Geordie Magazine Original  Heading

Overseas: North Africa

As we sailed up the Irish Sea, our thoughts turned to the family circle gathered in our homes that day--it was Christmas Day. But, as the shores of England and Ireland disappeared over the horizon, our thoughts turned again--to the U-boat menace and speculation as to our port of disembarkation. The majority of us knew that it would be somewhere in North Africa, as we were now a part of the First Army.

Day after day passed by without any excitement to help while away the time, only the ship's routine inspection, boat drill, and on occasions PT gave us some slight diversion. Passing through the 'Straits' about midnight, practically everyone remained on deck to watch the lights of Morocco, and if possible to catch a glimpse of the 'Rock.' The betting as to our probable destination turned to Oran or Algeria. We sailed on through the Mediterranean with the coast of Africa always in sight, which was some small grain of comfort amid the doubts and fears that passed through our minds.

One day the officers were all called to a conference and on returning were in possession of maps of Algeria. Then on Sunday morning, ten days after we had sailed from Liverpool, we sighted the port of Algiers. It looked beautiful in the morning sunlight, the white buildings standing out vividly against the azure sky made a perfect picture. We soon learnt, however, once we had set foot on land, that the 'smell' was not so beautiful.

We docked about 3pm and were informed that we were to march to a Transit Camp about five miles away. This proved to be nearer eighteen than five, and after such a long period of inactivity, everyone was ‘on his knees’ on arrival at the destination--a small village with the name of Eucalyptus.

After a week of sunshine, oranges, and lectures on the preparation for battle, we commenced our journey to the front, entraining one evening at Maison Carre and eventually detraining at a cluster of houses, a village called Ghardimaou. It was here that we began our preparation in earnest, getting rid of our kitbags and all surplus kit. After travelling in TCVs by night (1), and resting by day, we arrived at our de-bussing point, about three miles from the front.

We were told that we would be relieving the Royal West Kents, with C Company forward, A Coy on the right and B and D Coys in the rear. Our feelings that evening were strange. We could hardly realise that we were in the front line and liable to be shot if we showed ourselves. We all offered up prayers of thanks, that it was quiet, and that we had been given the opportunity of accustoming ourselves to the noises of war by easy stages. Our position was overlooked by Jerry, the latter being dug in on the side of the hills known as GREEN HILL and BALDY. A railway ran through all the Company positions and each HQ was situated in a tunnel.

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click to enlarge, Pte T Tunney Algiers postcard
cick to enlarge, T Tunney postcard Jan 1943

Above one soldier’s postcard home from Algiers. Note the signature of Pte Tunney’s platoon officer Lt C W Duck, which also features below that of Lt G Harris in the signed reverse, below, of the officers’ Christmas dinner menu seen on this page.

Lt Duck was killed at Sedjenane. Lt Logan at Salerno. Lt Ryan was wounded in Tunisia. Lt Weightman was taken POW in late March 1943. Lt Mynheer MM was wounded in North Africa and returned to the Battalion. The last two signatures are so far indecipherable. All suggestions welcome. Click on the items for larger views.

And click here for the full surviving correspondence index page for Pte T Tunney.
click to enlarge, 16th DLI signed menu