War Diaries – 21st to 25th January 1943

21st January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

0030 Enemy counter attacked pt 286 by moonlight with 18 tanks while Bttn was collecting wounded and preparing to evacuate as above.

Enemy infantry was carried on the back of some of the tanks. After very confused fighting, 2 LIR had to evacuate pt 286 and reform west of the main road. Pt 279 (it had been decided to retain) was reoccupied when the tanks had withdrawn. Infantry were very vulnerable to attack on pt 286 as it is a feature on which it is difficult to dig in without pneumatic drills.

The day was devoted to reorganisation and no activity was reported. 3 Grenadier Guards arrived in the area after dark and came under command 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade with positions at pt 279 and south of Grandstand and patrols along main road Goubellat-Bou Arada.

2200 Brigade I.O. and Camp Commandant (with 19 ORs) moved to join Brigade Commander and Brigade Major at farm 629058 where Battle HQ was set up. Commander 152 Field Regiment with a skeleton HQ also moved into this position. The first hour of occupation was spent in bringing artillery fire to bear on tanks which were again reported to be moving in front of Grandstand and pt 286.

Lieut JF Harrison, 1 RIrF and 30 ORs arrived from HQ 6 Armoured Division. Lieut Harrison became an L.O. at Brigade HQ.

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0120 OC B Coy reported that personnel of 2 LIR were coming back into his position on feature 641066 and asked if any withdrawal had been ordered. HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade was consulted and OC B Coy informed that there was no official withdrawal taking place. It was next reported that enemy tanks were on the road area Pt 229 6405. They could be seen firing of tracer from their MGs southward towards Bou Arada. No information was received from 2 LIR and for a long time, the situation remained obscure. All that was known was that tanks with infantry were attacking the Brigade locality from the south flank.

It later became clear that these tanks and infantry had overcome 2 LIR positions on Pt 286 and Pt 279 and that 2 LIR had become disorganised and had withdrawn. Squadron 17/21 Lancers and Squadron 16/5 Lancers went in pursuit of the tanks and they turned north towards the positions of 6 Innisks on Grandstand Hill 653078, where they were found by A/Tk and small arms fire and turned NE, Field artillery then opened fire on them and they broke formation and withdrew east. Meanwhile, although 2 LIR had lost their hold on the positions east of road Goubellat-Bou Arada, but no penetration was made by the enemy over this road after the tanks were beaten back. B Coy 1 RIrF, although a good deal of the enemy fire was passing over its positions, did not become involved in the battle proper and the remainder of the bttn, although 100% stand to was ordered, held only  a watching brief.

0800 B Coy reported as soon as it was light enough to be certain that the enemy was not in occupation of Pt 279. As it seemed possible that this fracas was only the prelude to a further and stronger attack, a general tension was added to the company on (top) of normal routine during the day.

1647 A further attack on the bttn area was made by twelve JU 87s, one bomb falling 10 feet from Bttn HQ and damaging the rear .. carriers but causing no casualties. As a result of this and shelling of the HQ during the previous four days, it was clear that the enemy had its location clearly determined. It was therefore decided to move and the CO, 2.i.c. and I.O. left to make a recce of a new HQ.

Dusk C Coy moved its position to cover the gap on the northern approach area 625079.

2000 D Coy returned from its position at 645080, where it had been in counter attack reserve for 6 Innisks to C Coy’s former position.

B Coy returned from the hill feature 641066 to its own former position.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier Raymond Turner, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innsks – IN THE FIELD.

0045 Report from 2 LIR that Pt 286 and Pt 279 are being attacked by enemy tanks.

0110 Tanks are now reported on road Bou Arada-Goubellat.

0115 The Bttn sends out tank hunting parties armed with sticky grenades and 75 grenades. Our tanks are ordered not to move in order to save confusion.

0230 Twelve enemy tanks seem to be sorting themselves out near 2 LIR HQ on road Bou Arada-Goubellat.

0300 Enemy tanks withdraw between Grandstand Hill and Pt 286 under a barrage of artillery 4.2 Mortar Besas etc.

Our position was shelled intermittently all day yesterday.

Grenadier Guards are attached to Brigade and take over Pt 279 and Pt 286.

Heavy shelling of our position all day.

2 LIR.

0100 Battalion attacked by tanks and infantry. Tanks came around west of Point 279 firing tracer west across road. Infantry came over the hill. Battalion retires to high ground 6306/6307. Enemy tanks come round south of Point 279 giving enfilade fire down wadi of old battalion HQ also firing machine guns and 75mm west of road. 3 tanks cross road and take up position in field 645057. They fire on farm 643057. Fire returned by LIR in wadi and from south. Some of our remaining transport driven away or set on fire by enemy.

0400 Enemy retire.

0430 Commanding Officer gives orders from farm 629058. Battalion to take up defensive positions on hill 209 (639071) with battalion HQ in wadi 635072.

1500 Junker 87s dive bomb guns in area. Enemy also attempt to shell guns. Heavy shelling of enemy positions and guns by our 25 pounders during the day.

1530 Commanding Officer re-organises battalion defensive positions. Battalion HQ personnel also man positions on high ground 635069.

1800 Companies and battalion HQ did in. Battalion now in reserve, primary role – defensive, secondary- counter attack.

Died on this Day:

Rifleman Michael McInerney, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Maurice Rickard, London Irish Rifles.

Captain Sydney Ekin, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Harold Mangan, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman George Wyman, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Herbert Crofts, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Ernest King, London Irish Rifles.

Reginald McKenna, London Irish Rifles.

Lieutenant Edward Beechey, London Irish Rifles.

Lance Corporal Charles Booker, London Irish Rifles.

Captain Hubert Henderson, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Henry Dunham, London Irish Rifles.

Rifleman Ronald Figg, London Irish Rifles.

22nd January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

No contact during the day was made by our infantry. Enemy shelling of our front was observed but no damage reported.

1215 Enemy strength about one coy, came from north east to reoccupy pt 286, but were repulsed by shell fire. 3 Grenadier Guards were forced by this threat to occupy “Stand To” positions on pt 279 and lost one killed and eleven wounded through hostile shelling and mortars.

During the enemy bombardment, our artillery successfully engaged farms 717107 and 667112.

1440 Two tanks appeared on pt 286 (apparently for observation) and immediately withdrew.

3 Grenadier Guards sent Captain Bonsor as L.O. to Brigade HQ.

Lieut TS Osborn (Cheshires) left Brigade HQ to be adjutant 2 LIR.

1 RIrF – HILL 329.

0315 Bttn HQ and HQ Coy moved to wadi at 637077, these moves being a return to normal after the battles with an additional disposition (C Coy) to cover a threat which had only shown its possibilities during the early part of the engagement.

Two patrols were sent out, one to search farm 633105 and main road at junction 645108, destroying and enemy found, and the other to search farm 617111 and wadis running east and west 400 yards each side of it. Both were to fire 6 green Verey lights if any tanks of AFVs were heard approaching, and 6 red if any infantry. Both returned with nothing to report.

0800 Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade had decided that 6 Innisks had had a long spell on Grandstand Hill and should be relieved by 1 RIrF that night. Accordingly CO & 2.i.c. went over to HQ 6 Innisks to recce the new area and arrange the move.

0930 When they had made the general plan, they were joined by the Coy Commanders and the relief was discussed in detail. While this was happening, shelling of the area started and the party got into slit trenches. One shell landed on that occupied by Major JM Dunnill. He was unhurt but acutely affected by the blast and evacuated.

1800 The move started with D Coy taking over positions of D Coy 6 Innisks the remainder taking over in turn. C Coy last of all.

Died on this Day:

Fusilier James Craddock, Royal Irish Fusiliers.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Heavy shelling of our position continues. 1 RIrF are to relieve us tonight.

1100 CO 1 RIrF arrives and holds conference during shelling attack. One Coy Commander 1 RIrF is blown out of slit trench but is only badly shaken.

1830 Take over starts. One platoon at a time by Coys.

1955 D Coy take over is complete

2100 B Coy take over is complete.

2225 A Coy take over is complete.

2 LIR.

1800 Companies wire positions.

23rd January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Tanks again were head to the east. 3 Grenadier Guards continued laying mines in front of their position on pt 279.

1 RIrF relieved 6 Innisks on Grandstand without incident.

Two Corporals of 3 Grenadier Guards on recce to Barka failed to return. A note on enemy night tank activity appears at Appendix 47.

Patrol body between 38 Brigade and 5 Northamptons was fixed at 14 Gridline. A directive on patrolling with tracing of patrol areas was sent to bttns and 152 Field Regiment.

6 Armoured Division O.O. No 9 was received. “36 Brigade will hold rd block O.677877 on road Robaa-Pont du Fahs and road Si Said O 6781 to road junction 7173”.

A letter was issued on the establishment of Brigade Battle HQ. “Brigade Battle HQ will be established in area 640076 by 2300hrs 24 Jan’43.


An account of the activities of the night is given in the Appendix.

0200 The bttn was reported completely installed in new area and disposition as shown in the Appendix. The only interference or threat of it being the sound of a tracked vehicle manoeuvring about 2 miles to the east of Grandstand Hill.

The daylight hours were spent in tidying up the takeover by daylight. The position was…shelled but no damage to personnel caused.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0100 Enemy track vehicle heard to the north of Grandstand.

0115 C Coy take over complete.

0120 Take over complete reported to Brigade.

0345 Bttn now in new position on left of road. B Coy on pt guarding road and right flank. A Coy in centre and C Coy on left with D now only 50 strong in reserve and guarding the rear with counter attack role.

A quiet day. CO spends day going round positions and OPs and checking up Mortar and Vickers’ tasks.

2 LIR.

56 reinforcements arrived.

Digging, wiring and mine laying, as usual on company positions.

Own artillery firing periodically during day and night.

24th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Patrols were reported digging north east end of Rir Rabat (6609). Farm 672104 was occupied. Local patrols had no contact, but Hill 286 was lightly held.

In consequence of a letter received from 6 Armoured Division a note on the “The destruction of immobilised enemy tanks and guns” were sent to Bttns, emphasising that RE personnel will not always be available for this vital task. A request was made for a bombing attack on suspected HQ at Farm 748154 as this was out of range of artillery fire.

2200 Brigade Battle HQ moved to new location 640076.

2200 Brigade Intelligence Section arrived at Farm 629058.

2300 Remainder Advance Brigade HQ returned to Farm 553025.


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

The general policy of the Bttn Command was that all personnel should rest as much as possible by day with “observed sentries” covering the front with observation, and men resting at or near their posts otherwise. For this reason the majority of the bttn’s activity on Grandstand was night activity. Sporadic shelling being usually the only noteworthy event during the day. This, however, was frequent, although it did little damage and every occurrence of it is not noted in detail.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

Another quiet day checking up and wiring positions. Lt McVie and 13 ORs arrived as 1st reinforcement. Lt McVie posted to D Coy.

2120 Automatic fire, believed (to be) enemy heard in front of B Coy old position.

2205 Slight activity in general direction 1 to 1 1/2 miles east of road. Guards report it is probably some of their boys.

2330 Brigade establish a battle HQ 1000 yards south of bttn position.

2335 B Coy report noise of a tank forward of their position near the road.

2 LIR.

Six officers and 96 reinforcements arrive.

1830 Fairly heavy enemy artillery shelling. Shells falling in F Company positions. One corporal killed. Own artillery replied very much more vigorously.

Died on this Day:

Lance Sergeant Patrick Ward, London Irish Rifles.

25th January

Brigade HQ – BOU ARADA.

Artillery OP 589081 was raided by an enemy patrol strength 10, and the observing officer killed. On the Brigade front there was some tank movement and random MG fire and light cannon.

Area 6308 was shelled 0345-0415 hours.

Farm 672104 was reported quite strongly held. Valentine tank which had been used as enemy OP was destroyed at 661075.

1000 Details of the night’s attack, inclusion conclusion and a “General Picture of 38 Brigade front” are to be found at Appendix 52.

Brigade dispositions on this date are shown at Appendix 53.

1245 6 Armoured Division O.O. No 9 “6 Armoured Division will operate offensively against enemy’s Line of Control to the south.” Para 5 giving the role of the Irish Brigade is given at Appendix 54.

On this day, the Brigade boundary was extended to include F 647047 and 3 Grenadier Guards were ordered to take over this farm from the French in Bou Arada.

1400 Three RAF Officers arrived for a short attachment to the Brigade. They were distributed to 3 Grenadier Guards, 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF.

1940 There had been considerable discussion since 18 Jan on the possibility of enemy occupying the high ground north west of the Brigade position and a message was received from 6 Armoured Division ordering steps to be taken to prevent this.

2100 An Italian lorry was blown up on minefield 648090 having approached, apparently lost, from north east along the road.  Identification gained was 31 Tank Battalion (Italian). Appeared to be a cook’s lorry.

2130 A deserter from Marsch Bttn A 24 gave himself up in gun lines (6306). He was taken to command post and interrogated by I.O. 3 Grenadier Guards.

2300 Brigade Intelligence Section returned to Farm 553025 and rejoined Brigade HQ.

2350 6 Innisks were ordered to provide standing patrols 649090 nightly.


The events of the night are given in the fullest detail in the Appendix.

Activity normal. Nothing to report.

6 Innisks – IN THE FIELD.

0335 A, B and C Coy positions shelled. Cpl Sills and two ORs RE with 4.2” Mortar are killed.

0405 A and B report they are still being shelled, a smoke screen has been put down in front of their position and a tank can be heard.

0650 Mortar Officer reports a direct hit on his Mortar behind A Coy. This is where his two men were killed.

Owing to rain, skid chains were put on all vehicles during the night.

A quiet day. Slight shelling of position during evening.

0930 CO talks to Platoon Sergeants on general and local situation explains line of control 2000 miles long – value of shipping space – necessity of sabotage – patrol time of vital importance – strip  dead and wounded of fighting equipment. He told them that the strength of each side was about equal about 100000 men each but we have more artillery. Told them to look after reinforcements – to keep in their holes during shelling and be safe – patrols must stay out for the time ordered – self inflicted wounds must stop – we have had six cases recently. Up to NCOs to watch for suspicious cases. Rest – necessity of organisation. Booby traps use care.

1430 Coy Commanders’ Conference. Tells them Gunner OP was scuppered during the night in the hills behind us – no signaller will validate a message on W/T without authority of an officer – explains position and doings of troops around the bttn areas – Coys to have tank busting parties always ready. Lt Daly and 4.2” mortar Officer Lt Hagan to re-site 4.2” Mortars and report to CO – Rest must be organised better. It has been decided to start a bttn rest centre at A Echelon. Baths – see everyone has one in well near D Coy positions. Bttn must always be prepared to move at short notice – don’t get too dug in and immobile. Coys to have two or three vehicles in Coy area – MTO to truck them during the next 48 hrs.

1530 Staff Captain O’Farrell calls and asks if we have any queries. …used on orders last night will be replaced today.

Died on this Day:

Corporal Albert Sills, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.

2 LIR.

0400 Enemy shelling. Shells again fall in F Company area – no damage.

1000 One officer reinforcement (attached Canadian).

2130 16 Platoon H Company proceed to hill 683 to protect C Battery Royal Horse Artillery.

2330 17 Platoon H Company proceed to area 5808 to patrol and stop suspected enemy infiltrations. Two natives in party.

Died on this Day:

Lance Corporal George Slocombe, London Irish Rifles.