Batalla de Medenine, 6 de marzo de 1943

Batalla de Medenine, 6 de marzo de 1943

Batalla de Medenine, 6 de marzo de 1943

La batalla de Medenine (6 de marzo de 1943) fue la última ofensiva de Rommel en África y fue un intento fallido de interrumpir los preparativos del Octavo Ejército para su próximo ataque a la Línea Mareth, la principal posición defensiva del Eje en el sur de Túnez. (Campaña del norte de África)

A raíz de su derrota en la segunda batalla de El Alamein, Rommel había llevado a cabo una hábil pero bastante rápida retirada de Libia. Era consciente de que su ejército destrozado no podía hacer frente a ningún ataque serio, por lo que se negó a oponerse a ninguna de las líneas defensivas dentro de Libia. Abandonó la línea de El Agheila a mediados de diciembre, justo cuando Montgomery comenzaba un ataque cuidadosamente planeado. Lo repitió en Buerat a mediados de enero, y el 23 de enero el VIII Ejército ocupó finalmente Trípoli, tres meses después del comienzo de la batalla de El Alamein. El destino de Rommel era la Línea Mareth, una serie de fortificaciones francesas de antes de la guerra construidas para proteger la Túnez francesa contra un ataque de la Libia italiana.

Rommel era consciente de que Montgomery no se arriesgaría a un ataque rápido en la Línea Mareth y sugirió que la brecha podría usarse para atacar a las fuerzas estadounidenses que avanzan hacia el sur de Túnez desde Argelia después de la Operación Antorcha. Obtuvo la aprobación para este ataque, que se llevó a cabo junto con el 5º Ejército Panzer del general von Arnim, que se estaba acumulando en el norte de Túnez. Este ataque, que comenzó a mediados de febrero, condujo a la batalla del paso de Kasserine (19-22 de febrero de 1943), y vio a la 1.a División Blindada de los EE. UU. Sufrir una vergonzosa derrota, antes de que el ataque del Eje se agotara justo al norte de El permiso.

A raíz de esta batalla, Rommel se convirtió en el comandante de un nuevo Grupo de Ejércitos África. Su antiguo Panzerarmy Africa se convirtió en el Primer Ejército italiano, bajo el mando del general Giovanni Messe. Aunque Rommel tenía oficialmente el mando de ambos ejércitos del Eje en el norte de África, tenía poco que decir sobre las actividades de von Arnim en el norte y, en cambio, se centró en la idea de lanzar un ataque sorpresa contra el Octavo Ejército de Montgomery, en un intento de interrumpir sus preparativos para la ataque a la línea Mareth. El 28 de febrero Rommel celebró una conferencia de mando en la que se expuso la idea. Rommel sugirió un ataque en pinza, con dos divisiones atacando desde las colinas de Matmata (al oeste de las posiciones británicas) y dos divisiones atacando a lo largo de la costa, ambas en dirección a la ciudad de Medenine, la principal base británica. Messe se opuso a la idea del ataque costero, con el argumento de que sus tropas tendrían que cruzar sus propios campos de minas densos y atacarían directamente hacia la artillería británica. Después de una larga reunión, Rommel cedió y permitió que Messe planificara el ataque.

La línea británica corría de norte a sur, a unas pocas millas al este de la línea Mareth. Estaba anclado en la costa a la derecha, pero a la izquierda atravesaba el desierto, a poca distancia de las colinas de Matmata, que formaban el flanco interior de la línea Mareth. El plan de Messe era un ataque de cuatro frentes contra Medenine. A la derecha 10 Panzer atacaría desde el oeste / suroeste, dirigiéndose directamente a Medenine. A su izquierda, el Panzer 21 atacaría al este hacia algunas colinas justo al norte de Medenine. A su izquierda, 15 Panzer atacarían a lo largo de la carretera principal desde el extremo interior de la Línea Mareth hacia Medenine. Finalmente en el Eje dejó el italiano La SpeziaLa división y parte de la 90.a División Ligera alemana atacarían a lo largo de la carretera que va de Mareth a Medenine.

El plan de Messe (Operación Capri) fue una esperanza perdida en el mejor de los casos. Las tres divisiones blindadas alemanas solo tenían 162 tanques entre ellas. Aunque la posición británica no estaba protegida por alambres o campos de minas (ya que Montgomery esperaba pasar a la ofensiva), tenían 350 cañones de 25 libras y medios, 460 cañones antitanques y 300 tanques en la línea del frente. La única posibilidad de éxito era que los británicos pudieran ser tomados por sorpresa, pero las intercepciones de Ultra habían revelado los detalles de los planes de Messe a Montgomery, quien pudo tomar las precauciones adecuadas. Normalmente, la línea del frente habría estado bastante escasa, ya que el resto del ejército se preparaba para el próximo ataque, pero Montgomery ahora movió divisiones completas en la línea. La 51ª División estaba apostada a la derecha, desde la costa hasta la carretera de Mareth a Medenine. La 7ª División Blindada llenó el área desde la carretera hasta las colinas de Tadjera. La 2ª División de Nueva Zelanda ocupó el área frente a Medenine y el pueblo cercano de Metameur (entre Medenine y las colinas de Tadjera). Para empeorar las cosas para las tropas del Eje, Montgomery había colocado sus cañones de artillería y antitanques en posiciones que fueron diseñadas para permitirles destruir los tanques enemigos, en lugar de apoyar a los blindados británicos. Los artilleros británicos también tenían un nuevo plan de fuego: en lugar de comenzar con fuego de acoso de largo alcance, esperarían a que los tanques alemanes se acercaran y luego abrirían fuego con un bombardeo masivo destinado a destruir tantos tanques alemanes como fuera posible. Los tanques británicos debían mantenerse fuera de la batalla en la medida de lo posible, para salvarlos para el ataque a la Línea Mareth.

La batalla comenzó a las 0600 horas cuando 10 Panzer avanzaron desde las colinas hacia Metameur (al oeste / noroeste de Medenine). Este ataque fue detenido por un intenso fuego antitanque de los puestos de avanzada de la 2ª División de Nueva Zelanda a unas pocas millas de la aldea.

21 El ataque de Panzer hacia las colinas de Tadjera fue detenido por fuego de artillería desde las colinas. 15 Panzer atacó desde las defensas de la Línea Mareth, pero tampoco avanzó.

El único avance se produjo a la izquierda, donde el La Spezia La división y la 90a Luz lograron penetrar la línea de la 154a Brigada (51a División) y la 131a Brigada (Séptima División Blindada) y capturar Zemlet el Lebene, un área de terreno más alto al noroeste de las colinas de Tadjera.

Luego vino un asalto combinado de 15 Panzer y 21 Panzer, pero fue rechazado por una combinación de tanques de la 201 Brigada de la Guardia y fuego de artillería de las Colinas Tadjera.

Un contraataque de la 131ª Brigada recuperó Zemlet el Lebene, negando el único éxito del Eje en la batalla.

10 Panzer lanzó un segundo ataque contra Metameur, pero una vez más fue rechazado por el fuego de artillería. Sin embargo, un informe afirmaba falsamente que la aldea había caído, por lo que Messe ordenó a 15 Panzer que se desplazaran hacia el sur para reforzar el éxito. Cuando se descubrió la verdad, la división se retiró a las colinas.

Rommel había estado observando el ataque desde las colinas al sur del campo de batalla principal, y rápidamente quedó claro que los británicos habían esperado el ataque. Creía que debía haber habido una falta de seguridad en el lado italiano, pero no sospechaba que el problema estaba en los códigos alemanes. A última hora de la tarde, Rommel decidió que ya era suficiente y ordenó a Messe que pusiera fin a la batalla.

La batalla de Medenine había sido un desastre total para las potencias del Eje. Los alemanes perdieron 52 tanques, casi todos por cañones antitanques. Las bajas aliadas fueron muy bajas, y Montgomery describió la batalla como "Un modelo de combate defensivo y un gran triunfo para la infantería y el cañón antitanque".

Este fue el último ataque de Rommel en África. El 8 de marzo entregó el mando a von Arnim y al día siguiente voló fuera de África por última vez. Hitler se negó a permitirle regresar e insistió en que tomara una licencia por enfermedad. Los aliados no descubrieron que Rommel había abandonado África hasta el final de la campaña tunecina y, como resultado, creyeron que él era su oponente durante su ataque a la línea Mareth.


El medio Oriente

Hasta la recepción de esta orden en el Cuartel General del Octavo Ejército, la Séptima División Acorazada había estado de manera constante, pero lenta, liderando el avance a lo largo de la carretera principal de la costa más allá de Ben Gardane, muy obstaculizado por extensos campos de minas colocados bajo la enérgica dirección del Generalleutnant Buelowius. El 17 de febrero, el 12. ° Lancers y la Brigada Queen & rsquos llegaron a Nefatia, pero luego tuvieron que esperar un día mientras los Ingenieros Reales despejaban el camino por delante. El día 19, la 22ª Brigada Blindada se detuvo a tres millas de Medenine y los batallones Queen & rsquos se depuraron antes de avanzar hacia la ciudad y despejarla con éxito del enemigo. Por la noche, dos patrullas de reconocimiento de & lsquoC & rsquo Company, 1/5 th Queen & rsquos, bajo el mando de Lts H. Sanctuary y J.R. Morrison-Scott, salieron a Metameur, trayendo la información de que estaba libre del enemigo. En consecuencia, la Brigada ocupó una posición alrededor de esa aldea, pero descubrió que el área estaba tan minada y con trampas explosivas que no se permitió la entrada de tropas en los wadis o cerca de los edificios. Al día siguiente, la 22ª Brigada Blindada ocupó el Tadjera Khir, incluida la colina principal de este elemento, que se conoció como Castillo de Esenborough con su villa blanca en la cima. Esta fue una adquisición tácticamente importante, ya que proporcionó una excelente observación a través de la llanura hasta las colinas de Matmata. La Brigada Queen & rsquos se hizo cargo de esta característica y del área general al norte y oeste de Metameur el 22 de febrero, y estaba consolidando esta posición cuando la orden de Alexander & rsquos se hizo conocida.

Aunque sus arreglos administrativos estaban lejos de estar completos, Montgomery ordenó a sus dos únicas divisiones principales, la 7ª Blindada y la 51ª Highland, que avanzaran hasta la Línea Mareth y, si era posible, ahuyentaran al enemigo. También ordenó a la 201a Brigada de Guardias a toda velocidad y la puso bajo el mando de la 7a Brigada Blindada, y emitió órdenes de advertencia a la 2a División de Nueva Zelanda, la 8a Brigada Blindada reequipada y la 23a Brigada Blindada para que estuvieran listos para subir cuando sea necesario. La 4ª Brigada Blindada Ligera había vuelto a estar bajo el mando de los neozelandeses. El 26, la 51.a División (Highland) tomó el relevo de la Brigada Queen & rsquos en el Tadjera Khir, y la Reina & rsquos hizo un avance nocturno y ocupó las tierras altas de Zemlet El Lebene y Kef Abdallah, a unas cuatro millas al noroeste de la isla. Tadjera Khir. Al día siguiente, la 201ª Brigada de Guardias se hizo cargo de las posiciones de Tadjera Khir, y la 51ª Highland llegó al flanco norte de la Brigada Reina & rsquos & rsquos. Aunque las Divisiones Ligeras 90 y 164 alemanas con cuatro divisiones italianas ya estaban en la Línea Mareth, estas maniobras finales del 7 ° Blindado y el 51 ° Highland influyeron significativamente en Rommel.
decisión de interrumpir los ataques a Kasserine.

Sin embargo, este fue un momento preocupante para el Octavo Ejército, que ahora se encontraba peligrosamente desequilibrado y seguiría siendo vulnerable hasta que se pudiera traer a los neozelandeses. Así que los últimos días de febrero y los primeros de marzo fueron un período de ansiedad. Afortunadamente para los aliados, la estructura de mando del Eje mostraba signos de tensión severa en este momento. Rommel, que ya no era un hombre en forma, sufría de agotamiento mental y físico además de ictericia, aún conservaba su nombramiento como C-in-C Armee Gruppe Afrika, pero había sido reemplazado por el general italiano Giovanni Messe como comandante de el Panzerarmee Afrika de hecho, el título de ejército y rsquos se había cambiado a Primer Ejército Italiano. Rommel, Messe, Ziegler, que comandaba el Deutsches Afrika Korps, y los comandantes de las Divisiones Panzer 10, 15 y 21 no pudieron ponerse de acuerdo sobre un plan de ataque. Rommel estaba casi solo en creer que la Línea Mareth no era invulnerable de un movimiento de flanqueo alrededor de las Colinas Matmata, pero los demás pensaban que el Octavo Ejército podría ser destruido frente a Mareth. Finalmente, el 2 de marzo, Messe, que tendría el control táctico de la batalla, comenzó a dar órdenes de atacar las posiciones ocupadas por el 51º Highland y el 7º Blindado. La operación estaba prevista para el 6 de marzo y supondría dos embestidas. En el norte, la División Spezia italiana y el Regimiento Panzergrenadier 200 de la 90.a División Ligera iban a realizar un asalto frontal en Zemlet El Lebene, mientras que el Afrika Korps, empleando las tres divisiones panzer, apuntarían a un gran avance en Metameur antes de girar hacia el noreste. y al norte para unirse con el grupo de batalla de Spezia. Las dos divisiones británicas podrían destruirse en detalle. Afortunadamente, la esencia de estos planes fue interceptada por Ultra, por lo que Montgomery pudo ceñirse a su horario original para llevar la 2ª División de Nueva Zelanda al área que cubre Metameur y Medenine el 4º. También trajo a la 23ª Brigada Blindada detrás de la 51ª Highland y colocó a la 8ª Brigada Blindada en reserva detrás de la 22ª Brigada Blindada, que permaneció en apoyo de la Brigada Queen & rsquos.

Estas posiciones estaban en su mayoría a la vista del enemigo que ocupaba las colinas a cinco millas de distancia, por lo que solo podían ser ocupadas por una pantalla durante el día, mientras que el resto de los batallones estaban retenidos en el terreno muerto hasta la noche, cuando había patrullas activas. y ardua excavación para mejorar las posiciones. Hubo proyectiles espasmódicos y una mayor actividad aérea enemiga, pero la moral aumentó considerablemente cuando un Messerschmitt Bf 109 recibió un disparo en la cola de un Bofors. El 4 de marzo, otro equipo de Bofors coronó ese logro al derribar dos aviones enemigos con un proyectil. Se prestó especial atención a la ubicación de los cañones antitanque, especialmente los 6pdrs recientemente adquiridos. Durante este período, el teniente coronel Bill Kaulback, al mando de 1/6 de Queen & rsquos, resultó herido y el OC 476 Battery RA fue asesinado por un proyectil que cayó sobre su OP. El mayor Archie Wilson asumió nuevamente el mando temporal del Batallón.

La Brigada Reina & rsquos se formó con los tres batallones en la vanguardia. 1/5 de Queen & rsquos estaba en la Brigade & rsquos derecha con & lsquoD & rsquo Company en Kef Abdallah en contacto con la 1ra Guardia Negra de la Brigada 154 a su derecha. & lsquoC & rsquo Company ocupó una posición de balandra inversa detrás del punto 214 en la característica Zemlet El Lebene, con & lsquoA & rsquo Company en reserva cubriendo el estrecho paso de El Hararza y ​​su pista que corre desde el suroeste. & lsquoB & rsquo Company estaba en la brecha entre & lsquoD & rsquo y & lsquoC & rsquo Companies. El 1/7 de Queen & rsquos, con sólo tres compañías, ocupaba el centro del frente de la Brigada entre el Paso de El Hararza y ​​el ancho Wadi Hallouf, que seguía la línea de otra pista que venía del sur y que partía del Paso de Hallouf. En el centro de la posición 1/7 de Queen & rsquos había otro wadi, el Wadi Negueb, que dividía su frente. & lsquoB & rsquo Company, bajo el mando del capitán Stuart Playfoot, cubrió la pista de El Hararza mientras que & lsquoC & rsquo Company ocupaba el terreno elevado entre los wadis, y & lsquoA & rsquo Company se colocó entre Wadi Negueb y Wadi Hallouf. Dos tropas de Artillería Real 6pdrs fueron asignadas a & lsquoB & rsquo Company además de dos destacamentos del Batallón & rsquos morteros, mientras que & lsquoA & rsquo Company recibieron los cuatro de Batallón & rsquos 6pdrs. Los cañones antitanque de 2pdr se colocaron más atrás, hacia las cabezas de los wadis, para dar profundidad donde su alcance más corto sería más efectivo. A la izquierda de la Brigada estaba el 1/6 de Queen & rsquos con a su izquierda el 2 nd Scots Guards y más allá de ellos el 3 rd Coldstream. Un wadi sin nombre separaba al sexto de la 201ª Brigada de Guardias. & lsquoB & rsquo Company se mantuvo en un terreno elevado justo al sur de Wadi Hallouf en el batallón & rsquos a la derecha, mientras que & lsquoA & rsquo Company estaba a la izquierda en contacto con la 2.ª Guardia Escocesa. La compañía de reserva, & lsquoC & rsquo Company, estaba apostada en una colina baja cerca de la cabecera del wadi sin nombre, a unos 1.000 metros hacia la parte trasera.

Batalla de Medenine.
(Click para agrandar)

Stuart Playfoot ha dado una vívida descripción de los preliminares y el comienzo de la batalla de Medenine. El terreno que nos dijeron que ocupáramos estaba dentro de estas colinas que cubrían un par de wadis, uno muy ancho a la izquierda de nuestro séptimo batallón de Queen & rsquos y uno mucho más pequeño a la derecha, que de hecho era el área de mi compañía. Esto fue un poco complicado entre dos características de la colina. Teníamos nuestro propio pelotón de cañones antitanques, que eran ocho, dentro del batallón, y me dieron una batería de cañones antitanques de Artillería Real, que no creo que hayan disparado un tiro porque de hecho no llevamos tanques a mi interior. área de la empresa. Los Royal Engineers nos ayudaron, porque cavaron pozos y pozos de armas y así sucesivamente para las armas con excavadoras y cosas de ese tipo, lo que tomó unos 10 días. No teníamos minas, así que hicimos minas simuladas con latas y las enterramos, y construimos un pequeño montón de arena encima para que pareciera que había algo allí.

Y eran alrededor de las 6 en punto de la mañana del 6 de marzo y lsquo43, una mañana muy, muy brumosa, muy brumosa de hecho, y lo primero que uno sabía era que se podía escuchar este retumbar de motores muy, muy, muy lejos. hacia lo que más tarde se conocería como la Línea Mareth. Ya habíamos estado de pie desde aproximadamente las cuatro y media, porque se anticipó que este iba a ser el día, o el día siguiente de todos modos, así que estábamos todos armados hasta los dientes, parados allí y esperándolos. Tenía dos morteros adjuntos a mi empresa y teníamos un OP en una de las funciones. Así que subí allí con ellos, y desde allí se podía ver toda la batalla que se extendía frente a uno. Los tanques se desviaron hacia mi izquierda, de hecho fueron al wadi muy grande y ancho. La infantería se desvió a mi derecha hacia el 1/5 de Queen & rsquos, porque yo era la compañía de la mano derecha de mi Batallón. Dio la casualidad de que había una gran caída allá hacia la 5ª Reina & rsquos, entre ellos y yo, y mucho antes, con mis dos sargentos de mortero, había acordado que esta era una posible zona de peligro, porque estaba completamente oculta. de la vista, y de hecho lo habíamos alineado con nuestros morteros. Entonces, cuando vimos a los infantes entrar allí, realmente abrimos fuego. Me registraron que dispararon 140 bombas bien, debe haber hecho mucho daño. Ciertamente, hasta donde yo sé, ninguna infantería entró jamás en & lsquoC & rsquo Company, 5 th Queen & rsquos. Nuestra moral fue tremenda cuando nos dimos cuenta de que estábamos tan seguros como una casa en esta gran característica rocosa. Nuestra moral estaba por las nubes porque estábamos bastante seguros de que, en esta posición tan fuerte, íbamos a vencer este ataque. Nosotros, en el área de mi empresa, solo recibimos fuego de ametralladora y artillería y, afortunadamente, ningún daño serio en todo el día. La gran acción, por supuesto, fue en el flanco izquierdo, de la que no supimos hasta un poco más tarde en el día. Pero en general estábamos locas porque este fue un espectáculo fantástico en lo que a nosotros respecta. & Rdquo

El retumbar de los motores que el Capitán Stuart Playfoot había escuchado a través de la niebla de la madrugada había sido el de las Divisiones Panzer 15 y 21 que emergían de las colinas por la carretera Toujane, y luego había sido testigo del 15 ° Regimiento Panzer & rsquos Panzer 8 desviarse hacia el Wadis Negueb y Hallouf, mientras su regimiento 115 de Panzergrenadier se dirigía al punto 214. Mientras tanto, el 21º Panzer había continuado por la carretera de Toujane, dejando a un lado a una patrulla de portaaviones de los guardias escoceses, hasta que llegaron a un campo de minas ficticio frente al 3º. Guardias de Coldstream. El décimo Panzer salió del paso de Hallouf y se dirigió directamente a Medenine hacia los neozelandeses. Poco después, los panzergrenadiers de la 90.a División Ligera avanzaron sobre la 7.a Argylls y la 7.a Guardia Negra de la 154 Brigada desde el noroeste, junto con la División Spezia, que avanzó hacia la 1.a Guardia Negra y las Compañías & lsquoC & rsquo y & lsquoD & rsquo, 1/5 de Reina y rsquos. Aunque apoyados por algún fuego de artillería pesada, estos ataques de infantería tuvieron que recorrer un largo camino a través de la llanura abierta y la artillería británica, con los ametralladores del 7º Middlesex, tuvo un día de campo, infligiendo grandes pérdidas. Los supervivientes llegaron al pie de las colinas y se atrincheraron.

En el otro flanco, los tanques de vanguardia de la 10ª División Panzer comenzaron a desfilar por un wadi que conducía a las posiciones del 28º Batallón Maorí, el batallón de la mano derecha de la 5ª Brigada de Nueva Zelanda. Cuando llegaron a 400 yardas, dos cañones antitanque de 6pdr abrieron fuego y en rápida sucesión derribaron cuatro tanques, y los morteros reclamaron un quinto al volar las vías. Incapaces de localizar de dónde venía el fuego de Nueva Zelanda, los tanques alemanes se retiraron, dejando a la infantería que los acompañaba varada, que luego fue severamente mutilada por el fuego de artillería. Frente a la 201ª Brigada de Guardias, la 21ª División Panzer fue engañada por el campo de minas ficticio, y giró hacia el norte, presentándose en consecuencia de frente a los 6 pdrs de la 2ª Guardia Escocesa, que derribaron doce tanques y dañaron gravemente a otros tres. Sin embargo, fue el ataque de la 15ª División Panzer al centro de la Brigada Queen & rsquos lo que proporcionó la acción más espectacular del día. Capitán E.G. Sandys, el comandante del pelotón antitanques de 1/7 th Queen & rsquos, dio la siguiente cuenta: -

& ldquoJusto en frente de nuestras posiciones, la armadura alemana pareció dividirse en dos columnas: una dirigida hacia el 7 ° Pelotón de & lsquoA & rsquo Company, 1/7 de Queen & rsquos, y la otra hacia 1/5 de Queen & rsquos, junto con sus Panzer Grenadiers. Fue en esta etapa cuando los tanques enemigos aparecieron a la vista del cañón antitanque n ° 5 del sargento Andrews. Sabiendo que el diseño antitanque se apoyaba mutuamente y, gracias a Dios, recordaba su disciplina de fuego, el sargento Andrews permitió que los primeros cuatro tanques alemanes avanzaran por la pista y luego se enfrentó al quinto tanque (un Mark III). Marcó un golpe directo con su primer disparo y detuvo el tanque. Luego puso cuatro tiros más en él y esto hizo que la tripulación saltara. Luego cambió al siguiente tanque (un Mark IV) y lo puso fuera de acción, con la tripulación también empacando. El sargento Andrews luego cambió rápidamente al tanque líder, que obviamente en ese momento no sabía muy bien lo que estaba sucediendo, y le dio un golpe directo y lo detuvo, lo que significaba que tenía todos los otros tanques siguientes reprimidos. Luego sistemáticamente
destruyó los otros tanques de modo que en muy poco tiempo tuvo una veintena de tanques alemanes noqueados. Fue una pieza espléndida de tiro antitanque y el hecho de que el sargento Andrews mantuviera el fuego en el momento correcto fue muy gratificante para todos nosotros. Al presenciar la difícil situación de los tanques líderes, alrededor de una docena de los siguientes tanques giraron hacia el sur y algunas posiciones seleccionadas con el casco hundido en el flanco inmediato de la & lsquoA & rsquo Company y pudieron derribar tanto el fuego antitanque como el de ametralladoras fulminantes en todo el batallón. área, mientras que ellos mismos fueron en parte defilados por nuestro propio fuego antitanque. Este fuego fue muy pesado y, junto con los bombardeos de la artillería alemana, la situación fue de lo más desagradable y restringió severamente los movimientos. De hecho, recuerdo que no se vio ni una cabeza imprudente sobre el suelo durante este arrebato.

Sin embargo, el sargento Andrews descubrió el origen del fuego del tanque y aceptó el desafío. Habiendo entrado en posiciones de casco abajo, los objetivos presentados eran, sin embargo, muy pequeños y durante este encuentro el parapeto de su arma fue demolido. El sargento Andrews ordenó a su tripulación que se cubriera mientras él mismo continuaba cargando y disparando el arma. Inhabilitó dos tanques más, lo que en ese momento causó una grave amenaza a las posiciones de la & lsquoA & rsquo Company & rsquos, e impidió que los alemanes entraran en el vital Wadi Negueb.

Al mismo tiempo, la infantería avanzaba en todos los frentes de la compañía, pero cuando se enfrentó, se hundió a unas 1.000 yardas de nuestras posiciones, cuando nuevamente fueron atacados por fuego de artillería y mortero con resultados devastadores, y no hicieron más avances organizados en 1 /. 7ª Reina y frente rsquos. La artillería también tenía algunos objetivos magníficos en los puntos de depuración de infantería.

Mientras tanto, los blindados alemanes, habiendo sido empujados hacia el sur por el fuego efectivo del cañón rsquo del sargento Andrews, se reformaron y realizaron ataques de sondeo. Entraron en Wadi Hallouf, en el que se encontraba la pistola Sgt Crangles & rsquo (pistola número 7). Los tanques fueron atacados inmediatamente por el sargento Crangles, el sargento Vincent (cañón No 8) y el cañón antitanque derecho de 1/6 de Queen & rsquos. Uno fue inmediatamente noqueado por el sargento Vincent y otro por el sargento Crangles, pero en este punto otro tanque más arriba del wadi disparó contra el sargento Vincent y el cañón antitanque de 1/6 de Queen & rsquos y derribó ambos cañones.

Más tanques alemanes entraron en Wadi Hallouf y, a una distancia de poco más de 200 yardas, el sargento Crangles los enfrentó con gran rapidez. Al mismo tiempo, su artillero Bren mantuvo una velocidad de disparo rápida para evitar que los comandantes de los tanques observaran desde sus torretas. En un breve espacio de aproximadamente media hora, el sargento Crangles derribó 14 tanques a muy corta distancia. Durante este encuentro, disparó 40 rondas de disparos AP con gran rapidez hasta que finalmente el arma quedó fuera de combate con un impacto directo en su recuperador. En esta etapa, el sargento Crangles ordenó a su tripulación que arreglara las bayonetas y él mismo se hizo cargo del arma Bren. Sin embargo, tres tanques alemanes más se habían infiltrado a través del wadi y, dado que ahora no había fuego antitanques efectivo para contenerlos, pudieron invadir el pelotón 10 de 1/6 de Queen & rsquos en la orilla opuesta. También rodearon y sacaron a los equipos de armas del sargento Crangles y el sargento Vincent, quienes solo se rindieron porque se dieron cuenta de que era imposible una mayor resistencia. Vi cómo los Granaderos Panzer alemanes se los llevaban, pero era imposible apagar ningún fuego por temor a causar bajas a nuestros propios hombres. Mientras tanto, la armadura alemana había sido severamente mutilada y no hay duda de que la valiente lucha del sargento Crangles y su equipo de armas fue un factor determinante para detener el avance inicial en este punto.

En el frente de 1/6 de Queen & rsquos, la presión se sintió más tarde en la mañana y vino de un lugar diferente. Habiendo sufrido muchas bajas frente a la 2.a Guardia Escocesa, el 21 ° Panzer continuó tratando de encontrar su camino hacia adelante en su flanco norte, y finalmente, alrededor de las 10 a. M., Dieciocho tanques especiales Mark IV se formaron con varias compañías de granaderos panzer y lanzaron un ataque. de frente al 1/6 de frente. La mayoría de los tanques fueron detenidos por fuego defensivo a cierta distancia de las localidades de defensa delantera del Batallón y rsquos, pero algunos lograron alcanzar y ponerse a cubierto en algunos de los muchos wadis pequeños que conducían a las posiciones 1/6. Finalmente, la situación se estabilizó, gracias al enlace más eficiente entre las compañías de avanzada y la artillería de apoyo, especialmente con la 408ª Batería. Muchos de los blindados quedaron inmovilizados o destruidos por este fuego preciso. Después de que este ataque fue rechazado, hubo una pausa a lo largo de todo el frente de la brigada, aunque la artillería y las compañías de avanzada se mantuvieron ocupadas enfrentando al enemigo que ya estaba en su frente y evitando que los tanques dañados fueran recuperados o reparados.

Aproximadamente a las 2 pm se recibió una advertencia del Cuartel General de la Brigada de que una intercepción inalámbrica indicaba que se podían esperar más ataques. Media hora después de esta advertencia, comenzaron a desarrollarse nuevos ataques frente a 1/6 de Queen & rsquos, y también hubo un intento de forzar nuevamente el Wadi Hallouf. Los supervivientes del ataque matutino en el wadi fueron reforzados y, a petición de & lsquoA & rsquo Company, 1/7 th Queen & rsquos, el fuego del 146. ° Campo y el 69. ° Regimiento Medio RA fue derribado en la tarea M.90 del DF. Siete de los panzer empezaron a avanzar, pero uno explotó y los demás encontraron el fuego tan intenso que se retiraron y no hicieron más intentos de atacar. Más tarde en la tarde, un escuadrón de Sherman del 1er Regimiento Real de Tanques se movió hacia el wadi para enfrentarse a este remanente y noqueó a otros siete panzers.

Los ataques a 1/6 de Reina y rsquos fueron bastante más persistentes. Se acercó un gran número de vehículos y se pudo ver descargando infantería, pero el fuego defensivo era tan fuerte que ninguna infantería y pocos tanques lo atravesaron. Este ataque se detuvo por completo con un gran número de bajas infligidas al enemigo. Aproximadamente a las 4 pm, el único ataque aéreo de la batalla tuvo lugar cuando 18 Stukas intentaron bombardear en picado al 1/6 de Queen & rsquos, pero el fuego antiaéreo lanzado por la artillería antiaérea divisional fue tan efectivo que los Stukas nunca bajaron a su lugar. altura de bombardeo normal, y sus bombas cayeron sin causar daño. Finalmente, se realizó un tercer ataque de tanques e infantería en el wadi entre & lsquoA & rsquo Company, 1/6 th Queen & rsquos y los 2 nd Scots Guards como parte de un asalto general del 10 th Panzer contra la 201 st Guards Brigade y la División de Nueva Zelanda. pero esto fue detenido por fuego de artillería y fuego antitanque de tanques en posiciones de casco hundido.

Durante la tarde, la División Spezia renovó su asalto combinado con fuertes bombardeos y fuego de mortero. Los principales ataques fueron dirigidos contra & lsquoD & rsquo Company, 1/5 th Queen & rsquos, y al final de la tarde estaban en peligro de ser invadidos. Un pelotón del 1/7 th Queen & rsquos con el 1/7 th & rsquos Carrier Platoon acudió en su ayuda directa mientras que el Capitán V.G. Tweedie tomó los portaaviones Queen & rsquos 1/5 para disparar hacia el Punto 188, desde el cual el enemigo estaba causando mucha incomodidad a & lsquoD & rsquo Company. Estaba claro que la intención del enemigo & rsquos era infiltrarse en el terreno elevado y así dominar las posiciones del Batallón & rsquos. En consecuencia, & lsquoA & rsquo Company y una empresa de la 1ª Guardia Negra salieron y despejaron el terreno elevado alrededor de los puntos 188 y 154. Durante esta operación, el teniente B.T. Opperman fue reportado como desaparecido, su cuerpo fue encontrado después de la batalla. Un mensaje del capitán L.J. Pound de & lsquoD & rsquo Company decía que las cosas seguían siendo serias y que solo le quedaban 20 hombres. Como resultado, se acordó que & lsquoC & rsquo Company, 1.a Brigada de Fusileros, estaría bajo el mando de la 1/5 de Queen & rsquos esa noche y, de hecho, a la medianoche la compañía de Rifle Brigade relevó a & lsquoA & rsquo Company, y & lsquoA & rsquo Company partió para relevar a & lsquoD & rsquo Company. Sin embargo, cuando & lsquoA & rsquo Company llegó a la posición de & lsquoD & rsquo Company & rsquos, se descubrió que & lsquoD & rsquo Company había estabilizado la situación mediante una dura lucha cuerpo a cuerpo, y en realidad sus bajas fueron solo dos muertos y diez heridos. También habían capturado a 14 prisioneros del Regimiento 115 de Panzergrenadier. La & lsquoD & rsquo Company volvió como compañía de reserva, y la & lsquoC & rsquo Company, 1ª Brigada de Fusileros, se reincorporó a su propio batallón.

A primera hora de la tarde, un pelotón italiano capturó el punto 170. Al ocupar este rasgo, la infantería italiana bailó y vitoreó con gran entusiasmo. Nuevamente Stuart Playfoot describió la escena:

& ldquoAl final de la luz, había fogatas extrañas delante de nosotros ardiendo. Todavía eran vehículos en llamas, en otras palabras, y poco a poco se fue calmando. There was a little bit of an action away to our right in 5 th Queen&rsquos area. We could see from my company area some chaps dancing about on the top of a hill I think it was Point 170. My secondin-command, who was in fact a mortar officer, or had been, and he suggested that we might have a shot at these chaps, so we did. We sighted the two mortars, or he did, and fired there, and as far as we could see we did actually get bombs to land in or around the top of that point, and these chaps disappeared, certainly. It was reported latter that there were chaps on Point 170, and they were destroyed by mortar fire, so it could well have been that it was ours!&rdquo

The night was wet and cold. The quiet was broken by the noise of vehicles moving about in front of the Queen&rsquos and Guards Brigades&rsquo positions, and patrols reported that the enemy were trying to salvage some of their less damaged tanks and half-tracks. Calls were made on the artillery to bring down fire on these recovery parties from time to time. Well before dawn the battalions stood-to prepared to receive a renewed assault, but the Germans and Italians had pulled out all along the front. General Cramer, who had taken over command of the Afrika Korps just before the battle, had suggested breaking off the attack and Rommel had agreed. Three days after the battle Generalfeldmarschall Rommel left Africa to try to persuade Hitler to agree to an evacuation of Tunisia, but Hitler was deaf to all argument and ordered him to relinquish command and go on sick leave.

At first light it was revealed that within a few hundred yards of the Queen&rsquos Brigade positions the ground was littered with disabled and abandoned tanks and vehicles, twenty-seven tanks in front of the 1/7 th Queen&rsquos alone. It was thought that Nos 5 and 7 guns between them knocked out 22 panzers, a record for the Eighth Army, and comparable with the action of the 2 nd Rifle Brigade at &lsquoSnipe&rsquo during the battle of El Alamein. Both Sgt R.I. Andrews and Sgt J.F. Crangles were awarded the DCM for their astonishing performances. Sgt lvor Andrews&rsquo gun was later refurbished and presented to the Regiment as a trophy, and was placed beside The Keep at the Regimental Depot in Stoughton Barracks, Guildford. It then went to Bassingbourne Barracks for many years before being exhibited permanently in Howe Barracks, Canterbury, where it remains to this day. General Montgomery sent a message which simply said &ldquoWell done the Queen&rsquos&rdquo and indeed he was later to write that Medenine was his most successful defensive battle.

The Germans admitted to losing 52 panzers out of the 150 which took part in the attacks, and there must have been countless infantry losses. British losses were very few. The 1/5 th Queen&rsquos lost Lt Opperman and two men killed, with Capt G.L. Lilly, Lt K.H. Wheeler and a number of other ranks wounded the 1/6 th had 2 men killed, 7 wounded and 20 missing (mostly from those captured in 10 Platoon) and 1/7 th lost one man killed, 9 wounded and 10 missing (Sgt Crangles&rsquo and Sgt Vincent&rsquos gun teams). The losses suffered by 51 st (Highland) Division, 2 nd New Zealand Division, and 201 st Guards Brigade were on a comparable scale.

The 7 th March was spent in cleaning up the odd pocket of Germans or Italians still left on the high ground or in the wadis, particularly in the area of the 1/5 th Queen&rsquos. Spasmodic shelling continued and there were one or two casualties. Capt Ted Kilshaw, OC &lsquoA&rsquo Company, 1/6 th Queen&rsquos, with Capt W.L. Johnson went out and finished off a number of enemy vehicles and tanks with petrol and sticky bombs. The Brigade was finally stood down at about 10.30am on the 8 th March, and was extremely glad to be given a week&rsquos rest, having been in the forefront of the advance, and most of that time in action, for the previous six weeks.

Lt Col N.D. Leslie, late of the Cameron Highlanders in 51 st Highland, took over command of 1/5 th Queen&rsquos from Lt Col Lance East, who had commanded since September 1941, and before that had served with the Battalion since 1937 as the Adjutant and then subsequently as Battalion 2i/c. The award of the DSO in recognition of his fine work in command was warmly endorsed by all who had served with him. Lt Col R.N. Thicknesse of the Royal Ulster Rifles took over the 1/6 th from Archie Wilson. Montgomery visited the Brigade, congratulated them again, and said that it was a particularly good show, especially as it was the first time that infantry without wire, mines, and very little tank support had repulsed an attack by panzer divisions.

(Right to Left) Sgt Andrews, DCM Cpl Brenton another manning their 6 pdr gun.

View from behind Sgt Crangles gun on the morning after the Battle of Medenine, 7 th March 1943.


The Action

There was some preliminary action against the Mareth Line. 153 Brigade was one of three probing attacks on the night of the 16/17th March.

A minefield gap was found and 5/7th Gordons pushed through. By first light they were still in the minefield and behind schedule, but by 0900hrs they were on their two objectives.

Throughout the 18th and 19th the Brigade was under heavy artillery fire.

On the night of 20th March the 50th Division attacked but a strong counterattack retook most of their objectives, casualties were very heavy and they failed to secure the bridgehead. To support them the 51st Highland division was ordered to send two battalions to hold a sector of the Zigzaoug anti tank ditch. The 5th Camerons and 5th Seaforth found themselves pinned down in the Wadi and caught in tremendous fire. When they were withdrawn, under cover of smoke, at 0300hrs on 24th March they had suffered very heavy losses.

Meanwhile, the attack of the 50th Division having failed, Montgomery reinforced his left flanking hook, leaving the Highland Division, the Guards and 23rd Armoured Brigades to fix the front of the Mareth Line. Rommel in turn removed the 21st Panzer Armoured Division to meet this threat.

On the 25th March the 5th Black Watch supported by 5/7th Gordons carried out successful attacks.

On the 28th the 7th Argylls found the Mareth lines abandoned and moved across the Wadi Zigzaou and the following day continued the advance towards Gabes. The Division arrived as the New Zealanders, leading the left hook, were also arriving.


Medenine – a desperate attempt to halt the Eighth Army

Gunners at a forward gun position rest against ammunition cases, March 1943 Bishop 25-pdr self-propelled gun, 6 March 1943.

In Tunisia the ailing Rommel had once last throw of the dice in an attempt to break up the advance of the British 8th Army moving westwards to link up with the US forces and British 1st Army moving east. Rommel was no longer in sole command of the German forces and the attack was poorly prepared for, with limited reconnaissance. It was a fairly desperate measure in any event. Montgomery was to write on the 6th March:

He is trying to attack me in daylight with tanks, followed by lorried infantry… It is an absolute gift, and the man must be mad.

The 8th Army, including the New Zealand Division, had experience in dealing with such attacks and well developed tactics:

All doubts about the enemy’s intentions ceased at an early hour on 6 March, when fairly heavy shelling of all forward positions began at 6 a.m. Then for the next hour and a half tanks, guns, and transport debouched from the hills between Toujane and Kreddache, the approach having been concealed by fog in the early stages. The first tanks to be seen came down the Toujane–Medenine road and then swung north against 7 Armoured Division.

On the front of 2 NZ Division, contact with the enemy (from 164 Light Division) was first made by carriers from 21 Battalion, which engaged seven enemy vehicles carrying infantry and anti-tank guns. The carriers opened fire at close range in the fog and inflicted many casualties, but lost one carrier and had two casualties.

Small groups of infantry probed along the whole front, and farther back as the fog lifted, enemy guns could be seen taking up positions. For a long time our artillery was silent, obeying orders not to open fire prematurely, but to wait until targets came within the range of the maximum weight of guns. (This was the result of experience at Alamein.)

It was definite policy, moreover, for the anti-tank guns to open at short range, and not to dispel a tank attack by using medium or field artillery at long range. The 5th Field Regiment, for instance, withheld fire until enemy tanks had run up against the forward six-pounders, and then fired on the infantry and the soft-skinned vehicles following the tanks, with the result that the tanks were isolated and received no support from the ground troops.

About 8.30 a.m. tanks were reported from two directions advancing on Point 270 (Tadjera Kbir), which seemed to be the main objective. At this time also 28 Battalion reported that ten tanks and thirty trucks were moving up the wadi on its right front. The tanks reached the boundary of the dummy minefield, and then, as had been hoped, swung towards the rising ground.

Two six-pounders from 73 Anti-Tank Regiment, RA, then opened fire and knocked out four Mark III Special tanks at 400 yards’ range, and mortars of 28 Battalion finished off a fifth. When the crews bailed out, the mortars and machine guns with the battalion had first-class targets and the artillery was quickly in action. The tanks were taken by surprise and lost cohesion but then they located the anti-tank guns and opened fire on them.

Despite damage to one gun of 73 Regiment and the wounding of two of the crew, the gun kept firing and when all the other weapons had opened fire, the remaining tanks disengaged and made off in confusion. Fifteen prisoners were taken, including the tank company commander, all from 10 Panzer Division.

A member of 27 (MG) Battalion who was on the spot has described the action as ‘a truly grand victory for the Tommy gunners, made still more remarkable considering that it was their very first action. The way in which they held their fire was an example to us all.’

It was Rommel’s last battle in North Africa, he would fly home on the 10th, never to return.

General Montgomery with Lt-Col A C Clive of the Grenadier Guards in a turretless Stuart command tank, 8 March 1943. Guardsmen of the Scots Guards inspect a knocked-out German PzKpfw IV tank near Medenine, 12 March 1943.


Battle of Medenine, 6 March 1943 - History

During 1943 the 7th Armoured Division was involved in the following battles and campaigns. These include the Race to Tunis , The wait before Italy , Italy and the Volturno Crossing .

View map of North Africa (This is a large file and may take some time to download)

After the fall of Tripoli, the 1st Army and the 8th Army combined to form the 18th Army Group, under the command of General Sir Harold Alexander.

At this time Winston Churchill came to North Africa to review the 8th Army in Tripoli and during an address to General Montgomery and men of the Joint Headquarters of the 8th Army, at Tripoli on 3rd February 1943, Winston Churchill, his spoke these words

"The last time I saw this army was in the closing days of August on those sandy and rocky bluffs near Alamein and the Ruweisat Ridge, when it was apparent from all the signs that Rommel was about to make his final thrust on Alexandria and Cairo. Then all was to be won or lost. Now I come to you a long way from Alamein, and I find this army and its famous commander with a record of victory behind it which has undoubtedly played a decisive part in altering the whole character of the war.

The fierce and well fought battle of Alamein, the blasting through of the enemy's seaward flank, and the thunderbolt of the armoured attack, irretrievably broke the army which Rommel had boasted would conquer Egypt, and upon which the German and Italian peoples had set their hopes. Thereafter and since, in these remorseless three months, you have chased this hostile army and driven it from pillar to post over a distance of more than 1,400 miles - in fact, as far as from London to Moscow. You have altered the face of the war in a most remarkable way.

What it has meant in the skill and organisation of movement and manoeuvres, what it has meant in the tireless endurance and self-denial of the troops and in the fearless leadership displayed in action, can be appreciated only by those who were actually on the spot. But I must tell you that the fame of the Desert Army has spread throughout the world.

After the surrender of Tobruk, there was a dark period when many people, not knowing us, not knowing the British and the nations of the British Empire, were ready to take a disparaging view. But now everywhere your work is spoken of with respect and admiration. When I was with the Chief of the Imperial General Staff at Casablanca and with the President of the United States, the arrival of the Desert Army in Tripoli was a new factor which influenced the course of our discussions and opened up hopeful vistas for the future. You are entitled to know these things, and to dwell upon them with that satisfaction which men in all modesty feel when a great work has been finally done. You have rendered a high service to your country and the common cause.

It must have been a tremendous experience driving forward day after day over this desert which it has taken me this morning more than six hours to fly at 200 miles an hour. You were pursuing a broken enemy, dragging on behind you this ever-lengthening line of communications, carrying the whole art of desert warfare to perfection. In the words of the old hymn, you have 'nightly pitched your moving tents a day's march nearer home'. Yes, not only in the march of the army but in the progress of the war you have brought home nearer. I am here to thank you on behalf of His Majesty's Government of the British Isles and of all our friends the world over.

Hard struggles lie ahead. Rommel, the fugitive of Egypt, Cyrenaica, and Tripolitania, in a non-stop race of 1,400 miles, is now trying to present himself as the deliverer of Tunisia. Along the eastern coast of Tunisia are large numbers of German and Italian troops, not yet equipped to their previous standard, but growing stronger. On the other side, another great operation, planned in conjunction with your advance, has carried the First British Army, our American comrades, and the French armies to within 30 or 40 miles of Bizerta and Tunis. There from a military situation arises which everyone can understand.

The days of your victories are by no means at an end, and with forces which march from different quarters we may hope to achieve the final destruction or expulsion from the shores of Africa of every armed German or Italian. You must have felt relief when, after those many a hundred miles of desert, you came once more into a green land with trees and grass and I do not think you will lose that advantage. As you go forward on further missions that will fall to your lot, you will fight in countries which will present undoubtedly serious tactical difficulties, but which none the less will

not have that grim character of desert war which you have known how to endure and how to overcome.

Let me then assure you, soldiers and airmen, that your fellow- countrymen regard your joint work with admiration and gratitude, and that after the war when a man is asked what he did it will be quite sufficient for him to say, 'I marched and fought with the Desert Army.' And when history is written and all the facts are known, our feats will gleam and glow and will be a source of song and story long after we who are gathered here have passed away".

Both the allied armies then began to squeeze the German forces on either flank, but German reinforcements, including the 88mm armed Tiger tanks had also arrived. With these the Germans under Von Arnim attacked the Americans at Kasserine Pass, inflicting heavy casualties, before trying the repeat the same against the British in an effort to cut the 1st Armies supply routes to it's bases in Tunisia. In the meantime the other German forces under Rommel held the British on the Mareth Line. Click here to view the Divisional Order Of Battle at this time.

The advance of the British was hampered by mines, for which the Division was grateful to the Engineers (4th Field Squadron RE, 21st Field Squadron RE and 143rd Field Park Squadron RE) to whom the clearance fell . The Sappers developed an uncanny skill in finding and disarming Teller and 'S' mines, sown quickly in their path. If necessary the Sappers were not without raw courage, when 4th Field Squadron were ordered to clear a minefield near Medenine, they lined up across it at six foot intervals and "beat it like a field of roots."

The Mareth Line, on the Tunisian frontier, had been built by the French to shield southern Tunisia from the Italians. It was the most formidable set of defences encountered since El Alamein. The 7th Armoured Division was involved in the German counter-attack at Medenine, but not in the latter battles that took place between 18th and 30th March 1943.

Rommel counter-attacked on 6th March, but the 8th Army has learned a lot about defensive tactics, in the last few years, and so they let the German armour roll on in the dark, before opening fire with their anti-tank guns. The Germans lost 50 of their precious tanks, two of them to the gun commanded by Sergeant Andrews of the 1/7th Queens, plus other to that of Sergeant Crangles, whose Bren gunner engaged the tank crews as they bailed out. By now Rommel was suffering very badly from jaundice and returned to Germany for treatment, never to return to North Africa. However, the Division was to meet him again in Normandy.

The American 2nd Corps, under General Patton, re-opened the attack in the mountains of Tunisia, on 17th March, while on 20th March the 8th Army attacked the Mareth Line. On 23rd March the Mareth Line was breached, with the Germans with drawing to Wadi Akerit and the Gabes Gap. German reinforcements also arrived, in the shape of the Hermann Goring Division and the 9th Division, which arrived by air. On 6th April the 8th Army broke through at the Gabes gap and begun to pursue the Germans north towards Tunis.

In the days and weeks that followed the 1st and 8th Armies subjected the German and Italian forces to a series on either flank, with the aim of joining up south of Tunis. The 7th Armoured Division left the 8th Army and was transferred to 9th Corps of the 1st Army for the assault on Medjez El Bab, with the tanks moving on tank transports for once. Once this attack had broken through it raced with 6th Armoured Division for the honour of capturing Tunis, which fell on 8th May 1943.

The terrain initially impeded the advance, with the infantry advance starting on 5th May with strong artillery support being provided to the Queens Brigade and the Engineers. At 7am on 6th May the race to Tunis began. This race was 'won' by 'B' Squadron, 11th Hussars, who entered Tunis on the afternoon 7th May. They were closely followed by the tanks of 22nd Armoured Brigade and the Queens Brigade, whose infantry and 6-pdr anti-tank guns helped to quell the remaining resistance, before 1st RTR arrived.

The 7th Armoured Division had the freedom of Tunis for a week, with the French providing free meals and lots of wine, some of which was put onto the Divisions trucks only to be laces with petrol or antifreeze by the Arabs, which did cause some deaths.

All resistance in Tunis was over by the morning of 8th May, after which the German army finally started to collapse. Some of it headed towards the coast near Bizerta, hoping for evacuation and the rest making a last stand at Cape Bon, but on 12th May the Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered. A total of 28,000 Italian and 10,000 German troops surrendered along with General Von Arnim. After three years of fighting and two thousand miles from El Alamein, the Deutsche Afrika Korps had finally been destroyed. It was also fitting that the unit that started harassing the Italians three years before had captured Tunis, the final prize in the campaign, and this of course was the ever present 11th Hussars.

The war in North Africa was over and the Division now made ready to fight in the very different terrain of Italy and Northern Europe. Since El Alamein the Division had not looked back, especially with their Jerboa shoulder flashes having the "Desert Rat" facing forward.

Now that the war in North

After the Axis surrender in North Africa, the Division withdrew to the town of Homs on the coast, fifty miles east of Tripoli. Here the Division re-equipped, cleaned, painted and services all of its equipment, to remove the dust and grit of the Desert War. The fire power of the 11th Hussars increased by the addition of two 75mm Gun Mounted White Scout cars , to some of it s squadrons. As the war in Europe would involve a sea-borne landing, the Division rehearsed embarking and disembarking from landing craft in Homs harbour.

The Divisional Staff also gave considerable thought to the tactics of the forthcoming operations, as the days of the open desert were over. Having experiences the problems of the close country in Tunisia, they realised that the narrow walled streets and the proximity of civilians would need a different battle plan. This would mean an increasingly important role for the Infantry and Royal Engineers, the former of which had now received the PIAT . As the Americans and Germans had similar weapons the tanks would need protection from infantry carried anti-tank weapons. Therefore, for future operations it was decided that the Queens Brigade would be first ashore, followed by an armoured regiment with artillery and engineers, in support. The remainder of the Division would then follow on afterwards. Taking into accord these new plans the Division was able to test the infantry intensive tactics in a few exercises. The Norfolk Yeomanry (65th Anti-Tank Regiment RA) were also re-equipped with the new 17/25-pdr anti-tank gun to counter the Tiger tank.

The highlight during the time at Homs was a visit from H.M. King George VI, who inspected the whole division, spending much of his time with the 11th Hussars, of which he was Colonel-in-Chief.

The Division was not involved in the invasion of Sicily, but their turn came with the invasion of the Italian mainland at Salerno. Click here to view the Divisional Order Of Battle at this time .

Going Ashore : On 8th September 1943, a small party landed with the assault waves, but the main part of the Division did not go ashore until 15th September. The disembarkation started during the evening and continued during the night, as the beach head was under artillery fire. By midnight the Queens Brigade, with most of 5th RTR, was ashore, with the guns of 3rd RHA landing just before dawn.

The 7th Armoured were the reserve division for the British 10th Corps and were concentrated near the village of Battipaglia, a few miles inland, in an area of reclaimed marsh land, infested by malarial mosquitoes. When it moved on, with 23rd Armoured Brigade under it's command too, everyone was please to get away from the area and on 27th September it was ordered forward.

The first objective was Scafati on the river Sarno, from where 23rd Armoured Brigade was to take the coast road between the sea and the rumbling Versuvius volcano and then head for Capua on the River Volturno. This was when the Sappers realised that as well as the mines they had become used to in the desert they also had to deal with booby-traps and clearing a path through the rubble choked village streets. Unable to disperse laterally on this stone walled countryside, the Division was at one time spread out for 55 miles of narrow road. Apart from this all went well, with the local population giving an ecstatic welcome.

By now missing the open space of the desert, the Division felt confined, especially the King's Dragoon Guards and the 11th Hussars, as they were keep to the roads by waterlogged ground. The rain teemed down into the turrets of the tanks and armoured cars, while the Germans strewed mines everywhere along with booby-traps, plus small units of German infantry armed with the Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon made life even more difficult. Also during the advance the KDG, being a cavalry regiment of over 250 years standing, requisitioned some local horses and formed a horse troop which was used for patrols and bringing up the rations.

North of Naples the countryside opened out more and 22nd Armoured Brigade took the lead, with 1st RTR as the vanguard, supported by 4th CLY on the left flank. Although both regiments made good progress the 11th Hussars found roving the countryside hard, as gone were the days of free manoeuvre in the open desert, which had been replaced by the narrow roads. Usually the first contact with the enemy was when one of the lead armoured cars was 'brewed up'. The tanks and the Queens would come up to probe for enemy flanks. Clearing a road block was slow and dangerous work, with fierce fighting on occasions. 1st Rifle Brigade lost a number of men while clearing an obstacle at Carditio, while the Division approached its first major battle in Italy on the River Volturno. Here all the bridges were down and the town of Capua was held in strength by the Germans.

Volturno : Crossing a defended river is not an easy task for an armoured division, so the job of forming a bridgehead was given to the Queens Brigade. With them the Queens Brigade took 4th CLY, all the Artillery and all the Divisional Royal Engineers to help them. The Volturno is a wide, fast flowing river, with high banks, being swollen by the recent rains at the time. The opposite (North) bank was defended by a well-entrenched enemy with machine guns, supported by artillery, ranged onto all the likely crossing points, and of course able to fire on any units forming up for the crossing.

After careful consideration the most suitable place to force a crossing was selected as the village of Grazzanise, seven miles west of Capua. Here a wooden bridge had only partly been destroyed, leaving an 80ft span in the middle intact, but with both ends demolished. Even with the river 240ft wide, flowing at 9 mph and with 15ft banks, this location was deemed the best place for an assault.

For two nights patrols and swimmers probed the enemy defences, while the Royal Engineers brought up Bailey bridges to span the gaps in the bridge. However the bridge was still not considered strong enough to support tanks, so bulldozers cut and levelled the banks so the tanks could try and find a ford. During this time the Division was under machine gun and shell fire, which was answered by 3rd RHA and a squadron of 4th CLY.

The actual crossing began on the night of 12th/13th October 1943, with the 1/7th Queens leading. However, many assault boats were holed by shrapnel and machine gun fire, or simply carried downstream by the current, thus preventing a lodgement being gained. At 02:30 in the morning the Queens tried again and by dawn they had gained a small bridgehead on the north bank. By mid-day 'B' and 'C' companies were across and dug in and they clung on during the rest of the day, into the night before the anti-tank guns could be ferried across. The 4th CLY also found a crossing point just upstream of the wooden bridge, suitable for their waterproofed Sherman. After a bulldozer had crossed the repaired bridge it levelled the northern banks, allowing 4th CLY to cross with all of the Regiment being across by 17th October. Only one tank needed to be recovered from the river by the bulldozer.

On 16th October, the 1/7th Queen's were patrolling in Brezzia on the north bank, with the 1/5th Queens also across and expanding the bridgehead. It should be noted that during the river crossing the mortar platoon of 1/7th Queens fired more bombs than in the whole of there time in North Africa. By 22nd October both the British 10th Corps and the US 6th Corps were across the Volturno and advancing towards the next obstacle, the River Garigliano. It is a testament to the Royal Engineers that the Bailey bridge was still in place and being used in 1974.

The 7th Armoured Division continued to advance north clearing mines as it went and repairing the road, to help it's advance, while still meeting German resistance. The Division now moved upto the Agnena River, taking up positions on the coast. From here 1/6th Queens and 5th RTR captured the small port of Mondragone. On 7th November, the many rumours about returning the to UK, came true, with the Division being withdraw from the line and handed over it's tanks and vehicles to 5th Canadian Armoured Division. On 19th November, the advance party left for home and their next task the landings in Normandy. All the men of the Division took with them was their kit and personal weapons. By early January 1944 the Division found itself in Norfolk preparing to the invasion of Northern Europe.


Batalla [editar | editar fuente]

The Axis army commanders had become aware of the U.S. movements and decided that the 10th Panzer Division should stop them. Rommel had flown to Germany before the battle, leaving von Arnim in control of the newly named Army Group Africa. Von Arnim held Rommel′s opinion on the low quality of the U.S. forces and felt that a spoiling attack would be enough to clear them from the Eastern Dorsals again.

At 06:00 on 23 March, 50 tanks of Broich′s 10th Panzer emerged from the pass into the El Guettar valley at 34°20′12″N 8°56′53″E  /  34.33667°N 8.94806°E  / 34.33667 8.94806 . Elite German motorised units in halftracks and motorised bikes broke off from formation and charged the infantry on the top of the hill. The halftracks would move up the hill as far they could and release their infantry while powerful German 88 mm (3.46 in) guns provided cover. The Germans were maneuvering to hit American artillery anchored on the hill. They quickly overran front-line infantry and artillery positions. Major General Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr.—commanding the U.S. 1st Infantry Division—was threatened when two tanks came near his headquarters, but he shrugged off suggestions of moving, "I will like hell pull out, and I'll shoot the first bastard who does." ΐ]

German efforts took a turn for the worse when they ran into a minefield. When they slowed to clear the field, U.S. artillery and anti-tank guns opened up on them, including 31 potent M10 tank destroyers which had recently arrived. Over the next hour, 30 of the 10th Panzer′s tanks were destroyed, and by 09:00 they retreated from the valley.

A second attempt was made starting at 16:45, after waiting for the infantry to form up. Once again the U.S. artillery was able to disrupt the attack, eventually breaking the charge and inflicting heavy losses. Realizing that further attacks were hopeless, the rest of the 10th dug in on hills to the east or retreated back to German HQ at Gabès.

Patton attacks [ edit | editar fuente]

On 19 March, the British 8th Army launched their attack on the Mareth Line, at first with little success. However, on 26 March, a force sent via an outflanking inland route arrived to the north of the line, and the Mareth defenses became untenable. A full retreat started to a new line set up at Wadi Akarit, north of Gabès at 33°53′3″N 10°5′33″E  /  33.88417°N 10.0925°E  / 33.88417 10.0925 . This made the U.S. position even more valuable, since the road through El Guettar led directly into Gabès.

Over the next week, the U.S. forces slowly moved forward to take the rest of the interior plains and set up lines across the entire Eastern Dorsals. German defenses were heavy, and the progress was both slow and costly. However, by 30 March they were in position for an offensive south from El Guettar. In order to start a breakout, the two original Italian strongpoints on Hill 369 34°14′29″N 9°7′16″E  /  34.24139°N 9.12111°E  / 34.24139 9.12111  ( Hill 369 ) and Hill 772 34°12′7″N 8°59′36″E  /  34.20194°N 8.99333°E  / 34.20194 8.99333  ( Hill 772 ) had to be taken, one after the other.

The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, and one "Combat Command" (1/3) of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, collectively known as "Benson Force". This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing five tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However, an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of nine tanks and two tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.

At this point Patton received orders to start the attempt on Hill 772, even though Hill 369 was still under Italian control. The 9th was moved to Hill 772, leaving the 1st on Hill 369. By 3 April, the 1st had finally cleared Hill 369, but the battle on Hill 772 continued. The Italian commander—General Messe then called in support from the German 21st Panzer Division, further slowing progress. The tempo of the operations then slowed, and the lines remained largely static.


Flight Simulators

The results of the battle in physical numbers are not spectacular. The Eighth Army lost 130 casualties and had 32 missing. They also lost 6 British tanks, 16 scout cars, 33 motor vehicles, 32 anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, and 61 prisoners. The Italians lost 33 killed, 122 wounded, and 9 missing, while the Germans lost 61 killed, 388 wounded, and 32 missing. In the grand scheme of things, these losses were trifling compared to other battles, but the significance of the once dominant Rommel retreating cannot be understated. This was a moral victory as well as the final death rattle in the African Campaign.

Looking further into the future, the securing of North Africa by the British and Americans meant that all Allied forces could then be concentrated on the Western European Theater in World War 2 and that, of course, meant major headaches for Hitler in Western Europe. It is no coincidence that once North Africa was secured, plans went ahead rapidly for the invasion of Italy and France in the western front of World War 2.

Students of history, and military leaders, see a major war as a giant chess match. If we do this then they will do that, and if they do that we will respond by doing this, and the dance of armed forces is planned far into the future trying to account for all contingencies, and that is why studying these wars is so fascinating, and that partly explains why playing Aces High flight sim game is such a fascinating way to spend some recreation time at home.

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Contenido

Axis retreat from El Alamein Battle of Medenine_section_1

The retreat of Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee took place from 5 November 1942 – 15 February 1943 and on 8 November, Operation Torch began in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Battle of Medenine_sentence_7

The Panzerarmee evaded British outflanking moves but traffic jams, fuel shortage, poor weather and air attacks reduced the retreat to 6–7 mi (9.7–11.3 km) per day. Battle of Medenine_sentence_8

Comando Supremo in Rome and Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in Berlin took an optimistic view of the situation and Comando Supremo chose the Mersa-el-Brega–El Agheila position as the terminus of the retreat, despite the position having a front 110 mi (180 km) long, strong points up to 5 mi (8.0 km) apart, too far for mutual support and being protected by only 30,000 mines. Battle of Medenine_sentence_9

When the Panzerarmee arrived, the Afrika Korps had only 5,000 men, 35 tanks, 16 armoured cars, 12 anti-tank guns, 12 field howitzers and deliveries of only 50 long tons (51 t) of the 400 long tons (410 t) of supplies needed daily. Battle of Medenine_sentence_10

Rommel had wanted retreat to Wadi Akarit in the Gabès area, 120 mi (190 km) further west, where the non-motorised troops could defend the narrow gap between the Mediterranean and the Chott Djerid. Battle of Medenine_sentence_11

The tanks and motorised infantry could join the 5th Panzer Army (Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim) further north, drive back the First Army from Tunisia into Algeria, then swiftly return to force back the Eighth Army, preparatory to embarkation for Europe. Battle of Medenine_sentence_12

At a meeting with Hitler on 28 November, Rommel discussed the proposal but only received a promise of more supplies. Battle of Medenine_sentence_13

On the night of 11/12 December, the British attacked and on the following evening the Panzerarmee resumed its retreat and despite the chronic fuel shortage, evaded another outflanking move. Battle of Medenine_sentence_14

The Panzerarmee took up a defensive position at Buerat on 29 December but this was poorly fortified, wide open to an outflanking manoeuvre and vulnerable to being cut off by an attack on Gabès by the First Army from southern Tunisia. Battle of Medenine_sentence_15

The supply situation was little better, with 152 long tons (154 t) tons of the 400 long tons (406 t) daily requirement being delivered and 95 percent of the fuel being used to distribute supplies or for withdrawals. Battle of Medenine_sentence_16

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) attacked Axis supply lines and hundreds of lorries were stranded along roads for lack of fuel, while the Eighth Army massed petrol and ammunition for its next attack. Battle of Medenine_sentence_17

On 13 January 1943, the infantry of the 21st Panzer Division were sent north to the 5th Panzer Army, to guard against the loss of Gabès and on 15 January, the Eighth Army attacked with 450 tanks against 36 German and 57 Italian tanks in the evening Rommel ordered another withdrawal. Battle of Medenine_sentence_18

Lack of fuel and apprehension about the threat to Gabès, led to the retreat passing beyond the Tarhuna–Homs line and Tripoli was occupied by the British on 23 January, the Axis retreat from El Alamein having covered 1,400 mi (2,253 km). Battle of Medenine_sentence_19

On 13 February, the last Axis soldiers left Libya and on 15 February, the rearguard reached the Mareth line, 80 mi (129 km) inside Tunisia. Battle of Medenine_sentence_20

Comando Supremo intended the line to be held indefinitely but Rommel considered it too vulnerable to another flanking move, unlike the Wadi Akarit position, another 40 mi (64 km) back. Battle of Medenine_sentence_21

Operation Torch Battle of Medenine_section_2

Main article: Operation Torch Battle of Medenine_sentence_22

On 7 November 1942, Anglo-American troops landed in Morocco and Algeria, the British First Army (Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson) either side of Algiers and the US II Corps (Major-General Lloyd Fredendall) at Casablanca and Oran, against the resistance of Vichy French forces until an armistice on 10 November. Battle of Medenine_sentence_23

On 14 November, the Allied forces tried to reach Tunis, 500 mi (800 km) to the east through mountainous country by a coup de main assisted by parachute landings but poor weather, a rapid German build-up of Luftwaffe aircraft and the airlift of troops from Sicily to Tunisia under Case Anton ended the advance on 30 November. Battle of Medenine_sentence_24

The Axis troops were able to form a bridgehead around the ports of Tunis and Bizerta and by December, about 15,000 German troops, fifty Panzer IV and forty Tiger tanks had arrived. Battle of Medenine_sentence_25

The 5th Panzer Army had been formed on 8 December and winter weather began in mid-month, which was further to the advantage of the Axis defenders, as Panzerarmee Afrika continued its retreat from El Alamein, towards southern Tunisia. Battle of Medenine_sentence_26

Having stabilised the Axis position in Tunisia, the 5th Panzer Army undertook several local offensives in the new year, at the Battle of Sidi Bou Zid (14–17 February), the Battle of Kasserine Pass (19–24 February) and Operation Ochsenkopf (26 February – 4 March 1943). Battle of Medenine_sentence_27

Mareth line Battle of Medenine_section_3

Main article: Mareth Line Battle of Medenine_sentence_28

Southern Tunisia is a region of broken terrain, with rocky ridge lines and desert, which obstruct manoeuvre opposite a bight where the north–south coast opens to the east, a semi-arid, scrub covered coastal plain is met inland by the Matmata Hills which run south to north. Battle of Medenine_sentence_29

North of Gabès, the road to Sfax passes between the sea and the Chotts, the only route north for the Eighth Army. Battle of Medenine_sentence_30

Across the plain in a line roughly south-west to north-east, lay the Mareth line, a fortification built by the French in the 1930s. Battle of Medenine_sentence_31

In the north, the hills and line of forts terminated at the Tebaga Gap, a low pass between the Matmata Hills and the Djebel Tebaga, another line of high ground to the west of the gap running east–west. Battle of Medenine_sentence_32

North and west of this feature is the Chott el Djerid west of the Matmata Hills, lies dry Jebel Dahar country and then the impassable sand of the Grand Erg Oriental. Battle of Medenine_sentence_33

Gabès is on the coast where the plain meets the route from the Tebaga Gap. Battle of Medenine_sentence_34

The Mareth line followed the line of Wadi Zigzaou, a natural tank obstacle, with steep banks rising up to 70 ft (21 m) the north-west side had been fortified by the French and was reinforced by Axis engineers. Battle of Medenine_sentence_35

The wadi crosses the coastal plain from Zarat to Toujane and into the Matmata Hills beyond. Battle of Medenine_sentence_36

In 1938, the French judged Jebel Dahar to be impassable to motorised transport and had not extended the Mareth line any further inland but 1943 motor vehicles had much better performance. Battle of Medenine_sentence_37

The Italian 1st Army (General Giovanni Messe) occupied the Mareth line with the 90th Light Division, 164th Light Afrika Division, and the 10th Panzer Division, 15th Panzer Division and the 21st Panzer Division of the Afrika Korps with about 200 tanks and the 80th Infantry Division La Spezia. Battle of Medenine_sentence_38


Minqar Qaim to Munassib

Rushed back into the line at Minqar Qaim on 26 June 1942, the New Zealanders were soon surrounded by the 21st Panzer Division. Only a desperate breakout saved the day. After smashing through the German lines in a surprise night attack, with Māori bayonets again to the fore, they dashed 160 kms back to the safety of the Alamein Line. For the next three months the battle ebbed and flowed. The Māori Battalion, then in reserve, avoided the disaster that befell the 4th and 5th Brigades at Ruweisat Ridge in July 1942, but its commander, Lt-Col Love, was killed by shelling. Now led by the part-Māori Lt-Col Fred Baker, on 26 August and 3/4 September the Battalion launched successful raids at El Mreir and Munassib, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.


What You Need To Know About The Battle Of The Atlantic

Britain depended on vital supplies from North America and the Empire in the Second World War. These had to be transported in merchant ships across the Atlantic Ocean, where they could be attacked by German submarines (U-boats) and warships.

To combat this threat, the merchant ships were grouped into convoys escorted by warships and, if possible, aircraft. The first Atlantic convoy sailed on 2 September 1939.

At first, many merchant ships were lost. The fall of France in June 1940 gave the U-boats bases on the Atlantic coast, and U-boat production increased during spring 1941, giving the Germans enough submarines to deploy groups or 'wolf packs'.

Winston Churchill coined the phrase 'Battle of the Atlantic' on 6 March 1941, deliberately echoing the Battle of Britain to emphasise its importance.

In May 1941, the loss of the German battleship Bismarck ended surface raids, and the Allies extended the convoy system right across the Atlantic. Intelligence successes allowed the Allies to route convoys away from danger, and losses finally fell.


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