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.
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.
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.