Uncle's Diary Jan/Feb 1943
Posted by Mac Cummings on June 5, 2018, 10:29 am
January 1st New Years Day and we are still awaiting orders to move when up rolls a truck with Nipper, Bill Workman and the rest of the Gambut casualties (save Mason) Also reinforcements from the 9th survey. The Hun is still at Zem Zem and he is very active in the air. |
January 2nd-10th We move up again via Sirte and make camp near Sultana, and we are now on our own, i.e. some 4 trucks and 15 men. The surroundings here are very pleasant with banks of flowers and the sea some 400 yards away.
January 4th We move at last to join the troop at Wadi Kebir, sounds grim. Move via the horn track and arrive at the troop position at 16-00 hrs in the afternoon of the 7th after many bale outs because of the bloody minded Hun.
January 10th Wadi Kebir lying in the wilderness is some miles ahead of us as are the Germans in Wadi Zem Zem, and between a wide no mans land, which is patrolled by armoured cars of both sides. There is no shelling, apart from some “sniping” shoots by the field Regiments of the 4th Light armoured. The Wadi is very broad with a sandy bottom, and is skirted on all sides with low sand hills, with a gap to the West leading to the flat plains which forms the no mans land. We are camped in the hills to the East, and our trucks are parked in the various Wadi’s which cut into the sides of the hills, and it forms good protection from low flying aircraft, who have to rise to clear these obstacles. Away to the North are the HQ of the 4th Light and they are bombed every morning without fail. To the East is the main HQ of the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats) and they too are visited daily by the Luftwaffe, but so far we have escaped. We are now truck cooking, i.e. every group of men which travel on one truck cater for themselves. Apart from the air activity all is quiet. The first rumours of a push come to light.
Every morning one of us took his turn to gather Thorn bush for the breakfast fire. One such morning I met an officer “Red Braid” and all collecting his quota of “Bush.” There was no bullshit or pulling of rank. Just a friendly good morning and the briefest of salutes. Such was the 8th Army.
January 11th-20th January saw our first air attack in this position, and by about some Thirty Stuka’s who break into Two formations and bomb the vicinity of ourselves and Ack troop, but there is no damage and no casualties.
January 14th On the move again into action. We move of at 13-00 hrs to join the 8th Armoured brigade, who are ten miles of to the West. During the night we move to battle positions.
Battle for Tripoli
Order of the day from General Montgomery
On to Tripoli, just like that. The battle opens up at 07-15 hrs on the 15th January The 8th Armoured is to make a gap in the lines of the enemy at Zem Zem and the 4th Light Armoured is to pass through, in an attempt to break through the docks at Tripoli some 100 miles away. The New Zealanders are doing an outflanking movement to the South in the direction of Beni Ulid and then North towards Tarhuna. In the North the 51st Highland with the 22nd Armoured are attacking in the direction of Homs, while in the far South the Free French are pushing up through the Sahara Desert from Gadames in the direction of Tripoli. The enemy in our sector does not stay to fight once the initial break through is made and this cost us several tanks. All the way to Tarhuna where the enemy made some pretence of a stand, we were subjected to heavy Stuka attacks and there were several casualties in the column. After that the Luftwaffe faded out for some time. The country between Zem Zem and Tarhuna is of the wildest type, just a succession of deep Wadi’s and stony plains. We lose one man, Jock, killed in a dive bombing attack. After Beni Ulid we hit a long valley leading to Tarhuna, the bottom is sandy and the going hard. Heavy artillery fire at Tarhuna and we are in action.
January 20th we are now having increased air support from the Tactical air forces, amd the enemy falls back onto Castel Benito outside Tripoli. The 51st Highland Division are past Homs and moving along the coast road and there was heavy opposition in this area.
January 21st-30th At dawn we pass through Tarhuna which has just been evacuated by the enemy. Tarhuna makes a pleasing picture and a vivid contrast with the desert we have left behind us. There are White houses with a number of the Italian population still living here, which lie amid Green hills and Red cultivated fields while the roads are lined with Poplars. The enemy is shelling the pass that leads to Tripoli. The Queens go through on foot.
January 22nd We move to a camp some ten miles from Castel Benito.
January 23rd We enter Tripoli at long last, and move into a camp at Suani Ben Adam and the weather is very hot and sultry.
January 26th Move off into action again. We take up positions West of Zavia and Oasis Said, where we join the 131st Brigade (Queens). There are heavy artillery exchanges, and SR base in action, and the enemy is at Sabratha, which we clear by the 27th.
We are machine gunned by one of our Hurricanes captured by the Germans. It was hectic “Hiding” behind the Palm trees, but thankfully there were no casualties.
January 28th The enemy is at Zuara, and he is fighting a stiff rearguard action, and we are still in action on the 29th and 30th.
February 1st-10th After One days rest at Kilo 75, we move back into action again at a place called Pisida. The enemy is commanding the gap between the salt marshes and the coast road. He has this taped with a 170mm gun, and it is stalemate. The country around this area is flat and marshy and it is raining. There are some bombing attacks by fighter planes on the 111 field, and the SR base is in action. To the South in the region of El Assa the 8th Armoured are trying an outflanking movement, but are hindered by a swamp river which is some 800 yards wide at this point and the Royal Engineers are trying to bridge it. The enemy makes constant air attacks on this area. The attempt to break through at Pisida is abandoned, and leaving an anti-tank screen the 131st Brigade move back to Zuara.
February 11th-20th After a long hold up at Zuara, during which time I and others watch several Camels being slaughtered for meat, we move off to El Assa and make camp 10 miles to the West.
February 12th The bridge across the morass is completed and is named the Seven Sweepers and we cross into action.
February 15th We move off in desert formation with the 69th medium and the 8th Armoured Brigade in the direction of Ben Gardane which lies just across the Tunisian frontier. We enter the village at 15-00 hrs, in action again.
February 17th We hear news of relief by No.2 battery. Move back to Pisida on the 18th and arrive in Tripoli at dusk on the 19th.
February 21st-28th On the 21st Major Kellett leaves for India, and we check stores, but move back into action again on the 23rd; some rest. We reach the front line which is now at the town of Medenine in Tunisia on the 25th at 11-00 hrs. There is much air activity, and the RAF are on the dromes here. We do not take to kindly to this place. There is heavy shelling and we are in action.