Pte Tom Tunney, C Company 16 DLI

‘The first inkling I got, we had an RC Padre. He came round: 'RCs?' We had to go to a certain spot in the wood and they had Mass and Confession and all that. And I went there on the night and I says, “There's something bloody up here!'' And there was! The next morning we were all lined up there and away over like a big plain. About a mile to go. We got about half a mile and he opened up. Everybody dropped.’

Were you running or walking?

‘No, just walking and he opened up off the top. We just dropped and then 'Up!' Got up and just carried on. We just had our FSMO: Field Service Marching Order: small pack, weapons and that. We might have run at the finish.’

Caught in the crossfire between German troops occupying all three positions, the left and right high ground and the valley in between, the DLI were forced back with heavy casualties, particularly to A and B Companies. Those men who could retreat did, but many were pinned down and unable to move either forwards or back.

On the afternoon of the 27th, after some regrouping, further attempts were made by the DLI to clear the Germans from the hills and valley. B Company's attempt to advance again through the Valley quickly stalled again in the deadly crossfire and mortaring and many men were pinned down for the entire day before slowly making their way back via the sunken river bed.

However, C and D Companies did make some progress working around the left and right flanks of the Valley, towards Djebel Guerba, Djebel Galb Sour and Point 231 to the left and Djebel Sincira and Djebel Rachtouil to the right. The steep cliff area was a crucial piece of cover for the British troops trying to attack the left high ground.

‘At the bottom of the hill was like a cliff, it was about 10 or 12 feet and we all ran into that. You couldn't get up this cliff, but further along, on each side of it, it was sloped. You could get up there. So we got up there and he was on top. He was only about 200 yards in front, but you daren't get up. We were crawling up through the grass, bushes and that you know. Why, the bloody bullets was flying all over.’

Jack Southworth 4 Troop, No 1 Commando

‘Captain Davidson and myself had done many courses together at the Commando Depot on weapons and tactics, so patrol formations were different to other units. I have tried to show you what it was like for your father. The hill they attempted to climb was impossible. My OC commented before our action that we wouldn't be going up there even it ordered. It could be approached differently. A previous mountain collapse had left a split of about 100 yards full of scree [rock debris], so one had no footing. The large, sandy coloured rectangular boulders of 12 by 12 foot were close together to form a cliff. This formation was also half way up the mountain. It appeared that this area had been picked out on a map, as no one would send troops up in complete disarray if it had been seen. As the only troops trained for patrol and mountain fighting we should have gone up at night to infiltrate the positions. The DLI must have met a hailstorm of bullets ricocheting off this scree.’

The 2 Troop mortars were set up behind the partial protection of the cliff area.

Cpl William Ling, 4 Troop, No 1 Commando

‘There was only a few of them in 2 Troop there wasn't a whole Troop, perhaps about ten and they had a Sergeant with them and he was controlling the mortar fire over this hill. We mortared them quite a lot from our positions. I think we had two and they were throwing the bombs and, of course, the lookout was there to see where they were landing and he was looking over the top and a sniper got him. He got hit in the side of the head--but he survived it. That was the first day when we were called out that happened. It was a bit of a shambles, it really was. Because we were sent up there in a great hurry.

‘We were under there quite a while that day. We took over that part and we were sort of underneath it and we had to go round to get away from this hill to get to go up onto the next one. They couldn't hit us where we were until we moved out. The bloke that got wounded up there and won the MM was Sgt Southworth. He was wounded that day taking that hill from them.’

Jack Southworth

’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 and I was informed that we were to proceed up the hill which of a much lower level than those attempted previously by other troops. It was feared that enemy troops would now be able to approach Sedjenane via this easier route.

'The one problem was that a Bren gun was operating up the hill. But who was using it? On the lower right handside

NEXT

HOME

C Company 16 DLI and No 1 Commando, February 27th 1943