Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


1 RIrF – February 1943

1st February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

0530 Bttn HQ commenced moving.

0730 Bttn HQ opened. Old location reopened 640076.

During the day, normal activities continued (ie resting as much as possible, work etc being done by night). Major BH Butler had 24 hr rest at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade. 

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.

1st/2nd February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of this night are contained in the Appendix.

2nd February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

2050 Normal activity – B Coy 6 Innisks ceased to be under command. Capt DR Le P Gethin promoted A/Major wef 22 Jan 43. Lieut MJ Macdonald promoted A/Capt wef same date.

2nd / 3rd February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of this night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

3rd February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

1100 CO met with Commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade at Farm 628058 and received orders, the detail of which is included in the Appendix.

1430 Bttn O Group met at Bttn HQ and B Coy were ordered to provide one platoon to do the diversion ordered above, and 3” mortar platoon to add more local smoke cover than was provided by the artillery plan.

1930 Codeword ‘Standby’ received.

3rd/ 4th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of this night are given in the Appendix.

4th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Activities and routines were normal except that the diversion which had been postponed was expected to be required during the afternoon.

1900 2/Lt Smith reported on joining and was posted to B Coy as first posting.

4th / 5th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of this night are given in the Appendix.

5th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Activities normal except that great attention was paid to observation of Ber Repoal 6609 as a result of the report by Patrol Alex and as a prelude to Patrol Hope. Some discolourations believed to be the spoil of newly dug slit trenches was noted

5th/6th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events of this night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

6th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Activity normal. Some enemy movement observed at Farm 640108 and two tanks at Cactus Farm 685087.

1330 CRA 6 Armoured Division lunched at HQ 1 RIrF and told the CO and some of his officers the story of the battle for Djebels Mansour and Allaliqa, which had been taking place south of Bou Arada 6301.

1630 Miss Virginia Cowles authoress of “Looking for Trouble” escorted by Commander, 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade took tea at Bttn HQ and was afterwards shown the ground in Grandstand Hill, occupied by 1 RIrF since 22 Jan ‘43.

6th / 7th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

7th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Activities normal. Nothing to report.

7th /8th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

8th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Area near Bttn HQ dive bombed. No casualties. Lt Col TPD Scott went to Brigade HQ for 48 hrs rest, command devolving on Major BH Butler

8th/9th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Details of the activities of this night are given in the Appendix.

9th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

1030 Enemy artillery shelled C coy area, rd Goubellat – Bou Arada and minefield 648090. One killed.

1130 Further enemy shelling on 13 Platoon, C Coy’s position.

1200 Enemy area shelled area 625082.

1600 Enemy area shelled Farm 627087. 

9th/10th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Details of the activities of this night are given in the Appendix.

10th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Lt-Col TPD Scott resumed command of the Bttn on his return from a rest at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade.

1700 CO and IO attended conference at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade at which many general points noted in the campaign to date were brought out, a summary of the strengths and lay out of the forces opposed to each other in this theatre was given. The decision was made that in order to provide a Brigade wide reserve – one Coy per Bttn should be withdrawn from “the line”, into a rest area a little way back, one at a time. In so far as it affected 1 RIrF, it entailed the thinning out of the defences of Grandstand to two Coys only, reducing and withdrawing altogether the platoon covering the gap between that hill and pt 279 by night. Patrol policy was also discussed and it was decided that fewer patrols should be sent out, but that by means of preceding all fighting patrols with a recce the previous night, all should be made effective.

Lieut JL Baggs joined and was posted.

10th /11th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

0215  During the night, heavy rains fell and Bttn HQ, which was in a Nullah by 0215 hrs found itself in places up to 5 feet under a roaring torrent. No patrols were sent out and there was nothing further to report.

11th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

1000 Bttn HQ reopened in Arab farm 636076 as it was impossible to work in the river. Almost all government and personal property was salvaged.

11th/12th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events of the night are recorded in detail the Appendix.

12th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

This day and the following were ordained by 6 Armoured Division as “no movement days.”  No troops on road, no guns firing, no non essential movement on foot was permitted and wireless silence was imposed.

1703 Four ME Fighter Bombers dropped one 1000kg bomb each, twice in area 626079 and one area 636088. No casualties suffered by the Bttn.

1800 CO and 2.i.c. made a half light recce of Grandstand Hill to determine how best to hold it with only two Coys.

1900 Bttn O Group Conference on the “pulling out” of one Coy. It was eventually decided in general terms to hold the hill from each end and withdrawing the centre – forward slope Coy.

12th/13th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of the night are recorded in the Appendix.

13th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

0640 Two recces took place concurrently, one of 2.i.c. and D Coy commander, and the second of CO, OCs A & B Coys and Mortar Officer finally to determine the method of holding Grandstand with two Coys only

1830 Work on the transforming of positions already dug into a new two Coy defensive position with interconnected section posts (also if possible with communication by trench to platoon HQ in order to cover every approach with fire commenced).

2000 OC D Coy and IO with an RE recce party tied up the details of the broadening of minefield from the front of Grandstand southward to 120 feet.

13th/14th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of the night are recorded in the Appendix.

14th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Am Liaison with 72 A/Tk Regiment RA finally settled to general satisfaction. The layout of A/Tk defences within the Bttn area, both 6 pounder and 2 pounder being sited in one scheme.     

14th /15th February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in the Appendix.

15th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Normal activity – nothing to report.

15th /16th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

The events and activities of the night are recorded in the Appendix.

16th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Normal activity – nothing to report. Captain WJ Saul, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, reported to this Bttn for duty and was held at Bttn HQ pending posting.

16th /17th February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

17th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Normal activity – nothing to report.

17th /18th February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

18th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

As a result of the non achievement of their object by the patrols of the preceding three nights, it was decided to select 10-15 of the best night patrollers of each rifle Coy and from them into a specialised body trained and used exclusively for night patrolling. The “force” to be under command of Capt PR Black, with as 2.i.c. Lieut MW Sutcliffe, the force to be named the ‘Nighthawks’ and the first enterprise of the force, a recce for a battle the following night, to be carried out that night by the commander and 2.i.c.  All plans were settled and the force was to be officially formed on 19 February. Capt WJ Saul, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles posted to A Coy as 2.i.c

18th /19th February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

Capt PG Black reported as killed by only un-hit member of his patrol. Lieut MW Sutcliffe wounded.

19th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

It was decided that owing to the loss on the same night of the two leaders selected for the ‘Nighthawks’, that the moonlight made patrolling inappropriate, and that as long at any rate that the moon continued in its current phase, patrolling should be confined to deep ‘Standing’ patrols; a moving patrol in the open stood little chance against enemy in dug in positions with heavy automatics on fixed lines, so that the best chance of success was to lie up and catch some of them moving and unprotected.

19th /20th February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

20th February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

Normal activity – nothing to report.

Major JW Dunnill returned to duty from hospital. Lieut WA Teed, North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment CAO posted to A Coy on reporting to duty. Captain GA Maclachlan, 1 Royal Regiment Canada posted

20th /21st February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The events and activities of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

21st February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

0730 Lt-Col TPD Scott assumed command of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and Major BH Butler of 1 RIrF. Activity – normal.  The Sergeant of Patrol Magic died at 1 Field Ambulance during the morning.

1900 The CO attended a conference at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade, the subject of which was the thinning out of the troops on the ground on the Brigade front and the withdrawal of 1 RIrF into counter attack reserve.

21st /22nd February – GRANDSTAND HILL

The other events of the night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

22nd February – GRANDSTAND HILL.

0930 Bttn O Group assembled at Bttn HQ and the method of the relief of 1 RIrF was discussed, settled and published. Detail is given in Appendix.

1430 Three JU-87Bs dropped 6 bombs just outside Bttn HQ, the attack being immediately preceded by shellfire HE for diversion (?) and three smoke shells as aiming mark. No damage was done, though one man was slightly wounded by flying debris.

1640 Six JU-87Bs dropped 18 bombs in area 6307, again preceding their attack with HE and smoke shells.

1830 the moves outlined in Appendix started.

23rd February – REST AREA.

0215 The moves outlined in Appendix completed without incident or interference.

C Coy 1 RIrF under command 6 Innisks wef this date. So ended the phase 22 Jan – 22 Feb, during which 1 RIrF held the strong point of Grandstand Hill

23rd/24th February – REST AREA.

Night quiet – move of Bttn HQ to Wadi 566047 completed without interference.

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

24th February – REST AREA.

The events of this day are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

24th/25th February – REST AREA.

The night was quiet – nothing to report.

25th February – REST AREA.

The activities and events of this day and overnight are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

26th February – REST AREA.

0400 The enemy threw in an attack on Tally Ho Corner 5217, making at the same time, a thrust on the positions held by 2 LIR along the line of features facing the Goubellat Plain and running west from the road Goubellat – Bou Arada making some penetration.

0700 D Coy on 15 minutes notice and A Coy on 30.

1000 A platoon of 2 LIR having been overrun on Si Krelfi 5808, B Coy. ordered to clear ridge 635084 – 625090 with under command squadron Churchill tanks and one section Carriers, started to attack.

1015 Carriers moved to feature 557056 and in position at 1040. Enemy reported moving south at 639089.

1055 Squadron Churchill tanks and carriers with one platoon B Coy in position 631083.

1130 B Coy recaptured Farm 637082 and this taken over later by two platoons C Coy.

1130 ‘Butler Force’ formed comprising skeleton HQ, A Coy, some Churchill tanks and support arms including one squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry under Major BH Butler. Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall MC assumed command of 1 RIrF.

1200 Butler Force moved off to RV at A Echelon 527052.

1430 1 RIrF, less those Coys, ordered to move to area 608065.

26th /27th February – REST AREA.

Night quiet – nothing to report – whole night spent consolidating new position.

27th February – REST AREA.

0700 AA platoon and one section carriers occupied hill 5906.

1000 This detachment relieved by one platoon 2 LIR. An OP established and maintained on Sidi El Bacchi 5605 of two I sections and one section Carriers.

1400 One section Carriers and one detachment 3” Mortars support attack by 2 LIR to re-establish themselves on Hill 6108 with Medium and Field Artillery support. This was accomplished with little opposition.

1500 Estimated 50 enemy crossed Wadi north of Farm 647102 from east to west. C Battery, 152 Battery (Artillery) Field Regiment fired at them a concentration of 400 rounds. The battle on the Bttn front then abated slowly rounding off with heavy Artillery duels.

2359 Butler Force returned to the Bttn. Major BH Butler resumed command of 1 RIrF.

27th/28th February – REST AREA.

Two patrols were sent out but neither achieved any result.

28th February – REST AREA.

A Coy moved off to occupy Castle Hill, which it did without opposition.

28th February/1st March – REST AREA.

The events of this night are recorded in detail in the Appendix. A trace is attached showing Bttn layout.

Butler’s Force.

At 1100 hrs, 26 February 1943, orders were issued by Brigade for Major BH Butler, who was then acting CO to hand over command of the Bttn to Major JH Coldwell-Horsfall MC and move with a command group to A Echelon at 528054 and take command of a force consisting of a force consisting of half a squadron of 142 (Suffolk Regiment) RAC, A Coy 1 RIrF and one group of 72 A/Tk Regiment. This force was to deal with the threat created by a force of enemy tanks accompanied by a lorried infantry moving southwards down the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa. Under orders of ‘Y’ Division, one squadron Derbyshire Yeomanry were already employed in a delaying role in keeping the enemy in debauching into the valley El Aroussa – Bou Arada until such time as the tanks could get into action. On arrival at A Echelon, it was found that the tank squadron had already moved to deal with the threat under orders from Divisional HQ. After receiving orders from the Divisional Commander, Major Butler eventually contacted OC tank squadron, who was then in action at 489081 and had, by that time, stopped further progress by the enemy’s armoured units and had already knocked out a number of enemy tanks. At approximately 1600 hrs, a staff officer arrived from ‘Y’ Division with orders that the infantry Coy was not to be committed to any forward movement but was to fall back to positions on the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa for the night covered during the move back by the tanks, who was then to be withdrawn behind the positions as soon as the infantry was established. At 1830 hrs, A Coy 1 RIrF had established themselves in or around Farm Mtat El Kremguit 481048 when a liaison officer arrived from ‘Y’ Division ordering Major Butler to HQ ‘Y’ Division with A Coy 1 RIrF to form a defensive island at that place for the night. The object of this move was to protect Divisional HQ against an expected attack by a German Parachute Bttn known to be in the mountains to the north. The squadron of tanks was ordered into an anti tank position covering El Aroussa, which was also to form a defensive island. Major Butler and A Coy established themselves at Divisional HQ shortly after dark. During the night 26/27 February, heavy rain fell but no attack developed. At 1700 hrs 27 February 43, the situation on the road Medjez-el-Bab to El Aroussa having been partially cleared, Major Butler and A Coy were ordered to return to the Bttn.