Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


1 RIrF – April 1943

1st April – BEJA.

A quiet day. The mines and mine clearance intensive training started.

1800 The CO attended a conference on the impending operation at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade.

Night quiet. Standing patrols 280481 and 363477 had nothing to report.

2nd April – BEJA.

0600 CO took Coy Commanders over field firing range.

0900 CO carried out recce for impending operations.

A quiet day. Mines and mine clearance programme continued. FD : firing carried out by A Coy.

2/Lt AM Smith and Lt Brown joined the Battalion. Captain JHA Monnsell admitted to hospital.

3rd April – BEJA.

A quiet day. Training continued.

1430 CO and 2nd in commands went to cloth model conference at Division.

1800 CO to conference at Brigade.

4th April – BEJA.

A quiet day.

1900 Battalion moved by march route to concentration area: Farm 4234 

5th April.

0100 Battalion arrived in new area. Move had been carried out without incident.

Orders and preparations for impending operation.

1600 Mules arrived.

1800 Bttn move by march route to lying up area 390375.

2200 Bttns in new area, move having been carried out without incident. Rations and ammunition brought up by mule.

6th April.

Quiet day. Final arrangements made for impending operations.

1800 Conference all officers.

7th April.

Battalions attacked Mahdi.

1000 Bttn moved off with D Coy leading. A certain amount of shelling on the way up. No casualties. 1 mule party had considerable difficulty. One anti personnel minefield was encountered and a detour made round it.

1130 Arrived Innisks, who were on first bump of Mahdi and prepared to attack main feature.

1230 Orders for attack.

1300 Attack started. D Coy on right. C Coy on left. Attack took place along the east slope of the Mahdi. The two leading coys met very little opposition, a few Bosche gave themselves up and small groups were seen running down the gullies. They were engaged by our artillery.

1400 Leading troops on objective. Numbers of Bosche were seen running away in the plain, and a party of Bosche was seen advancing up Dr Bed Wadi. FOO brought down some very effective fire. Pretty heavy shelling and mortaring developed during the afternoon and small groups of Bosche had still to be mopped up. Bttns consolidated on reverse slops of Mahdi.

2000 Bttns dug in a position.

Captain CA Pierce, Lieut WJ Chapman, Lieut WDS Smith wounded.

8th April.

1100 A Coy went out on a sweep to mop up suspected enemy in a gully east of the Mahdi. A few prisoners were captured during the morning and at 1300hrs, A Coy reported enemy strong point with 3 MGs. They attacked successfully with artillery support capturing 38 prisoners.

1700 A Coy return.

9th April.

Quiet day. B Coy did a similar sweep again today with artillery support. Total bag of prisoners 47. On both these sweeps, casualties amount to one killed and two wounded.

10th April – MAHDI.

Bttn advanced to Djebel Ou Guerinat 4256.

0930 CO gives out his orders.

1200 First phase of advance carried out without incident. Bttn HQ at pt 402 4347.

1255 Tanks report that they are being mortared from 4548.

1315 CO orders for continuation of advance. Enemy tanks reported 406583.

1330 B Coy lead off on second phase.

1507 Objective reached and consolidated. No opposition except a little mortaring on arrival at the objective.

1630 Command Group and later Bttn’s HQ take up position 425497.

11th April – MAHDI.

0300 Patrol of 1 platoon from A Coy to 410376 and thence to take up defence position on pt 333 to prevent enemy using the roads running west to east. Patrol returned in the evening with nothing to report.

Some German equipment was found during the day, bit otherwise nothing of interest occurred.

2000 Bttn moved back to rest area between Plateau Farms in the gully 3839 on foot. The move was carried out without incident.

12th April – REST AREA.

Lieut PJ Slattery and Lieut PJ Verlin rejoined the Bttn. A quiet day with nothing to report.

1200 CO went to a conference at Brigade: Bttn was ordered to move into Divisional reserve at Chaouach 5140 under command of Division.

1600 CO gave out orders for impending move.

13th April – CHAOUACH.

0400 Bttn move on foot to area 5140.

0930 Bttn arrived in new area. Troops marched up well but there were a few stragglers.

The remainder of the day was spent resting and preparing for a possible battle.

Quiet night – nothing to report.

14th April – CHAOUACH.

A quiet day.

1600 Adjutant went to HQ 11 Brigade to receive more move orders. Bttn ordered to move at dusk to Brigade assembly area 540443. Troops to march, ammunition, rations and water to be carried on mule.

1700 IO and company recce groups move forward.

2000 Bttn marches off.

2300 Bttn arrives and digs in at new area. Mule point established at Kelbine 533430.

15th April – 540443

Lieut WA Teed, Canadian Army, returned to the UK. Lieut WG Dunn joined the Bttn.

0500 Fairly heavy mortaring of Bttn area. Unobserved fire very scattered and inaccurate.

1400 CO and O Group called to a conference.

Bttn ordered to attack Djebel el Ang 5445, Djebel Tiour and pt 622 561456.

2045 Bttn formed up on the start line which was the west slope of Djebel el Ang. Some enemy was reported on the top. D Company was the forward left hand company with A Coy on the right. Command group with C Coy followed behind them. Bttn mules followed in rear. Bttn swept over Djebel el Ang and then swung right over a small saddle to approach Kel el Tiour from the north west. Bttn advanced, keeping well up to our own artillery barrage.While waiting for the barrage to lift, a few shells dropped short, with the result that Lieut PJ Slattery lost his life, and Captain DL Jefferies MC was wounded. Both these officers being in A Coy, Captain RLG Wood was ordered to take command of the company. The Bttn continued its otherwise successful advance and consolidated with A Coy at the end of the Kef at 555456, D Coy 557455, with one platoon on the reverse slope of pt 622. C Coy 553455 with one platoon on pt 659. B Coy and Bttn HQ at 551453. The Bttn was in position by 2330hrs. The mules arrived with ammunition, picks, shovels and companies began digging in.

16th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

0000 A thick mist had come down by this time, reducing visibility to a few yards. Owing to this fact, Bttn HQ and HQ Coy did not arrive. Communication between command group and the adjutant had broken down, and no information as to our whereabouts could be passed back. Runners had to be sent out to find the adjutant and lead Bttn HQ and HQ Coy up. Coys also had some difficulty and getting up the remainder of their stores.

0400 Bttn was complete less the adjutant and rear link wireless. A thick mist still made visibility bad. C Coy report having take 30 prisoners on 659 and a 3” mortar.

0500 Patrols were sent out by coys to give warning of possible counter attack. Several of the patrols were lost in the mist, some returned when the mist lifted.

1000 The mist lifted and the enemy put in attack on A Coy’s position. Machine gun fire and sniping continued with varying intensity throughout the day.

1200 A Coy reported that the situation was under control, but that they had had some casualties. Evacuation of these was difficult owing to the sniping. The gunner OP Captain Brown was wounded. A German officer crawled to within ten yards of his trench before he realised it. When he saw him, he stood up in his trench and shot him. Lieut MG Trousdell was also wounded in this action.

1230 The adjutant arrived with the 21 set and communication established with brigade. He reported that rear Bttn HQ had been attacked in the night on Bettiour. The rest of the day was fairly quiet with intermittent sniping and mortaring.

Captain WH Harvey RAMC was wounded by a splinter from a mortar bomb.

Captain DL Jefferies MC was reported having died of wounds in Beja.

17th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day. Periodic sniping and mortaring. Lieut WH Lang RAMC joined theBttns.

18th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

0800 Bttn HQ moved to 549453 its previous location being too exposed to Tanngoucha and Heidous, both still in enemy hands.

1000 Patrol from B Coy went out to area 548.

1400 Patrol returned with nothing to report.

Captain J Ray and Lieut D Sutherland joined the Bttn

19th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day with very little sniping but severe mortaring on Company areas.

Major DR Le P Gethin and Lieut B Osborn wounded.

20th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Lt-Col BH Butler went to Brigade for a conference. Major H Rogers arrived to take over the Bttn.

Nothing of interest happened during the day. The company areas were under constant mortar fire. Most of the day, we retaliated with artillery.

Captain J Ray attached US 1st Division.

21st April – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet morning.

1400 Lt-Col BH Butler returned from Brigade.

1600 Bttn HQ severely mortared. Lieut HT Emmins (signal officer) killed. Lieut RH Brown C Coy wounded.

2000 Bttn HQ moves to 547447.

Major H Rogers returns to B Echelon as LOB.

22nd April – KEF EL TIOUR.

A quiet day. CO gives orders and explains policy of 1st Army in the coming attack. Details of this is in the attached Appendix.

2105 D Coy attacked rocky ridge and pt 622. A Company moved into D Company’s old positions. D Company was met with very heavy machine gun fire from very well camouflaged positions, which were impossible to get at. There was no communication except by runner to the company and information was therefore scanty. It appears that they held up before they reached the top but Lieut GF Sillem and six men managed to get there. Under very heavy MG fire they managed to inflict several casualties on the enemy with grenades. The company was forced to withdraw just before daylight. A lot of enemy MG fire came from the flanks. Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall was wounded by a grenade in this attack and Lieut D Sutherland was wounded.

23rd April – KEF EL TIOUR.

0330 D Company had to withdraw.

0430 D Company had withdrawn. Bttn positions unchanged except D and A Coys had changed company areas. CO went to Brigade to discuss further plans for attacking pt 622 and Butler’s Hill.

Lieut JS Clarke, Lieut DCH Hayward and Lieut O’Gorman joined.

24th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Heavy mist all the morning made further attacks impossible. A quiet day. Captain WG Biggar wounded by sniper.

25th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

A Coy attack Butler’s Hill and D Coy point 622. Zero hour 1230. A Coy come under heavy MG fire and had difficulty in getting on. Troop of tanks in support managed to get onto Butler’s Hill and helped neutralise fire. A Coy suffered heavy casualties. Coy Commander Captain MT McDonald was wounded

1415 Butler’s Hill and pt 622 reported taken. Full account of attack on 622 by D Coy in Appendix.

1600 Disposition of coys 562456, 560460, 555455, 558457.

1745 Received orders for further advance. Ordered to send one coy to Ahmar 484.

26th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

0745 C Coy, having left at first light, could be seen on Ahmar.

0900 Orders for advance of Bttn less one coy.

1000 Bttn advance from Butler’s Hill down the wadi to Ahmar. No opposition on the way.

1230 Bttn in position on Ahmar less one coy (D Coy). No opposition except a little sniping. Awaiting orders for further advance.

27th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Bttn still in position on Ahmar. No orders for further advance received.

1525 One wounded prisoner taken.

Nothing further happened throughout the day.

Captain HGC Garratt, Captain PJ Proctor, Lieut CLT Tomkins, Lieut MC Trousdell, and 2/Lieut JA Finlay joined the Bttn.

28th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Quiet morning.

1300 484 attacked by the enemy. C Coy held off the attack successfully. A gunner OP and two sections were winkled. D Coy moved up into counter attack positions behind C but were not required. Bttn HQ moved back one hundred yards.

29th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Protective dawn patrol. Nothing to report. A quiet day. Nothing to report. Lieut JB Broadbent joined.

30th April – KEF EL TIOUR.

Patrol one section went out to destroy OP 443. They returned with one man missing. Patrol commander reported OP defended by two MGs. He managed, however, to crawl up to the OP and throw in a grenade. Patrol was supported at first light by Vickers MG fire from A Coy.

1230 Missing man from dawn patrol returned wounded and reported the one German MG had had received a direct hit from our artillery, which was very accurate.

2000 Bttn change over with 6 Innisks on pt 416 carried out without incident.