Sidi ben Touil
On 13th April the attack on Sidi ben Touil was renewed but this time with artillery support as the guns had been brought forward far enough to give support. The plan was for a two company attack behind a thirty minute barrage. C Company (Major R C Guy) was given as its objective the main feature Sidi ben Touil, some two thousand eight hundred feet high. The objective of B Company, (Major G G Maggs MC) were two features known as Hills 511 and 521 on the right. The distance to the objectives was about two miles over bare ground with little cover except that provided by valleys between the hills.
Lieut G A Rose, commanding 10 Platoon, reached his objective Hill 511 after coming under heavy machine-gun fire without incurring casualties but was now pinned down there. Lieuts A G Frost and D V R Martin, commanding 11 and 12 Platoons respectively, were ordered forward to take the final objective Hill 521. Heavy machine-gun fire was now opened on these platoons from Hill 521 and from Sidi ben Touil, causing a number of casualties before cover could be reached. The two platoon commanders pressed forward with the remainder. Lieut Frost with Corporal E O' Sullivan and about three others were seen moving forward towards the enemy position where some Germans were shouting 'Kamerad' and holding up their hands. Then some more Germans from another position fired some shots and came running forward. They surrounded Lieut Frost and his party who could then be seen being led off.as prisoners. Others who had advanced could not be seen and were not heard of again. There was no firing from them or from the right where Lieut Martin had advanced with his platoon, so that it seemed that the same fate had befallen them.
|L/Corporal A E W Hitchcock||L/Corporal A Bodfish|
The second stage of the advance was down into a deep gully and up a steep slope in which the enemy had a number of well concealed positions. Four weapon slits could be seen close together in front of 12 Platoon's position, so Sergeant A Weston, the platoon sergeant, brought the 2-inch mortar into action against them. At Company Headquarters two signallers had been killed and also the company runner, Private S V Swainson, who had the wireless set. CSM E H Haynes was killed while gallantly leading forward the remainder of B Company Headquarters. The advance was now completely held up owing to over thirty casualties. Major Maggs therefore decided to reorganize and consolidate on the first objective, Hill 511. All this time C Company was moving round the left flank under cover and soon came to the foot of the hill. 15 Platoon under Sergeant Bevan was sent forward to occupy some huts half way up the hill, which they reached successfully. The remainder of the company was then brought up. Here an enemy section post was found containing an NCO and three men, who were taken prisoner together with another two men driven from their position by 13 Platoon's 2-inch mortar fire. Now 14 Platoon led by Lieut H N Marlow moved on up the hill behind the enemy's main positions which were still being engaged by fire from B Company. When 14 Platoon reached the top of the hill they ran into trouble from very accurate machine-gun fire from the other side of the hill. Major Guy now withdrew the platoon to a position on the rear slope and disposed his company for defence.
It was getting dark when a message was received from Lt Col Bruno ordering the companies to withdraw. C Company thinned out and moved back, and B Company was able to recover ten men who had been wounded on the forward slopes and bring them back with them. The companies met at the prearranged rendezvous where the worst of the wounded were placed in carriers for the long cross-country journey. Those wounded who could, walked with the help of others. Amongst the walking wounded were Sergeant G Boreham and L/Corporal A Colley. The former had been shot in the knee and the latter in the hands. The withdrawal was covered by two sections of the Carrier Platoon under the command of Major R O V Thompson, the Battalion second-in-command, and Captain L Brown.'
During this operation, B Company lost Lieut D V R Martin and 3 Other Ranks killed, 10 men wounded, and Lieut A G Frost and 21 Other Ranks missing, some of whom were wounded. C Company brought in the enemy NCO and 5 men previously captured and from whom it was learnt the enemy positions were held by at least two companies of the 1st Barenthin (Parachute) Regiment.
|Lieut B A Crutchfield|
On the morning of 14th April A Company was ordered to attack the feature on which Lieut G A Dowler had had an encounter with the enemy on the night of 11/12th April. The company soon came under accurate artillery fire on the way forward and were halted just short of their first objective by heavy mortar and machine-gun fire from the surrounding hills. After about an hour's efforts to get forward, the company was ordered to withdraw. D Company (Captain L S B Scales), on Djebel Grembil now, was ordered to put up a demonstration on top of the feature by moving forward, showing themselves to draw fire, and after returning fire to withdraw again.
The operation was successful in diverting some attention away from A Company. Lieut C W Deayton-Groom was in command of the platoon on top of Djebel Grembil. In this operation Privates W Gibbs and L N Golding were killed and Sergeant Dodds, Lance Corporal G Ford, Privates C Hickey and C Middleton were wounded.
Later that day a shell landed in the mouth of a cave in which a platoon of C Company was sheltering, tragically killing eight and wounding sixteen. The Battalion stayed in their positions until the 18th April when they were relieved by an American battalion and moved south through Medjez-el-Bab to 'Handley Cross'.