History of 'DD' Battery, Royal Horse Artillery
Chapter 3 - Mareth to Tunis, North Africa, then home.
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|Chapter 4||Chapter 5|
|March, 1943||On Arrival in the Medenine area the Regiment went into action immediately in a defensive position north-west of the town. The 3rd and 5th R.H.A. were already in action north and north-west respectively, and as the 2nd R.H.A. went in west of the town the only regiment R.H.A. missing was the 1st. now converted to 105 mm American self-propelled guns (" Priests ") and gone to join the 9th Army in Syria.|
|17th March, 1943|| B.S.M.
Sunderland left the Battery on promoted to R.Q.M.S., having served as a B.S.M, in the Battery since its birth. He was succeeded by B.S.M, Overy,
the B.S.M. of " C " Troop.
News reached us that Bdr. Whitley's job at home now is making speeches to workers in factories all over the British Isles. He should be a good ambassador for the Battery for the Regiment.
For a week the Regiment remained in action round Medenine, each battery amusing itself with forward sections harassing any movement in the mountain position opposite. These were part of the Matmata range and extended down from the Mareth line farther north. The main feature opposite our sector were Saikra and Remtsia (Square 58), both occupied by the 164th German Infantry Division. The enemy was as quiet and elusive as ever on the high feature, and although we knew he was there in strength from night patrols, no amount of gazing through telescopes and glasses revealed as much as a glimmer of an O.P. However, in the passes and wadis occasional small parties of men were seen, usually mine laying on tracks, and the forward section bad tome amusing little shoots during the week.
|20th March, 1943|| The 50th
Division attacked the Mareth line proper across the Wadi Zigzaou, and the
1st and 7th Armoured Division were scheduled to go through once the
bridgehead was established, However, after taxing all the objectives, the
50th Division were heavily counter-attacked by 15th Panzer, and because
they bad not been able to get their anti-tank guns across the very
difficult wadi they were pushed back again and the situation was aa before
except that they had definitely drawn a large number of German tanks up to
the north and consequently away from the New Zealand Division, then in the
middle of their " left hook " sixty miles south.
1st Armoured Division were switched down to catch up the New Zealand Division and 8th Armoured Brigade and exploit their attack. The march right round through Foum Tatahouine took two days and three nights, with not more than three hours' sleep. The route led south from Foum Tatahouine for twenty-five miles and then west through Wilder's Gap (Square K49) involved crossing some enormous wadis, about half a mile to a mile wide, where there was a safe lane through the mines. At each of these there was a long queue of vehicles of all units waiting to go through, and a consequent delay of two or three hours. The general feeling was one of fury against whichever staff officer had organised (or failed to organise) the march of the Division. Instead of allowing five or six hours' halt for sleep every night and then arranging a time-table for units to cross the defiles and wadis during the day, nothing was laid on except orders to go on marching day and night until the arrival to the other end. Anyone who had been long in the dessert knew only too well that in going which is at all difficult you can cover ground about five times as fast by day as by night because you can see the patches of soft land before you drive into them.
|26th March, 1943||
The result was that the Regiment eventually reached the New
Zealand position (Square D87) o the morning of 26th March, with everybody
dog-tired and a big programme of shooting to be fired that afternoon in support
of the New Zealand attack. However, the Survey Officer, Lieut. R, Atkinson,
formerly Jerboa Battery, soon had the Regiment on the New Zealand grid, and the
gunners put their backs into digging in and the fire plan was out to troops
with about an hour to spare.
At 4 p.m. the attack went in, supported by a barrage from the New Zealand Divisions guns and by concentrations from own, and preceded by half an hour's mass bombing of the enemy's positions The attack, later described by General Montgomery as " terrific,
Absolutely terrific," was an overwhelming success and as one New Zealander coming back wounded put it, " Its been a great day for the Kiwis, we went right through them," Immediately its programme was finished the Divisional artillery limbered up and moved off in rear of the Division, then already bursting through the hole to El Hamma. There were five lanes of advance and the Regiment filled the three centre ones, moving behind 2nd R.H.A. Jerboa very luckily had the centre one behind R.H.Q. and coinciding with the main road, a good hard surface. During the night march various enemy guns and tanks were firing into the columns in an ineffective attempt to blind harassing. Although we were the centre lane, some of the guns seemed incredibly near, but none were seen and no shells landed unpleasantly close
|27th March, 1943||
Dawn broke and found the head of the division near its
objective line, Djebel Halouga (Square Z or z) - Djebel Aziza (Y92). Very soon
things began to happen and a commotion started at the rear of the column, where
the 76th Anti-Tank Regiment formed the rearguard with the Northumberland Fusiliers (M.G. Battalion).
The 21st Panzer Division was attacking with about twenty tanks in order obviously to cut the axis if not to cut up the Divisional " soft skins " moving to the rear. " ZZ " Battery (Major Crouch), R.H.A., of the 76th Anti-Tank Regiment, had a most successful engagement, destroying several tanks and 88 mms and completely repulsing the attack.
However, the Armoured Brigade was held up before Hamma by a strong anti-tank screen, and the Division remained here all that day (27th) and the next, the Motor Brigade exploiting the hole to the east and the guns firing divisional concentrations on to the main enemy areas all round El Hamma. This two day halt was disappointing to everyone, especially when news arrived that Rommel was evacuating the Mareth line. We had hoped to cut through to the sea and cut off all the Mareth line evacuees, but now we had missed the chance.
|28th March, 1943||Meanwhile the New Zealanders and 8th Armoured Brigade were battling towards the coast and Gabes through another gap farther south along the Wadi Mertoba, and they reached Gabes on Sunday night just behind the enemy rearguard and in time to seize several German mine-laying parties'. They had wiped out the Pistoia (Italian) Division and a good part of the 164th German Division. Lieut. Mather and Sergt. Bonser each captured a German prisoner today. Our Division had never put in a full-scale attack on El Hamma and no one could understand why. The only explanation forthcoming was that the 2nd R.B. had reporting on the morning of the 28th that vehicles were pouring into the village from the east at the rate of four a minute. Whether this may have been appreciated by our High Command as a reinforcement in strength we never discovered, but what it afterwards transpired to be was the evacuation of the enemy from the south-east up the track through EL Hamma where they didn't stop at all. Even if " Tac. R. " couldn't spot this at the time it was a logical conclusion reached by many of us when we heard the 2nd R.B. report.|
|29th March, 1943||Through El Hamma at daybreak unopposed, it having been evacuated during the night, but with the rather damping sunrise that the bulk of the 90th Light and the formidable Ramcke group had got away to the next position stride the Wadi Akarit, about fifteen miles north of Gabes (Z 0535)' which indeed proved to be the case. During the afternoon, amids heavy rainstorms, the Regiment came into action behind the 11th H.A.C. (S.P. 105 guns) in support of the Armoured Brigade, held up by a strong rearguard in the sand dunes on a line running east from the big lake Sebkret el Hamma.|
|30th March, 1943||
The rearguard having withdrawn into the Djebel Zemlet el
Beiba during tine night, our armour side-stepped right about seven miles (Point
82. Z1347), followed hotfoot by the faithful Div. R.A., and tried to make
progress towards Djebel Roumna (Square Z15), but without much success.
Meanwhile the Motor Brigade sent strong patrols during the night into the mountain passes to try for a weak spot. There was a most unfortunate occurrence here when the 7th R.B. attacked the main road pass (Y9846) with the whole battalion and no artillery support, the result of an apparent misunderstanding between the Battalion Commander and Brigadier Bosville, commanding the Motor Brigade. It was repulsed with heavy loss to
the battalion, and next day " C " Battery was rushed back to the sand dune area near the great lake to help get out the wounded from the pass. " F " remained away to the east, and Jerboa followed " C " to a very exposed area in the sand dunes with the mountains only two and a half miles away, Here we spent a thoroughly unpleasant week harassing the mountains, which could see everything except our actual guns dug in behind sand dunes. Both troops were in a semi-covered position, and it was only a question of a few feet for the positions to be open ones.
If the enemy had had the counter-battery organised properly he must have punished us severely; as it was only " C " troop had to move to an alternative position (Z0643). During the week spent here the Battery had two killed and eight wounded, which was light considering the amount of shelling on to the guns.
Several shoots were done from the Command Post itself on to the enemy O.Ps. in the hills opposite, and on one occasion Capt. Sainsbury in the forward O.P. had a very amusing shoot on to a day patrol of four men who tried to stalk him through the corn. He probably killed one of the four.
" C " Troop O.P. was right away on the south of the lake on a little knoll in the middle of the dunes, (Y9636) from which a fine view was visible to the west as well as north through the main road pass. What was rather unique about it was that it was only approachable from the guns by going right back through El Hamma, ten miles in all.
The enemy made full use of their long-barrelled 170 mm. guns shelling the landing-ground and village of El Hamma and also Battery Rear H.Q. south of the El Hamma - Gabes road. In the gun line we wed to hear their big guns go off on the other side of the mountain range and then the shells tearing over our heads towards the office and " Q." Stores, five miles behind. As there was never a wireless set open in Rear H.Q. we could never warn them what was coming to them
|5th-6th April, 1943|| During
the night the 4th Indian Division put in a silent attack on Djebel Fatnana,
the big feature dominating the pan at the east end of the mountain range.
This attack was the crowning achievement of this famous division after
three years hard fitting in North and East Africa, and their immediate
success was followed at dawn by attacks by 50th Northumbrian and 51st
Highland Divisions on the right of the Indians and inclusive to Djebel
Roumana (usually known as Roumania).
The Regiment took no part in these attacks except to lend O.Ps. scotching up in the Indian sector and to harass more vigorously on our own western sector. All day on the 6th the battle raged, and news filtered through the sandstorm in dribs and drabs. Some Fighting French from Lake Chad arrived alongside the gun line during the night.
|7th April, 1943||By next morning all attacks had been pressed home and consolidated, and the armour, a usual, began to pour through the hole, in this case two holes, the Fatnana pass for our Division and the Roumana pass for the 8th Armoured Brigade and New Zealand Division. But we hung on all day waiting for the word go, and it was a stroke of luck that we did, for an afternoon's, shooting in support of the Fighting French Armoured can at the Haidoudi pass landed a nice little bag of 105 Germans (4 Officers and 103 other ranks) of the Muller group. The Battery had the luck to catch them all fleeing en masse in a suave qui peut across the pass. Ten rounds gun-fire succeeded in pinning them halfway across and soon white flags popped-up, and after a bit of French signalling and shouting they began to poor out from behind the stones and rocks. Then the left French armoured car sprayed another burst at them from a covered position where it r been able to see the white flags, and the immediate effect was to send them all scurrying back again. No amount of waving would induce them to come out again till, about an boor later, a small French patrol went through the minefield and penetrated right up to their bolt holes. This time there was no mistake and an impressive ceremonial parade followed when the German officer surrendered his force formally to the French commandant and speeches were made by both sides. The French Commandant made a generous offer to Major Eden to take any binoculars or revolvers he wanted, and he cordially accepted the invitation to inspect the parade with collective prospects ; but this time the Boche bad buried all the instruments and arms they had and nothing at all was acquired. However, the day had been of such good value that it didn't gall so much, specially when the French Commandant bade farewell so gratefully and effusively for the successful afternoon's allied co-operation. He was kind enough to say that the shelling was the sole cause of the surrender. During this little engagement a news flash to the Battery Commandant in his jeep told of the Anglo-American dramatic meeting near Mezzouna, and he was able to tell the French the good news. This Just added the sugar icing to the cake, In the late evening the Regiment moved off at last and trekked through the Fatnana pass in the moonlight to a night leaguer about twenty miles north for a few hours' sleep. The only incident during this march was provided by the driver of the officers mess lorry. The main road hardly showed at all and the night was cloudy, and the strain on driven was great. This particular driver drove his 3-tonner crashing into the one in front of him, sending it headlong into another one which in turn rammed another, which, believe it or not, crashed into yet another, the " pile up " resulting in no less than four damaged radiators. of which the officers mess was, of course, the worst and. being a " balkahi " vehicle anyway, was abandoned.|
|8th April, 1943|| At first
light the Division moved on and here was revealed a stirring scene - on
our right was the New Zealand Corps going along at a racing pace in desert
formation over the open plain. We moved in parallel columns, trying our
hardest to keep the batteries together and avoid getting entangled with
the concourse of New Zealand vehicles continually edging in on us from the
right. Soon all attempts at organised columns were given up and the cry on
everybody's lips were " On. you must go on.
At every wadi crossing there were jostling queues of 25-pdrs, armoured cars, jeeps and New Zealand ambulances locked in a dense tangle of regiments and Brigades groups.
At last in the early afternoon we reached Mezzouna, where the Armoured Brigade was held up. It was a glorious cool, sunny day and the plain was a riot of poppies, lush green grass and waving corn. Just before dark the Regiment came into action in a huge cornfield opposite Mezzouna village, but no targets.
|9th April, 1943|| The next
morning the birds had flown and the great trek north continued, but now
the New Zealanders had branched right towards Sfax, while our Division
swept up along the track going almost due north. There were occasional
bombing raids, and Capt. Coopers armoured car had a big splinter through
the radiator. That evening found the leading tanks having a desultory
engagement with Rommel's rearguard tanks near La Fauconnerie on the
Sheitla - Sfax road, and the Battery had a small evening shoot on to an
During the day a new feature, which was to become to familiar later made an appearance - American vehicles containing odd officers who either on liaison or lost. They had come in from the west through Maknassy and Mezzouna and seemed to be caught up in the general surge north.
|10th April, 1943|| A slow.
sober drive through delightful country of crops and olive groves to Bou
Thadi, where the Motor Brigade and all the Divisional artillery took up an
all-round defensive position, D.F. tasks being duly registered before
dark. The enemy were miles north and had obviously got clean away to the
strong Enfidaville - Pont du Fahs line. The New Zealanders had pushed
through Sfax with the K.D.Gs. with them in the lead and were reported in
Sousse: meanwhile the 6th Armoured Division of the First Army was
capturingi Kairouan, fourth holiest city of Islam after Mecca, Medina and
Our Division concentrated at Bou Thadi while the Generals were putting there heads together deciding what to do with us. Everybody in the Battery was visited Sfax, and although it was shattered it was nice to see our first civilised town, with plenty of French civilians about.
|16th-17th April, 1943|| At last
the orders came out: the Division was to move up and join the First Army
for the next and final phase of the North African campaign. A long night
march to Sheitia, then on to Le Kef the next day through the American
army, which was also on the move. They were extremely friendly and
showered cigarettes, rations and their ubiquitous chewing gum on to us
whenever any of our vehicles happened to halt alongside them.
Our first sight of Genera Anderson's First Army was in the late evening as we rumbled through the delightful little village of Le Kef. Our vehicles were sill dappled desert yellow, and although it was supposed to be kept a secret that we were the Eighth Army, this was quite obviously impossible seeing that all our complexions were perfect sun-tanned bronze, in vivid contrast to the white faces lining the village street. Another thing was the difference in dress, for where every man of the First Army was resplendent in his gaiters, not a man in our Division wore them, except perhaps the " Red Caps."
It was a great welcome the First Army gave us; they seemed dazed to see us and stood gaping open-mouthed when they weren't waving. Any of our vehicles which was compelled to stop near them was immediately offered tea or cigarettes, and their generous welcome impressed us all.
|18th April, 1943||Sunday was spent in a strange leaguer area for us south of Teboursouk - a valley with forest hills all round where no dispersion was possible and the Regiment was all jammed into the trees along the foothills. Maintenance and painting the vehicles a European camouflage kept everybody busy, and we had our first taste of First Army rations, so vastly superior to Eighth Army ones.|
|19th April, 1943||On to area El Aronsaa while reconnaissance of our new action positions went on (J6307). We were to sandwich in alongside the and R.H.A. below the Bjebel Rihane, north of Bou Arada, where the 140th Field Regiment were already in action eastward towards Pont du Fahs.|
|21st April, 1943|| A
tremendous fire plan was laid on to support the 46th Division attack which
went in during the night of the 21st, the Hampshire Brigade attacking on
our sector. The gun positions were very difficult to site, and Brigadier
Fowler, the C.R.A., had had to site practically every troop himself in
order to get the two regiments in. Digging was done the previous night
(19th), and the guns and ammunition came in on the night of the 20th, only
minimum movement being allowed by day, All the signallers and drivers
helped unload and dig in the ammunition, and nearly everyone was working
hard all night for these two nights. Luckily a bulldozer was available
which did valiant work digging the foundation
of the gun-pits.
The Hampshires supported by a battalion of Churchills attacked in four phases -Jack, Queen, King, Ace—-with a comprehensive fire plan of concentration by all the artillery on each. Jack and Queen were taken according to plan, but not King and Ace. The Queen fire plan was, in fact, fired three times in all and the Regiment fired over 400 rounds per gun.
|22nd April, 1943||Lieut Atkinson manned a local O.P. up the mountain just on the left of the Battery, where lamp was the signal communication in addition to line, the first time an O.P. had used lamp by day in Africa.|
|23rd April, 1943||Luckily the attack of the other Brigade had gone well in the north and the enemy were manoeuvred out of the other objectives our Brigade had failed to take. Therefore the Division was able to advance on to the Goubellat plain (J6316), a glorious sight with poppies everywhere. "D" Troop occupied a position literally in a red carpet of poppies (J68i8), ,Three positions were occupied during the day, but only in the last one did the Regiment shoot (J J 118). This was astride a wadi with, for the first time, a clear rippling stream.|
|24th April, 1943||The 2nd Armoured Brigade were held up by an anti-tank screen running along a north-west—south-east wadi at the Tunis end of the plain (J7322): however, the 26th Armoured Brigade of the 6th Armoured Division were winning a tank battle a few miles east round Sidi Djaber, a prominent white mosque on a green quarry hill.|
|25th April, 1943|| On Easter
Sunday the 1st Armoured Division moved over to the 6th Armoured Division
area around Sidi Djabar, where many derelict enemy tanks were strewn
around (J7156. The Regiment arrived in new gun positions just before dark,
an area which was to be our home for the next fortnight, For the armour
could not break through this doorway to Tunis after all, and the main
reason was that there were two dominating features, Djebel Bou Kournine
and Djebel Az, which stood like sentinels barring the way.
No less than three battalions tried to take Kournine, but all failed at the final summit, a rock promontory as impregnable as any natural pill-box could be.
The fortnight was spent mainly harassing north-east with a few exciting interludes, one being an attack by the 1st/60th, our Battalion on the Argoub el Megas feature during the night of 29th April, which was only partially successful and cost the Battalion rather heavily in casualties from " S " mines and mortaring. Shelling was continuous on O.Ps., and the gun area, yet the Battery escaped with only two wounded during the whole period.
|2nd May, 1943||Capt. A. H. D. Barrow was promoted to command " F" Major Puckle having been killed when his jeep ran up on a teller mine.|
|3rd May, 1943||Lieut. Atkinson was promoted Captain and took over " D Troop. However, he only held it for a day because Capt. Chilver-Stainer returned to the fold after an absence of six months and took it over, Capt. Cooper then being well ensconced in " C " Troop, Capt. Chilver-Stainer's old troop.|
|5th May, 1943||Meanwhile 6th Armoured Division from our sector and 4th Indian Division and 7th Armoured Division from the Eighth Army had concentrated just south of Medlez el Bab for the final conclusive attack on Tunic which was to break through Sidi Abdullah (J7333)- This went in on the 5th, with an infantry attack by two divisions 4th Indian and (4th ' British) on a 1,000 yards front, which made the requisite hole for the 6th and 7th Armoured Divisions to pour through.|
|7th May, 1943||By 4 p.m. on the 7th our armoured cars and F.O.Os were in Tunis.|
|8th May, 1943||On the 8th our Division advanced unopposed to the big hill at Ain-el-Asker, where the Motor Brigade formed a firm base while the armour forged on There in pouring rain we met our old friends the K.D.Gs., who had come up from the French Army advancing towards Zaghouan. One Mark VI Tiger and a Heavy Battery seemed to be the only opposition here (J 8623), but we had to keep level with the 6th Armoured Division on our left.|
|9th May, 1943|| A long road march
south-east with the objective of the Armoured Brigade Grombalia (K3836), a
little town beyond the mountains between us and the Cap Bon peninsula.
At Creteville the enemy were holding the pass and the armour had to wait for the Motor Brigade to come up and seize the hill overlooking ft. Accordingly the Divisional Artillery concentrated in the Plaine de Mornag in various orchards south and west of Creteville during the night of the 9th, while the 2nd R.B. put in a silent attack on the hill left of the pass. This was successful and at dawn the armour started to Alter through with our F.O.Os.
The plain where the guns were was very open with only few orchards round the farms. As soon aa we fired the enemy " Stonks" began, for be held the gigantic mountain of Djebel Ressas, hanging over us like a gaunt hand.
|10th May, 1943|| All the morning the
Regimental area (K203413) was at the mercy of the 10th Panzer Divisional
Artillery, and all sorts of stuff kept pouring in. Yet no one was killed
an there were only fourteen wounded in the Regiment, none mortally
Dvr. Richards in " D " Troop O.P. captured ten German infantry, including two officers. The O.P. was up in the hills to the north, and three ten were fugitives from Hammam-Liff battle, then won by 6th Armoured Division, who marched all through the night (20th) to reach the coast at Hammamet, thereby beating us to Grombalia.
By the evening we bad forced the pass and the guns moved up after dark to what was to be our last active position in Africa. This was in cornfields just north of the main road at the far end of the pass (K2640). Capt. Cooper was climbing mountains all night.
|11th May, 1943|| At first light the
armour moved on towards Grombalia to scotch up the 6th Armoured Division,
but the Boche hadn't packed up yet. From the big valley to the right of
the road some Mark III tanks were putting up a last desperate resistance
covering the main road with direct fire so that the O.P. (Battery Command)
on the road bad to take cover ignominiously in the ditch, together with a
2nd R.H.A. 0, P., while a continuous convoy of tanks, armoured cars and
later guns of 2nd R.H.A. rumbled pest. Those who stopped and asked for
information were hurriedly " shoo'd " on as they invariably
" drew the crabs."
Capt. Chilver-Stainer meanwhile was on the hills to the south overlooking this valley, and he could take cm several anti-tank guns and bad some nice shoots., At about 9 o'clock Major Eden moved into the top floor of the big wine distillery (K2937), where the Bays had a troop in the gardens below.
Soon the " patron" climbed up the stairs to the O.P.. bringing a bucket of Muscatel, sickly sweet but very welcome nevertheless. Most of the morning we fired into this valley, as did also a Medium Battery which was with the Division, The troop of Shermans (Bays) had knocked out two tanks and had advanced about 200 yards, and the whole regiment (Bays) then arrived and tried to advance along each side of the valley. However, they were driven back by heavy mortar fire.
Suddenly, at about midday, a startling thing happened : about a dozen " brew ups " were visible, and it wasn't hard to approximate the situation. They had co-ordinated their burning and spiking of tanks and gun at a given hour, and this was it. Yet the Germans did not come out with white flags: instead they slid off into the mountains, where most of them were eventually rounded up during the next few days. Others went native with the friendly (to Germans) Berbers, and many were still at large as late as October.
By the evening it looked as though the campaign was over; the Regiment moved into final gun positions a were miles west of Grombalia (K3445), but there no more shooting by the Battery from our own O.Ps.
|12th May, 1943|| Next day the great
round-up was in fall swing. Prisoners nearly all of them Boche, swarmed
along the roads in thousands, divisional and brigade staffs were standing
about, the officers dressed up in many cases in field grey betabbed with
red and gold.
So Grombalia itself was an amazing scene. As the various enemy vehicles drove up they parted in a near car-park on one side of the road, the occupants then stepped across into the gigantic cage on the other side.
Our own affiliated battalion, the 1st K.R.R.C (60th Rifles), were in charge of the cage, and had their headquarters in a little hotel alongside where German Generals and Colonels were interviewed and temporarily homed. Major Eden was informed by the C.R.A. 10th Panzer Division that he had had no less than four O.Ps. on Djebel Ressa two days before, and would have annihilated us if be hadn't run out of ammunition—a vain boast.
Other officers from the 90th Light Division were quite willing to reminisce about old battles, and alls said they had admired and feared the " Jock Columns " in the desert, particularly the 25-pdr. fire. The G.S.O.I of this division, Oberst Schumann, said that we had not killed General von Bismarck last August in the wadi Munassib, but that he had run up on a mine. He remembered the three " brew ups " we had scored on the morning of 31st August, and said two were staff cars and one was a bulldozer!
So ended the war in Africa—with total victory. The German Dunkirk never came off, with the exception of about fix hundred lucky and intrepid ones. The hordes of prisoners were an unforgettable sight, for although we had often seen Italian prisoners in thousands, to see Boche like this was different. The most interesting thing about them was their unanimous confidence in their final victory. They seemed to think they had fought a gallant and successful rearguard action to gain time for the great German summer offensive in Russia, which was the real crux of the war.
Most of the troops thought that Rommel was with them in Africa to the end, whereas be had actually been evacuated with jaundice before the battle of the Mareth line. Their belief and trust in the Fuehrer appeared quite unshaken, and only the very senior officers showed a trace of misgivings about the future.
Casualties during the Tunisian Campaign.
L./Bdr. H. Moss, 5th April : Killed by a shell in the gun line seven miles north of El Hamma (20643).
Gnr. J. Dunlop, 5th April : Killed by a shell in the gun line seven miles north of El Hamma (20643).
Both were buried in situ.
At the end of the campaign the Battery was constituted;-
Major R. A. Eden, D.S.O.
Capt. C. H. Sainsbury.
Lieut. P. E. Millington.
Lieut N. T. Canadine.
B.S.M. L. Victory
Sergt. Bonser, N.C.O. i/c Signals,
Sgt. Partlett, M.T. Sgt.
Sergt, Lawrence, Assistant Quartermaster.
" C " Troop.
Capt. H. L. Cooper, D.C.M.
Lieut, G. C. Sheppard.
Lieut. W. Hannam-Clark
A. Sergt. Monte. C. Sergt. Wells.
B. Sergt. Arculus D. Sergt. Stroud.
" D "Troop.
Capt. G. Chilver-Stainer, M.C.
Lieut. R. Atkinson
Lieut. G, R. W. Howell.
A. Sergt Morfoot. C. Sergt. Isatt,
B. Sergt, Paterson. D. L./Sergt. Boakes.
|15th May, 1943||The Regiment moved to olive grove near Soliman where a week was spent visiting Tunis and the Cap Bon peninsula collecting enemy tents, beds and every other kind 91 accessory including several good lorries.|
|20th May, 1943||The Battery sent a small representative party to march in the Victory Parade in Tuns, where Allied armies marched past General Giraud, General Eisenhower and General Alexander|
|21st May, 1943||Moved with the Division down to Tripolitania by road|
|24th May, 1943||Arrived at Suani Ben Adem, twelve miles south Tripoli, where the Battery occupied an Italian fort for the next two and a half months.|
|This period was spent in individual training, including senior and junior N.C.Os. cadre classes. Most of the Battery visited Tripoli several times a week if only to bathe and try and escape from the gruelling heat. There were two really severe heat wave with recorded temperatures of 117°F. These heat waves, each of about a week, made work impossible outside after 10 o'clock and the fort proved a tremendous boon; dinning-halls, stores and Sergeants and Bombardiers messes took up three sides and the third was a divisional concert hall, where several shows were held|
|17th June, 1943||Lieut. Sheppard left to join the Unions Defence Force, together with L./Bdrs. D. Johnson (Battery Pay Clark) and Alfred Cock (B.C.'s signaller and jeep driver), the last remaining Rhodesians. Everyone was sorry to see them go, and now after three years the final link of the Regiment with Rhodesia had gone. A sad occasion.|
|18th June, 1943||The King drove through the ranks of the Division, which lined the main road. He spoke to the Colonel, and all down the road he was cheered systematically as he went down and spontaneously a he came back.|
|20th June, 1943||Lieut. S. Eyres joined from M.E. O.C.T.U. Formerly a B.S.M. in " F " be was welcomed by many old friends to the Battery|
|26th June, 1943||Capt. Sainsbury left to go to Cairo for the Gunnery Staff course, later to become an Instructor in Gunnery at Almaza School of Artillery. Some long service (seven years) men went home, and some compassionate grounds cases.|
|20th July, 1943||The Regiment played a farewell football match with 2nd R.B., who left the Division next day, thus severing a hitherto unbroken, contact with the Regiment since the start of the desert war in June, 1940. The result in a draw, a fitting end to a partnership so dose and so strong that the parting was a real wrench. Memories of Capuzzo, Sofafi, Sidi Rezegh and all the other old names will always recall this bond between us, and everyone hoped we should link up again before the end of the contests|
|4th August, 1943||Moved with the Regiment to Bizerta for a new role, running transit camps for the invasion of Italy.|
|9th August, 1943||The first three weeks only involved providing fatigue parties and guards for the R.A.O.C. dump and the D.I.D., and there was plenty of leisure time for bathing and visiting Tunis and Ferryville. Except for an A,A, Regiment and 2nd R.H.A., there was nothing but American units in the Bizerta area, a good many of them negroes. The Battery area overlooked the Bizerta lakes and had a splendid view.|
|29th August, 1943||At the end of the month the Battery was called upon to run two transit camps, each to pass through 1,500 men, Cookhouses and latrines were the biggest problem until the thunderstorms began, when rubble roads had to be hurriedly constructed.|
|9th October, 1943|| When the Battery
eventually handed over to a company of a " Category " battalion
of the Suffolk Regiment, those who were not qualified cooks were certainly
expert sanitary orderlies. Transitees went both ways and included sailors,
American escaped prisoners from Italy, and even two Russians, who has escaped from a labour prison camp in Italy after being captured on Russia
|9th October, 1943|| Although the actual
day is 13th October, the birthday celebrations were held on the 9th in
view of the advance party to Algiers going off next day. Comic sports in
the afternoon included a greasy pole, rapid refreshment race, Lloyd
Lindsay and obstacle race and a big tug of war, won by " D "
Troop. D " Troop won a football match with " C " Troop in
Everyone enjoyed the afternoon which was only the prelude the real party in the evening, a banquet and a concert by152nd Pioneer Company, followed by our own singers, of whom the start was L/Bdr. McCaughern, the water-cart driver known to everyone as " Gunga Din." Bdr, Sargent at tne piano was indispensable.
The Colonel arrived in the afternoon and stayed to the end, and ail the old members of the Battery still in the Regiment came too. Everyone enjoyed a really rood evening.
|10th October, 1943||Major K. J. McIntyre arrived from home and took over command of the Battery from Major Eden, who became Second-in-Command of the Regiment.|
Return to England
|29th November, 1943|| To-day the Battery
set foot in the British Isles. Nearly 30 percent had not been England for
five years and there were few who had not been about two years away from
Within a few hours the Battery was established at Tendring Hall, Stoke-by-Nayland, on the Essex and Suffolk border, with the rest of the Regiment in various villages about ten miles apart. Disembarkation leave began at once, and all ranks were able to spend Christmas or New Year (usually both) at home. Marriages and engagements were numerous.
officers W.Os. and N.C.Os. of the Battery were as follows:
Capt. H. L. Cooper, D.C.M.
Lieut. P. K. Millington,
Lieut. F. D. Crosthwaite (late 2nd R.H.A. and M.E. O.C.T.U.)
B.S.M. Jerrold, R.A.
B.S.M. J. H. Paterson.
Sergt. P. Bonser.
L/Sergt. R, Garton.
4th Regiment R.H.A. were part of 5th A.G.R.A., with Brig. Morley as C.A.G.R.A. 7th Medium, 8th Medium, 64th Medium and 121st Medium (late 121st Field Regiment), with 4th Survey Regiment, were the remainder of the group. The A.G.R.A. came under XXX Corps - old friends such as 7th Armoured Division, 51st (Highland) Division and 50th Division - and was the only " Eighth Army " A.G.R.A. in the country.
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