North of Sedjenane. Collecting weapons and our thoughts, we trekked off to know not where, to link up to a Section of 2 Troop with their 3-inch mortar at a map reference that the Officer Commanding, Captain Davidson had checked. Corporal W Ling has described the trek and eventual meeting with 2 Troop on the morning of the 27th--still tired and hungry.

'On the morning of the 27th the weather was fine and occasionally sunny. On contacting the Section of 2 Troop, the OC was in discussion with members of the Army who were scattered about.'

The situation which faced the Commandos as they moved across the plain to and to the left high ground that morning was thus very confused. The Commandos operated in Troops rather than Companies and had also developed their own special tactics which were different from those of normal infantry. However, after over three months in the frontline they were seriously understrength.

William Ling

'There'd be about 50 men in a Troop. Normally there's be about 60, but you've got to remember we'd been around a bit and we'd lost quite a few with one with and another and we weren't made up to strength until we came home.

'No 2 Troop were what we called the Heavy Troop, they had mortars. They were the ones with the 3-inch mortars. An ordinary Troop only had small arms: we carried Bren guns and American Garand rifles--they were semi-automatics.'

Jack Southworth

'No 4 Troop, which landed with a strength of about 60 personnel were now reduced to 33, with only one Officer, Captain Davidson. Both Section Officers had gone and of the two Sergeants and four Lance Sergeants, only one Sergeant and myself with the other NCOs were available. The high number of NCOs in a Commando was to enable us to operate in numbers of three and four, in groups for infiltration and movement over open ground.'

The Commandos were also still using the US steel helmets which they were issued with at the beginning of the invasion of North Africa--which meant that the other British troops in Tunisia would often mistake them for Americans. And they were also equipped with US Garand M1 semi-automatic rifles.

Jack Southworth

‘4 Troop, No 1 Commando had lost their berets when their ship was sunk on their way to Operation Torch. They wore the American helmets for the whole of the Campaign--it sometimes confused others.

‘The Garand [the US semi-automatic rifle] was a great improvement [on the bolt-action Lee Enfield] and on patrols had often surprised the enemy. Under controlled fire, their experienced troops, who would move in a second or two, used to realign for the Lee Enfield. Knowing this, when we exploited the semi-automatic fire of the Garand after two rounds of control, they were often caught on the move--as two good successes near Green Hill had proved.’

Arthur Jackson
'The French didn't like us when we landed at Algiers so we had to dress up as Yanks--because they liked the Yanks better!'

These American helmets had their own unexpected role to play in the confusion which followed on that first day of the battle.

NEXT

HOME