworked. With no increase in establishment when 19 sets were introduced puts a big strain on the platoon. It is decided to call in six more fusiliers and signals classes started today.


2 LIR.

Battalion established observation post on Pt 366 (577167).

Kittyhawk crashed at 646164. American pilot brought in by Lieutenant AG Lees.

Lieutenant Gibbons and section of H Company patrol farms east of company positions during the day.

1800 Lieutenant McGranahan and section of F Company search Farms 6618 from 1800hrs and 0430 2/1/43.



2nd January

Brigade HQ – MAHMOUD GAP

Patrols reported light enemy activity in Goubellat (6422).

Contact was made with enemy occupying Farm 646211 (Probably a patrol lying up). There were two interesting points from patrols on this night.

Enemy verey lights made no warning bang but suddenly appeared in the sky.

Enemy section proved that the German soldier too is liable to human failings. “On my way back as I approached the Orange Grove 6424, I came suddenly round the corner on a German section. They were armed only with rifles and did not appear to be very alert for they were wearing greatcoats and were as surprised to see me as I them. One of them turned and went away and the remainder started to take their rifles off their shoulders. I withdrew. They did not appear to be on duty, but just sitting and standing around when I saw them.”

1000 Brigade Commander made recce of Brigade front with CRA.

1500 Sweep by 2 Lothians east of Medjez-Goubellat road started. Orders for the sweep are contained in 26 Armoured Brigade O.O. No 2.

The information had been passed to bttns in Brigade O.O. No 6 on 1st Jan. The intention was to carry out two reconnaissance sweeps in force on the front Goubellat-Medjez with the object of a) destroying enemy posts on this front, b) disclosing enemy strength and gun positions.

The action as it affected 38 Brigade is described at Appendix 1 c), and the area swept is illustrated by tracing at Appendix 1 d).


1 RIrF – DOUAR.  

A detailed account of the events of night 1st/2nd given in Appendix.

B Coy commenced wiring their new position C Squadron 6 Lothians attached.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0630 Lieut McCaldin returned and reported that he had not crossed the Goubellat-Bou Arada road. He disturbed some enemy this side of road an felt sure the Goubellat-Bou Arada road was under fixed line fire.

0630 Lieut McKee had nothing to report.

CO spends morning going around the bttn position with Brigadier.

Daly spends morning waiting for RE Officer to arrive so they can go off and clear away Teller mines. RE officer does not turn up. Carriers at last get a day to maintenance. Much air activity in the afternoon probably to cover an… that the 26 Armoured Brigade are doing, It is good to see a little air supremacy. It is decided to dig a command post in the farm and the pioneers get busy.

1730 Lieuts McKee and Lieut McCaldin set off with 20 men each for 36 hrs to harass, ambush and inflict casualties upon enemy.

2100 Lt Page’s patrol returns but he did not get as far as was intended. Apparently the time allowed was insufficient for the job.


2 LIR.

AM Companies patrol area during hours of darkness.

PM Battalion digging in. Indents rendered for wire and mines.

1900 Lieutenant Cooper and 1 section F Company of 36-hour patrol to 7718 (Patrol Bovril).

1900 Lieutenant Kinch and 1 section of F Company on 36-hour patrol to 7414 (Patrol Oxo).



3rd January

Brigade HQ – MAHMOUD GAP.

Enemy booby trapped Goubellat.

am Brigade Major visited HQ 6th Armoured Division.

A sitrep transmitted by the IO, 1 RIrF on Brigade command net was repeated back to him in German. The incident was unexplained but served as a reminder to all against careless security in W/T conversations.

38 Command CO No 7 (in amplification of O.O. No 5 Dec 1st) was issued.

As indicated in GOC’s conference of 1st Jan, digging, wiring and mining was to proceed at once and immediate and deliberate tank counter attacks were provided for.


1 RIrF – DOUAR.

A detailed account of the events of night given in Appendix.

A detailed account of the events of patrols given in Appendix.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0900 Brigade Major arrives with RE officer. Daly and party consisting of 3 carriers and pioneer Sgt go out to collect Teller mines from near cross roads at Goubellat. This is mainly for the purpose of bringing back the mines to distribute around the Brigade. No one seems to know a lot about Teller mines although all the Pioneers did a course with REs in Scotland.

Lieut Duke returned last night with lorry load of NAAFI stores about 100 cigarettes per man, beer, whisky, gin and sweets. 2.i.c. and he have busy day breaking bulk and distributing.

1800 It is decided to move Bttn HQ to command post at top of the hill in Goubellat. Although wet, CO car is taken up, also CO carrier. CO car will act as forward link when W/T on 19 set is opened up and carrier as rear link. The carrier is well dug in and can be used by night with lights.

Pioneers have been busy and beside our command post have built a fair signal office for adjutant staff. Lighting is laid on by signals and everyone is comfortable and much digging is still going on. The signal exchange is well established dug in on side of the hill.

A very cold and wet evening. Ground soon became very muddy/

1800 Lieut Page sets out with 20 ORs on patrol to seek out enemy, get prisoners and inflict casualties. If patrol successful before reaching objective to return (time 36 hrs).

Died on this day:

Fusilier Frank Lunn, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

1800 Captain Grant and section of G Company on 36-hour patrol to 7716 (Patrol Indigo).

1800 Lieutenant Pottinger and section of G Company on 36-hour patrol to 7415 (Patrol Scarlet).

1800 Lieutenant Cowdy and section of H Company on standing patrol to 578192.

1900 One officer and four other ranks of E Company patrol area locally.

2359 One officer and four other ranks of G Company patrol area locally.



4th January

Brigade HQ– MAHMOUD GAP.

48 hr patrols of 6 Innisks and 2 LIR penetrated beyond the Goubellat Plain. A full report is given at Appendix 4 (5 Jan).


1 RIrF – DOUAR.

A, C and D Companies commenced wiring their positions.

No 2 hold in which the bulk of the Bttn baggage was stored was badly damaged and A Coy living in the mess deck immediately above the hold had to move to a promenade deck.


6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0015 Lieut McCaldin returned, one of his patrol was killed at his OP. McCaldin seems to have done some excellent work and found out, with the aid of the Tunisian soldier with him, information about enemy positions. He withdrew from his position at 1430 3 Jan as enemy were closing in on him. They knew his position as he returned the fire when Fusilier Lunn was shot on the haystack. But before returning, he managed to retrieve the …from haystack.

1000 Information is received that Major Allen has been promoted Lt/Col and assumed command of Bttn wef 20 Dec 42 and Major J McCann is posted from this bttn from 2 LIR and assumes the position of 2.i.c.

1800 Lt George goes out on 36 hr patrol with 20 ORs to search farms and inflict casualties on enemy.

Died on this day:

Lieutenant Robert Carruthers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Lieutenant Charles McKee, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.


2 LIR.

0900 Carrier platoon less carriers patrol areas 6315/6517.

Four patrols by companies in local area.



5th January

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.

Died on this Day:

Lieutenant Charles Sutcliffe, Royal Irish Fusiliers.


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 de-bused 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.


2 LIR.

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.