38 (Irish) Brigade – April 1943

1st April – BEJA.

6 Innisks send recce patrols to north and south of Djebel Mahel. The patrol on the south had nothing to report, but that on the north observed movement, although there was no contact. 2 Hampshires located a strong locality 4044.

Divisional Admin Order No 16 (issued with Divisional OO No 7 was received).

A letter was sent to Battalions dealing with capture and security of own troops.

Intelligence Summary and Met chart was issued.

During the day, news was received that 36 Brigade and the Goums were making good progress in the northern battle.

1400 In the afternoon, the Brigade Commander and Brigade Major made a recce of the forward areas including Djebel Mahdi and Djebel Mahel.

1600 Commander, 12 Infantry Brigade arrived at this HQ.

1830 Commander, 1 RIrF arrived at this HQ.

A message was received from 78 Division with instructions that staff officers and 2.i.c.s of the Battalions could be put in the picture.

6 Innisks sent out 3 recce patrols. Farm 380417 was reported occupied and some movement was heard in valley 4341.Village (431382) was thought to contain a standing patrol.

2nd April – BEJA.

Commander 102 Field Regiment  and 46 Recce Regiment and Major General Miller MCA 18 Army Group visited this HQ. The latter had interesting news of the Eighth Army’s progress and of our growing air power in Tunisia. He considered an estimate of the third week in May, as likely to see the end of the campaign to be pessimistic.

1030 Captain Worrall SD officer belonging to Recce Corps came to give any available information regarding the Oued Zarga sector of the front.

1330 A/Q 78 Division visited this HQ to discuss the Q problems of the forthcoming battles.

Intelligence Summary was issued.

During the day, a little movement was seen,

An escaped British PoW of 2 Hamps reported 30 men and 1 gun on the reverse slope of pt 380.

3rd April – BEJA.

Information was received that Cap Serrat had been occupied by our own troops. During the day, enemy indulged in slight shelling on the Brigade front.

0245 Orders were received from 78 Division that Squadron 56 Recce would relieve B Squadron 46 Recce night 2/3 April.

1430 Brigade Commander, Brigade Major, Staff Captain, Signals Office and Intelligence Officer with Commander and 2nd in Commands of Battalions attended a cloth model and conference at Divisional HQ. All Commanders gave an outline of their plan for the attack on their own sector of the high ground north of Medjez and BGS 5 Corps gave information of the wider picture.

1800 Conference to discuss future operations was held at Brigade HQ.

4th April – BEJA.

During the day, movement of MT and infantry was observed area 4248.

1700 Brigade Commander attended coordinating conference at Divisional HQ.

1740 Order was received from 46 Division for 1 RIrF to revert under command 38 Brigade and 16 DLI also to come under command.

2100 Final conference of O Group was held at Brigade HQ.

5th April – BEJA.

0630 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade OO No 15 was issued.

1000 5 Sherwood Foresters came under command 38 Brigade by orders of 46 Division.

1700 Divisional Commander visited Brigade HQ and discussed final details.

1800 An Arab who had helped to bring in a Sgt of 6 Innisks, wounded by S Mines while on patrol, was brought to Brigade HQ and then taken by IO and Captain Bradley, 6 Innisks to FSP 46 Division at Beja for interrogation. He gave certain information, which was immediately forwarded to 36 Brigade and 6 Innisks, but was young and not entirely reliable.

1900 Brigade HQ moved to Farm Bordj  325359 and arrived at 2000hrs. 78 Division OO No 7 was received.

2100 First Army Intelligence Instruction No 2 “Control of Civilians” issued”

6th April – BEJA.

0930 Brigade Commander attended conference at Divisional HQ.

Commanders 56 Recce and 16 DLI called during the morning.

1215 RE rep arrived this HQ and conferred with Brigade Major.

1430 Conference was held by Brigade Major to coordinate transport moves.

1600 Lt FJA Clarke was sent as LO to Divisional HQ, vice Lt JF Hall, who had been injured in a motor cycle accident.

1630 Captain Crofts arrived at this HQ as LO from 2 Hamps , who were to be under command for the forthcoming battle.

1820 6 Innisks reported that a farmer at Farm 386392 stated that tanks had been seen behind Nahel. He had no details, but was thought reliable, being well disposed and having previously given accurate information to the Recce Regiment. This raised the question of the Anti Tank plan for the battle. It was decided that the tanks allotted to 36 Brigade, together with their support artillery and A/Tk guns could deal with any threat and that the primary tasks of 254 A/Tk Battery was still to get guns onto the north east of Mahdi.

2000 6 Innisks reported mine laying detachment RE blown up at bridge 382407. Lt Adams RE was intercepted on the road and more sappers were found. They reached 6 Innisks at 2400hrs and the work proceeded.

On this day, a PoW cage was established by def platoon commander at brigade HQ.

An account of operations of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade 7-11 Apr is appended to original and duplicate copies.

7th April – BEJA.

0100 Command Post was set up at 350376.

0350 Divisional Artillery programme commenced.

0540 2 Hamps reported Kachbia captured.

0600 6 Innisks were on their objective.

0640 1 RIrF were released from Divisional reserve.

0650 Commander with CRA left Artillery Group left Command Post to recce with Commander 1 RIrF.

0700 78 Division ordered 16 DLI to be moved up.

0710 Commander 16 DLI left Command Post to move his Bttn.

0900 1 RIrF moved forward.

1015 Army Commander visited Command Post and was given sitrep by Brigade Commander.

1045 LO from 10 Brigade gave information of the “Chinese Attack” staged 2230 6 April in Hunt’s Gap area. There was no enemy reaction and our fighting patrols had no contact.

1225 It was decided to move Command Post.

1240 Divisional Commander visited the CP and discussed the situation with the Brigade Commander.

1355 Brigade Commander told 1 RIrF the importance of getting on with the attack and Divisional plan depended on protection of left flank being established.

1515 1 RIrF had taken most of north west of Mahdi.

1600 Pt 437 captured.

1700 Command left for new CP in gully 386392.

1800 Vehicles left for new CP.

Relief of 6 Innisks by 16 DLI commenced. This was completed during the night.

1930 78 Division message was received ordering intensive patrolling night 7/8 April.

2030 Sitrep sent to 78 Division.

2330 On other parts of the front, the day had been successful and information was sent to Bttns in message form.

8th April – BEJA.

On this day, a “Special Order of the Day” by GOC, First Army was received.

0630 Commander left to visit Bttns.

0935 Orders were received that 254 A/Tk Battery ceased to be under command 38 Brigade by 1200hrs.

0940 Commander 6 Innisks visited CP.

1110 Enemy tanks or SP guns were sighted at 470469. Infantry were also seen and a counterattack was thought possible.

1400 1 RIrF made sweep of gully 4444, which yielded 35 PoWs.

2020 Message received from 78 Division ordering one squadron of North Irish Horse in support 38 Brigade after conclusion of their operation with 36 Brigade in order to protect the forward troops on the Mahdi from enemy tanks.

2100 LO from NIH visited Brigade HQ reference above order and was sent onto Command Post. During the night, 1 RIrF carried out an unsuccessful tank hunting patrol, but captured a PoW area 4245.

2330 Conference was held at Command Post at discuss northwards sweep by 6 Innisks and 2 Hamps and Brigade OO No 16 was issued.

9th April – BEJA.

During the morning there was slight mortaring of Mahdi.

0900 Coordinating conference was held at Command Post.

1300 Captain P Strange, Brigade Signals Officer, was killed while establishing Command OP with Brigade Command. Sweep of 6 Innisks and 2 Hamps commenced.

1600 Coy sweep of 1 RIrF on Mahdi was carried out.

1810 Withdrawal of both Bttns ordered after a successful sweep had been made. 130 PoWs were taken during the day.

2200 Conference was held at CP to discuss operations 10 April. It was explained by Brigade Commander that if infantry were to advance to Djebel Guerinat (4349), but this was not practical politics unless the threat of enemy tanks in the area 4647 was neutralised. It was therefore necessary to use NIH’s Churchills to go in advance of the infantry on the night.

2330 Brigade Commander went to discuss the plan with the Divisional Commander.

2400 Command of sector changed from 38 Brigade to 12 Brigade (HQ at Farm 380368). During the night, 1 RWK took up the positions of 2 Hamps (3943), who retired to area 3840. 6 Black Watch lay up area 1 RIrF  on Mahdi.

In the afternoon, Brigade OO No 17 was produced dealing with reliefs 9/10 April.

10th April – BEJA.

0830 Brigade Commander left CP to establish Command OP 4244.

0900 1 RIrF began to move forward.

1020 Division reported NIH tanks had no found no opposition and suggested infantry move forward (this already been done).

1045 Division reported sending squadron 56 Recce to come under command NIH 4747.

1 RIrF captured at 4345 2 PoWs of Pion Bttn 334, who appeared to be stragglers from the retreat. All the way up past Si Ameur, many slit trenches were seen, and there was a large store of clothing and equipment at pt 402 (4347).

1055 1 RIrF had reached end of Mahdi 4346.

1100 Forward troops at 43046.

1215 LO arrived from Division confirming W/T orders.

1245 “Things going well and pretty quickly 440479.”

1350 RE ordered to continue work on Mahdi track.

1420 Attack with artillery support on Guerinat.

1515 1 RIrF on objective unopposed.

1530 6 Innisks called forward to Si Ameur.

1730 Consolidation completed.

1830 Command Post moved to 420445.

1930 Brigade HQ moved to location Farm 386392.

Brigade A Echelon moved to 3734. Captain AA Dean, Royal Signals was attached this HQ from 78 Division Signals.

2100 Brigade Major attended conference at Division. 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF were to come back from Djebel Guerinat, whether relieved or not, and 2 Hamps were under command 12 Brigade. 10 Brigade were to make for Si Nsir and 1 RIrF to send coy off to cut off enemy.

11th April – BEJA.

1 RIrF and 6 Innisks were still in position and 1 RIrF sent coy to 420523.

0930 200 infantry sighted going north east. Not engaged in case own troops. But must have been enemy.

1000 Cannon fighter attacked 6 Innisk 4447.

1100 Letter received from 78 Division forwarding First Army sitrep, praising the work of the troops in the recent offensive.

1315 10 bombs near command post 420455.

1700 Brigade Commander went to Divisional HQ.

1730 Hurricanes attacked Depienne aerodrome.

1930 1 RIrF and 6 Innisks began to withdraw to reserve area 3939.

2330 Both Bttns reported to be in position.

12th April – OUED ZARGA.

Lieut FJA Clarke. 1 RIrF posted to HQ 78 Division as LO.

Brigade IO visited 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF to get story of fighting at first hand,

13th April – OUED ZARGA.

0530 1 RIrF moved to area Chaouach in accordance with Brigade OO No 18.

78 Division OO No 8 was received, expressing the intention to attack and capture Djebel Tanngoucha (5645).

Copy of 5 Corps letter on “engaging tanks at night with A/Tk guns” was sent to Bttns. The most successful method was found to be the employment of bombs illuminating 2” mortar.

1000 Brigade Commander visited 6 Innisks and then to 2 LIR (area Le Kef) and remained there night 13/14 April.

Lieut Harrison was sent to 12 Brigade to obtain news of our right flank.

14th April – OUED ZARGA.

Information was received that 2 LIR would rejoined the Brigade forthwith.

0645/0845 Enemy planes flew low over this HQ and were engaged. One plane appeared to have been hit.

1030 SC and Signals Officer went to HQ 78 Division 471412.

1545 1 RIrF (with 40 mules allotted) went to under command 11 Brigade.

2 LIR moved from Le Kef to Chaouach under command 11 Brigade.

15th April – OUED ZARGA.

0930 Commander and LO went to Divisional HQ

1535 Brigade OO No 19 was issued expressing the intention “38 (Irish) Brigade will relieve 11 Brigade in the Tanngoucha area.”

2030 Brigade HQ and 6 Innisks (for whom TCVs had been provided moved via Toukabeur to area Chaouach (5140).

2100 Arrived new location 522404.

Lieut GE Cole RUR was posted from 2 LIR to this HQ as LO.

Night 2 LIR moved up to relieve 2 Lancashire Fusiliers area Djebel Bettiour 5444. The position was fairly difficult to take over as 2 LF were repelling an enemy night attack. After this, however, the relief was accomplished.

I RIrF attacked Djebel Ang (5445) and Tanngoucha.

They took objectives pt 668 (5445) and pt 622 (5645) and patrolled offensively to pt 620 (5645).

16th April – CHAOUACH.

1430 A conference was held at Command Post with a view of an attack on Tanngoucha. Commanders attended. The artillery plan was to bring down concentrations on other areas to gain surprise and lead enemy reserves in the wrong direction, then to give Tanngoucha by concentrations just before the attack. Zero was fixed for 0001hrs 17 April.

1800 The following came under command 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade: 6 Innisks, 2 LIR, 1 RIrF, 5 Buffs, 56 Recce. 2 LIR and 1 RIrF remained responsible for same areas as previously (Bettiour and Kef el Tiour). 56 Recce were relieved by 5 Buffs on infantry positions guarding the east approaches to the Chaouach and 56 Recce and a coy 5 Buffs concentrated area Chaouach. 2 LIR were ordered to send recce patrol to find out if Heidous was occupied.

17th April – CHAOUACH.

0001 6 Innisks attacked Tanngoucha (5645) from south west. The objective was reached, but there was a heavy counterattack. Bttn could not dig in as mules (which had been allotted for the attack and were carrying beehives and tools) were shot or bolted under enemy MG and mortar fire. It was also found that enemy snipers and MGs were in strong positions at pt 622.

0600 2 LIR reported Heidous occupied.

0700 6 Innisks were concentrated west of Djebel Bettiour (5444).

A letter on subject of mules was sent to Bttns. The shortage of mules was pointed out and the necessity emphasised of preventing exhaustion of mules and muleteers and casualties from MG and mortar fire by bringing mules up too soon.

1400 Corps Commander visited this HQ. Went to OP with Brigade Commander.

1600 Brigade Commander saw Divisional Commander. It was decided that there was no object in attacking Heidous and Tanngoucha at present and that it would be better to coordinate a new plan.

Warning was received of enemy activity and laying of booby traps behind the lines in the Si Nsir sector.

PM Pt 491 and Olive Grove 5340 were shelled during the afternoon.

1500 Army Group Commander visited Brigade HQ. Brigade Commanders were introduced. Brigade Commander conducted him to OP at pt 491, whence Tanngoucha and Heiodus could be observed.

Night Artillery HF programme on Heidous was followed by 2 LIR harassing patrol (2100hrs), which fired LMG, Piat, and mortar into the village (2200hrs). This was followed by recce patrol of 56 Recce Regiment.

19th April – CHAOUACH.

0800 Brigade IO interviewed Sergeant 56 Recce Regiment, who had been on night patrol to Heidous. With the help of air photos, information of MG posts were tabulated and taken by IO to 2 LIR.

1000 Brigade Commander attended Divisional Conference.

As a result of letter from 78 Division, Bttns were asked to give their opinion on the following points; (1) Range of 3” mortar can be increased if weight of bomb reduced to 7lbs. Is this recommended? 2) Is there a requirement for 3” mortar to be fired from carriers? 3) Is indirect fire equipment recommended with Vickers MG? (The answer from Brigade was: 1) Not advisable to reduce weight of bomb. 2) No. 3) No.

PM Howard Marshall and a Russian colonel visited this HQ. A Battalion Commander’s Conference was held at the CP.

Lieut HND Seymour, RUR was posted to Brigade HQ as LO.

Night The LIR harassing patrol was repeated and HF by forward and medium artillery put down on Heidous area.

20th April – CHAOUACH.

78 Division OO No 9 was received expressing the intention “78 Division will attack and secure the high ground at Tebourba Gap to protect the left flank 1 Division and be prepared subsequently to operate towards Chouigui or Djebel Djedieda.”

It was indicated that First Army was attacking in conjunction with Eighth Army with the object of expelling the enemy from North Africa.

A message to First Army from Air Marshal Coningham was received.

1230 A Brigade Commander’s Conference was held at CP to discuss a joint attack on Tanngoucha and Heidous.

1400 Brigade Commander and Battalion Commanders attended cloth model discussion at 78 Division HQ and were informed of the larger picture.

PM Camp Commandant went to 538439 to prepare a new command post for the battle.

2100 Conference of Brigade staff with Bttn Commanders, Commanders 138 Field Regiment, and 214 Field Company RE was held at Brigade HQ. Ways and means of attack were discussed and a subsidiary operation by 1 RIrF was planned. For the discussion, annotated air photos and marked enlargements of the battle area were provided.

Night 5 Northamptons moved into position 5243 as ordered. A patrol of 6 Innisks 540457 was engaged by MG. 2 LIR patrols found signs of occupation round Heidous and recce-ed routes for the attack.

21st April – CHAOUACH.

During the day, there was some shelling and mortaring 1 RIrF area. Casualties were however light. 138 Field Regiment reported enemy guns located at 567523, 576524, 603467, 625462.

1205 An order was issued for moves preparatory to the attack 22/23 April.

1245 78 Division issued message enjoining strict vigilance by all ranks on account of the enemy’s anticipatory attack night 20/21 April in 4 Division area. A similar message was issued to Bttns at 1620.

1400 Brigade Major explained to all ranks, with the aid of a sand model of Tunisia, made by Intelligence Section, the general situation and plan of attack. He hazarded a guess that our troops would reach Tunis by 7th May.

1630 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade OO No 20 was issued, expressing the intention: “38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade will clear the high ground north west of the River Medjerda between Tanngoucha and Djebel El Aroussa 7054.”

1800 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Admin Order No 4 was issued in conjunction with the above OO.

1955 138 Field Regiment’s move forward was postponed and 1 RIrF, who had been warned to provide protection for the move and new location, were informed accordingly.

Night Patrols has no contact, but it was considered by recce that Tanngoucha was held in the same strength as previously. During the night, there was intermittent shelling of olive grove 5340.

22nd April – CHAOUACH.

A Special Order of the Day by the Army Group Commander and one by the Army Commander were received and passed on to Bttns.

A letter stating Intelligence requirements was issued to Bttns.

The day was quiet except for some shelling (0520-1600) of pt 491 and the road below it, which started when marching personnel of Brigade HQ attempted to advance. Lt R Doumic (4 RTT)was slightly wounded and one OR hit.

This day, a warning was received that air OPs in Taylorcraft would be operated by moonlight.

1700 Brigade Major and Brigade IO moved to command post 538439. Marching personnel followed up after dark. Rear brigade moved to Kelbine (5345).

Attack 22/23 April. See summary.

LOs were sent to 6 Innisks and 2 LIR to obtain first hand news of the battle and report by 0530hrs.

2015 2 LIR attack Heidous.

2040 Heidous covered in mist and smoke. Enemy SA fire and DF coming down.

2100 6 Innisks attacked Tanngoucha.

2110 2 LIR report fight continues.

2125 DF in front of Tanngoucha but no SA fire yet.

2210 2 LIR side little activity. Plenty on Tanngoucha.

2225 6 Innisks having trouble with MG fire from pt 622.

2255 Fighting continues in Heidous.

2315 Considerable MG fire from pt 622 and pt 620. Out of touch with forward Coys (6 Innisks).

2345 2 LIR report situation not cleared up and comms bad.

2355 Innisks still held up by 5 MGs on Tanngoucha.

23rd April – KELBINE.

0005 1 RIrF D Coy have not gained pt 622.

0035 D Coy have met difficulties.

0205 Fighting it out in Heidous.

0330 D Coy, 1 RIrF will have to withdraw.

0340 Coy 6 Innisks on Tanngoucha counter attacked.

0403 Commander I RIrF said D Coy would have to withdraw. Told to consult 6 Innisks before doing so.

0420 2 LIR: “MGs in crags, cannot get into village.” One coy 6 Innisks on Tanngoucha ridge. One pinned down 50 yards from objective, and one at bottom.

0600 6 Innisks: “Right forward coy pinned down against rock. B Coy got to top but driven off by counter attack.

0620 1 RIrF report coy about to attack pt 622. This was subsequently cancelled.

0645 Red Cross flag seen in Heidous.

0650 2 LIR reported gun, believed A/Tk, and several MGs were knocked out in Heidous.

0700 138 Field Regiment made smoke screen to help 6 Innisks down Tanngoucha slope.

0700 LO sent out to Divisional HQ with news of the battle.

0715 6 Innisks report coys at 562453, 561453, 565453, 567453. Enemy did not intend to withdraw and was also strong on Butler’s Hill 560460 and with MGs and by mortars. Estimated one Bttn holding from pt 620 and 622 and behind the ridge.

0715 1 RIrF reported D Coy withdrew 0430 and positions of Bttn unchanged.

0720 Plan made with Troop Commander NIH to help 2 LIR.

0830 2 LIR were on original Bettiour (5444) positions.

0835 6 Innisks reported the capture of 20 PoWs on Tanngoucha.

0840 Rear Brigade given full picture.

A message was sent to 6 Innisks, in position at the foot of Tanngoucha, that Heidous was still in enemy hands. They were ordered to watch the right flank. The difficulty was observed in this battle, which always occurs when one unit (in this case 2 LIR) has L/T comms, while others have only R/T comms.

0930 The Commander’s appreciation was as follows: “36 Brigade are attacking Longstop 0915. Therefore, enemy will be restricted. But not very likely to be pushed out of Heidous even from the east, much less from the north east. If Heidous is not on, tanks might assist 6 Innisks by demonstration against Tanngoucha. If tanks get infantry into Heidous, they are to come back to the shoulder of Bettiour.”

0950 6 Innisks report PoWs as belonging to A 26.

1005 F Coy 2 LIR consists of 2 officers and 25 ORs.

1010 Message to all Bttns: “3 Tanks RV 534446 to help either flank.”

1020 Brigade Commander to Division as follows: “Heidous strongly defended. Event tanks would not help much due to difficulty of finding MGs. Might be a good plan to pinch out Heidous from right. Perhaps better to take tanks up Tanngoucha than against Heidous.”

1130 Movement seen at pt 322 (ascertained to be the enemy).

1215 Divisional Commander reported that Heidous must be taken. Planned to attack with troop tanks as soon as possible.

1300 Tanks reported in position of observation high ground 543446.

PM Divisional Commander visited Brigade Command Post and discussed the advisability of attacking Heidous. It was decided instead to send strong patrols there to prevent the enemy from slipping away unnoticed.

1805 These orders were taken by Brigade IO to Commanders 1 RIrF and 6 Innisks at their HQs. It was decided to arrange an attack by 1 RIrF on pt 622 and Butler’s Hill (5646).

2030 Commander 1 RIrF attended conference at Command Post (Commanders Troop NIH, 138 Field Regiment also present) to plan attack.

2335 Brigade OO No 24 (sic – no 21, 22 or 23 issued) was issued in confirmation.

Night Patrols to the north flank reported positions held by the enemy. Patrols to Heidous were engaged by fire from around the village. Listening posts pinpointed positions at pt 620.

24th April – KELBINE.

0100 – 0130 Enemy mortars engaged area 5645.

6 Innisks HQ (560453) were intermittently shelled.

0400 Dawn patrols on north flank saw no sign of counter attack.

During the day, there was slight sniping of 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF’s; positions remained the same.

1630 Sitrep sent to 78 Division.

The attack of 1 RIrF was postponed and in the afternoon, the Divisional Commander visited the Command Post.

The idea was discussed of waiting until the US infantry caught up, but Tanngoucha had to be taken as trouble was coming from there in attacks on Longstop.

On this day, Lt JF Harrison (LO) was admitted to 152 Field Ambulance and struck off the strength.

A letter was sent to Bttn on the right and wrong use of the R/T code.

Night Quiet night. LOs again spent night with 6 Innisks and 2 LIR. 1 RIrF again found signs of occupation in the Butler’s Hill area.

25th April – KELBINE.

0620 6 Innisks reported being sniped.

0755 Rear Brigade reported 3 deserters of Z/962. These were interrogated and gave information of MG post, which was communicated to 138 Field Regiment, 1 RIrF and Troop NIH.

0915 After consulting RA, Zero was fixed for 1230hrs.

1040 Information was received that a deserter captured by 36 Brigade said the garrison had been ordered last night to withdraw. 2 LIR were ordered to see of Heidous was clear and, if so, go on to pt 322.

1045 Commander 138 Field Regiment notified that registration completed. US troops now at pt 485. Two enemy coys withdrew up Farm Du Bed Valley. During the morning, a mule train reached 6 Innisks unmolested.

1140 2 LIR reported our artillery had been engaged saddle pt 620 and 622.

1230 Zero hour for 1 RIrF attack.

1235 1 RIrF reported left coy on start line and no opposition.

1305 D Coy nearly on pt 622. Some trouble in Butler’s Hill.

1340 6 Innisks were to take advantage of 1 RIrF attack to work their way forward and at 1340 their smoke screen could be seen on Tanngoucha.

1400 6 Innisks to 1 RIrF: “Coy on right can get in with grenades. Only a few snipers.”

1405 Identifications reported: “Butler’s Hill 10/756, 3/962 and 1/962.

1410 Decided to send coy 2 LIR as 1 RIrF reserve.

1415 White flag seen on Tanngoucha. 6 Innisks occupied pt 620.

1 RIrF reported Butler’s Hill and pt 622 taken with over 30 PoWs.

1420 Forward move of artillery discussed. Essential to cover ground while this being done.

1540 Decided to send wire to Bttns, and keep tanks forward (as measure against counter attack) until last light.

1600 1 RIrF coys reported at 562456, 560460, 555455, 558457.

1610 6 Innisks ordered to hold pt 620 and patrol to Halfa after dark.

1620 6 Innisks said day patrol to Halfa reported no sign of enemy or trenches – this was confirmed by a PoW, who said his coy (10/756) had moved east from there.

1815 2 LIR reported coy moving forward to Heidous. No opposition.

1820 Entering Heidous.

1845 6 Innisks coys at 569457, 567454, 564454.

6 Innisks and 1 RIrF were ordered to get forward companies on Halfa and Ahmar and prepare to go forward after first light 26 April.

Night Quiet Night – 6 Innisks patrolled Halfa and both Bttns started getting their forward company up without incident. 2 LIR kept a coy in Heidous, there was nothing to report.

26th April – KELBINE.

0745 1 RIrF reported they could see their forward company on Ahmar, but they had no communication with it.

0945 Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and plans were made for the advance.

1235 1 RIrF reported all Bttn on Ahmar and ready to move forward when ordered.

1310 2 LIR reported coy on 620, two coys on Tanngoucha and remainder still on Bettiour 5444.

1400 Brigade Command Post to 547448.

During the afternoon, it was difficult to get a picture of the Bttns’ progress, but it appeared that 1 RIrF, on the left, were having an unopposed progress, whereas 6 Innisks had met with MG fire from pt 416 (5948), which pinned the forward troops during daylight.

1630 78 Division Operational Instruction No 24 received.

1800 Brigade Command Post moved to area Tanngoucha 566454. 11 Brigade were to carry out patrols to link up on Brigade’s right flank and relieve 36 Brigade on Longstop. During the day, 1 RIrF had reached pt 443, but it was untenable and they had taken up positions around pt 484 (5849). 6 Innisks were in the gully west of pt 416.

PoWs taken 25/26 April and 26 April totalled 26.

27th April – TANNGOUCHA.

0300 Lt Seymour, LO with 6 Innisks brought back news.

0430 Brigade HQ moved forward to Nullah 571473.

0600 Arrived at new location. 2 LIR followed up and took up positions in area 5747 on high ground either side of the track.

The positions now was that US troops had not yet come up on the left and pt 416 had to be taken before any advance on the left was feasible. Therefore, 6 Innisks planned to attack pt 416. Zero hour was fixed at 1130. Artillery support of 2 batteries (mostly smoke) was provided.

During the morning the IO and, later, the Commander visited 1 RIrF.

1130 Attack started.

1155 6 Innisks reported pt 416 taken with 20 PoWs, who surrendered on top.

1215 Division demanded Bombline, which was passed as follows: “629499 – 615510 – 590514.

1315 Further report of PoW: “32 of A/50 and 10/756.”

1400 6 Innisks reported pt 416 had false crest. Enemy counterattacked from the top with MGs and mortars and drove the Innisks back, taking some PoWs.

1430 The possibility of 1 RIrF staging a counterattack on the left was discarded as, with both flanks open, the Bttn could not be supplied if further forward.

1525 1 RIrF reported bringing in wounded German on their left front, J138 transferred to 756 Mountain Regiment.

1545 Commander emphasised to 6 Innisks, the importance of pt 416 for 1 RIrF’s advance, but appreciated the difficulties.

1550 Commander to Divisional RA L/T: “Full artillery programme needed. Pt held by two coys and physically worse than Tanngoucha. This was the key to the whole position and a prepared plan was required. The country had to be seen to be believed. A night attack was out of the question owing to the ravines and unevenness of the ground.”

1800 Brigade Commander’s Conference was held. 1 RIrF could work forward on the left, but this was precarious unless US troops come up. It was also possible to attempt pt 416 from the right, but this made artillery observation difficult to coordinate. Information from PoWs 26-27 April was produced for Bttn Commanders.

During the day, information was received from the rear Brigade that the idea of a Si Ahmed roadhead had been abandoned. The Brigade Commander had meanwhile ordered 214 Field Company RE to improve the mountain track in case this should happen.

A letter of Wireless Security was also received from 78 Division.

1945 6 Innisks reported HQ at track 593472 with weak coy either side, and coy part way up pt 416.

Night Quiet night and nothing to report.

28th April – TANNGOUCHA.

1110 6 Innisks reported their strength in forward area to be 18 + 279.

During the morning, the Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and went with the Brigade Commander and Commander 2 LIR to recce the area. A plan was in mind for 2 LIR to make round south of pt 416 and take Djebel Touila. This had to be postponed as 11 Brigade did not capture pt 202 and pt 160.

1330 A sharp exchange of firing was heard on the north flank, but it was difficult to see what was happening, even from the 1 RIrF OP. The US infantry had made a big advance, and were now being engaged by enemy.

1400 2 LIR were ordered to put coy on high ground to north of Command Post and command the gullies between pt 396 and pt 476.

1440 Enemy were reported on pt 396, but this was denied by 1 RIrF, who had a coy on the reverse slope.

Division sent information that enemy had attacked pt 341 from 592490 at 1200hrs and were now in strength on pts 315 and 299.

1450 1 RIrF reported enemy had just appeared on pt 396 with MG, but, at once, were shelled off.

1500 The wireless was deliberately jammed.

1550 1 RIrF reported enemy had attacked pt 484, but were driven off. “We can cover low ground between pt 396 and pt 476, but Germans were on pts 315, 312 and 341.”

There was no contact during the night.

29th April – TANNGOUCHA.

0630 Sitrep sent by L/T through RA to Division.

“1 RIrF no contact. Protective dawn patrol nothing seen. Only night patrol was sent in front of pt 484. Other night patrols restricted owing to confused situation on left, Yesterday, about 1430, enemy attacks two seen in front of pt 484. Withdrew after hand to hand fighting with 5 PoWs. Position restored last night. 6 Innisks no contact. Recce patrol to 3rd bump pt 416 was followed by fighting patrol which established ambush this area but no contact. 3rd bump clear, but can see enemy moving about top and 2nd bump. 2 LIR patrol made contact with US troops 565479. Nothing to report. Left flank pt 341 and 315 occupied by enemy 1330. US artillery inflicted casualties and reoccupied by 1730. Also reported on pt 299.

0750 Division reported that Germans still held pt 202 and pt 160 and were reinforced last night by 6 lorry loads. Role of 38 Brigade now to wait.

1015 6 Innisks reported movement in wadis pt 543.

1115 1 RIrF reported US about to attack pt 356 and wondering how we can help. It was thought that we could give MG and mortar support, but could not occupy pt 443.

1130 Idea mooted that 6 Innisks should put a coy on pt 416 during the confusion, which would be caused by 2 LIR attack on Touilia.

1145 US troops to north were being attacked. 6 Innisks ordered to watch blind spots for 1 RIrF.

1215 US reported enemy (estimated one platoon) at pt 357 and fire coming from 587487 and 589489, but situation under control.

1345 Orders for moves night 29/30 April were issued. It had been decided to move 2 LIR to cover right flank in case enemy tried to capture Halfa or Tanngoucha and to take brigade command post towards that side.

1600 US positions on left flank were counter attacked. The enemy were repelled with losses from pts 315 and 299.

1900 Command post moved to 566463.

2 LIR moved to positions on Halfa.

1915 Rear Brigade sent information of a straggler of 10/756 captured by French CSM at Butler’s Hill with MG and four days’ rations. (There was not more than one straggler to be found in the hills – for example, a coy clerk 27 April, who was told “to bring three blankets as he was going to Canada”).

30th April – TANNGOUCHA.

0430 Dawn patrol 1 RIrF knocked out OP at pt 443, 5849, which was protected by 2 MGs.

A day patrol of 6 Innisks, backed up by one platoon, reached the top of pt 416, which was unoccupied. They were immediately engaged by mortars and MGs, sited further back and accurately ranged on the top, and suffered 10 casualties. It was therefore decided, when the advance was made, to push straight on through pt 416.

1130 Divisional Commander arrived at the Command Post and went with the Brigade Commander to OP, where the battle in the plain could be observed.

1630 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade OO No 25 was issued expressing the intention: “38 (Irish) Brigade will capture high ground east of Si Ameur.” The operation was to be carried out in 3 stages:

  • 1 May  – 2 LIR with under command two troops NIH and in support 138 Field Regiment will attack pt 413 (616491) from south
  • 1 RIrF will be prepared to advance from positions now occupied by 6 Innisks to high ground area cross tracks 603487 supported by divisional artillery, 2 LIR and two troops NIH.
  • 1 RIrF prepared to advance night 1/2 May to seize pt 453 (606496).

With the OO No 25 was issued a summary of information.

An LO from 6 US Armoured Infantry was attached to the command post with W/T set to facilitate liaison on the left flank.

1730 Commander attended Divisional conference at HQ 36 Brigade. Pt 202 had not been taken and plan of OO No25 was therefore cancelled. It was revealed that two mule borne French battalions were to relieve 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF, 3/4 May.

On his return, Commander gave the following information to Commander 2 LIR, and proposed no action under the relief. The ridge running north east from pt 443 would probably have enemy dug in on the sides and little on top. The curve to the left meant that enemy could easily bring fire to bear. One would be mortared from all sides as soon as one reached pt 416 (5948).

36 Brigade battle is described in 78 Division Intelligence Summary No 40.

Night 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF changed over and G Coy 2 LIR reverted to its Bttn. Pt 443 and ground to north west, and south east was found occupied by enemy.

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