Major Harry Craggs MC, 70th Field Regiment Royal Artillery

On February 23rd I carried out reconnaissance of the 'Bend in the Road' gun positions, which were astride the Sedjenane-Jeffna road, about three-quarters of a mile from Sedjenane. The events which necessitated this withdrawal were, as far as I remember, the outflanking threat to our defended localities occasioned by an enemy movement in force from the south to cut the road at El Aouana, and a similar movement from the Cap Serrat direction aimed at Sedjenane.

The first was reported by a Corps wireless intercept and confirmed by a Recce Regt investigation and the second by the RAF Regiment, who had to destroy their equipment and evacuate their positions on the coast by sea. And on the 26th by a German advance through a battalion of the Corps Franc D'Afrique, whose remnants had withdrawn from Bourges des Monopoles almost into Sedjenane. I cannot remember the sequence of these reports of enemy movement.

Feb 26th

The battery was silent in its Sedjenane gun positions, and apart from enemy air activity directed at the village itself, all was very quiet. During the afternoon recce parties were despatched to the south where the Germans were attacking fiercely in the Thala area. Fortunately the CO remained in command of the Regt; in 449 Battery, the BC, F Troop Cdr, GPO, E Troop GPO and the F Troop TL were on the recce party, leaving the battery captain at the gun position.

In the evening the battery captain saw me and told me that a plan was being made, to counter the enemy movements on our flanks and that the 139 Brigadier was holding a conference at 2000hrs (I think!). I was to prepare my carrier and OP party, prepare to support DLI and report to their HQ in Sedjenane at 2200hrs to hear their plan. Broadly, the infantry positions in front of Jefna were all being vacated. The Leicesters were already at Thala, the Foresters were taking up defensive positions west of El Aouana, the DLI were con-centrating in Sedjenane to prepare to repel the threat from the north, and the Lincolns were going to take up positions round the village itself. A troop of 1 Commando were to work with the DLI. Information about the locations and strength of the enemy were vague.

At 2200hrs the battery captain and I reported to the DLI HQ in Sedjenane. We found that DLI recce parties, including their CO and Company Commanders had also gone south, and their Second-in-Command was preparing to hold an 'O' Group conference. Few of the officers had arrived and the battery captain departed to attend OC 70's conference. The DLI orders were very late and did not finish until between 0200 and 0300hrs.

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Abbreviations used in the text:

AFV Armoured Fighting Vehicle (in this case armoured cars)
AP Armour-Piercing
BC Battery Commander
BHQ Battalion HQ or Battery HQ depending on context
BSM Battery Sergeant Major
CPO Command Post Officer
DF Defensive Fire
DR Despatch Rider
FDLs Forward Defence Lines
FOO Forward Observation Officer: equipped with a bulky portable radio and a three-man Observation Post team to carry it and its battery, the FOO's job was to move up with the infantry and direct and adjust artillery fire as the attack progressed.
GPO Gunnery Position Officer
LO Liaison Officer
OP Observation Post
RAP Regimental Aid Post
SA Small Arms
TCV Troop Carrying Vehicle
WL Wagon Lines (the second-line vehicle parking area)