1 RIrF – March 1943

1st March – REST AREA.

The events of the night are recorded in the Appendix. Normal activity continued : preparations continued through the day for the takeover of Castle Hill 622089 from A Coy by Coy 2 LIR.

2nd March – REST AREA.

1900 Platoon A Coy occupied Sidi Khelif without opposition (area 5907). Other activity normal  – noting to report.

3rd March – REST AREA.

C Coy 1 RIrF was to cease to be under command 6 Innisks and come into Divisional reserve as detailed in the Appendix. Patrol Margaret set out…into the hills from Sidi Khelif. Captain DN Jefferies awarded the Military Cross.

4th March – REST AREA.

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

5th March – REST AREA.

Barrosa Day. Many Faughs, including Brigadier N Russell MC, commander ‘Y’ Division, Lt-Col TPD Scott, commander 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and Captain J Norman Adjutant 6 Innisks attended the ceremony of the Barrosa Cup at Bttn HQ as 1830 hrs, a special cup being made for the purpose from the base of a 6 pounder shell.

0530 Patrol Gaiety (A Coy, with, in support Capt GA de MR Pierce, RLG Wood and GM MacLachlan) set out to search the hill-mass west of the Bttn position.

1630 The whole of the patrol returned reporting the area clear. The details of this patrol and of the other of the activities of this day and night are recorded in detail in the Appendix.

6th March – REST AREA.

This day, 1 RIrF as part of 38 (Irish) Infantry brigade ceased to form part of 6 Armoured Division, their place being taken by 1 Guards Brigade. The Irish Brigade became part of 78 Division. Captain MW Harvey RAMC posted as MO i.c. 1 RIrF. Lieut DW Smith and DF Siller reported, posted to A and D Coys respectively.

7th March – REST AREA.

Capt WG Corbett-Edwards (MO i.c. 1 RIrF) posted to 1 Field Ambulance. Lieut JL Baggs died of wounds in an accident, which occurred during his return from Patrol. He was pulling an NCO up the 12 foot wall of a gully by his Tommy Gun, when it discharged, wounding him in the left shoulder and in the abdomen.

8th March – REST AREA.

1130 Two SD men attacked from French forces (Patrol Alsace), left to blow up ammunition dump at Farm 618112. They destroyed it with two charges. After the first, they had the opportunity of inspecting the interior of the building: they were especially anxious to search it as immediately after the explosion, several Arabs, who had patently been looting, bolted northwards from the farm. In it, they found much damage as a result of our shellfire. The wireless set previously reported by Patrol Marquis was confirmed to be of civilian pattern. A civilian telephone was also in the farm, but with…tee-in of German military cable, the lines from which ran NW into the hills. The wireless set was removed for examination, and the telephone and lines were totally destroyed by the patrol. Also was found a German Oberst’s tunic badly torn and bloodstained above the waist. Monsieur Peladan told our SD men that this had been there before we had shelled the farm. It is therefore probable that the Oberst’s death was caused by Patrol Marquis’ booby trap. After the second explosion, four enemy were observed approaching from the… while about 300 yards behind them (1500 yards from the farm), a large support of unidentifiable men could be seen. Patrol Alsace accordingly withdrew via Farm Peledan where, hidden by boughs and foliage lay a dump of 120 Tellermines in a gully. Patrol Alsace did not touch them but returned to Bttn HQ, and reported them, and enumerating at the same time the contents of the dump they had destroyed as stick grenades, detonators, pull igniters and SAA packed for MG and rifle. Plans were accordingly made for the destruction of the Tellermine dump the next day. Capt RM Cunningham struck off Bttn strength wef this date.

1830 Patrol Lorraine returned. Their report and trace attached in Appendix.

1900 During the afternoon, the evacuation of M Peladan with our assistance from the Farm Peladan to his brother’s farm at Ain Ksyl was begun under auspices of FSP. At this time, it was reported completed.

9th March – REST AREA.

No patrols were sent out during the night and there was no incident on Bttn front.

The activities and events of the day are recorded in detail in the Appendix. Lieut RV Dudley-Clarke struck off strength.

10th March – REST AREA.

During the night, the Bttn sent out no patrols nor was any incident reported.

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

11th March – REST AREA.

During the night, the Bttn sent out no patrols nor was any incident reported.

0700 OPs again posted deep at 565107 and 6011. One SD man accompanied the latter, another went in search of the destination of the signal cable found at Farm Peladon.

Lieut JS Clarke posted to 18 Army Group Battle School as instructor and struck off strength.

1930 OPs and search party reported above came in. The cables destination was undiscovered and the OPs observed no enemy activity.

12th March – REST AREA.

0200 Patrol Fanfare sent out.

0915 Part of Patrol Fanfare returned (one Officer, 3 ORs, SD).The cache described in the incident described in the Appendix had been discovered. It was a pile of beehive baskets covered in straw. Two of these baskets contained a German greatcoat each and the straw concealed containing civilian vests, shirts and trousers. The Arabs dwelling in the hut nearby denied all knowledge of them, but two were arrested, one of whom had been seen, on the arrival at Farm 618112 of Patrol Fanfare, waving his arms as though to someone in area pt 251 622127. Under interrogation, they still denied any relationships with the enemy, though admitted some knowledge of their movements. A search, however, revealed on one some bank notes of the “Banque de France”, (which currency not being issued by the civil authorities in N Africa, nor issued by the Allied Forces, can only have been issued by the Axis) and a chit written in Arabic but on German stationery. After a preliminary interrogation, these Arabs were sent under escort to the civil authority for disposal.

1010 The remainder of Patrol Fanfare returned. They had nothing to add but that a search of Farm 618112 revealed four Tellermines and a German respirator definitively not there 10 March 43, and some money and papers. They had also searched the Wadi from 615115 to 619115, but found no trace of the enemy.

0930 Bttn R Group left and after reporting at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade proceeded to recce Argous El Hanech  7199 and the Koumat El Toutla 6599 as it was intended that 1 RIrF should relieve 10 RB on these positions night 14/15 Feb. This plan was consequently so no details need to be entered into here.

1700 Battalion R Group returned.

1930 OPs reported much suspicious native movement at day area 600134 and at 1800 hrs a large body of natives entered buildings at the base of the hill 593097. Consequently, the Platoon at Sidi Krelif 5907 stood to 100% for the night while B Coy and Bttn HQ stood to 50%.

Dusk Patrol Trumpet set out.

13th March – REST AREA.

0015 Patrol returned reporting clear of enemy the farms at its objective. On its return journey, however, when it passed an Arab dwelling at 617097. It made a slight noise and had two heavy mortar bombs fired at it from the north. Investigating 2 LIR found nothing later.

1030 A patrol of 1 officer, and 1 section went to investigate the Arab movement reported 12 Mar ’43 on Hill 593097 and OPs were posted again at 565107 and area bou.

1500 CO and Adjutant left for O Group conference at HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade. Details of what passed at it are recorded in the Appendix.

1620 The above patrol returned reporting the movement seen as a large household of friendly natives resident in dwellings 593097.

1830 The above OPs returned, but had observed no suspicious movement whatever.

14th March – REST AREA.

Night Nothing to report. No patrols sent out by 1 RIrF.

Day was quiet with normal activity, only varied by some slight preparations in connection with Brigade move.

Captain PM MacLachlan, the Royal Regiment of Canada and Captain WJ Saul, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles left the Bttn to return to England having completed their …”concise tour.” Captain MJ McDonald assumed command of HQ Coy.

Dusk Patrols Mayflower and Speedwell set out.

15th March – REST AREA.

The night was quiet – there nothing to report.

0715 Patrol Speedwell returned, having searched and lain up in Farms 633105 from 2300 – 0400. No enemy was encountered.

0735 Patrol Mayflower returned, having searched Farm 618112 and lain up in it from dusk to dawn. No enemy were encountered but one member of the patrol thought that at 1848 hrs, he had seen six Germans coming down from the hills to the north of the farm and subsequently disappearing into the wadi. No other member of the patrol was, however, able to confirm this.

0845 20 men observed by RA OP entering Farm 628112. They were shelled and no further movement was observed.

1340 Patrol of 9 enemy searched the hillside 590097 for our OP. They were all armed with Schmeissers and were seen to disappear NE along a gully towards Farm 618112.

1600 A man, by his dress a native, was met at 590092. He had been seen earlier in the day, and remarked upon for his blue eyes and pale shin, the command of his bearing and the excellence of his dark bay mare. On the second occasion, he was heard addressing someone in an authoritative tone in Arabic. He then converged, from behind a group of dwellings, followed by definite natives. He descended the hillside on horseback and crossed the plain eastward, eventually entering Farm 633105, having first put his horse free to grass. He was not seen to emerge although the farm was watched by 1 ½ hours.

1605 One scout of the Bttn Intelligence Section, hiding in an Arab village in the NE slopes of Burnt Hill 6009 was searched for by a German, whose suspicions were aroused by the barking of dogs. The Arabs protected him and he was not discovered.

1800 OPs returned and reported the above incidents and also that Farm 618112 showed many new vehicle and foot tracks, the former leading to the farm from the wadi north of it, of estimated 20 vehicles, the latter from wadi 614106 to the farm. All this information was promptly passed to all other units, but line comm, being out of order, it had to be sent by R/T.  The delay this imposed made the warning too late to be given to Patrols Black and White before they left.

1855 Patrol Black encountered a patrol of enemy estimated strength 12 at approximately 620090. Both patrols were walking along the top of the east bank of the wadi and saw each other simultaneously. Both ran for the wadi, but the enemy, being a single file and nearer there than we in extended order, got there first and opened fire, killing two and wounding two. They were all armed with Schmeissers.

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.

2355 Patrol White returned, having no incident to report, The farms in Square 6310 were clear of enemy.

16th March – REST AREA.

0830 OP party under Lieut WAS Smith of two sections B Coy, two scouts Intelligence Section and Signals detachment occupied on Burnt Hill 6009 at 603088.

1010 One enemy observer observed using field glasses at 614093. As soon as spotted by our OP, he withdrew NE, crawling behind the shoulder of the hill.

The patrol also reported finding, on their way out, three bones of MG belts of German SAA.

Dusk Patrol Demon started out, Capt RM Cunningham returned command HQ Company.

17th March – REST AREA.

0200 Detachment Bttn 6-pounder A/Tk gun platoon at 620129 sighted an enemy patrol estimated strength six, apparently bareheaded and in civilian clothes. Detachment challenged at forty yards and receiving no reply opened fire with rifles. The enemy answered with grenades and automatic fire. They then made off. The next morning search revealed a loaded Schmeisser magazine and the remains of an Eigg bomb pull igniter, proving conclusively that the approaching party were German.

0230 Patrol Demon returned reporting White Cable Farm 642123 and Farm 646113 occupied by an unknown number of enemy.

1745 OP on Burnt Hill, which had been posted all day, reported no enemy movement in their arc of observation (ranging due east to NNE).

1800 Patrols Steel and Tiger set out. Capt MJ Macdonald reported D Coy.

18th March – REST AREA.

0200 Patrol Steel returned reporting Farms 618212 and Peladan clear.

0800 Patrol Tiger returned reporting no contact with the enemy, but firing heard south of them. The sense of this was sought, but always stopped before reached.

1000 ….

19th March – REST AREA.

Lt Col TPD Scott and Major JW Dunnill posted to 2 LIR. Major BH Butler assumed command 1 RIrF and promoted Lt-Col. Capt DR Le P Gethin appointed A/Major and Lieut J Ray A/Capt. Lieut MC Trosudell rejoined from HQ 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and posted to A Coy.

Normal activity during the day. No patrols sent out night 19/20 March beyond a moving proactive patrol A Coy area, which had nothing to report.

20th March – REST AREA.

Lieut DH Walsh and 4 ORs returned to England to pass on their battle experience to troops at home. No activity noted during the day of our enemy or our troops. The night was quiet. No patrols were sent out by the Bttn and there was nothing to report.

21st March – REST AREA.

A quiet day with normal activity – nothing to report.

No patrols were sent out by the Bttn. A quiet night with nothing to report.

22nd March – REST AREA.

A quiet day. Nothing to report. No movement seen by OP at 603088 but Farm 564146 was burning 1030hrs to 1530 hrs.

Night was quiet. There was nothing to report.

23rd March  – REST AREA.

Normal activity continued.

1300 CO attended conference at HQ 3 Infantry Brigade. Details of matter discussed are given in the Appendix.

No patrols were sent out by the Bttn, and there were no incidents. Moves as detailed in 1 RIrF OO No 4 were carried out without interference.

24th March – REST AREA.

The day was quiet and without incident. Recce parties 1 KLSI passed taking over from the Bttn.

The moves detailed in RIrF OO No 5 were carried out without difficulty or interference.

25th March – BEJA.

0730 Bttn arrived in new area and was disposed as shown on Trace in the Appendix. D Coy came under command 46 counter attack force (commanded by Major the Lord O’Neill), the remainder of the Bttn being in reserve to 128 Infantry Brigade. Details of their role is given in the Appendix.

1130 Bttn O Group conference held, at which the situation of 128 Brigade and the situation of 1 RIrF was expounded – OP established at 258501 had nothing to report.

1300 The remainder of the day was spent in settling into the position, the Brigade Command and his staff visiting the CO.

The night was quiet. Two standing patrols were sent out by B Coy at 279451 and 253486 but had nothing to report.

26th March – BEJA.

1030 The CO with commanders of various support arms made a recce of Djebels Ouden 2448, Hanaya 2649, Zebla 2650 and Kef Agab 2749, with a view to their seizure in the event of a threat from the north.

1645 General KAN Anderson CB MC visited the Bttn and wished it “Good luck”.

1800 Captain Allgood, 97 Infantry Regiment (US Forces) reported to recce the Bttn area with a view to his Bttn taking over on its relief by 8th Army on Kasserine.

1815 O Group conference at which training to be carried out in the present area and recces of the areas named above (1030 hrs) by Coy commanders etc were detailed.

Night was quiet. Standing patrols at 280481 and 263477 had nothing to report.

27th March – BEJA.

0930 The CO with commanders of various support arms made a recce of area Munchar 3140 with a view to counter attack in event of a threat from the east.

The day was quiet. Training was carried out largely with the purpose of removing the physical effects of 3 months holding a defensive position, but also with the purpose of practising the troops in the rapid occupation of the features recced 1030 hrs 26 March. 57 ORs and Lieuts WG Bigger, HT Emmins, WJ Chapman, B Osborn and W Hanna reported: posted the first two to B Coy, and the remainder to D, C and A Coys respectively.

Night was quiet. Standing patrols at 280481 and 263477 had nothing to report.

28th March – BEJA.

A quiet night with nothing to report. Major H Rogers reported and assumed the appointment of 2.i.c.

A quiet night. Standing patrols at 250487 and 263477 had nothing to report.

29th March – BEJA.

Nothing to report during the day. Training was carried out by Coys – marches combined with sector familiarisation. Heavy rain and mist made the OPs unable to observe much.

A quiet night. Standing patrols at 280481 and 263477 had nothing to report. A patrol of 2/5 Leicesters was intending to contact the latter during the night but failed to contact owing to the conditions.

30th  March – BEJA.

The day was quiet. A ‘rifle’ meeting was held at Bttn HQ. OPs had nothing to report.

Night quiet. Standing patrols 280487 and 263477 had nothing to report.

31st March – BEJA.

A quiet day. Firing carried out on local range. A forward firing course recced by CO and scheme prepared.