Irish Brigade

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

Faugh a Ballagh        Nec Aspera Terrent         Quis Separabit


38 (Irish) Brigade – December 1942

1st December – ALGIERS.

Brigade Commander and Brigade Major left Brigade HQ 795012 proceeding to Bougie ahead of Brigade HQ.


2nd December – ALGIERS.

0200 Remainder of Brigade HQ under BTO proceeded by road with 17 vehicles to Bougie.

1730 Brigade convoy arrived transit camp Bougie (K5416).


3rd December – BOUGIE.

1230 Advance HQ consisting of Brigade Commander, BM, IO, BRASCO, 2 LOs, ‘I’ Sgt, and 12 ORs set out in 4 vehicles by road for Souk el Khemis.

1415 Rail party under SC left Bougie for Bone to take over 20 vehicles. A very slow journey was made in wagons marked “chevaux huit, home quarante”.

Road party under BTO left for Bone.

1630 Advance Brigade HQ arrived via Setif at St Arnaud, a distance of 88 miles. Lieut Room and Sgt Paige, had made a very successful recce for resting place night for 3rd/4th Dec. M Le Secretaire was most helpful in finding billets and also in directing the IO to shops in the village where bread and wine could be had. By a coincidence, Advance HQ 1 Guards Brigade spent night 3rd/4th Dec in the same village.


4th December – ST ARNAUD/CONSTANTINE/GUELMA

0805 Advance Brigade HQ left St Arnaud. 

1130 Arrived at Constantine where Brigade Commander and BM visited Advance HQ 1st Army.

1630 Arrived on outskirts of Guelma. Lieut Room and Sgt Paige had recced Heliopolis with a view to spending night 4th/5th. Both officers and men were very kindly received by the owner of a farm in this village


5th December – HELIOPOLIS.

0930 Advance Brigade HQ set out for Souk el Khemis having given M.Lavia a letter of thanks for his hospitality.

1700 Arrived via Souk al Ahras at hideout Gardimaou beyond which no vehicles were allowed in daylight.

1830 Set out for Souk el Khemis. 

2140 Arrived at bridge J0223, 39 miles from Gardimaou. Brigade Commander with BM left to report to 6th Armoured Division HQ at 7/736.


6th December – SOUK EL KHEMIS.

0000 Advance Brigade HQ having been met at bt J1935 by Sgt Paige arrived at farm J1629. Brigade Commander and BM after visiting Divisional HQ were brought to this farm.

0745 Brigade Commander attended conference at HQ 6 Armoured Division and afterwards accompanied Divisional Commander on recce.

On this day, 6 Armoured Division Standing Operation Instruction No 2 was received, laying down AA policy on the move.


7th December – SOUK EL KHEMIS.

Brigade Commander and BM were on recce all day. IO and Lt Hall with reps from 6 Innisks recced possible concentration areas east of Beja for 2 LIR and 6 Innisks. 

1800 Advance Brigade HQ moved to farm J3038. 


8th December – SOUK EL KHEMIS/TEBOURSOUK.

0700 SC and 4 vehicles arrived by road from Bone.

0800 Brigade Commander and BM left for Teboursouk, where 38 Brigade were now to concentrate.

1500 Advance Brigade HQ left for Teboursouk.  The day was dull and therefore favourable for movement by MT. Enemy ground strafing planes had been active in the area.

1745 Column under IO arrived without incident at road junction J 2710 west of Teboursouk, where it was met by BM who had recced HQ.

1845 Brigade HQ arrived at Farm J342091.


9th December – TEBOURSOUK.

This was another cloudy day which afforded good opportunities of arranging the transport of Brigade HQ, which was spread over three farms: 342091, 330089, and 292038. The French ‘patron’ of Farm 342091 was most anxious about our camouflage for fear of enemy air action.

0745 Brigade party from Bone under Brigade Signals Officer arrived at road junction J2710 whence it was guided by IO to Brigade HQ. 

1745 Lt-Col Bedford, Commander of 152 Field Regiment RA arrived at Brigade HQ.

2300 Major Maxwell, Commander C Coy, 6 Innisks arrived at Brigade HQ to receive orders about a fighting recce  (strength 1 platoon) area Goubellat (J6422). 6 Innisks had meanwhile moved into position area J3314 and J2702, that is on roads NE and S position Teboursouk with one coy 2 LIR area Farm J3406.

During the day IO made recce of G Coy, 2 LIR platoon positions. The task of this Coy was to cover all passes through the mountains to the east.


10th December – TEBOURSOUK.

0815 Brigade Commander and Major Maxwell visited Divisonal HQ (J3207). 

0900 Road party from Bougie under BTO arrived at crossroads J2808. About half of the Brigade transport (incl A Echelon vehicles) was sent under BTO to Farm J292038.

1500 FSP interviewed owner of Farm J3406 and confirmed IO’s impressions of 9 Dec that Arabs in the neighbourhood were in the pay of the enemy.


11th December – TEBOURSOUK.

This was another cloudy day and there was no air activity. Much information of the fighting at Medjez-el-Bab (J5734) was collected from reports of Major Maxwell to 6 Armoured Division and W/T intercepts of 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry.

0850 Brigade Commander and IO visited Divisional HQ, 6 Innisks position area J3314, and reported attack impossible for tanks, but that infantry might infiltrate on left.


13th December – TEBOURSOUK.

Patrols of G Coy 2 LIR recced passes through mountains from positions J3506 to Testour and El Aroussa. The route to El Aroussa was unsuitable for all vehicles; that to Testour was suitable for tanks in all weathers and 4 wheeled vehicles in dry.


14th December – TEBOURSOUK.

The day was fine but here was no enemy air activity except after dark when a force of bombers passed overhead going west. 

1140 Orders were recived that one Coy 6 Innisks should form part of a force of all arms to be held at Testour for an attack, if need be, on enemy threatening or capturing Medjez-el-Bab.

On this day, Brigade Commander with Commanders 2 LIR, 152 Field Regiment and 72 A/Tk Regiment recced defensive positions for two Bttns south of Teboursouk . This position might have to be occupied to provide a pivot of manoeuvre for 26 Armoured Brigade counter attack south from Teboursouk in case of enemy armoured thrust towards Le Kef. It was considered vital to prevent the enemy from occupying the heights and this dominating the valley to the west.


15th December – TEBOURSOUK.

The weather was fine all day but there was no air activity in the Brigade areas. Brigade Commander inspected the Bttn position recced at Aine Tounga (J3718) by 2 i/c 6 Innisks. Support of Battery Artillery and 2 troops A/Tk had been allowed for this.  Position might have to be occupied to prevent an enemy thrust via Testour against Teboursouk.


14th to 16th December.

Two platoons of F Coy 2 LIR under Captain Ekin were out for 48 hrs under command of Major Nicholson 16/5 Lancers in area Bou Arada (J6201). The mission was not entirely successful as the enemy got wind of our movements through the agency of Arabs who passed along the road complete with family, mules and baggage and thus were able to see and report our positions. This handicap was especially marked when an ambush had been laid for enemy armoured cars, which warned just in time turned off the main road into the hills. 


16th December – TEBOURSOUK.

1800 Brigade HQ left for Farm 342091 and arrived 1900hrs at new HQ Farm J292038. A Echelon left Farm J292038 and exchanged positions with Brigade HQ.

2000 Unidentified aircraft flew low over Brigade Command and fired a burst of MG.


17th December – TEBOURSOUK.

1845 Brigade Commander visited Divisional HQ at Aine Tounga and received orders for 6 Innisks to go forward and cover the Divisional front.

2045 Brigade Commander visited 6 Innisks on return journey and gave Commander verbal order corresponding to Brigade OO No 1.


18th December – TEBOURSOUK.

Administration Order was issued in conjunction with OO No 1.

Brigade Commander, accompanied by Commander 6 Innisks, proceeded to meet Commander 6 Armoured Division at Farm 553025. First of all Major Maxwell was encountered at Djelida station (J5603). He reported that it was impossible owing to Arabs to move by day in the forward areas. He had seen them engaged in conversation with enemy armoured patrols and pointing towards the exact locations of our positions. Discussions with Divisional Commander largely concerned the need for and the best method of undertaking offensive patrolling.


19th to 20th December – TEBOURSOUK.

Brigade Commander made recce of Medjez area with a view to the thrust NE by 6 Armoured Division.


20th December – TEBOURSOUK.

It was heard that air OPs would probably be operating in the vicinity of our forward positions.

2130 Commander 2 LIR was called to Brigade HQ and received provisional orders to go forward and go forward to occupy area J6529 with a view to Brigade attack on Ksar Tyr (J7630).

During the morning, there was considerable enemy air activity along Rd : Bou Arada  – El Aroussa. In the afternoon this was continued and there were also aircraft on Rd : El Aroussa – Testour. Movement on these roads was found to be particularly dangerous at 0830 and 1630 when the cloud was low. At 0830 2 ME 109 Fs flew down Le Kef road from Le Kris and machine gunned a French convoy going east. On this day, a letter was issued to the Bttns stressing the offensive AA policy that must be adopted throughout the Brigade.


21st December – TEBOURSOUK.

1500 Brigade Commander with CRA continued detailed recce of Medjez area. 

1800 Brigade Commander and BM set up Advance HQ with HQ 6 Innisks J5213.

2200 Advance party 1 R IrF reported at Brigade HQ. After dark, 1 R IrF moved into position area as shown as B Bttn areas on trace Appendix D.


22nd December – TALLYHO CORNER (J5217).

1500 Brigade HQ moved to new location  J5216. This was bare scrub land east of road and vehicles had to be dispersed and well camouflaged with cuttings of coniferous scrubs. The day was wet and there was no air activity.


23rd December – TALLYHO CORNER.

Again the weather was dull and air activity was slight.

0130/1030 Two 6 Pounder A/Tk guns were destroyed by enemy raids on 6 Innisks positions 681227 and 6923. An account of one operation is attached.

1300 6 Innisks captured 4 German parachutists of 5 Para Regiment at Farm 685126. Interrogation revealed that III/5 Bttn was in area Great Lake J7513, and had been making raids on our positions.

1900 Brigade Commander attended conference at HQ 6 Armoured Division. Continual wet weather had made an armoured push NE out of the question and the plan was therefore cancelled. Brigade Commander received the new plan and with it orders to obtain patrol ascendency eastwards from road junction 6505-6526.

2200 Commander 2 LIR was summoned to Brigade HQ and received verbal orders corresponding to Brigade OO No 3.


24th December – TALLYHO CORNER.

0100 Patrol directives were issued in amplification of OO No 3.

This was another day of dull weather. There was no air activity before 1400hrs.

0930 Brigade Commander and BM and Bttn Commanders and Sp Arms proceeded on a recce of areas laid down in Brigade OO No 3.

1500 Coordinating Conference was held at Farm 513118.

1900 Brigade HQ moved to new location Farm 586199 arriving 2340hrs.

On this day a message of Christmas greetings from the Army Command was received.


25th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

Christmas Greetings were received from Divisional and Corps Commanders. Brigade HQ published a special Order of the Day.

1130 March table was issued for relief of 6 Innisks by 1 R IrF, A truck parked at HQ 6 Innisks, Farm 64231, was sabotaged. The driver found that wires behind the dashboard had been cut and one of the rear tyres had been let down. This is believed to be the work of an Arab who was looking after cattle near the truck.


25th / 26 December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

Two companies from 2 LIR made a night raid on Farm 714134, which was empty, but bore traces of recent enemy occupation.


26th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

German propaganda leaflets (apparently planted, not dropped from the air) were found in coy areas and on sundry sites in the Brigade area. They were inscribed as follows “Qu’est ce que vous preferer mourir avec les Americans, ou, vivre avec Les Allemands?”

A directive on “Information” dealing with patrol reports and general observation was issued to Bttns.

Special Intelligence Detachment of a sergeant and 6 men of the French Army reported to this HQ from FS section, 6 Armoured Division. The detachment was given a directive and members were dispatched to the forward Bttns (1 RIrF, and 2 LIR).

A letter reviewing the brigade dispositions (shown on tracing attached to Appendix P) were suggested.


26th/27th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

Orders from 6th Armoured Division to discover specific information, orders to this effect were forwarded to Bttns and an LO was attached to forward Bttns to bring back early morning patrol reports.

The Liaison Officer from the French Army, Lieut R Doumic arrived for attachment to this HQ.


27th/28th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

1 R IrF reported contact during the night; it became obvious later that our patrols had bumped a party of enemy about a coy strong intent on raiding our positions. (Sitrep and patrol chart 28 Dec attached at Appendix S).

During the night a strong patrol was met in 6722. It appears that the enemy method was for a fighting patrol to be up while 2 or 3 made a reconnaissance.


28th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

38 Brigade’s OO No 4 was issued expressing the intention “to obtain patrol ascendency in the Goubellat Plain”. A letter on day patrols was dispatched to Bttns.


29th December – SIDI MAHMOUD.

Fuller reports were received of contact night 27/28 Dec.

On this day a Coy of 1 RIrF had a very successful action (J6824) against enemy force of approx some strength. 50 casualties in killed or wounded were inflicted for the loss of 2 casualties wounded on our side.

Redistribution of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade took place in accordance with Brigade OO No 4.

2100 Brigade HQ moved from Farm 586199 to Farm 542199. The move was completed without incident. 1 RIrF having left Goubellat booby trapped moved to new position 6325. Arrived 2350 without incident.


30th December – MAHMOUD GAP 5419

0400 Order was received by LO from 6 Armoured Division for 2 LIR with u/c AA and A/Tk platoon to be prepared to move at 2 hrs notice to area Pichon O7523.

0915 Brigade Commander discussed with Commander 152 Field Regiment, 72 A/Tk Regiment and 151 Battery LAA, details of the Brigade’s artillery layout as affected by 2 LIR proposed move.

On this day, the Brigade Commander wrote letter to 6 Armoured Division pointing out the scattered dispositions of the Irish Brigade and noting that should 2 LIR have to move to Pichon, he would have one Bttn to protect 2 Battery’s Forward Artillery, AA and A/Tk artillery and transport disposed in Brigade A Echelon, along road: El Aroussa – Tallyho Corner 5217. In that event Brigade “would not be in a position to resist an attack in force”.

6 Armoured Division OO No 5 was received expressing the intention: 6 Armoured Division and troops u/c will hold Medjez-el-Bab.

Letter was received from 6th Armoured Division stressing the necessity for active as well as passive (camouflage) deception. A Deception Officer for the Brigade (Lieut Duke, 6 Innisks) was appointed in accordance with instructions in this letter.


27th to 30th December – MAHMOUD GAP.

During this period, a good deal of information was collected by Special Intelligence Detachments, especially those with 2 LIR , which collected local farmers with good results.


31st December – MAHMOUD GAP.

0130 Information was received that 2 LIR were not required to go to Pichon. 38 Brigade OO No 5 was issued “Brigade will hold its own sector of Medjez defences and maintain the initiative by vigorous patrolling.

1600 F/O Thornton RAF arrived at this HQ bringing Air Tentacle W/T set. Had profitable discussion on Tac/R and air support.

1700 Army Commander visited Brigade HQ. Did not see Brigade Commander who was visiting 1 RIrF but the BM took him to an OP from which he could see the Goubellet Plain. He was insistent on offensive nature which must characterise our patrols.


29th to 31st December – MAHMOUD GAP.

During this period, enemy was seen to be using roving guns to engage our positions.