Major Toby Taylor, 1st Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment, recollects landing on the North African coast in November 1941.
Toby Taylor
Major Toby Taylor

Anyway we eventually got to Algiers and I think I told you this landing was rather peculiar because we went through the Straits of Gibraltar trying to fool the Germans that we were going to Malta and then suddenly turn south, then a submarine, I gather, led us down to the North African shore and when our ship the [Karinger] stopped we had to get into the landing craft, dead of night, pitch black and these scramble nets down the side of the ship and I told you the boats were going just like that. We didn’t know if we were going to hit but we had practiced all the kit we had to take with us, we practiced and rehearsed in the highlands of Scotland every day and we were marching but because they kept finding things they had not thought about, coils of barbed wire, rope, extra wire cutters, extra this, extra that. In the end every officer could hardly move and then the steward came along and pushed a tin of peaches down, had a May West on [life jacket]. Then he finally came along with a packet of sandwiches and I had my walking stick in one hand, packet of sandwiches, dead of night, all my equipment on, getting down that rope anyway, then scrambling. Then this wretched landing craft hit a sandbank, we could see by looking ahead that it was not where we were meant to be. We had rehearsed this from our photographs and silhouettes, spies and people had shown us what and we knew we were miles from and it hit a sandbank and the naval chap with this assault, “Ramp down!”, and that went down and the first chap went down and the water was up to his neck. Luckily I was right for it, if I had been shorter or longer. Let go of my sandwiches as I jumped into the water and reached out but could not save them. That is a funny way of assaulting an enemy territory using a packet of sandwiches. Anyway we got ashore absolutely soaking wet and I think I told you in the company a Private Brighton got off with his bicycle and I can remember seeing him come out pushing his bicycle. You saw his head and shoulders and then suddenly there he was pushing his bicycle. Then we didn’t know where we were, so we went up there on some cliffs there, nothing, we were not at our objective which was a place called Fuka Marine and we had an officer who talked good French. An Arab came along on a donkey and he didn’t seem a bit surprised that there were 2 or 300 English wet soldiers on the cliffs and he guided us to Fuka Marine on his donkey, he pointed out this is where, he pointed out and then nothing happened of course and then we moved into Algiers.