2 LIR – May/June 1943

The stage was now set for the final thrust, and the 78th Division was given the task of covering the concentration of forces for the last drive towards Tunis.  The assembly of forces was uninterrupted and the attacks went in with great success.  By the evening of May 7, it was known that our armour had reached the outskirts of Tunis and in some places was fighting in the city itself.

The division then had to clear up Tunis, which meant the end of a job well done.

From a rise outside the port, Tunis glistening in the early sun looked calm and peaceful. Its minarets and mosques towered above the palm-trees and nothing less war-like could be imagined.  But in swift contrast which marred the beauty of the scene, there came along the main road a motley crowd of prisoners. They streamed along in thousands—dirty, bedraggled Italians, smarter-looking but more depressed Germans.  There were soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and they submitted passively to direction to hastily set up compounds.  The London Irish debussed at the entrance to Tunis with orders to clear up the dock area.  The Skins had to clear the rest of the town, while the Faughs took a wide sweep and entered Tunis from the south.

The troops were loaded with bombs, PIATs, mortars—all set for street fighting. But there was no street-fighting, the Bosche had no fight left in him.  Instead, the people of Tunis went mad with delight at their deliverance.  It was a day which the men of the Irish Brigade will never forget.

The three battalions pushed their way through the town and blocked the narrow strip of road to Cap Bon, about three miles outside Tunis.  Prisoners streamed in by their thousands.

After a few more days of desultory fighting in tidying up the approaches to Cap Bon, the campaign was over. G Company of the 2nd Battalion remained in Tunis, guarding hospitals and prisoner-of-war pens, rounding up stragglers, and in other duties.

Towards the end of May a Victory Parade was held, in which the battalion took part.  It marked the end of one period of the war and the beginning of another.  But it was inevitable that the magnificent scene, with the cheering crowds, the massed bands, the marching men and aircraft zooming overhead, made those who saw it or who took part think that perhaps the end of the whole war was just round the corner.

Many bitter months of fighting were however ahead, and for this the 2nd Battalion, after a brief rest, started intensive training.  Lieut.-Colonel T. P. D. Scott left the battalion to take up an appointment as Brigade Commander.  Joining the battalion in March 1943, he successfully overcame a very trying period brought about, no doubt, by the constant re-forming in the early days of Africa.  His place was taken by Lieut.-Colonel H. Rogers, previously Second-in-Command of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

General Montgomery inspected the battalion one evening just before Lieut.-Colonel Scott left.  The 78th Division had been transferred to the Eighth Army, and the reason for the Army Commander’s visit was that he might see the new men under his command.

He found the battalion fit and ready for its next task.

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