1st January – IN THE FIELD.
0800 CO holds conference in command post – fixes new Coy areas, which are to be dug in and fortified as it is understood the Bttn may be in this position for some time.
Pioneer officer spends days going round advising on defences in Coy areas and finding out what RE stores would be required.
1000 Field General Court Martial on Fusilier Denton and Fusilier Clemence for disobeying an order given by a superior officer. Major Gibbs 2 LIR is President. Both are found guilty and are awarded 56 days Field..
CO spends morning working out new patrolling policy.
Lieut McKee takes patrol to one old farm as standing OP and he remains until dusk.
1500 CO attends lengthy conference at Brigade to discuss patrolling within the Brigade which considers is not good.
1700 CO returns with new patrolling policy. Lieut McCaldin takes out patrol east of Goubellat with orders to be back by 0200 hrs, and beat up any Bosch he can find.
Lieuts McKee and McCaldin are warned to be ready to go out on 36 hr patrols tomorrow night into enemy territory.
1830 A Tunisian soldier is sent to us from Brigade to be attached. It is suggested he may be useful on patrols and will be able to find out information from French and Arabs. He cannot speak English.
CO, 2.i.c., Adjutant and N.O. have a guinea fowl for tea exchanged with the farmer for some of our rations. N.O. produces some hot punch which is greatly appreciated this very cold night. Two American officers who called looking for 18 Combat Group greatly appreciated it.
1800 Lieut McKee and 20 Fusiliers went out on a watching patrol with instructions to be in before first light. Capt Knaggs is still back with A Echelon on Steamroller Farm convalescing. He became run down through overwork and lack of sleep. The Signal platoon is overworked. With no increase in establishment when 19 sets were introduced puts a big strain on the platoon. It is decided to call in six more fusiliers and signals classes started today.
2nd January – IN THE FIELD.
0630 Lieut McCaldin returned and reported that he had not crossed the Goubellat – Bou Arada Rd. He disturbed some enemy this side of road an felt sure the Goubellat – Bou Arada road was under fixed line fire.
0630 Lieut McKee had nothing to report.
CO spends morning going around the Bttn position with Brigadier.
Daly spends morning waiting for RE Officer to arrive so they can go off and clear away Teller mines. RE officer does not turn up. Carriers at last get a day to maintenance. Much air activity in the afternoon probably to cover an… that the 26 Armoured Brigade are doing, It is good to see a little air supremacy. It is decided to dig a command post in the farm and the pioneers get busy.
1730 Lieuts McKee and Lieut McCaldin set off with 20 men each for 36 hrs to harass, ambush and inflict casualties upon enemy.
2100 Lt Page’s patrol returns but he did not get as far as was intended. Apparently the time allowed was insufficient for the job.
3rd January – IN THE FIELD.
0900 Brigade Major arrives with RE officer. Daly and party consisting of 3 carriers and pioneer Sgt go out to collect Teller mines from near cross roads at Goubellat. This is mainly for the purpose of bringing back the mines to distribute around the Brigade. No one seems to know a lot about Teller mines although all the Pioneers did a course with REs in Scotland.
Lieut Duke returned last night with lorry load of NAAFI stores about 100 cigarettes per man, beer, whisky, gin and sweets. 2.i.c. and he have busy day breaking bulk and distributing.
1800 It is decided to move Bttn HQ to command post at top of the hill in Goubellat. Although wet, CO car is taken up, also CO carrier. CO car will act as forward link when W/T on 19 set is opened up and carrier as rear link. The carrier is well dug in and can be used by night with lights.
Pioneers have been busy and beside our command post have built a fair signal office for adjutant staff. Lighting is laid on by signals and everyone is comfortable and much digging is still going on. The signal exchange is well established dug in on side of the hill.
A very cold and wet evening. Ground soon became very muddy.
1800 Lieut Page sets out with 20 ORs on patrol to seek out enemy, get prisoners and inflict casualties. If patrol successful before reaching objective to return (time 36 hrs).
4th January – IN THE FIELD.
0015 Lieut McCaldin returned, one of his patrol was killed at his OP. McCaldin seems to have done some excellent work and found out, with the aid of the Tunisian soldier with him, information about enemy positions. He withdrew from his position at 1430 3 Jan as enemy were closing in on him. They knew his position as he returned the fire when Fusilier Lunn was shot on the haystack. But before returning, he managed to retrieve the …from haystack.
1000 Information is received that Major Allen has been promoted Lt/Col and assumed command of Bttn wef 20 Dec 42 and Major J McCann is posted from this Bttn from 2 LIR and assumes the position of 2.i.c.
1800 Lt George goes out on 36 hr patrol with 20 ORs to search farms and inflict casualties on enemy.
5th January – IN THE FIELD.
0700 Lieut McKee is overdue but he was told to take longer if required and not to hurry.
1000 CO has conference with CO 2 LIR on patrolling and they put new suggestions to Brigade which are accepted in principle. The suggestions were: The night area will be patrolled in each Bttn in twins. “Stops” where small garrisons will be kept for the purpose of extricating a patrol in difficulties and giving patrols in forward areas a base further forward than Bttn defensive positions. The garrison at “stop” will be two platoons and Coy HQ and 2 pounder A/Tk gun and 19 W/T set. 6 Innisks and 2 LIR will always plan together except when specific orders are received from Brigade.
A report of Lieut Page’s patrol is related:
“The patrol left Bttn HQ at dusk – about 1800 hrs 3 Jan ’43 in unit transport and debussed at farm J 615194 and went on foot to 653179 and then SE on road. They found three rows of mines on a bridge and blew them up. They went three miles down the road and then marched on a bearing of 83 degrees magnetic and came to an impassable gully. Went along the gully for about a mile when an LMG opened up at close range. Cpl Wilson was shot while trying to get out a grenade and although wounded walked back to the HQ – about 10 miles – with the help of a fusilier. Cpl Wilson had a broken arm and wounded in chest and arms.
After Cpl Wilson was shot, Lieut Page ordered the 2” mortar to open up and it fired 12 rounds. This silenced the enemy and the patrol moved back about two miles, where it lay up in a farm until the morning. At about 0830hrs 4 Jan ’43 ten Germans were seen advancing on the position. Fire was opened and casualties were inflicted on the enemy. The patrol took cover in the haystacks and the enemy withdrew taking some wounded with them but leaving a German officer and 2 ORs on the ground. The officer was dead and Lieut Page went forward and collected some papers, pistol and binoculars off him. During this action, two of our fusiliers were injured. At about 0930 hrs the patrol decided to withdraw and left the farm in two sections, the forward section being 100 yards ahead. Soon afterwards, the forward section drew the attention of Mr Page (with the rear section) to 5 armoured cars approaching from the left rear with 40 infantrymen. Lieut Page went forward to the leading section which was now in a farm. This section was surrounded by the armoured cars but one fusilier withdrew and informed Sgt Beecham (with the rear section) that Lieut Page had been hit and collapsed. Sgt Beecham withdrew his section and returned to Bttn HQ. At 1550 hrs Capt Rowlette with a section of carriers and Sgt Beecham went to recce the area and with a view to giving possible assistance, but nothing was found. Arabs stated that Germans occupied the neighbouring farms in numbers nearly every night.
The strength of the patrol was Lieut Page, Sgt Beecham and 19 ORs.
Lieut Page was found in the farm owned by Mrs Nichant 665190 and evacuated to N.D.S. suffering from a wound in the head. The following casualties were also suffered: wounded and brought back – 2, missing and wounded – 1, missing – 7.”
No patrols were sent out 5/6 Jan except local protective patrols.
6th January – IN THE FIELD.
The new patrolling system was put into force and D Coy proceeded to “stop” at dusk and sent out 3 patrols. The patrols under Lieut McCaldin and Sgt Beecham searched farms but found nothing. Lieut Hodgson’s patrol was fired at with LMGs from each side of Goubellat – Bou Arada road from 25 yards range. There were 5 wounded – all were brought back.
Lieut McKee is now 48 hrs overdue. There has been no word of his patrol and the whole patrol of 1 officer and 20 ORs must be considered captured. It is possible that he was caught by armoured cars the same way as Lieut Page’s patrol. Lieut Duke is appointed Brigade Deception Officer.
7th January – IN THE FIELD.
1000 CO spends two hours with Brigadier at command post.
1200 CO briefs B Coy, who are doing patrols tonight. Lieut Duke arrives back from NAAFI with another supply of NAAFI goods. There is still a shortage of soap and note paper, especially envelopes. No green envelopes have yet arrived. These are most urgently required not only for the men but also for the overworked opps who have so much censorship to do.
1500 OCs 2 Lothians and 152 Field Regiment RA are taken up to our OP to view ground with special attention given to areas for tanks. Both arrive at top a little short of breath.
Capt Little, our Carrier Officer, is able to give them much valuable information. Neither the battery under command nor troop 2 Lothians has been able to help so far. They are all itching for a go.
The Bttn is now over 100 below strength. No reinforcements have yet arrived since we left Algiers on 1st Dec’42. These are greatly needed. Platoons are very short and the weapons now carried in a platoon make it hard work for the remaining fusiliers. Especially now being on position on top of a hill, the carrying of ..and rations falls on a very few.
At dusk, B Coy go out to “stop” and search out following standing patrols, Sgt Rultus and 10 fusiliers, Sgt O’Connor and 10 fusiliers, Sgt Glove and 10 fusiliers.
8th January – IN THE FIELD.
0300 Sgt Solly and Sgt Rultus have returned but have had no luck.
0500 Sgt O’Connor is now 2 hrs overdue. The carrier platoon is laid on to go out at dusk with Sgt Solly and Rultus to recce area and find Sgt O’Connor.
0705 Carriers go out and find Sgt O’Connor. He had got lost twice and decided to wait until first light. Probably this was a correct move.
0930 CO and Brigadier brief C Coy who are going out patrolling tonight.
1215 CO leaves for Brigade. He is going to Teboursouk for an address by the Army Commander.
1315 One platoon of D Company goes to 1 Field Ambulance where a bath apparatus has been put at their disposal and it is greatly appreciated.
1730 CO returns and sees C Coy at Bttn Admin HQ before they set off.
1800 CO called to Brigade for conference.
C Coy leave for “stop” and send out two standing patrols under Lieut Buck and Sgt Solly and a small patrol of Lieut Andrews and two fusiliers to recce. All three patrols returned at 0300hrs and 0400hrs as ordered with nothing to report.
2100 CO holds O Group conference at Bttn HQ. Twelve people squash into dug out and receive orders.
The Bttn is under 6 hrs notice to move to El Aroussa where a possible German breakthrough is contemplated. B Coy is under 2 hrs notice to move out – rest of Bttn at 6 hrs notice wef 0400hrs 9 Jan ’43.
9th January – IN THE FIELD.
0915 CO attends conference at Brigade. Recce party consisting of CO, IO, 3 drs, 1 rep per platoon, 2 unit personnel Lieut Daly and RSM go recce after conference.
Rest of Bttn have quiet morning with no patrolling for possible move. Lieut Daly has been appointed heavy gun officer. Four Vickers M/Gs have been allowed to Bttn. So he now commands mortars, 2 pounder A/Tk platoon and Vickers.
There is some difficulty in finding 12 men capable of handling the Vickers. 12 men are eventually picked with A/Cpl McGowan in charge. Lieut Hodgson Cheshire Regiment and therefore late machine gunner gets the teams together.
Recce party returns at 1700 hrs. CO attends conference at Brigade at 1915 hrs. 2 LIR are doing patrols tonight and the Bttn merely does local protective patrolling.
A quiet night in which at least a fair amount of sleep is had by most people.
10th January – IN THE FIELD.
CO holds conference of O Group at 0900 hrs in Bttn Admin HQ in farm. Bttn at 2 hrs notice to move. It will be a difficult job. The hill is now a sea of mud after 5hrs of rain during the night. IO called to conference at Brigade HQ 1130hrs.
1000 An explosion is heard in C Coy area. A truck has blown up and it is found that Lieut Andrews has been killed. Also one fusilier. Cpl Christie, who was 60 yards away, receives an eye injury. It is expected that the Bttn will move tonight. It is decided to form Coy dumps at bottom of hill and Bttn HQ is moved into Bttn admin farm. It has rained hard all the morning and difficulty is experienced in getting guns and vehicles down the hill.
1500 Padre buries the remains of Lieut Andrews and Fusilier Beggs in Bttn HQ farm.
CO writes operations order which he dictates to L/Cpl Slewson (HQ Coy clerk).
Coys busy all afternoon sliding down hill with Coy dumps.
2359 Warning order: Bttn will move at 0200hrs. CO to be at Brigade 2359hrs.
2345 CO leaves for Brigade with I.O. Coys warned to vacate hill and concentrate around their Coy dumps on road. Coy vehicles (two per Coy and W/T truck) are ordered up.
11th January– IN THE FIELD.
0115 CO see 2.i.c. Coys Capt Little who were to go out on recce and takes the recce party forward to recce possibly at 0200 hrs (see att O.O. order). Coy 2 LIR are to take on the Bttn position. D Coy cannot move until it arrives.
0200 No sign yet of TCVs which Brigade has ordered up. It is confirmed that only 16 will be available instead of 20 as 4 have been bogged in treacherous slippery roads.
0315 13 TCVs arrive (three more having been bogged) owing to bad road and dark night.
0400 Bttn moves off for a tricky drive of about 25 miles to be attached to 26 Armoured Brigade via El Aroussa.
0715 Bttn arrives in dribs and drabs at debussing point west of Bou Arada.
0915 Bttn is reported all in less than one platoon of B Coy which is not yet unbogged.
A minimum of transport is brought up. The rear link Gin Palace is not considered as a vehicle to bring into forward areas. The forward link 8 cat is therefore used as rear link and CO carrier as forward link. CO carrier unfortunately broke down before a mile had been covered and forward link is transferred to D Coy 19 set.
1025 CO and I.O. with party return from recce. The Bttn comes under command 26 Armoured Brigade Gp.
1035 The Bttn moves forward on foot about 5 miles to take over front..taken for the enemy this morning. The Bttn moves up with about 100 yds between sections and 300 yards between Coys. D, A & B in that order going via Bou Arada and C Coy across country west of Bou Arada.
1115 Bttn HQ consisting of CO and I.O. in AA 8 cwt. Adjutant in rear link move up to Bttn HQ.
1200 Message received for CO to see Brigadier at 1230.
1215 Coys arriving in Coy areas. The Bttn takes up position astride Bou Arada – Goubellat road. D forward on left of road. C on forward slopes of road with B on their right and A further back covering right or left rear flank. Bttn in A Coy area.
Coys set to work to dig themselves in. “Dig or die” being the motto. Much to be accomplished in the next 48 hrs to make Bttn safe from counter attack.
1500 I.O. interviews two British war correspondents.
1530 Battery Commander D Coy 12 RHA arrived and tied up ends about defence of guns, D/F etc. CO goes around Coys during afternoon but is cut short with order to proceed to Brigade HQ at 1630hrs.
1700 CO returns with news that Bttn is going to put in an attack on Two Tree Hill . O group conference is ordered and as much rest for remainder as role allows.
A wet night.
12th January – IN THE FIELD.
A busy day preparing for the attack tomorrow. Zero is fixed for 0545hrs 13 Jan ’43. It is not expected that a great deal of opposition will be met. Six reinforcement officers arrive posted to Coys as shown : Lt Hampen, HQ Coy 2 i.c. Weapons Platoon and Vickers MMGs, Lt Moorhouse to A, Lt Harland to B, Lt Dicker to C, Lt Dawson to D, Lt …to Carrier Platoon.
All Coy and Platoon Commanders look at Two Tree Hill and go around it from C Coy area during the afternoon. Sgt Lloyd the ..Sgt goes out at dusk and recces track that will be the Bttn axis of advance.
CO has strenuous day tying up ends especially with the supporting arms and the heavy artillery programme that is laid on.
2200 CO holds conference for O Group and all supporting arms. This conference lasts for some time. CO went to Brigade for conference at 1800 hrs and does not get back until after 2200hrs. An appalling night. Thunderstorms and tropical downpours and gale. All roads became almost impassable with mud. The wind plays havoc with conference room. The lamps keep going out – blackout is impossible and the maps blow about the room. It is thought owing to the state of the ground, the attack may have to be postponed.
13th January – IN THE FIELD.
Capt Little is afraid the carriers will not be able to function. During night two Coys 1RIrF under Major Horsfall take over Bttn position.
0100 FOO arrives and joined Coys.
0445 Final Coordinating Conference. By this time, the worst of the storm was over but the ground was in a terrible state.
0515 Rum issue.
Extract from orders is marked ‘A’ and attached as Appendix.
Orders are marked ‘B’ and attached as Appendix B.
0545 Two forward Coys, C on right and by Capt Ferris and D on left, and by Capt Rowlette cross start line on time. Bttn HQ followed behind the leading Coys along the track which was to be the axis of advance of Carriers as follows:
First Carrier – CO, Adjutant, 2 Signallers and driver with 19 set as rear link and 18 set as forward link.
Second Carrier – CO 12 RHA.
Third Carrier – Signals Officer and 3 Signalmen and spare 18 sets.
Fourth Carrier – 2.i.c. and 2 Signalmen.
Fifth Carrier – I.O. and 2 Signalmen.
Sixth Carrier – Sgt Lloyd… Actually this carrier led the way as Sgt Lloyd knew the track.
Bttn HQ was followed by A Coy right and by Major Bunch and B Coy left commanded by Capt Spencer.
1530 The withdrawal to our position was by now complete. The Bttn was ordered back to farms west of Bou Arada….were packed in Coy transport and Coys marched off. The last Coy leaving before dark. The Bttn took over farms from Rifle Brigade, who were most helpful and thoughtful and did everything in their power to assist.
The officer casualties during the battle – Lieut Warren killed, Capt Ferris wounded, Lieuts Buck, George, Strickland and Poer Power also wounded. Of the other ranks, 11 were killed, 55 wounded and 16 missing. CSM Stevenson was also wounded.
14th January – IN THE FIELD.
The Bttn spends the day sorting itself out. All ranks are situated in comfortable farms found for us by 10RB. Brigadier 26 Armoured Brigade and Divisional Commander visit Bttn during afternoon and the story of the battle is gone through on flannel model by various ranks, who were on the spot. The Divisional Commander says a few words to Bttn on the “Good Show” they had put up.
15th January – IN THE FIELD.
Bttn spends another day on admin.. and prepares to move forward again at dark to take up its old position on Grandstand Hill and relieve 2 Coys 1 RIrF and 1 Coy 10 RB. The takeover is completed without incident. The Coy lay out is as follows: A Coy right forward and flank slopes, C Coy along Grandstand ridge racing Two Tree Hill and B Coy left slopes with D Coy behind and across road Bou Arada – Goubellat covering the road and flanks of A and B Coys.
16th January – IN THE FIELD.
The day is spent wiring and mining the position. The Bttn area is shelled.
17th January – IN THE FIELD.
Wiring and mining continues. A Brigade plan is being hatched for the attack on Two Tree Hill by 1 RIrF and 2 LIR with 6 Innisks in reserve – for night of 18 Jan ’43. Bttn position is again shelled but only slight casualties are caused. All ranks have dug efficient slit trenches.
18th January – IN THE FIELD.
0730 Enemy started to attack C Coy from east and south east of Grandstand Hill. Estimated enemy strength 3 Coys.
0735 B Coy also engaged.
0745 Two enemy armoured cars were seen entering farm 648101. These were engaged by our artillery.
0830 Enemy have occupied Whog Hill, having failed to work south flank of one position. We were later heavily mortared from this position.
0845 Capt Spencer was killed by mortar shell. Capt Daly is sent to command Coy as Capt Wise has also been wounded.
0910 Coy 1 RIrF is sent to cross our flank and position there appears secure.
1015 Our north flank reported to be well held. Enemy infantry who tried to penetrate between B and D Coys were engaged by artillery and suffered heavy casualties. Enemy on high ground to the east were also killed.
1100 To enable 6 Innisks to sweep the front of position in front of Grandstand Hill. A Coy RIrF moved to 649081.
1200 Situation had quietened down and enemy appeared pinned to the ground although they had managed to bring up and put into position several MMG posts, and occupied Plough Hill. By 1225, Plough Hill had been heavily shelled.
1225 Squadron 17/21 Lancers were put under command and D Coy proceeded to sweep the gully to the east of Grandstand Hill. It was found necessary to employ A Coy however and it was not until 1550hrs that the spur and gully were reported clear. 15 POW were taken in this sweep.
1540 No enemy were now apparent to the west but now had established a Coy with 4 MGs in front of Grandstand.
1555 Whog Hill was heavily shelled by our artillery.
1650 A Coy 1 RIrF commanded by Major Duffy, under command 6 Innisks with 1 troop of Lothians went out to clear Wog Hill. The tanks returned at 1300hrs with prisoners but the Coy did not return until 1830hrs. Major Murphy was killed and Capt Barstow Coy 2.i.c. missing.
Dusk found the Bttn still intact on their hill. Heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy and 28 POWs were taken. Identification found I and III Bttns Hermann Goering Regiment, also II Marsch..Bttn. All prisoners were willing to talk and all remarked on the weight and accuracy of our artillery, which they said was deadly.
Despite the fact one farm was shelled consistently all day – our casualties were fairly light. The exact figure being Capt Spencer and 8 ORs killed. Capt Wise and 21 ORs wounded and 9 ORs wounded.
Sitrep report sent in at 1900hrs is marked “D” and attached.
2350 C Coy reported green Verey light from Wog village and they can hear tanks.
D Coy R IrF is put under command. They take over D Coy positions and D Coy 6 Innisks take up position behind and to the left of A Coy.
19th January – IN THE FIELD.
0040 Three enemy tanks heard going south in front of C Coy position on Grandstand.
0057 Enemy shell Bttn area.
0122 Any immediate danger seems past.
D Coy change over is completed.
0505 Message sent to all Coys, that where not in sight of enemy, Coys will strengthen and improve wire and generally check up defences.
0820 Lieut Uppington, Fusilier Fielden, and a section of B Coy sent out to recce area in front of Grandstand.
0925 C Coy patrol is in. No movement in Whog Village. There are about 9 Germans dead in front of 14 Platoon’s position. Lt Duggan is going out to investigate and bring in what he can.
1150 Resting in Command Post to discuss attack on Pt 286, a pimple south of Bttn position. Following attended the conference: CO, I.O., 2.i.c., Major Bunch (OC A Coy), and Colonel Barstow (and RHA).
1415 Two stretcher bearers of 1 RIrF bring in Capt Barstow, who had been missing from yesterday’s attack.
1425 Zero for artillery attack. Report of attack is marked E and attached in Appendix. Capt Hogan, who had only arrived from 1st reinforcements the night before and Lieut Hewitt were wounded. 3 ORs were killed and 4 wounded.
1605 Brigadier sees Coy in and congratulates them on a perfect attack.
1606 Bttn is attacked by Stukas but no casualties are reported. Bttn was given warning (that) raid might take place by Brigade half an hour before the raid took place.
1612 Three tanks return and take up hulled down formation behind position behind C Coy.
The Bttn was again shelled during the day.
20th January – IN THE FIELD.
2 LIR attack Pt 286, which had been re-occupied by enemy. The whole attack could be seen from this Bttn position.
0815 Four prisoners from 3 Coy A/24 Marsch Bttn are sent to us for onward transmission to Brigade.
0834 LIR are on second objective.
0906 Things do not look too good and LIR seem to be withdrawing from the objective. They were driven off by tanks but another Coy is going in.
0927 Bttn was dive bombed. One plane crashed in front of B Coy position but in enemy ground.
0937 A Squadron 17/21 Lancers help 2 LIR attack from hulled down position and further help is on the way from 26 Armoured Brigade.
0950 2 LIR are again on Pt 286.
1120 Pt 286 appears to be task for both sides and enemy are withdrawing. Artillery is brought down on theirs. The artillery fire appeared to inflict many casualties.
1135 Enemy withdrawn direction Mahala with our artillery still chasing them.
1225 We sent stretcher bearers to help 2 LIR.
1255 Stuka attack. One bomb appeared to fall on Pt 286 the rest on the smoke screen we had prepared.
1300 A few LIR appear to be on Pt 286.
1308 LIR are dive bombed and shelled.
1350 We send a very talkative person to Brigade – he is a medical student. Reports he had been in Russia, but our artillery here is the worst experienced. If it continues, there will be wholesale desertions.
1415 2 LIR report 1st objective being held. 2nd objective is free of enemy.
1600 2 LIR occupy Pt 286 with one platoon.
1800 CO and Adjutant attend conference at Brigade for attack on enemy by 3 Grenadier Guards. This plan is cancelled half way through the conference.
2000 CO and Adjutant visit 2 LIR. They are trying to reorganise. They have lost all Coy Commanders.
21st January – IN THE FIELD.
0045 Report from 2 LIR that Pt 286 and Pt 279 are being attacked by enemy tanks.
0110 Tanks are now reported on road Bou Arada – Goubellat.
0115 The Bttn sends out tank hunting parties armed with sticky grenades and 75 grenades. Our tanks are ordered not to move in order to save confusion.
0230 Twelve enemy tanks seem to be sorting themselves out near 2 LIR HQ on road Bou Arada – Goubellat.
0300 Enemy tanks withdraw between Grandstand Hill and Pt 286 under a barrage of artillery 4.2 Mortar Besas etc.
Our position was shelled intermittently all day yesterday.
Grenadier Guards are attached to Brigade and take over Pt 279 and Pt 286.
Heavy shelling of our position all day.
22nd January – IN THE FIELD.
Heavy shelling of our position continues. 1 RIrF are to retrieve us tonight.
1100 CO 1 RIrF arrives and holds conference during shelling attack. One Coy Commander 1 RIrF is blown out of slit trench but is only badly shaken.
1830 Take over starts. 1 Platoon at a time by Coys.
1955 D Coy take over is complete
2100 B Coy take over is complete.
2225 A Coy take over is complete.
23rd January – IN THE FIELD.
0100 Enemy track vehicle heard to the north of Grandstand.
0115 C Coy take over complete.
0120 Take over complete reported to Brigade.
0345 Bttn now in new position on left of road. B Coy on pt guarding road and right flank. A Coy in centre and C Coy on left with D now only 50 strong in reserve and guarding the rear with counter attack role.
A quiet day. CO spends day going round positions and OPs and checking up Mortar and Vickers tasks.
24th January – IN THE FIELD.
Another quiet day checking up and wiring positions.Lt McVie and 13 ORs arrived as 1st reinforcement. Lt McVie posted to D Coy.
2120 Automatic fire, believed (to be) enemy heard in front of B Coy old position.
2205 Slight activity in general direction 1 to 1 1/2 miles east of road. Guards report it is probably some of their boys.
2330 Brigade establish a battle HQ 1000 yards south of Bttn position.
2335 B Coy report noise of a tank forward of their position near the road.
25th January – IN THE FIELD.
0335 A, B and C Coy positions shelled. Cpl Sills and two ORs RE with 4.2” Mortar are killed.
0405 A and B report they are still being shelled, a smoke screen has been put down in front of their position and a tank can be heard.
0650 Mortar Officer reports a direct hit on his Mortar behind A Coy. This is where his two men were killed.
Owing to rain, skid chains were put on all vehicles during the night.
A quiet day. Slight shelling of position during evening.
0930 CO talks to Platoon Sergeants on general and local situation explains line of control 2000 miles long – value of shipping space – necessity of sabotage – patrol time of vital importance – strip dead and wounded of fighting equipment. He told them that the strength of each side was about equal about 100000 men each but we have more artillery. Told them to look after reinforcements – to keep in their holes during shelling and be safe – patrols must stay out for the time ordered – self inflicted wounds must stop – we have had six cases recently. Up to NCOs to watch for suspicious cases. Rest – necessity of organisation. Booby traps use care.
1430 Coy Commanders’ Conference. Tells them Gunner OP was scuppered during the night in the hills behind us – no signaller will validate a message on W/T without authority of an officer – explains position and doings of troops around the Bttn areas – Coys to have tank busting parties always ready. Lt Daly and 4.2” mortar Officer Lt Hagan to re-site 4.2” Mortars and report to CO – Rest must be organised better. It has been decided to start a Bttn rest centre at A Echelon. Baths – see everyone has one in well near D Coy positions. Bttn must always be prepared to move at short notice – don’t get too dug in and immobile. Coys to have two or three vehicles in Coy area – MTO to truck them during the next 48 hrs.
1530 Staff Captain O’Farrell calls and asks if we have any queries. …used on orders last night will be replaced today.
26th January – IN THE FIELD.
0930 CO talked to reps from reinforcements – Dig or die – don’t be like the chap if one has run – profit by experience of others – take cover and lie down when shelling starts – patrol leaders to study maps in I.O. office before going out. Thick pants will be got for all.
1000 Conference of Coy Commanders ends – tied up for B Coy patrol party tonight.
1500 Adjutant attends conference at Rear Brigade HQ to discuss possible move. Difficulty of bringing all Brigade F-Echelon and TCVs into present areas. Parties arranged for all Bttns.
1930 Adjutant and 7 ORs from 14 Platoon go back on rest in lorry to A Echelon for 48 hrs, rest at Bttn rest camp. QM has erected two 160 lb 1 B tents..baths and showers. The first night, the party get a hot drink and bed
27th January – IN THE FIELD.
Next morning is spent sorting kit and bathing. Afternoon is a kit exchange – weapons checked by Sgt Ganett, carrier Sgt. Boots repaired and studded. Evening spent writing letters, playing cards and reading old newspapers and magazines. Clothes are washed in the stream. Envelopes are in very short supply – only overseas supplies can be obtained from NAAFI. Capt Kendal’s ..never stops playing. QM has good quiet..going and there is no doubt this 48hrs rest does the men all the good in the world.
28th January – IN THE FIELD.
Another quiet day – little enemy shelling. Much time is spent sorting out 99 reinforcements, who arrived last night – many alterations necessary in the NCO promotion roll.
29th January – IN THE FIELD.
A quiet morning – usual 10 o’clock Coy Commanders’ conference to discuss the night’s patrols. It is thought the Parachute Bttn may be coming in behind us tonight and taking over C Coy position.
1200 CO attends conference at advanced Brigade HQ.
1500 O Group conference. The Bttn will move a little further south after dark in a general reshuffle of positions and patrolling areas. Patrolling areas are now: 1 RIrF east and north of rd Goubellat – Bou Arada, 10 RB west and north of the road and this Bttn south as far as Bou Arada exclusive.
C Coy will be relieved by Coy 10 RB, who will take over position from F Coy 2 LIR. B Coy will remain in present location – with larger area and come under command 1 RIrF. A Coy will withdraw to Nullah J 633058 by day and patrol farms north of Bou Arada by night. D Coy will withdraw and take over position held by Coy 1 RIrF. They will hold Pt 279 J 6506 by night and withdraw to culvert by day. At night C and D Coys will send out patrols to Mehalla and Barka areas.
2115 Coy 10 RB arrived to take over final Coy. They were supposed to have arrived about 1800hrs in order to complete move before full dark.
2130 Brigade and F Coy 2 LIR told changeover would be later than expected.
Between 2115hrs and 2200hrs there is some concern about D Coy. They have not reported going to take over. It eventually turns out that their wireless and signal operators were hurt..enemy shelling and they had no communication.
2215 D Coy report they have taken over.
2210 A Coy move completed.
Advance Bttn HQ with 2.i.c. and I.O. moved off to new areas at 1920hrs.
30th January – IN THE FIELD.
0115 C Coy report they have handed over.
0220 Bttn HQ leaves for new positions and CO calls at Advance Brigade HQ on the way – sees Brigadier and reports move completion. Bttn HQ is now in Nullah with A Coy to the south and C Coy to the north. It is thought the enemy is so far unaware of Nullah. Any how it has not been shelled. It would appear to be a fairly safe place – all the same we are rather thick on the ground.
1000 CO held his usual conference to arrange the nightly patrols and their administrative matters. Reinforcements have arrived without their 48hr tin rations. They say they were never issued with them. CO & I.O. go round the Bttn area during morning and afternoon.
A very warm day – the warmest so far after the coldest night.
Orders received that the Brigade will take up a better position in the hills to our rear.
31st January – IN THE FIELD.
CO Conference for Coy Commanders at 1000hrs. Support Coy consisting of Mortars, A/Tk and Vickers with a Coy HQ is finally fixed and men transferred to it to complete it from Rifle Coys. Capt Daly is in charge of the Coy with Sgt Fenwick appointed acting unpaid local W/O II as CSM. Padre holds his last service during the morning. He reports to SCF this afternoon and we will get a new padre tomorrow.
A beautifully warm day after another cold night. CO sees D Coy during the morning and goes round with Capt Daly looking at the position of the support weapons.
A very quiet afternoon. The troops, especially A, C & D Coys who patrol all night make the most of a sleep in the sun. Adjutant visits M.O. and M.O. 1 RIrF, who are sharing a farm.
1000 CO holds his usual conference of Coy Commanders to discuss the night’s patrolling and any other points that might arise. It is decided that only recce parties will go out tonight from C/D Coys with 1 Office, 1 Sgt, 1 Cpl to get the lie of new patrol areas and find a way through the minefield.
CO spends a very busy day tracing the Coy areas sighting weapons and liaising 10 RB.
1130 Divisional Commander and Brigadier arrive and talk to CO who just arrives back in time. Divisional Commander asked 2.i.c. what the Bttn would like best of all at this moment. Answer – Rest and sleep.
M.O. starting a course for stretcher bearers. At the moment we are eight deficient despite the fact the M.O. did run courses before leaving Scotland.
Lt Nethersill and 9 ORs, 1 Parachute Bttn, are attached to this unit for a few days to go out on patrol or anything else we can find for them.