1st January – MAHMOUD GAP.
GOC’s conference was held at Div HQ. Two troops of tanks allocated under command 38 Brigade in area 1 RIrF wef 3 Jan 0700hrs. Points discussed were as follows-
Defended localities will be made as secure as possible by digging, wiring and mining.
All suitable artillery targets will be subjected to the heaviest possible fire.
Offensive sorties by tanks will be made whenever suitable opportunity offers.
1120 Tomahawk Fighter made forced landing area 6416. Pilot, who was unhurt, was picked up by Carrier Section 2 LIR. Carriers were fired on by enemy mortar when they approached the wrecked plane
1st/2nd January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Patrols reported light enemy activity in Goubellat (6422).
Contact was made with enemy occupying Farm 646211 (Probably a patrol lying up). There were two interesting points from patrols on this night.
Enemy verey lights made no warning bang but suddenly appeared in the sky.
Enemy section proved that the German soldier too is liable to human failings. “On my way back as I approached the Orange Grove 6424, I came suddenly round the corner on a German section. They were armed only with rifles and did not appear to be very alert for they were wearing greatcoats and were as surprised to see me as I them. One of them turned and went away and the remainder started to take their rifles off their shoulders. I withdrew. They did not appear to be on duty, but just sitting and standing around when I saw them.
2nd January – MAHMOUD GAP.
1000 Brigade Commander made recce of Brigade front with CRA.
1500 Sweep by 2 Lothians east of Medjez-Goubellat road started. Orders for the sweep are contained in 26 Armoured Brigade O.O. No2.
The information had been passed to Bttns in Brigade O.O. No 6 on 1st Jan. The intention was to carry out two reconnaissance sweeps in force on the front Goubellat – Medjez with the object of a) destroying enemy posts on this front, b) disclosing enemy strength and gun positions.
The action as it affected 38 Brigade is described at Appendix 1 c), and the area swept is illustrated by tracing at Appendix 1 d).
2nd / 3rd January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Enemy booby trapped Goubellat.
3rd January – MAHMOUD GAP.
am Brigade Major visited HQ 6th Armoured Division.
A sitrep transmitted by the I.O. 1 RIrF on Brigade command net was repeated back to him in German. The incident was unexplained but served as a reminder to all against careless security in W/T conversations.
38 Command CO No 7 (in amplification of O.O. No 5 Dec 1st) was issued.
As indicated in GOC’s conference of 1st Jan, digging, wiring and mining was to proceed at once and immediate and deliberate tank counter attacks were provided for.
4th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
48 hr patrols of 6 Innisks and 2 LIR penetrated beyond the Goubellat Plain. A full report is given at Appendix 4 (5 Jan).
5th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
On this day, the Brigade Commander with the Commander 26 Armoured Brigade made a recce for detailed counter attack scheme in the Mahmoud Gap sector as indicated in 38 Brigade O.O. No 7.
1 RIrF reported that they had interrogated a French prisoner, who had been abducted by the Germans to Tunis. He gave them information of a general kind and also said that by day Germans patrolled in burnouses. This was borne out by later events.
A letter on “active and passive deception” on the lines of one received from 6 Armoured Division on 30 December was issued to Bttns.
A report on 48 hr patrols 3rd and 4th Jan written by the Brigade Commander was forwarded to 6 Armoured Division (Appendix 4).
The commander mentioned the gallantry and leadership of Lieut Page, 6 Innisks and elsewhere recommended him for the award of the MC. He had also observations to make on patrolling in general – 1) There is no good lying up east of the Bou Arada – Goubellat road by day until all Arabs are cleared out of the area. 2) Patrols east of the road are liable to attack by armoured cars. It is thought that armoured cars will be of more use in getting patrols our of difficulties than the tanks which have been allotted, but which would probably be too late to be of assistance.
6th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
0800 38 Brigade O.O. No 8 was issued (Appendix 7), which laid down a general directive on patrols (and methods of supporting them by day and night).6 Innisks and 2 LIR were to share the same patrol area instead of being divided by an East-West boundary line, patrols found by one Bttn 3 or 4 days at a time to ensure continuity. Details of counter attack role of Squadron (less two troops) of Lothians were also announced. A Brigade admin announcement was also issued (Appendix 8).
1045 Two ME 109s made a close recce of Brigade HQ (542199) and attacked M.T. on road 542199.
In accordance with new policy farms west of the road Goubellat – Bou Arada were searched and reported clear.
1300 Platoon leaving farm 648194 was fired on from 654198 by five men on motor cycles and motor cycle combo. There was a short exchange of shots and enemy with one wounded retired to farm 661173
Brigade Commander sent a letter of thanks to Col Schmalz, Commander French troops in the Bou Arada area, for his help in bringing in a wounded officer, Lieut Page 6 Innisks on 5 Jan.
Brigade Commander went with Lieut Doumic, French L.O. at Brigade HQ, to deliver the message to Col Schmalz’s HQ in Bou Arada (628998).
On this day, a directive on “Intelligence” was issued to Battalions. The main point was “Information is being sent back more fully and promptly than before, but time is wasted and details sometimes forgotten through lack of attention to the form of reports” (Appendix 5).
6th / 7th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Patrol met ambush on road 653166 where enemy was laying in wait with Egg Grenades and two MGs (Appendix 9).
Recent patrol reports show that enemy probably had never seriously occupied Goubellat or its immediate vicinity (Appendix 10).
7th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
During this day, a fair amount of vehicle movement was observed around farms in area 7115.
Information was received (and passed onto Battalions) that “Celanese Triangles” had been used by the enemy to deceive our troops. A letter was sent to Bttns stating that frequencies of captured wireless equipment must be noted (Appendix 12).
Copy of Appendix to 5 Corps Intelligence Summary was forwarded to Bttns (Appendix 11).
Lieut GH Carr RIrF Def Platoon Commander ceased to hold this appointment.
Lieut RD Room RIrF was appointed Def Platoon Commander. Lieut MC Trousdell 1 RIrF was posted to Brigade HQ as I.O. vice Lieut Room.
38 Brigade Intelligence Summary was issued (Appendix 9).
7th / 8th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
No contact was gained in local recce or by patrols north of Goubellat.
A patrol of 30 Germans attacked Bou Arada (6201). By 0700 hrs, the position attacked was clear of the enemy. French casualties were slight, enemy unknown. An Arab picked up in 1 RIrF area by Bttn I.O. was brought to Brigade HQ. He was immediately recognised as a Cpl in 4 RTT by Lt Doumic and proved to have come from Tunis in Arab clothes with important information.
8th January – TEBOURSOUK.
0830 Arab corporal was sent to HQ 6 Armoured Division and thence to 5 Corps where he underwent a prolonged interrogation by British and French Intelligence. A letter was sent to 6 Armoured Division in reply to one dated 3 Jan on lessons learnt from the present campaign (Appendix 13).
On this day, movement forward of the eastern hills was slight but area 7115 continued to be active (Appendix 15).
6 Armoured Division Operational Order (O.O.) No 6 was received. A force will be assembled in area Bou Arada – El Aroussa to meet any enemy attack on Bou Arada.
2200 Letter was sent to Bttns on policy of bombing French farms (Appendix 14).
8th / 9th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Night patrols had no contact with the enemy.
9th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
0545 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade O.O. No 9 was issued (Appendix 16). There were indications of a possible German thrust south west of Pont Du Fahs (8706) or west against Bou Arada (6201). 6 Innisks was ordered “to “be prepared to move to area El Aroussa (4603).”
1030 ME 109 flew low over Brigade HQ.
1530 copy of a letter was received from HQ RA “Operations – FOOs”. The main problem dealt with was the difficulty of maintaining Artillery Support by FOO batteries during an attack (Appendix 17).
During thus day, there were indications to OPs of enemy preparations for an attack west from Pont Du Fahs. There was no close recce by vehicles of the Brigade front. Nor were enemy aircraft active over the Brigade area (Appendix 18).
9th/10th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Night patrols had no contacts but there were two interesting discoveries: a) at 2215, 2315 and 0015, an Armoured Car with lights followed routes 709187 – 690211 – 703225. This looked like a continuous triangular patrol. B) Farm 698173 was strongly wired all round. This farm was at the end of “Page’s Wadi” and was thought to be a patrol base
10th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
The weather was unsuitable for aircraft and there was no enemy air activity.
0830 Enemy attacked O.P. in area 6808. Later enemy of about 1 company were in area 6606 – 6607 and there were 60 enemy in area 6408. Two Coys 10 Rifle Brigade and half a squadron 17/21 Lancers attacked north astride the main road.
1605 Two troops 17/21 Lancers reported to be nearing their objective.
38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Summary was issued (Appendix 19). A letter was sent informing Bttns of the Regulations now in force to restrict Arab movement (Appendix 20). 6 Innisks were placed at 2 hrs notice to move and one coy 2 LIR with a squadron of 2 Lothians was at ½ hour notice to operate south of Goubellat.
2359 Bttn Commanders were summoned to Brigade HQ. 6 Innisks were ordered by W/T to be prepared to move at 0200 hrs on 11 Jan. In this event 2 LIR were to send a Coy to take over their position.
Tracing at Appendix 21 shows Brigade dispositions as they had been since 29 Dec.
11th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
0300 6 Innisks moved to take over positions of 10 Rifle Brigade (J 6507) and went under command 26 Armoured Brigade. Coy 2 LIR took over from 6 Innisks, Squadron 2 Lothians and Coy 2 LIR were to be prepared to operate south of Goubellat supported by 152 Field Regiment; object to cover 6 Innisks’ occupation of the position.
0805 Squadron 2 Lothians moved south from Goubellat were engaged by A/Tk guns from farms 652175, 663174 and 648183. Some of the tanks were bogged and H Coy 2 LIR was sent to their assistance. The orders to 6215-6517.
1500 Infantry had reached 6518 unmolested and enemy were withdrawing under heavy artillery fire to farm 662173.
1700 H Coy were relieved on the first objective but could not take the second objective before dark. Enemy fire from Wadi and trenches to the east of the farm and the Coy was withdrawn with 5 killed and 12 wounded (see Appendix 25).One object of the attack had been to allow the bogged tanks to be recovered. This project had to be abandoned, but it turned out that of 8 tanks, 5 were undoubtedly u/s while only 1 was certainly worth recovering.
During the morning, Commander 72 A/Tk Regiment made a recce with brigade I.O. for a tactical minefield (Appendix 22).
Intelligence summary for 11 Jan was issued. “Lessons from action by H Coy 11 Jan 43” a report from Commander 2 LIR is attached (Appendix 24).
2105 Brigade Commander visited GOC at Divisional Command (Farm 553025) returning at 2359 hours. During the day, further attempts were made by 10 R.B. to capture Hill 6809, but enemy remained in position. Vehicle movement from the east indicated either supplies or reinforcements.
11th /12th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Patrols were purely local and no contact was reported.
12th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
0100 Commander 1 RIrF was called to brigade HQ and received orders to recce area Bou Arada (6201) taking a Coy Commander to recce for probably attack on Hill 6809.
0155 Paybook and documents of Thomas Windhofer, 12 MG Coy Coy II/HGJR, were received from 2 LIR. A W/T identification was passed and the documents despatched at once to 6 Armoured Division.
Brigade Commander made recce of Medjez area with a view to the thrust NE by 6 Armoured Division.
On this day, there was considerable movement on the Brigade front of armoured cars, trucks and a few small groups of infantry. Farm 662173 continued to be active.
Intelligence summary for 12 Jan was issued, containing an account of Coy 2 LIR 11 Jan (Appendix 25).
1920 Two Coys 1 RIrF moved off from positions 6524 to Bou Arada.
12th / 13th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
No local contact was gained by patrols. Farms 662173 and 651176 was reported still occupied.
13th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
0545 6 Innisks (u/c 26 Armoured Brigade) put in Bttn attack on objectives Two Tree Hill (679090), Three Tree Hill (678091), and Hen House Hill (687095). Enemy MG fire was intense and the recent rain made the going very heavy for the infantry, who had to advance 4000 yards to the attack. The first objective, Two Tree Hill, was gained, but the troops were withdrawn as the position proved untenable.
0330 Troop position of 12 RHA in Bou Arada sector was raided. 6 ORs were captured, 38 Intelligence Summary including a “Note on Area 6517 – 7116 – 6913”
2330 Order was received from 6 Armoured Division for 18 RCT to relieve 1 RIrF on position 6425 on night 14/15 Jan (Appendix 27).
A letter was sent to Bttn calling for a report (demanded by 6 Armoured Division on 12 Jan) on Brigade Intelligence Sections (Appendix 28).
1700 Brigade commander attended a conference at HQ 6 Armoured Division returning at 2200 hrs.
2300 Brigade Commander held conference of Bttn COs impending move of entire Brigade to Bou Arada with a view to attack on Hill 680090 was discussed. 18 RCY was to relieve 1 RIrF and 5 Northamptons to relieve 2 LIR. Brigade HQ had to move night 14 Jan (5 Corps reported battle on Goubellat, Bou Arada want to be controlled by HQ, Koch, ie on Brigade level). During recent fighting it had been noticed that the enemy, in all cases, had been careful to construct many positions for MGs, Mortars etc, also for A/Tk guns, and they were changing their positions frequently in the same area. Trenches were deep and carefully prepared, and trees (with ladders) were often used as OPs.
13th/14th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
Patrols made no contact near are 1 RIrF or west of rd Goubellat – Bou Arada. 40 enemy were reported in Farm 660199. Farm 662173 was still also held.
An account of the battle of 13 Jan and the 26 Armoured Brigade O.O. for the attack are given in Appendix 29.
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.
14th January – MAHMOUD GAP.
During the day considerable vehicle movement was observed in area Pont Du Fahs (8706).
1000 A general picture of the Brigade’s front was submitted to 6 Armoured Division (Appendix 30a). Notes on propaganda to the enemy received from 6th Armoured Division. Desertions had already been noticed and it was desired to take advantage of low morale.
1830 Brigade HQ left location 542199 and arrived without incident at new location J 553025 at 2015hrs. Brigade Commander then visited 6 Innisks and HQ 6 Armoured Division.
On departure of Brigade HQ, 2 Lothians came under command 2 LIR in counter attack role.
14th/15th January – BOU ARADA.
Patrols had no local contact but reverse slopes Two Tree and Three Hill were reportedly strongly held (Appendix 31).
15th January – BOU ARADA.
Brigade Commander and Brigade Major were engaged in reconnaissance area Grandstand (6507) for forthcoming attack.
1600 Divisional Commander visited this HQ to discuss details of the attack. Battalion commanders attended later for the same purpose.
On this day, Battery 12 RHA moved into position 649062 – 649058.
1800 Little movement was reported on the front during the day (Appendix 35). RA 6 Armoured Division’s O.O.s 6 and 7 were received. The intention was to deploy preparatory to supporting the attack of 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and to “provide for the adequate artillery support of the Medjez position during the absence of that portion of the artillery required to support operations in the Bou Arada area”.
A report on 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade front up to 14 Jan was sent to II/8 RCT and 5 Northamptons reported to 6 Armoured Division (Appendix 34).
16th January – BOU ARADA.
Brigade Commander continued his detailed reconnaissance with CRA.
1240 Order was received that no vehicles be used on Recces east of Grid line 65 between north roadway Pont Du Fahs – Bou Arada and south grid line 97. The object was to hide the intention of an armoured thrust towards Pont Du Fahs (Appendix 36).
During the day, there was considerable amount, indicating reinforcements of infantry, artillery and possibly tanks NW from Pont Du Fahs towards area 7115 (Appendix 37).
1900 Capt CPJD O’Driscoll, 1 RIrF, arrived at Brigade HQ to take up the appointment of SC.
16th/17th January – BOU ARADA.
Patrols had nothing to report.
17th January – BOU ARADA.
During the morning, conferences were held in the Brigade Commander’s room. Divisional Commander and CRA discussed problems over a cloth model of the Two Tree Hill area and later a rep RAF advised on bombing targets suggested. The date of the attack was provisionally fixed for 19 Jan.
One problem envisaged was the problem of getting support to the troops after positions had been captured. A possible solution lay in the use of mules which could be borrowed from the French Army. Bttns were asked to provide muleteers in case mules were available for the attack and subsequent phases.
1900 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Sitrep was issued, containing details of movement 16 Jan and the results of a tank-going recce area Bir Rabar 6609 (Appendix 38).
1730 A coordinating conference was held at Brigade HQ attended by CRA, Bttn Commanders and reps supporting arms and services to arrange the final details of the plan for attacking Two Tree and Three Tree Hills on 19 Jan.
2300 Orders were received that the attack fixed for 19 Jan had been postponed for 24 hrs. It was later revealed that higher Intelligence had information of a German regrouping and an impending thrust west of Pont Du Fahs.
1830 Lieut Osborn and Signals Officer (Lt S Lloyd) repaired a Brigade Commander OP on Grandstand (6507) with a view to the battle on 19 Jan.
17th/18th January – BOU ARADA.
No contact was made during the night
18th January – BOU ARADA.
0001 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade O.O. No 10 was issued expressing he intention “38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade and attached troops will seize and hold Two Tree Hill and Three Tree Hill features” (Appendix 39). The plan was for 1 RIrF to make the main attack while subsidiary operations were staged by 6 Innisks and 2 LIR to assist the advance by fire. 6 Innisks with in support two Troops A/Tk were to guard against counter penetration on the north. The attack was to be supported by three Field Regiments. A detailed artillery and air support plan were attached as Appendices and enlargements of the battle area with known enemy positions marked were distributed on a wide scale.
0240 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade Administration Instruction No 2 was issued with intention “To maintain the Brigade in the role defined in O.O. No 10 (Appendix 40).
0730 6 Innisks were attacked by infantry east and south east of Grandstand Hill (652029).The day was marked by infantry fighting near areas 6 Innisks (6507) and 1 RIrF (6308) and tank activity in the plain NE of Bou Arada. Our artillery engaged both infantry and tanks with good effect. An account of the action is given in Appendix 41. One valuable document revealing the order of battle of the German forces in Tunisia was taken with a POW of 6 Innisks.
1227 HQ 2 LIR 615014 was dive bombed, 4 vehicles was damaged but the W/T remained in action and other casualties were slight.
1900 Reps RE carried out demolitions on knocked out enemy tanks area 6603 after dark. Much intelligence material (incl identification of II/7 Panzer Regiment) was recovered.
2030 Brigade Commander and OC 3 Squadron Signals with 1 L.O. moved to Brigade Command Post 638081 with W/T comms to Bttns and 6 Armoured Division. Brigade HQ forward link set became an out station on the Brigade Command net.
(Subsequent to this date, the enemy operation order for the attack was captured (appendix 42). A deserter also revealed that very heavy casualties were suffered from our artillery fire, whose volume came as a complete surprise (only one of the three Field Regiments in the area had broken silence before the battle).
18th/19th January – BOU ARADA.
The night was quiet though 1 RIrF patrolled north and north west to re-establish contact if possible with enemy of previous day. 2 LIR (at least one Coy) moved to area J 6500 under command 26 Armoured Brigade.
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.
19th January – BOU ARADA.
0800 Brigade was disposed as shown (Appendix 44) with 2 LIR (less than one Coy) under command 26 Armoured Brigade. 6 Innisks carried out recce and harassing operations as follows:
- Wog Hill 660085 was cleared and it was found that BIR RABAL (6609), Hill 286 (6606) and Sidi Barka (6706) were held, with an A/Tk gun on Sidi Barka.
- Coy Infantry and two troops Valentines supported by artillery attacked pt 286. Enemy 40-50 dug in on top and were chased down reverse slope, where MGs were sited. 20 enemy were killed for the loss of 7 Fusiliers (Appendix 43).
1445 Left flank: North and north west of 1 RIrF no movement was seen except that 1 Derbyshire Yeomanry engaged at 633136 a party of 12 enemy which retired west.
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.
On this day, 6 Armoured Division O.O. No 7 was received. Intention was “to dominate and destroy all enemy and tanks in area Bou Arada – Bigga – Argout,” 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade was to continue to “harass the enemy in Bou Arada sector”.
1900 Brigade Commander was summoned to Divisional HQ to receive orders for further infantry thrusts eastward. A plan was made for 2 LIR to attack pt 279 and pt 286 in morning of 20 Jan. This was part of a coordinated effort – 3 Grenadier Guards to attack Barka from the south.
2100 2 LIR arrived in assembly area 6306-6406 and reverted under command 38 Brigade.
20th January – BOU ARADA.
0030 Orders for attack were issued in confirmation of verbal orders given out at Brigade Command Post (637081). “38 Brigade will seize hills 6606 and 6605, the attack to be carried out by 2 LIR with in support all divisional artillery engaging known targets, Red Roof Farm and Barka. FOOs to go forward at first light. One troop Crusader tanks to be under command 2 LIR at 6506”.
2 LIR moved off from assembly area under cover of darkness.
0700 Leading Coy had received south west of ridge 6606.
0810 First objective had been taken.
0850 Infantry had been established on second objective (pt 286) but tanks counter attacked and drove them off.
0950 A Squadron 17/21 Lancers came into position to assist 2 LIR to recapture second objective, which was achieved by 1000, the enemy withdrawing under shell fire.
1215 2 LIR were heavily shelled and dive bombed. This went on over an hour, but finally elements E Coy were able to reach pt 296. There they remained all day. During the whole time, our infantry was subjected to heavy and accurate artillery and mortar fire, in addition to dive bombing and MG fire. It was impossible to dig in and casualties were very heavy (including 15 officers – all rifle Coy Commanders, 3 CSMs, 14 Sgt and 30 Corporals). It was decided to evacuate pt 286 by night as soon as casualties were cleared and to consolidate around pt 279. 11 POWs were taken during the day’s fighting (appendix 45a).
2200 Intelligence Summary was issued, including a note on Marsch Bttn (Appendix 24).
21st January – BOU ARADA.
0030 Enemy counter attacked p286 by moonlight with 18 tanks while Bttn was collecting wounded and preparing to evacuate as above.
Enemy infantry was carried on the back of some of the tanks. After very confused fighting, 2 LIR had to evacuate pt 286 and reform west of the main road. Pt 279 (it had been decided to retain) was reoccupied when the tanks had withdrawn. Infantry were very vulnerable to attack on pt 286 as it is a feature on which it is difficult to dig in without pneumatic drills.
The day was devoted to reorganisation and no activity was reported. 3 Grenadier Guards arrived in the area after dark and came under command 38 (Irish) Infantry Brigade with positions at pt 279 and south of Grandstand and patrols along main road Goubellat – Bou Arada.
2200 Brigade I.O. and Camp Commandant (with 19 ORs) moved to join Brigade Commander and Brigade Major at farm 629058 where Battle HQ was set up. Commander 152 Field Regiment with a skeleton HQ also moved into this position. The first hour of occupation was spent in bringing artillery fire to bear on tanks which were again reported to be moving in front of Grandstand and pt 286.
Lieut JF Harrison, 1 RIrF and 30 ORs arrived from HQ 6 Armoured Division. Lieut Harrison became an L.O. at Brigade HQ.
22nd January – BOU ARADA.
No contact during the day was made by our infantry. Enemy shelling of our front was observed but no damage reported.
1215 Enemy strength about one coy, came from north east to reoccupy pt 286¸but were repulsed by shell fire. 3 Grenadier Guards were forced by this threat to occupy “Stand To” positions on pt 279 and lost one killed and eleven wounded through hostile shelling and mortars.
During the enemy bombardment, our artillery successfully engaged farms 717107 and 667112.
1440 Two tanks appeared on pt 286 (apparently for observation) and immediately withdrew.
3 Grenadier Guards sent Captain Bonsor as L.O. to Brigade HQ.
Lieut TS Osborn (Cheshires) left Brigade HQ to be adjutant 2 LIR.
22nd / 23rd January – BOU ARADA.
Tanks again were head to the east. 3 Grenadier Guards continued laying mines in front of their position pt 279.
1 RIrF relieved 6 Innisks on Grandstand without incident.
Two Corporals of 3 Grenadier Guards on recce to Barka failed to return. A note on enemy night tank activity appears at Appendix 47.
23rd January – BOU ARADA.
Patrol body between 38 Brigade and 5 Northamptons was fixed at 14 Gridline. A directive on patrolling with tracing of patrol areas was sent to Bttns and 152 Field Regiment.
6 Armoured Division O.O. No 9 was received. “36 Brigade will hold rd block O.677877 on road Robaa – Pont du Fahs and road Si Said O 6781 to road junction 7173”.
A letter was issued on the establishment of Brigade Battle HQ. “Brigade Battle HQ will be established in area 640076 by 2300hrs 24 Jan’43 (Appendix 49).
23rd / 24th January – BOU ARADA.
Patrols were reported digging north east end of Rir Rabat (6609). Farm 672104 was occupied. Local patrols had no contact, but Hill 286 was lightly held.
24th January – BOU ARADA.
In consequence of a letter received from 6 Armoured Division a note on the “The destruction of immobilised enemy tanks and guns” were sent to Bttns, emphasising that RE personnel will not always be available for this vital task. A request was made for a bombing attack on suspected HQ at Farm 748154 as this was out of range of artillery fire (Appendix 51).
2200 Brigade Battle HQ moved to new location 640076.
2200 Brigade Intelligence Section arrived at Farm 629058.
2300 Remainder Advance Brigade HQ returned to Farm 553025.
24th / 25th January – BOU ARADA.
Artillery OP 589081 was raided by an enemy patrol strength 10, and the observing officer killed. On the Brigade front there was some tank movement and random MG fire and light cannon.
Area 6308 was shelled 0345 – 0415 hours.
Farm 672104 was reported quite strongly held. Valentine tank which had been used as enemy OP was destroyed at 661075.
25th January – BOU ARADA.
1000 Details of the night’s attack, inclusion conclusion and a “General Picture of 38 Brigade front” are to be found at Appendix 52.
Brigade dispositions on this date are shown at Appendix 53.
1245 6 Armoured Division O.O. No 9 “6 Armoured Division will operate offensively against enemy’s Line of Control to the south.” Para 5 giving the role of the Irish Brigade is given at Appendix 54.
On this day, the Brigade boundary was extended to include F 647047 and 3 Grenadier Guards were ordered to take over this Farm from the French in Bou Arada (Appendix 55).
1400 3 RAF Officers arrived for a short attachment to the Brigade. They were distributed to 3 Grenadier Guards, 6 Innisks and 1 RIrF.
1940 There had been considerable discussion since 18 Jan on the possibility of enemy occupying the high ground north west of the Brigade position and a message was received from 6 Armoured Division ordering steps to be taken to prevent this (Appendix 56).
2100 An Italian lorry was blown up on minefield 648090 having approached, apparently lost, from north east along the road. Identification gained was 31 Tank Battalion (Italian). Appeared to be a cook’s lorry.
2130 A deserter from Marsch Bttn A 24 gave himself up in gun lines (6306). He was taken to command post and interrogated by I.O. 3 Grenadier Guards.
2300 Brigade Intelligence Section returned to Farm 553025 and rejoined Brigade HQ.
2350 6 Innisks were ordered to provide standing patrols 649090 nightly (Appendix 57).
25th / 26th January – BOU ARADA.
Nothing to Report.
26th January – BOU ARADA.
There was no enemy activity throughout the day.
26th / 27th January – BOU ARADA.
Patrol 6 Innisks captured 3 PsWs of AR 90 at 685124, 0300 27 Jan. PsWs were a line party laying cable to a new CP (Appendix 59).
Farms 654123, 654129, and 672104 were reported occupied.
27th January – BOU ARADA.
0035 6 Armoured Division issued an order (Appendix 60) for 3 Grenadier Guards (then under command 38 Brigade) and 8 A & SH to change stations night 28/29 Jan.
1715 Brigade Intelligence Section complete moved to Command Post.
Lt Lavender, RASC was posted to this Brigade.
27th / 28th January – BOU ARADA.
Patrol reported Farm 672129 was still occupied, 3MGs were located on BARKA (6706) and talking was heard on reverse slopes.
28th January – BOU ARADA.
1000 Brigade Commander attended a Divisional Conference where orders were issued for re-grouping. 3 Grenadier Guards were not being relieved on leaving the Brigade area and 10 RB were to take up positions on the north rn flank.
A letter was sent to Bttns stressing the possibilities of inducing the enemy to desert. Copies of Afrika Post were enclosed (Appendix 61, 62).
The enemy had been found to be using Arabs equipped with bogus passes as spies. An example of a bogus pass was given in a Brigade letter warning Bttns of this danger (Appendix 63).
A letter from Commander 3 Grenadier Guards written on leaving the Brigade area was received.
Brigade Commander wrote D/O letter to Commanders 1 Guards Brigade and 3 Grenadier Guards (Appendix 64, 65a, 65b).
Brigade Order was issued for reliefs 28/29 and 29/30 Jan. This order was later cancelled as 1 Para Brigade which was due to take over the northern flank was diverted from the Brigade front (Appendix 66).
Message was received from 6 Armoured Division confirming that northern patrol boundary 38 Brigade has been extended to grid line 15.
1930 3 Grenadier Guards left Brigade area after dark. Positions were taken over by 6 Innisks.
2300 3 Tellermines were laid on rd Medjez – El Aroussa between A Echelon and A Echelon 1 RIrF (5214). A patrol of 1 RIrF reached Sidi Trade (7110) and inflicted 5 casualties. Farm 672104 was still occupied (Appendix 67). A patrol of 3 Grenadier Guards reported Barka probably held by 4 or 5 sections and OP destroyed at pt 286.
29th January – BOU ARADA.
During this day, a slight increase in enemy shelling was noticed. A general picture of the Brigade front was attached as Appendix 1 to Intelligence Summary (Appendix 68).
1000 Divisional Conference was held, at which plans were changed as shown in the orders issued.
1645 New orders were issued for the regrouping of 38 Brigade as 1 Para Bttn was not coming under command. Orders of 28 Jan were cancelled (Appendix 69).
6 Armoured Division O.O. No 10 was received. Intention: “6 Armoured Division will hold present positions from excl cross roads O 7669 to Djebel Rihane and will establish patrolling ascendency in front of these positions.” Policy was as follows: “The enemy will be dominated by energetic offensive patrolling and artillery fire. All positions will be thoroughly wired and mined and slit trenches developed into defensive localities. Position will be held by maximum use of LMG fire, which must be mutually supporting, and the minimum number of troops used, especially by day.” (Appendix 70).
152 Field Regiment O.O. No 4 was received. This gives the artillery plan on the Brigade front.
29th / 30th January – BOU ARADA.
Read adjustments (as per order of 29 Jan) were carried out without incident (Appendix 72).
30th January – BOU ARADA.
Divisional Commander visited battle HQ (640076).
30th / 31st January – BOU ARADA.
Patrols had no contact, but a position was reported on east end of One Tree Hill.
31st January – BOU ARADA.
0300 Messages were sent by 6 Armoured Division (repeated 38 Brigade) on 30 and 31 January ordering the move of an armoured regimental group south to Ebba Ksour N 95 night 31 Jan / 1 Feb. Coy 10 RB were included in the force (it had been found advisable to move elements of 6 Armoured Division to meet armoured threat in the southern sector).
0700 A warning order (ref above orders) was sent to 10 RB (Appendix 75). Appendix “A” to 38 Brigade Intelligence Summary for this day contained an interesting W/T intercept from HQ Koch and a note on Italian identifications at 648090 25 Jan (Appendix 73).
1730 Battle HQ and Rear Brigade HQ moved to establish a point Brigade HQ at Farm 592014. The movement was completed without incident.
2130 Policy on artillery activity in patrol areas was laid down by HQ RA. The object was to prevent own artillery from shelling our patrols (Appendix 76).
On this day, a “Personal Message from Commander 1st Army” was received (Appendix 78).
Moves of Brigade HQ – Jan ’43 – are given at Appendix 79.