WW II, a British focus  



War Diaries

North Irish Horse
September 1939 To June 1946

M-3, Honey irish_badge.jpg - 1466 Bytes

January 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney
Jan 43 North Irish Horse
2 - 3 Wickham Market
Six officers – Lts RE Plummer, GC Harvey, JE Williams, D Whelan, KS Appleby & 2Lt JFD Miles – arrived with 94 ORs in order to make the Regt up to strength. Lt AH Kerr also arrived and was appointed Officer i/c Home Detail.
4 – 7 Tanks were despatched to BIRKENHEAD, CARDIFF and SWANSEA for embarkation on ships H.126, H.127 & H.130.B vehicles moved out in two convoys for SWANSEA, CARDIFF & AVONMOUTH. Embarked on ships H.126 & H.130
21/1/43 Personnel embarked at LIVERPOOL on HMT Duchess of York.
31/1/43 Passed through Straits of Gibraltar at approx 0200. Voyage made without enemy interference.

February 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney
Feb 43 North Irish Horse
1/2/43 Personnel disembarked at ALGIERS and marched 17 miles to transit camp near Sidi Moussa.
4/2/43 Bulk of Regt, 30 officers and 495 ORs embarked on HMS Queen Emma (a commando vessel) at ALGIERS.
5/2/43 Personnel disembarked at PHILLIPEVILLE and marched 5 miles to No. 3 Transit Camp.
7 – 8 Field firing with personal weapons carried out by all personnel.
10/2/43 Vehicles disembarked at PHILLIPEVILLE by improvised methods owing to berth having insufficient depth.
Advance party with 4 B vehicles left for concentration area at LE KEF.
16/2/43 8 tanks unloaded at PHILLIPEVILLE.
17/2/43 Major Rew took command of convoy of 6 tanks on transporters to LE KEF.
19/2/43 Regt less FLRs and C Sqn and 17 3-tonners leave with remaining personnel. Stage night at SOUK AHRAS.
20/2/43 Road party arrived harbour area 12 miles West of LE KEF at 1445.
21/2/43 Germans break through at KASSERINE Gap and threatened THALA. One troop of NIH under 2Lt Gardiner proceeded on attachment to 142 Regt RAC.
By this date all B vehs less 17 3-tonners and several utilities had joined the Regt. Also 12 tanks 9 less 3 with 142 Regt).
22/2/43 1500 – Warning Order received that all available personnel to be formed as defence force to defend LE KEF against anticipated attack from THALA.
1930 – 9 tanks under Major Rew formed part of armoured force under Lt Col Timmis 51st RTR. Lt Col Dawney put in command of Inf force for defence of LE KEF and all available personnel formed into platoons and take up defensive positions in LE KEF area. RHQ situated in LE KEF. All kit and stores left in harbour under LAD.
23/2/43 LE KEF and surrounding area subjected to dive bombing attacks. No NIH casualties. Six B Sqn tanks arrive in LE KEF.
24/2/43 Further dive bombing attacks. Threat to LE KEF lessens and responsibility for defence passes to other hands. NIH personnel return to harbour area.
12 more tanks arrive under Major Ketchell.
Veh strength now 30 tanks, all B vehs less 17 3-tonners & 2 utilities.
26/2/43 0900 – A Sqn at 15 mins notice. B Sqn 3 hours notice.
1200 – Both A & B Sqns at 1 hours notice to leave for BEJA to come under comd of 46 Div.
2015 – A & B Sqns with all available A Echelon Tpt leave harbour and spend the night on the move – route – LE KEF – SOUK EL ARBA – SOUK EL KHEMIS – BEJA. At start A Sqn had 15 tanks and B Sqn 12 tanks.
27/2/43 0730 – Column arrives at BEJA. After an hour tanks move into posn.
     A Sqn on left North East of KZAR MAZOUR with 11 tanks.
      B Sqn on right at road junction 3243 with 7 tanks.
Before 1000hrs Sgt Allen A Sqn was hit by 88mm shell in engine compartment.
Capt PCM Sinclair had track blown off by HE shell.
Lt WR Hern gets snap shot at Tiger at range of 500/600 yards and knocks it out.
After dusk both A & B Sqns withdrew to forward harbour.
28/2/43 Major WH Ketchell’s tank, when moving into position, hit by 88mm on gun mounting from close range. Major Ketchell wounded, Sgt Walters and Tpr Nursey killed. Major Ketchell evacuated by driver and co-driver. Tank subsequently destroyed by fire.
Lt Hern wounded on neck by shot which hit turret.
0915 – Enemy formed up for attack. Three Mark IIIs knocked out by our tanks and others by Arty fire.
Enemy infantry reluctant to press attack which eventually fizzled out.
Total ‘bag’ of enemy tanks by all arms during the day was 10 or 11.
Tanks remained in position all night.

March 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney
Mar 43 North Irish Horse
1/3/43 BEJA
Lt CM Thomas granted acting rank of Capt pending re-grant of Temp rank wef 31 Dec 42.
T/Capt JAG Biggs relinquishes Temp rank wef 19 Feb 42.
Major the Lord O’Neill arrives from BONE with 10 tanks (4 RHQ and 6 B Sqn). RHQ remains in harbour but B Sqn tanks move up under Major J Rew.
0615 – Approx 30 German tanks reported on road leading NE of BEJA.
0645 – Enemy infantry attack our positions.
0930 – German Mark III comes out and is knocked out by Lt JA Ballantyne of A Sqn. Our tanks acting as A/Tk gun pillboxes, but unable to cross ridge without meeting 88mm fire. Capt RJ Griffith makes dismounted recce and reports one Tiger, three Mark IIIs and two Mark IVs – these are later blown up by REs.
1535 – Enemy attack again against both flanks.
1600 – Tanks move up to support both localities, (GEESSA FARM & MONTAGNE FARM). Very heavy arty fire put down – POWs state heaviest they have ever experienced and some of them fought in Russia, having been sent to TUNISIA for a ‘rest’.
1630 – BEJA bombed by 17 Stukas and Lt JFD Miles wounded with A Echelon when moving up.
Tanks remain on ridge all night.
Enemy identification on this front:-
     501st Heavy Btn Experimental Tigers Barenthin Div
    7th Panzer Regt (part of 10th Panzer Div)
    754 Mountain Regt.
2Lt GE Gardiner ceases to be attached to 142 Regt RAC.
Casualties for the day – Lt JFD Miles (result of air attack).
2/3/43 Major P Welch arrived with 17 C Sqn tanks, 15 of which were runners. Unable to relieve A & B Sqns as C Sqn ordered to be ready for immediate move North to SEDJENANE.
2000 – C Sqn depart for SEDJENANE. Five C Sqn tanks under Capt RD Morton ordered to SIDI AMEUR.
By the evening all tanks, except two A Sqn, have been recovered.
3/3/43 Our infantry (Argylls) attacked but failed on right flank. One troop of tanks sent along road to junc 315503 to help our inf on to objective at 320500. Lt JA Ballentyne’s troop was sent out on this task and Capt RJ Griffith put down smoke to cover passage through minefield. Enemy had gap covered by mortar, LMG and HMG fire. Two tanks of the troop were knocked out by mines and Lt Ballantyne proceeded to objective, although wounded in the head. He reported “no enemy to be seen” and was ordered back. No further communication received from him and his tank failed to return.
At first light at SEDJENANE, C Sqn took up position on high ground SW of SEDJENANE to give covering fire to infantry and succeeded in extricating some of our infantry from an awkward position. When retiring at dusk Lt JE Williams lost two tanks of his troop over a cliff. One member of a crew missing believed POW.
4/3/43 Our tanks remain in defence positions as A/Tk pillboxes.
1500 – Major J Rew, OC B Sqn, killed instantaneously by enemy mortar fire. Location of grave – BEJA Military Cemetery, Row 11, Grave No. 1.
C Sqn enter SEDJENANE at first light, two troops up and one in reserve. Leading tank knocked out and set on fire by A/Tk gun. Extricated our infantry from precarious position after remaining in SEDJENANE for over 10 hours. Days casualties – 4 ORs killed, 5 ORs wounded.
5/3/43 Major EV Strickland MM posted to this unit from 25th Tank Bde HQ Sqn.
Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn tanks carry out patrols with infantry.
Capt GP Russell promoted A/Major and appointed OC B Sqn.
Lt RSH Sidebottom promoted A/Capt.
6/3/43 Lt J Ball posted in from 142 Regt RAC and assumes appointment of Tech Adjt vice Capt RH Bowering who is posted to 1st Reinforcements.
Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn carry out patrols with infantry.
7/3/43 Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn carry out patrols with infantry.
8/3/43 Lt JAG Briggs addmitted to hospital as a result of an accident.
Tanks remain in defensive position.
1200 – One troop of C Sqn under Lt JE Williams with Capt RSH Sidebottom in C.S. moved up DJEBEL ABIOD – SEDJENANE road to support 1st Para Bde and to overcome enemy infiltration at SIDI MOH BELKARSEN. Infantry, with tank support, succeeded in driving enemy out and 157 POW taken. C Sqn had good shoot but enemy casualties could not be counted.
9/3/43 Tanks remain in defensive positions.
1415 – 5 tanks of C Sqn with two platoons of Para made recce in force under orders of Corps Commander. Tanks were road-bound on left of advance. Lt JE Williams blown up on minefield. Our Inf retired and were covered by tanks. Lt Williams and crew picked up on way back. 27 POW taken and useful info obtained. Heavy mortar fire during whole operation.
Days casualties – 5 ORs missing and 2 tanks knocked out.
10/3/43 Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn carry out patrols with infantry.
11/3/43 Tanks remain in defensive position.
1100 – One C Sqn troop under 2Lt RE Perioli support Para Btn in attack in area 123772.
1400 – in same sector Lt JE Williams tank with Capt RD Morton in CS assisted 2nd Para Btn in attack. No results of enemy casualties could be obtained.
12/3/43 Lt P Francis posted to 25 Tk Bde HQ as LO.Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn carry out patrols with infantry.
13 – 20 Tanks remain in defensive position.
C Sqn carry out patrols with infantry.
19/3/43 Capt RS Churchill, 4th Hussars attached to this unit.
20/3/43 Lt WR Hern re-joins from hospital.
21/3/43 One C Sqn 3-ton lorry when proceeding along BEJA – DJEBEL ABIOD road was mortared. Two ORs killed and two ORs wounded.
21 – 26 Positions remain unchanged in both sectors.
27 – 28 Our infantry attack at DJEBEL ABIOD and our tanks assist in putting them on to first objective. Able to withdraw from SIDI AMEUR.
29/3/43 Attack successful and our inf are able to consolidate positions. One C Sqn 3-tonner went over cliff. No casualties.
30/3/43 Able to reduce force at KSAR MEZOUAR to one troop.
Infantry entered SEDJENANE with support from C Sqn tanks.
Lt JE Williams’s tank received direct hit from Stuka bomb. No casualties, although crew later machine gunned by three Messerschmidts when evacuating tank.
2Lt Perioli’s tank blown up on mine in SEDJENANE. Two members of crew, one a Canadian officer, Lt Dickens – suffering from shock.

April 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney
Apr 43 North Irish Horse
1 - 5 BEJA
Positions remained unchanged.
6/4/43 Regt (less Sqn HQ and 4 troops of C Sqn) moved from BEJA to OUED ZARGA heights and came under command 36th Inf Bde.
7/4/43 0330 – Regt moved forward through OUED ZARGA to get in position South of Pt.226 near SIDI AMEUR BEN RHIBI.
Three troop B Sqn and one troop B Sqn with one troop C Sqn came under Major Russell and Capt Finch Noyes respectively, succeeded in putting 5 Buffs on to objective on final assault and capture of DJEBEL EN NAHEL, Pt.259 and the OUED BOUNEB. This operation was completed during the morning.
1730 – Assault on MERGUEB CHAOUCH commenced and with support from A & B Sqns 8th A&SH and 6th RWK gained objectives by 1900hrs during the day tanks were subjected to air attacks. Tanks returned to harbour for the night.
8/4/43 A Sqn supported 5 Buffs in capture of Pt.667. mines removed by Capt Mackean to let two troops of A Sqn through wadi. A Sqn was then heavily shelled by own arty.
1030 – Enemy tanks reported in valley. Did not come out to fight, believed to be in a delaying role.
1200 – B Sqn ordered forward and occupied hull down positions on South side of OUED EL DJEB. Forward troops subjected to three dive-bombing and machine gun attacks. Before last light two troops of A Sqn withdrawn. A Sqn harboured on Western slopes of MERGUEB CHAOUACH and remainder of Regt went back to original assembly area.
Two ORs wounded during the day.
9/4/43 0730 – enemy counter attacked against infantry on Pt.667. Two troops A Sqn under Lt Hern sent forward to support.
Enemy tanks again seen and fired on. CO and Major Strickland made recce on foot and in consequence B Sqn brought forward through defile and took up hull down positions on far side of Pt.667.1500 – B Sqn towed in an 88mm gun.
1530 – Enemy again counter attacked but were beaten off by the Buffs.
Major Strickland returned and reported 8 enemy Tigers in hull down position in valley with other Mark IVs and Mark IIIs. Arty fire directed on to them and the two troops on high ground did two quick shoots. One hit on a Tiger was claimed.
Throughout the day tanks were subjected to dive-bombing and machine gun attacks from the air.
Two ORs wounded during the day.
10/4/43 All available tanks sent for from BEJA. By first light A & B Sqns in position East of White House on Pt.667.
Plan – 38th Irish Bde, supported by one troop of C Sqn, to seize DJEBEL OUM GUERINAT; NIH less C Sqn, to engage tanks in the valley. Small force including tanks, A/Tk 17pdrs and REs left under command Major the Lord O’Neill to form a base on Northern side of defile crossing OUED EL DJEB.
0700 – CO and Major Strickland made recce on foot; enemy tpt seen moving NE in DOCTOR BED valley. A Sqn ordered to advance to Pt.361 – feature reported clear. B Sqn moved NW to occupy Pt.391. then decided to try and reach DJEBEL RMEL and thus help 38 Bde. A Sqn held up by mines but B Sqn made quick progress to high ground West of DJEBEL RMEL. RHQ followed B Sqn centre line and B Sqn occupied RMEL after engaging retreating enemy infantry with Besa fire. Meantime A Sqn had negotiated minefield and moved to position SE of farm DER RMEL.
Enemy were seen to leave EL GUERINAT and nearby features when tanks occupied RMEL, the task of 38th Irish Bde thereby being much simplified.
Unable to get 17pdrs up to engage two enemy tanks in farm East of RMEL. Persistent air attacks by enemy; one Me 110 shot down by Besa fire from tanks.
1700 – Enemy brought forward 50mm A/Tk gun when enemy position attacked; knocked out one B Sqn tank. This gun was then knocked out and several POW taken. A Sqn worked forward to try and engage the two enemy tanks but could not do so. Tanks ordered to hold positions until relieved by infantry. Were eventually relieved by Black Watch at approx midnight.
11/4/43 A & B Sqns remained in area DJEBEL RMEL until mid-day. All tanks, except one troop each of A & B Sqns, withdrawn; these two troops subsequently returned to harbour at last light.
Enemy air attacks throughout the day. Lt Gardiner wounded, one OR killed and two wounded.
12/4/43 Quiet day for tanks. Black Watch, when changing Coys on forward position, were heavily shelled and failed to re-occupy position. Two troops of tanks called forward in the afternoon and counter attack put in by infantry after dark without success. Tanks not used.
Remainder of C Sqn except No. 5 troop under Lt Whelan returned to BEJA and came under command 4 Div.
13/4/43 Balance of C Sqn ordered to occupy KSAR MEZOUAR. This was done without opposition and Sqn then returned to BEJA area.Composite Sqn of A & B Sqns under Major Russell supported Black Watch on to forward objective, this being achieved soon after first light.
Plan for tanks to put Black Watch on to Pt.350 during the afternoon was abandoned, it being considered wiser to leave this bare feature unoccupied.
Three ORs wounded in action.
LAD workshops bombed:
Capt Leslie (EME) killed
Lt Ball (Tech Adjt) wounded
One OR wounded.
14/4/43 5 Troop C Sqn joined Regt at OUED ZARGA after a short attachment to 2nd US Corps.
15 – 21 Regt remained static with NTR.
18/4/43 Capt RH Bowring rejoined Regt.
22/4/43 Regt moved during the night to CHASSART TEFFAHA area in preparation for battle for LONGSTOP in support of 36 Bde.
23/4/43 1330 – assault with 8th A&SH followed by East Surreys began, supported by B & C Sqns from right, on CHAIBINE and with A Sqn less one troop from area 587425.
#1530 – AHMERA occupied and C Sqn moved forward to lower slopes of this feature. A Sqn worked round towards Pt.196 destroying an MG post en route. One tank knocked out by mines but Major Strickland pushed on and got on tank of 5Tp across wadi at 587436 and contacted 5th Buffs. This tank eventually reached a position dominating the valley and Pt.196, from where certain positions were shot up despite heavy shell fire.
Capt Mackean, A Sqn recce officer, discovered MG post which prevented him getting out of tank to repair damage done by mines. After engaging this MG a German hoisted a white flag and gave himself up. This man, speaking English, requested and was given permission to return and bring back four of his comrades. This he did.
1800 – All tanks withdrew, except Capt Mackean’s, which had been blown upon mines. The tank was repaired and driven out after dark but it broke down again 200 yards further back.
During this time one troop of A Sqn under Capt Bowering working with 38th Irish Bde succeeded in putting infantry on TANGOUCHA.
Lt RE Perioli and 3 ORs wounded during the day.
24/4/43 0500 – Capt Griffith took composite force of three troops to southern slopes of LONGSTOP.
1200 – Major Welch took two further troops and assumed command of composite Sqn. Task to advance along southern slopes towards Mosque to relieve sniper situation. RHQ troop supported from a position halfway up southern slopes. Infantry were unable to get to Mosque for some time owing to intense mortar fire.
On reaching the mosque, Capt Griffith moved onto foremost ridge before the plain begins. Good observation was obtained and the FOO had some useful shooting. Minefield located by Capt Griffith but his own tank blown up by a lone mine outside the main belt. Tank successfully evacuated with all personal weapons. Tanks withdrawn just before last light and infantry patrols moved forward to cover the mined tank.
Two troops of A Sqn sent to southern slopes of AHMERA to support infantry during the night.
During the afternoon two troops of A Sqn sent to support Buffs round Pt.303; these returned at last light.
Capt Morton C Sqn wounded by mine.
25/4/43 No action to report.
The two troops A Sqn which remained on AHMERA all night were relieved at last light by two troops of C Sqn which remained out for night 25/26th.
26/4/43 5th Buffs, supported by NIH, attacked DJEBEL RHAR, diversionary attack put in on right by C Sqn supported by two platoons of 8th A&SH.
0830 – Attack went in from Mosque ridge and leading troop worked forward to further ridge from which FOO had very good shoot throughout the day. Infantry at Mosque held down by fire but 8th A&SH moved on to top of ridge, cleared out snipers with the help of another troop who moved forward on to Mosque ridge.
As the advance progressed two troops B Sqn worked forward to front end of forward Coys. 4Tp on right met opposition and silenced an MG post in re-entrant 604437. At this moment Lt Pope’s tank broke a track and he transferred to another under MG fire. He then engaged two more MG posts with his troop on western slopes of Pt.289 and both surrendered. Infantry held up by MG at 612443; this MG was taken on by 4Tp and silenced. Major Russell, OC B Sqn, ordered 4Tp to wait on spur 612443 for infantry and then to proceed round West of RHAR and find a way up. At head of re-entrant 612444 an 88mm sited to fire down re-entrant was encountered by 4Tp and after one round of 6pdr and a burst of Besa the crew surrendered.
4Tp then tackled the ascent with one tank on SE slope and Troop Leader on western slope. En route another MG post and mortar post were engaged and captured. Troop then proceeded down northern slope, shepherding prisoners, and captured two more MG posts on the way. One of these latter had been holding up the infantry for some time.
On the left, 1Tp was ordered to outflank on the northern side of RHAR. This troop was reduced to one tank and Major Russell moved forward in his own tank on lower and easier ground and got onto spur 607446 from which he covered the northern side of the RHAR plain.
2Tp was then ordered to support Sqn Ldr on the right and cover re-entrant 610446. 2Tp Ldrs tank was knocked out on mine; he transferred to a second tank which received a direct hit on engine covers, but he moved forward in a third tank to position as ordered.
2Tp was then ordered to move up on Sqn Ldr’s left.
Immediately afterwards 2Tp Ldr took 29 POW at head of re-entrant.
Whilst re-organising, tanks were subjected to accurate shell-fire from heavy gun. Flashes were spotted by 2Tp Ldr and got arty on to it. FOO’s tank received direct hit and he was killed.
During these operations the left flank of 5th Buffs and B Sqn was protected by two troops of A Sqn under Major Strickland, these two troops working forward by bounds along northern slopes of DJEBEL AHMERA.
In the course of the action one 88mm and seven MG posts were dealt with by B Sqn and C Sqn helped to eliminate four MG posts. C Sqn also took 56 POW in their attack.
In addition to the FOO, one OR was killed and two ORs wounded in the day’s operations.
27/4/43 No action to report.
28/4/43 One OR killed and another wounded by anti-personnel mine outside A Ech area.
29/4/43 Lt MP Williams rejoined Regt.
30/4/43 1000 – C Sqn led 8th A&SH onto Pts. 160, 177 & 202.1115 – Tanks were on Pts. 160 & 177 and infantry advanced on receipt of signal, Pt.202 was soon occupied.
1145 – Three Mark IVs appeared from direction of SIDI ZEKRI (6347); these were engaged and hits were observed on two of them. All three then withdrew.
1215 – a Mark IV with a 75mm gun appeared round the right hand side of Pt.177 and knocked out tank comd by Sgt Elliott, also holed Lt Mann’s tank. Crew of former evacuated and went to ground, but the crew of the latter stayed put and the co-driver drove it back out of action but unfortunately it overturned at the bottom of the hill.
Another Mark IV then appeared over the rise and was engaged and hit on the cupola, it went backwards down the hill and at least one of the crew was seen to bale out. Fire from a big gun blew the track off a further tank, but the crew was picked up when tanks were withdrawing to cover on SIDI AHMED at 1900hrs. Infantry had withdrawn about an hour earlier.
Sgt Elliott got through to our lines about 2400hrs and in the early hours, Tprs Rooke , May and Chapman, the latter wounded, also returned.
During the action enemy killed estimated as 10, 50 POW taken and several hits on 3 enemy tanks.
Own casualties:
Killed Lt RPM Mann and two ORs
Wounded Four ORs
Missing One OR (believed killed)

THE CAPTURE OF LONGSTOP 22 - 26 APRIL, 1943. Setting.
  • The area of the attached 1/25,000 map represents a piece of country between Medjez el Bab and Tebourba. Generally the valleys are flat agricultural land interspersed hero and there with small wadis From out of these flat valleys rise steep hills. The lower slope of these hills are gradual and covered with scrub; but, as the higher mountains are reached, the slopes become steeper, the scrub disappears and the hills become very similar to the hills met with on the north-west Frontier of India.
  • Between Medjez el Bab and Tebourba, runs one of these flat valleys. Up it runs the river Medjerda and on the north side of this river lies the main metalled Medjez el Bab - Tebourba road. A glance at the map will show how this road is overlooked from a distance by the Dj el Tanngoucha 5645 and more immediately by Dj el Ahmera 6043 and Dj el Rhar 6144 (together commonly known as "LONGSTOP".)
    A view of LONGSTOP HILL from about the bend in the road 645441.
    A view of LONGSTOP HILL from about the bend in the road 645441.
  • The winter had been wet and muddy but by the middle of April rains had become fewer and by the time of the battle the ground was hard; the days were hot; but the nights, particularly the hilltops, cold.

    Troop Dispositions.

  • Earlier in the campaign the British troops had held Tebourba for a short time. But with increasing German pressure they had withdrawn and by 22 April the Germans were in possession of “Longstop” and the higher ground to the north-west culminating in the Dj et Tanngoucha. British troops held. Chassart— Teffaha, 5741, from which place our line ran approximately northwestward through Heidous, 5544.

    The Plan.

  • Broadly, the plan was to seize Dj at Tanngoucha and Longstop Hill by an attack along then both from the south-west.

    138 Inf Brigade (6 Royal West Kents, 5 Buffs and 8 Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders) under command with 1 Surreys and North Irish Horse (army tanks) and supported by most of the 78th Divisional Artillery, were detailed for the attack on “Longstop”.

  • The plan of the Commander, 136 Brigade (Brigadier Howlett) was roughly as follows :—

    1. 6 R.W.K. and 5 Buffs were to lead the attack with 8 A. and S.H. in reserve.
    2. The start line for the attack ran north-west and south-east through Chassart—Teffaha. The objective for the 6 R.W. K. was the high ground north and south of Dr. ech Chaibine 5942. The objective for 5 Buffs, whose task was to protect the left flank from any German counter-attacks from the high ground to the north, was pt 303, 5843 pt. 196, 5943 and Dj Bechtab 5843. .
    3. 8 A and S.Hs in reserve were to pass through the 6 R.Y.K. and, seize Dj el Rhar (i.e. the right hand end of LONGSTOP in the photograph above).
    4. 1 Surreys with the N.I.H. were to be prepared to exploit north-eastwards in daylight along the road to Tebourba.

    The attack.

    23rd April.

  • At 2245 hrs 22 Apr, 6 R.W.K. and. 5 Buffs loft their start line. 5 Buffs met little opposition in the tangled hills north-west of Chassart—Teffaha and by 0530 hrs had seized all their objectives. But heavy machine-gun fire prevented the 6 R.W.K. from gaining more than the high ground south-east of Dr. ech Chaibine and it was not until 0800 hrs on 23 that the 6 R.W.K. were able to seize the high ground north of that place. This delay had made it impossible for the 8 A. and S.H. to capture the main hills during the hours of darkness.

    Accordingly, soon after dawn, the Commander, 138 Brigade, appreciating that his original plan had been too ambitious, went forward and made a further plan for 8 A. and S.H. and 1 Surreys, supported by the North Irish Horse, to seize the Dj el Ahmera, i.e. the western half of Longstop. ( the left hand part of the hill shown in the photograph above). Owing to some delays in laying on the artillery support, it was not possible to start this attack before 1330 hrs. At this hour, supported by very heavy artillery concentrations, 8 A. and S.H. went up the Dj el Ahmera ridge with great dash through heavy machine-gun fire.

    slopes of LONGSTOP from 6 R.W.K. objective
    A view of the southern slopes of LONGSTOP from 6 R.W.K. objective. It was along the top of this ridge that 8 A & S.H. attacked.

    Casualties were heavy and included the Commanding Officer (Lt.-Col. McNabb), his Intelligence Officer and Adjutant. By 1530 hrs, after going in with the bayonet, 8 A. and S.H. had captured the hill. In this attack the Argylls were supported along the Southern slopes of Longstop by two Squadrons of the North Irish Horse. When night fell, Dj el Ahmera was held by 8 A. and S.H. and 1 Surreys, both battalions being very weak owing to shortage of strength and casualties. The remains of 6 R.W.K. had moved closer up in reserve. The whole force on Dj el Ahmera was now under command of Lt.-Colonel Wilberforce of 1 Surreys. An attempt by the 6 R.W.K. during the night to capture Dj el Rhar failed owing to heavy mortar fire on their forming-up place.

    24th 4pril.

  • This day was chiefly notable for an attempt by 1 Surreys assisted by one squadron of tanks to clear Sidi alib Hassine 6143 ridge. In this attack the tanks helped 1 Surreys on to the ridge, which was captured in spite of intense mortar and Machine-gun fire.

    25th April.

  • During the 25 Apr, no further advance was made, but the troops on Dj el Ahmera strengthened their positions and the tanks remained upon the southern slopes of the hill. 5 Buffs still protected the left flank. They had not been heavily engaged, although they had been shot up to some extent by enemy mortar and shell fire at long range. Towards the end of this day, information was received that the Germans had withdrawn from Dj et Tanngoucha and the high ground north of Longstop. This made the task of the 5 Buffs no longer necessary and released them for the final attack on Dj el Rhar.
  • It will be noticed that up to the present time almost the entire effort of 138 Bde had been made on the southern half of the Dj el Ahmera ridge.

    26th April

  • The plan for the final attack on the Dj el Rhar consisted of a diversion round the south flank from Sidi alib Hassine by a squadron of the North Irish Horse and a fighting patrol from 8th A & SH. The main attack was to go in along the north slopes of Dj el Ahmera and was to be carried out by 5th Buffs.
  • At 0830 the Germans brought down the usual heavy mortar fire on the diversion on the southern flanks of the hill. This diversion besides succeeding in mopping up a number of enemy snipers who still lay hidden on the southern slopes undoubtedly attracted the enemy’s attention from the main attack elsewhere. On the left at the same time, 5th Buffs left their start line and worked forward with one squadron of tanks on the lower northern slopes of the hill and another squadron supporting them on their main axis of advance. This squadron had some tanks which got right up on to the top of the Dj el Ahmera ridge.
    The 5th Buffs start line from the south.
    The 5th Buffs start line from the south.
    field of fire from the top of the ridge
    The view and field of fire from the top of the ridge shown in the previous photograph looking south west.
    looking west-north-west
    A similar view looking west-north-west
    Immediately the Buffs appeared on the north-west slopes they were heavily engaged with mortars and infantry guns. The attack pressed steadily forward, tanks and infantry working together. It became essentially an advance in which small pockets of infantry and tanks helped each other through the rough country. Sometimes a tank would turn its Besa on an MG post that was worrying the infantry, sometimes the infantry would attack an anti-tank gun. Sometimes a tank on the top of a hill would engage an anti-tank gun that was holding up tanks lower down. Upon one occasion a tank and an anti-tank gun surprised each other at a range of 10 yards but the tank got its Besa into action first. It was essentially a slow steady attack in which the individual initiative of the junior commanders on the spot enabled the troops to work their way forward. In this work the Churchill tanks that had got on to the top of the Dj el Ahmera played a prominent part. Eventually these tanks descended the gully between Dj el Ahmera and Dj el Rhar and went up the southern slopes of the Rhar hill. Half way up this final hill the driver of one tank noticed that his oil pressure was at zero. The tank stopped and the crew got out, filled up the tank with oil, then got in again and went on with the battle.
  • Finally the whole of the Dj el Rhar was in the hand of the 5th Buffs, very few enemy getting away to the north or east. On Longstop over 300 prisoners were taken, most of them on the Rhar, at a cost to the Buffs of 40 casualties. The Germans put in no counter-attacks, although, as some of the prisoners were being led away, some air-burst mortars did some damage amongst them. Lessons.

        There are a number of important lessons which can be drawn from this engagement.

    1. The Germans fought hardest on the Dj el Ahmera. Yet a walk over the battle field afterwards disclosed far fewer dug-in positions on this half of the hill than there were on the Rhar. On this latter hill the Germans had carried out large excavations involving hundreds of tons which they removed from caves and dugouts and tipped down the hill.

      Part only of the extensive excavations carried out on the Rhar.

      If they had only put in as much work on their actual defences as they had done on their dugouts to avoid artillery bombardment and air attack Dj el Ahmera would have formed a tougher proposition than in fact it did.

    2. Some of the positions from which they actually fought were indifferently sited. Owing to the bad siting of an anti-tank gun, a Churchill tank was able to approach it in dead ground and then engage it at 10 yards range.


    1. Before dealing with tactics some mention of morale is necessary. Cases have occurred in which infantry, faced with an attack in which they had not complete confidence, asked for and received, a few Churchill tanks to “bolster up morale”. In the subsequent attacks the tanks have accompanied the infantry and fired off their guns at nothing in particular and the attack has been successful. I question whether, by such tactics, the junior commanders have “bolstered up morale”. Surely all they have achieved is to bolster up the reliance placed by the infantry on the tank. The same argument has been used for keeping Churchill tanks in the foremost defended localities for days at a time after the arrival of anti-tank guns. This the Army Commander views with horror.
    2. I would emphasise that such tactics have only been occasional isolated incidents and chiefly confined to troops with little battle experience. But it is just the sort of thing that might be indulged in by troops new to the rigours of war and I think it is of sufficient importance to warrant being mentioned early.
    3. The word morale is continually being used by the regimental officer. It is an extremely complex subject upon which many officers, particularly those with a limited experience of man management, are somewhat ill-informed. It is sometimes brought forward as the reason for some course of action which it tactically unsound. To indulge in false tactics for the sake of improved morale is like taking the first dose of a dangerous drug. There is no foreseeing to where it may lead you. The commander must keep the question of morale at the back of his mind but he must never let it come to the front of his thoughts so much as to cloud his clear reasoning. In general it seems that the following guidance might be of help to officers who are without that invaluable battle experience which has been gained by the troops here.
      1. If a commanders only reason for some course of action is to improve morale, his plan is probably unsound and he should try something else.

        or stated somewhat differently

      2. If false tactics are indulged in for the sale of improved morale, the morale effect produced may be the reverse of that anticipated.

    4. Generally I was most impressed by the high morale of our troops. As a result of conversations with our commanders it is clear that good morale as always is produced by:-
      1. Success in battle as a result of a unit’s own efforts.
      2. Good administrative arrangements. (I heard nothing from regimental officers but unqualified praise of the ‘Q’ arrangements of the campaign. In fact, as one commander put it to me, it was more the first class food which the soldier has had throughout the campaign than anything else that has enabled him to stand up to the worst rigours of the winter).
      3. Strict discipline.

    5. These factors have not been lacking in the First Army and have all played their part in the victorious conclusion of the campaign.


      The Lay Out

    6. First consideration must be given to the use which the Germans have put the reverse slopes of hills and knolls in the defence. His lay-out seems to be governed by the following rules:-
      1. Avoid the top of the hill unless your presence there is completely concealed.
      2. Tuck your MGs and anti-tank guns on to the side slopes, defiladed if possible, with areas of fire mutually covering the front.
      3. Keep your main force concealed behind the hill for counter-attack. In undulating country this may mean 300 to 400 yards back but in very hilly country they have usually been just behind the crest.
      4. Cover your front with minefields or other anti-tank obstacles.
      5. Range your mortars and artillery onto possible enemy forming up places and onto your own FDLs.
      6. Dig yourself in. if there are rocks so much the better.
    The following photographs and plans of the positions dug and manned by the German 90th Light Division just North of ENFIDAVILLE are excellent examples of the layout of his defences in mountainous country.
    approach to the defensive position
    The approach to the defensive position as viewed by the attacking 8th Army.

    Fragmentation of Shells.

    1. The use of artillery has been the outstanding success of the campaign. The German soldier definitely dislikes it but from my own investigations in the prisoner of war cages I am satisfied that he is under no delusions as regards the efficiency of our shell. It was described to me as “only noise”, “does not inflict many casualties”, “only dander from direct hits”, etc. etc. below is a photograph of shell fragments picked up at random on the top of LONGSTOP.
      shell fragmentation
      If we are to get real lethal effect from our artillery it is essential that we do something to increase the fragmentation of our shells.

      Air-burst HE

    2. There is a universal demand for air-burst HE. In spite of repeated questions I was unable to find any gunner who was not confident that he could use it. The enemy is expert at digging-in and we must have something that is able to get at him in his slit-trenches. The opinion generally was that, as artillery frequently found themselves up in the front line with the infantry, they wanted to be able to air-burst their HE at all distances from the gun, including those at very short ranges in order to deal with the enemy infantry coming in to attack.

      Longer Range Artillery.

    3. There is a universal demand for guns with a longer range. Longer range is held to be of greater importance than size of shell. The American 155mm LONG TOM is thus in great demand, both for its range and accuracy and is looked upon with envy by British gunners and with respect by the Germans. German prisoners did however disclose to me an unconfirmed report that too high a percentage of its shells were ‘duds’.

    4. This demand for greater ranges of artillery pieces also extends to armoured divisions who are emphatic that they want in their artillery organisation:-
      • One regiment of 25pdrs
      • One regiment of SP guns (Priest)
      • One Medium regiment.
      The Priest has proved itself an excellent piece and is just what is required.

      Anti-Tank Guns

    5. There may have been some idea in England a month ago that the 17pdr anti-tank gun might prove itself a white elephant in battle. Recent events in North Africa have quite disproved any such idea. It has been invaluable. The consensus of opinion is that commanders would like to have ½ to 2/3 of their anti-tank guns as 17pdr, the remainder being 6pdr to cover the flanks or rear of the 17pdr, or to put into positions where it would be difficult to conceal a 17pdr.
    6. I have also been impressed by the arguments in favour of the SP anti-tank gun.
      1. Most of the casualties to enemy tanks have been achieved by the offensive use of anti-tank guns; that is by bringing them quickly up into position rather than being lucky enough to have them in the right position when the enemy tanks have appeared.
      2. In the difficult country in which infantry have operated with tanks, the anti-tank guns have found themselves unable to keep up with the infantry. As a result Churchill tanks have been held by the infantry in the false role of the ant-tank gun.
      3. An anti-tank gun capable of keeping up with the Churchill is required to enable it to deal with the PK VI, Tiger.
    7. I would therefore recommend that the possibility of mounting the 17pdr anti-tank gun SP should be investigated.
  • May 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney
    May 43 North Irish Horse
    1/5/43 MEDJEZT
    prs Rooke, May and Chapman, the latter wounded, returned to the Regt after passing through enemy patrols.
    4/5/43 Seven tanks handed over to 145 RAC.
    6/5/43 C Sqn came under comd 142 Regt RAC to protect left flank of advance by 4th Indian Div. Operation carried out to punch hole for 7th Armd Div to pass through. During the action C Sqn captured six 88mm A/Tk guns.
    Five enemy tanks were seen moving off the final objective as our tanks approached.
    C Sqn returned to Regtl harbour at 1500hrs.
    7/5/43 B & C Sqns came under comd 1 Div and put men of KSLI into EL BATHAN without loss.
    C Sqn carried a Coy of the Forresters to DJEDEIDA area.
    8/5/43 A Sqn proceeded through TUNIS to CARTHAGE area. They were accorded a terrific welcome by the inhabitants. C Sqn supported 2nd Inf Bde in a successful attack on DJEDEIDA, 200 POW taken. Major Welch in a CS tank knocked out a pillbox during the attack.
    3Tp & 4Tp of C Sqn each carried a platoon of Gordon Highlanders into CHUART and SIDI ABDULLAH respectively, both of which places were quickly occupied.
    9/5/43 A & HQ Sqns harboured at MORNAGHIA, B & C Sqns in the DJEDEIDA area.
    10/5/43 All Sqns moved to concentration area near AIN EL ASKER.
    12/5/43 A Sqn moved out under comd 128 Bde for final round up of the enemy in the area. Tanks were not used and the Sqn returned during the afternoon.
    14/5/43 Regt moved to harbour near HAMMIM LIF. For the first time since leaving the UK, 25th Army Tank Bde was concentrated in the same area.
    15 – 19 After several days of intensive maintenance, rest became the order of the day.
    20/5/43 Regt took part in Victory Parade in TUNIS with one Sqn Of Churchills in serried ranks opposite the saluting base. The turnout of vehicles and personnel was very good and the parade was most successful.
    21 – 31 Regt remained in harbour at HAMMIM LIF and arrangements were made for training to commence.
    26/5/43 Battle TEWT tour arranged by Brigade. A member of one of the syndicates stepped on a mine in the LONGSTOP area; this resulted in seven people being killed (incl the CO of one of the other Regts in the Bde), and eight being injured, including the Brigadier, together with Lt MP Williams and Sgt O’Hare of the NIH.
    As a result of the Brigadiers injuries, Lt Col D Dawney assumed command of the Brigade.
    Our total casualties throughout the entire campaign were:-
    Killed 3 officers and 16 ORs
    Died of wounds 1OR
    Prisoners 1 officer and 7 ORs
    Wounded 7 officers and 25 ORs
    The CO was awarded the DSO and in addition there were six MCs and seven MMs awarded to members of the Regt.

    June 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Jun 43 North Irish Horse
    1 - 22 HAMMAM LIF
    Regt remained in harbour and training commenced.
    23/6/43 Recce Troop moved by transporters to new harbour area AIN MOKRA in the BONE area.
    24 – 30 Remainder of regt moved to new harbour area by transporters.
    All vehicles arrived with only one incident when an HQ Sqn vehicle went into a ditch when the side of the road subsided. QMS(T) Murphy sustained a fractured leg.

    July 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    May 43 North Irish Horse
    2/7/43 AIN MOKRA
    Lts TG Tuckey, JF O’Sullivan & HJ Hedges and 2Lts RH Horsborough, JA Waters, DF Hunt, JJN Foster, KW Foote joined from No. 1 GRTD for duty.
    8/7/43 Lt Col Dawney DSO relinquishes A/Comd of 25th Tank Bde on appointment of Brig JN Tetley TD as Bde Comd.
    12/7/43 First parties proceed on 7 days leave to rest camps.
    13/7/43 Major EV Strickland posted to 51st RTR. Capt RJ Griffith assumes command of A Sqn.
    14/7/43 Lt KS Appleby promoted A/Capt. Lt JT Milne joins from HQ 25th Tank Bde.
    18/7/43 Brig HRB Watkin DSO BRAC AFHQ visited the Regt.
    23/7/43 Comd 5th Corps visited the regt and talked to as many officers and men as possible.
    29/7/43 30 ORs under Lt MP Williams proceed to UK as escorts for POW.

    August 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Aug 43 North Irish Horse
    2/8/43 AIN MOKRA
    Major JG Stratton appointed Bde Major. Lt D Lewis and 2Lts AN McCleary and G Mahon join from No.1 GRTD. Capt RJ Griffith promoted A/Major.
    9/8/43 Period of intensive squadron training commences.
    16 – 21 Regt engaged in field firing exercise CONCORD with Coys of 2nd North Staffs and 1st Loyals.
    24/8/43 Lt IP McGregor joins from 48th RTR.

    September 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Sep 43 North Irish Horse
    1 - 4 AIN MOKRA
    35 new tanks received by Regt.
    5/9/43 Regt participated in a Bde Church Parade.
    24/9/43 Information received of a probable early move to a new theatre.
    26/9/43 Regtl parade held to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the re-forming of the Regt.
    Warning order received that latest date for state of readiness to be 8th Oct 1943.
    27/9/43 Lt RT Whatley posted to LAD and promoted Capt vice Capt E Garner.

    October 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Oct 43 North Irish Horse
    1/10/42 AIN MOKRA
    Regt placed on Priority A for re-equipment.
    3/10/43 Sgt ED Bullick and Sgt W Ingram re-joined Regt as 2Lts on being granted Immediate Emergency Commissions.
    5/10/43 Lt RT Whatley REME, permanently attached to the Regt as EME vice Capt Garner, and promoted Capt wef 28/9/43.
    6/10/43 Ten General Stuart (Honey) tanks arrived for the Recce Troop to replace Carriers. Recce Troop now organised into 3 troops of 3 tanks, and one tank.
    8/10/43 Zero day for completion of re-equipment. No further orders received.
    14/10/43 Major P Welch, Capt RT Whatley REME and Capt Mackean awarded the Military Cross.
    Major J Rew and Capt JE Williams Mentioned in Despatches.
    Sgt DL Knight awarded the BEM.
    Tpr S Johnson awarded bar to his MM.
    LCpl CM Moriarty and Tpr E Martin awarded MM.
    23/10/43 Regt placed at 72 hours notice to move.
    25/10/43 Capt RSH Sidebottom relinquishes appointment of Adjt and is succeeded by Capt PCM Sinclair.

    November 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Nov 43 North Irish Horse
    2/11/43 AIN MOKRA
    Lt GW Hutchinson killed in road accident en route to Regt on discharge from hospital.
    Lt D Whelan and Lt FK Crittenden RAMC, promoted Capt.
    3/11/43 Lt GW Hutchinson buried at CONSTANTINE.
    17/11/43 2Lt PA Garstin posted in from 6th Btn GRTD.
    20/11/43 Capt JE Williams posted to RAC School and retains rank of Capt.

    December 1943 CO: Lt Col D Dawney DSO
    Dec 43 North Irish Horse
    6 - 8 AIN MOKRA
    Regimental quiz for all ranks on Tactics, D&M, Gunnery, Gas, First Aid and Wireless.
    11/12/43 Lts HR Hedges, JF O’Sullivan & PA Garstin posted to 253 TDS.
    18/12/43 Capt D Whelan posted to 253 TDS. Lt MP Pope MC promoted to Capt.
    31/12/43 Orders received fot Lt Col D Dawney DSO to be posted as 2i/c of 23rd Armd Bde in the rank of Colonel. Major the Lord O’Neill to assume command of the Regt in the rank of Lt Col.
    Sgt HT Brown, Cpl R Mottram-Gray and Cpl F North left Regt and proceeded to appear befor War Office Selection Board.

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