1/6th Battalion

Preparatory Moves

Chapter 7

On 5th March 1943 1/6 Surreys while in Scotland, was inspected by His Majesty the King and the Battalion then expected something was at last to happen after over two years of hard training including training for combined operations. The next visitor was Major-General J L I Hawkesworth, Commander of 4 Division, who told the Battalion it would not be long before it saw some action against the enemy.

On 11th March the Battalion moved by train to King George V Dock, Glasgow and boarded the SS Orion of some 23,000 tons burden. The ship was loaded to capacity and carried the whole of 10 Brigade (2nd Bn The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment, 1/6th Bn The East Surrey Regiment and 2nd Bn The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry) together with some attachments from 4 Division Headquarters. The mess decks were very crowded! The ship sailed on 16th March in convoy with 22 other ships out into the Atlantic.

During the night 21/22 March the convoy passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and saw the unaccustomed sight of lights burning in Spain and in Spanish Morocco. On 23rd March the Orion docked at Algiers and the Battalion landed. Captain A Smart (OC HQ Company) and three other officers and 200 Other Ranks immediately re-embarked on another ship and were taken to Bone which was the destination of the Battalion's heavy equipment and transport.

The excitement and novelty of landing in North Africa soon wore off when it was realised there was a seventeen mile march to the transit camp at Cap Matifou. After seven days spent in the camp getting acclimatised the order came to move. The move was to be by train to the forward area, the journey being timed to take 48 hours but 'just in case' seven days rations were issued. Before leaving the camp the reinforcement company was taken away.

Early on the morning of 3rd April Lt Col H A B Bruno MBE and the Company Commanders, A Company Captain J Watson, DCM., B Company Major G G Maggs, MC., C Company Major R C Guy and D Company Captain L S B Scales went forward to reconnoitre the positions the Battalion were to take over from 5 Sherwood Forresters in the Beja Sector at Sidi Ameur, near Hunt's Gap.


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