56th Reconnaissance Corps

Discussion in 'Recce' started by Recce_Mitch, Nov 30, 2008.

  1. BDriver

    BDriver Junior Member

    Hi

    Thanks for that, i've just been looking again, i'm just downloading the forms now. I'll fill them in and get my Dad to sign them.

    Thanks for all your help everyone!

    Bill
     
  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    I filled and signed the forms for my Dad's records, my elder brother was never involved. I also doubted that the MOD records office would take the time to find out if I was the sole remaining NOK for my father

    TD
     
  3. BDriver

    BDriver Junior Member

    Thanks,
    Luckily my Dad only lives around the corner, so i'll pop them through his letterbox to sign. I know they take quite a while to get back, but when they do, i'll post them here.
     
  4. sanchez

    sanchez Patron Patron

    hi lorraine ,
    i have not been on the site for a while but returned today and i could not believe it when i saw your post . Its great to see that my Dad and your Grandad were good friends . My Dad trained at Lochmaben near Dumfries and joined the regiment after your Grandad , my Dad joined up with the regiment just before the Monte Cassino battles . At the time of the photo the regiment were stationed on the outskirts of Rome ( 5 to 13 / 7 / 44 ) , my Dad was in the convalesence depot between 6/7 and was discharged back to the regiment on 10/7 . So i reckon those photos were taken when they had a days leave to visit Rome , so the same date as the one in the Coloseum . Was your Grandad in any of the photos in my gallery ?
    cheers
    Dave
     
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  5. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Welcome back Dave.
     
  6. sanchez

    sanchez Patron Patron

    Hi Tony ,
    Yeah its good to be back and then to find that post from Lorraine .
     
  7. Plantymon

    Plantymon Member

    Thanks to the great information on here, I have found where my Dad was wounded in Italy. I plan to have a ride down to Castiglione del Lago in September and spend a few hours thinking of him and his pals who were less fortunate.

    I will take some pictures and put them on here when I return.
     
  8. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Tony, Your other post regarding Sidney Plant, service No 3058950.
    A Squadron 52nd (L) Div Recce Regt

    If you haven't come across his mention in 56 Recce war diaries, he was in B Squadron in December 43, note that transfers between squadrons and troops was fairly common. Hope that your trip goes well.
     
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  9. wishis

    wishis Junior Member

  10. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    And so it began – Operation Torch – 80 years ago, November 1942

    C Sqn, 56th Reconnaissance Regiment, had embarked their troop ships on the River Clyde on 14th October, half the squadron, under the command of Major J N Forshaw on the Viceroy of India, and the remainder, commanded by Captain E B Barrass, on the Marnix Van St Aldegonde. On 19th, the ships joined convoy KMF1 assembling off Dunoon, and the troops spent the next days practising assault landings, use of scramble nets and embarking and disembarking assault craft.


    Convoy KMF1, bound for Algiers, although that was unknown to the troops at that time, sailed via the Azores, and passed through the Strait of Gibraltar around 0100 hrs on 6th November, and sailed East, along the coast of Spain, on a northeast heading. This route was to mislead any observers into thinking that the convoy was bound for Malta. At 0400 hrs on 7th, off the Spanish resort of Cartagena, the convoy turned due East and continued on this heading until it was due North of Algiers and, at 1800 hrs, turned South towards their objective.

    The Algiers landings were to take place in three sectors, codenamed ‘A’ (Apples), ‘B’ (Beer) and ‘C’ (Charlie). At the appropriate time the landing forces would be guided by beacons sent by submarines allocated to each force, these were HMS Shakespeare (P221), P48 and P45 respectively.

    In the period preceding ‘D’ day the submarines carried out a final periscope reconnaissance of their beaches and launched folbots, whose crew would undertake a closer reconnaissance of the beaches.

    At 1900 hrs on 7th November, the convoy split with one force heading for ‘Apples’ and ‘Beer’ beaches, located West of Algiers, and the other for the ‘Charlie’ beaches to the East.

    The ‘Apples’ force, consisted of the following troops:

    HMS Karanja – 11 Infantry Brigade HQ, 1 Bn East Surrey Regiment

    RMS Viceroy of India – C Sqn, 56 Recce, 2 Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, East Surrey’s assault party.

    MS Marnix van St Aldegonde – C Sqn 56 Recce, 5 Bn Northampton Regiment and, in reserve, 36 Infantry Brigade’s, 6 Bn Royal West Kents.

    At 2214 hrs ‘Apples’ force made contact with HMS Shakespeare, which guided the ships to their release positions, some 8 miles from the target beaches, the ships stopped and went to landing stations.

    The weather was fine, with a moderate swell and clear visibility but a very strong 4 knot current carrying the ships offshore.

    The landing craft from the Karanja and Viceroy set out at 2350 hrs for their assigned target of ‘Apples Green’ beach, they were led in by motor launches and guided by flashing lights from flobots, launched from the submarine, and positioned 400 yards off the beach. The first troops from the Karanja landed, on time, at 0100 hrs on 8th November, followed by the second flight at 0105 hrs and the Viceroy’s troops 5 minutes later.

    The strong current caused the Marnix to swing on its moorings and, as a result, its landing craft made their way independently of the guiding motor launch but landed promptly to deliver their troops on ‘Apples White’ beach.

    With the troops ashore, the day was spent unloading stores and vehicles, with varying degrees of success due to the wind strengthening, some vehicles were lost.

    Following the landings, the Karanja and Marnix departed Algiers Bay on 7th November for Bougie, 100 miles to the East. Three days later on 11th the 78th Division’s 36 Infantry Brigade were landed.

    On 11th November, whilst returning empty to Gibraltar, the Viceroy of India was torpedoed by a German submarine and, although taken on tow by HMS Boadicea, sank, all aboard were rescued. One day later, on 12th the Karanja was hit in a dawn bombing raid, set on fire and later sank.

    The Marnix Van St Aldegonde subsequently took part in Operations Husky (Sicily) and Avalanche (Salerno) but 12 months later, on 6th November 1943, was attacked by a Dornier torpedo bomber, hit and later sank.

    Map Algiers landings.jpg


    Extract from the history of the 56th Reconnaissance Regiment:-

    Plans for mobilising and embarkation were completed there, and in October 1942, the Regiment, less A Squadron, embarked – the vehicles at Liverpool and personnel at Greenock. C Squadron sailed with the assault convoy and landed a few miles West of Algiers with the initial landing parties. RHQ, B and HQ Squadrons followed in the second convoy, arriving in Algiers Harbour on 12th November though not disembarking until 13th, five days after C Squadron.

    The Regiment harboured in the Botanical Gardens at Algiers for four days, getting ready for the drive across Northern Algeria and into Tunisia. This move started on 18th November, with C Squadron taking the coastal route in advance of 36th Infantry Brigade and the remainder of the Regiment moving with 11th Infantry Brigade on the inland road. This journey of approx. 600 miles by road took five days, and the Regiment was then well inside Tunisia, having so far met only very slight opposition. The forward elements of C Squadron were the first troops of the First Army to enter Tunisia, and during this initial thrust C Squadron almost reached Mateur, and B Squadron entered Tebourba – the latter being less than 20 miles from Tunis.”

    From the 56 Recce diary:-

    14 Oct 42
    C Sqn entrained at Barry Links station and proceeded to Glasgow docks. Sqn embarked in SS Viceroy of India & SS Marnix Van St Aldegonde. Half squadron under command Major J N Forshaw in former, half under command Capt E B Barrass in latter.


    19 Oct 42
    Convoy joined off Dunoon.


    20 Oct 42
    Practise for assault landings held daily, use of scramble nets, embarking & disembarking from assault craft.


    23 Oct 42
    Convoy sailed. Uneventful voyage as far as Strait of Gibraltar.


    6 Nov 42
    Several abortive air attacks on convoy during daylight – no casualties.


    7 Nov 42
    Final rehearsal for calling of Serials to Sally Ports for landings.


    2330 hrs – Lights of Algiers & on coast line on each side observed. Assault flights & boats crew warned to stand by.

    8 Nov 42
    0010hrs – Assault flight left convoy.


    0720hrs – 1st party from Viceroy landed, Lt Wheatley in charge of unit beach.

    0815hrs – 1st party from Marnix landed. No opposition encountered from French. No enemy air activity, Spitfire patrols active from 1st light.

    0830hrs – Proceeded to harbour area 1 mile East of Apple White Beach, Sqn now all present.

    1030hrs – First vehicle landed – rear link wireless truck, closely followed by Royal Signals charging plant vehicle & Assault troop stores truck. Sea becoming choppy & L.C.Ms having great difficulty in landing vehicles. Consumption of rum amongst Naval ratings apparently partly responsible.

    1600hrs – Harbour area in state of defence, no authentic news of position in Algiers, many rumours.

    9 Nov 42
    0830hrs – Higher Command decision not to land any more vehicles on beaches. All M.T. ships to proceed to Algiers harbour to disembark vehicles.


    10 Nov 42
    Remained in Harbour Area waiting for vehicles.


    11 Nov 42
    0830hrs – First vehicles landed – Algiers having capitulated & all quiet. Received orders from H.Q. 78 Div to proceed to BONE as soon as vehicles landed to come under command 36 I.B. & push on East.


    1645hrs – Most vehicles ashore – moved to fresh harbour 24 mls East of ALGIERS. Final orders from 78 Div. Joined by one RASC 3 tonner of petrol.

    1730hrs – All vehicles ashore – one L.R.C. dropped into harbour owing to careless handling of L.C.M..

    2100hrs – Joined by Wing Cdr Mathias to be delivered at BONE.

    12 Nov 43
    0700hrs – Moved off in convoy for BONE. Route ALMA – MENERVILLE – CAMP DU MARECHAL – FREHA – EL KSEUR – BOUGIE – DJIDJELLI – EL MILLA – PHILLIPEVILLE – JEMAPPIES – BONE. Proceeded with normal route march discipline roads good & dry.
     
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  11. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    26 October - Left Barri Camp Scotland for Nth Africa on the “Cameronia”. Convoy KMF 1


    “On the ship we didn’t see much but we saw and felt depth charges going off….the whole ship vibrated with the concussion. We didn’t see many planes either.”


    Cameronia was built for the Anchor Line (British Flag) and sailed the Glasgow - New York route. She was requisitioned as a troopship in 1940 and used as such until 1947. She was then rebuilt as an Australian immigration ship for the British Ministry of Transport and put to sea in 1948. In 1953 she was renamed Empire Clyde. She was decommissioned in 1956 and broken up in Wales in 1957.

    Built by William Beardmore & Company, Limited in Glasgow Scotland in 1921, Cameronia was 578 feet long and 70 feet wide, displacing 16,280 gross tons. She was powered by steam turbines geared to twin screws for a service speed of 16 knots. Passenger capacity was 1,785 (265 First Class, 370 Second Class and 1,150 Third Class)

    Cameronia-14.jpg

    From my Dad's History
     
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  12. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    11 November –

    WD 56th Recce

    KM2 entered MEDITERRANEAN SEA during night 10-11/11/42

    12th

    0730: 6 ships of KM2 reach ALGIERS BAY

    1100: P7 anchored approx ¾ miles from dock

    13 November - Dad Landed at Algiers Docks with HQ and B Squadrons of 56th Recce as part of Operation Torch. Spent their first night(s?) in the Botanical Gardens.

    WD 56th Recce

    13th

    0930: P7 docked

    1330: RHQ & HQ Sqn disembarked P31 (“B” Sqn) already ashore

    1700: RHQ & HQ Sqn left dock and arrived at transit area JARDIN D’ESSAI at 1800 hrs

    Dad was with HQ Sqn
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2022
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  13. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    14 November - “C" Squadron took the Northern Route leading the 36th Brigade on the coast road through Tabarka in the direction of Djebel Abiod and eventually Tunis. "B" Squadron, leading the 11th Brigade, headed in the direction of Beja and Medjez el Bab.

    November 16 78th Div pushed out in Tunisia & first encountered resistance 70 mile west of Tunis.

    “We were moving bloody fast at this time.”

    Dad crossed the Atlas Mountains ahead of Blade Force, 1st Army's spearhead which comprised elements of 6th Armoured Division and contained the tanks of 17th /21st Lancers, a motorised company from 10th Rifle Brigade, a squadron of armoured cars from the Derbyshire Yeomanry, paratroopers from 1 Para, a battery of 25-pounders from 12th RHA (HAC), a battery of anti-tank guns from 72nd A/Tk Regiment, a troop of Bofors AA guns and a troop of Sappers.


    Dad was classified Driver/Mech and he drove a Portee towing a 2pdr anti tank gun as part of an anti tank crew.


    “We’d stopped at a hairdresser’s, it was light early hours of the morning, I think it was a cafe or something. These people were happy to see us, the first British troops they’d seen. I know we was miles ahead of the rest of the convoy. We kept well in front, the idea was to keep well in front, don’t let them catch up with us. We made sure of that. That’s the time when we walked into a bank fully armed to change our British Military Authority money for local money. We was drawing big crowds around, cause naturally we were the first British Troops they’d seen, we were interesting to people, we was of great interest to the civilian population we were at that time. We’d got binoculars on us and 3 or 4 of us were sharing them to get a better look at the girls. It was my turn, when whack somebody hit me across the bloody shoulders, it was a bloody officer behind us, I turned around and was just gonna say who the … of cause I changed my mind when I realised who it were. He wasn’t a British Officer neither, he was a French army officer. I thought somebody was playing around, larking around with us but no it was bloody officer in a French uniform. There were all little villages after that.”



    “ I was enjoying it to a point until one night about half a dozen of us we all got picked up by the local bloody cops in Constantine for being pissed; that was the time we changed that bloody money. We were all put up at the local cop shop. The cops put us in there for our own safety we were told. There were no charges against us from our people we were just held in custody for the night, they released us when we sobered up. They did us a good turn in one way. We got drunk on this French plonk, we would’ve preferred English beer. The first beer we got was Canadian later on”.


    “I was with HQ Squadron, we had Anti-Tank guns, we got our Portee’s, we got our Bren Gun Carriers, Armoured Cars and Assault Troop with us. It was mainly night-time driving. The differentials were painted white with a light bulb fixed above it. You used to focus your eyes on one in front. We was 2 – 3 days ahead of the main convoy.”

    “Every time you went out on patrol you were risking driving on a land mine or being ambushed by a German patrol you were always 24 hours a day risking your life. That’s how it was but you lived with it. I was quite happy doing what I was doing.”

    WD 56th Recce
    16th


    Off loading of vehicles continues

    1645: Mortar & A/Tk troops (less 2 portees) and assault tp of “B” Sqn – force under Capt R Hodsoll left for Divisional concentration area at BONE

    1900: IO to conference at 78 DIV HQ with G3
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2022
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  14. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    17 November - "C" Sqn. had the honour of being the first British troops in Tunisia as they arrived at Djebel Abiod after their 4 day 1150 mile run from Algiers with very little sleep.

    British paratroops engage German troops in Tunisia, while the first clashes occur between the newly landed U.S. and German forces.

    WD 56th Recce

    17th


    0900: CO to conference at 78 DIV HQ (rear party)

    1530: RHQ & HQ Sqn also remainder of “B” Sqn left for Div concentration area at BONE

    FONDOUK

    1630: CO & IO with 2 DRs met party at FONDOUK and then proceeded as a small party towards BONE (see APP A 1&2)

    MANSOURAH

    2230:
    CO and party (whereafter known as A Party) harboured near MANSOURAH for the night
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2022
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  15. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    18 November - Laval is given absolute power by Vichy in Africa.

    “French Field Gendarmes employed by the army occasionally carried out field executions of Arabs for certain offences. If they were caught stealing anything what was equipment, foodstuffs, arms they were punished by death. They were punished immediately, No messing about. This was mainly in the front line that I’m talking about. The guilty were made to dig their own graves and then made to lie in them, and then they were shot. I was asked to witness one execution but declined. Blankets were the Arabs bloody favourite, clobber, boots, battledresses, shirts, anything like that. They weren’t so much interested in the arms so much. Eggs were the main business between the Arabs and the British soldiers and they used to love petrol and then we got orders from above to say that no more petrol because they were making Molotov bombs out of it.”

    WD 56th Recce

    EN ROUTE

    18th


    1030: “A” party arrive SETIF and met Capt R Hodsolls party

    1200: Left SETIF and proceeded en route, harboured at night at JEMMAPES neighbourhood
     
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  16. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    20 November – Medjez el Bab evacuated by allies.

    WD 56th Recce

    SOUK AHRAS

    1200: Arrived at BLADE force HQ. Immediate conference of situation with OC Col Hull

    1630: News of Capt R Hodsolls party. Had arrived at SOUK AHRAS and were ordered to proceed to LE KRIB. “A” party remained at SOUK EL ARBA for the night.

    21st

    SOUK EL ARBA

    1100: “B” party reports at SOUK AHRAS and were ordered to proceed LE KRIB

    1200: “A” party split. CO to LE KEF and IO to LE KRIB, arrangements made at LE KRIB to harbour RHQ & HQ Sqn.

    LE KRIB


    1730: Capt R Hodsoll arrives, ordered to bring up party & harbour with HQ at LE KRIB.

    2000: “B” Party harbouring force arrive & harbour planned

    2200: “B” party arrives. “B” Sqn ordered to harbour at GAFOUR with detachment of A/Tk guns and assault troop holding bridge at EL AROUSSA. Record of journey of main party received.

    22 November - Beginning this date 56th Recce Squadrons were involved in a number of engagements at El Aroussa, Sloughia, Medjez, and Tebourba. The squadron's assault troop, with the regiments anti-tank guns, were the first elements into El Aroussa village where 56th Recce had been told to seize and hold the bridge. Two recce cars were sent out but both were hit and knocked out with five men of their crews killed and the troop commander, Lieutenant Robinson, seriously wounded.

    “We were the first British troops into El Aroussa…assault troop and two anti tank guns. The French reported that the Germans were about 1,000 yards away…it turned out that they were a German Recce unit. And we came under heavy machine gun fire while we were by a haystack with our gun alongside of us. The German’s had a go at us twice… they wanted to let us know they’d surrounded our position. We were at El Aroussa 2 or 3 bloody times, we were all around that area Sidi Nsir, Medjez el Bab, Mateur putting our guns in position and taking them out of position going somewhere else with them. We were moving all around being shot at bombed, strafed. Long before I was wounded I had seen plenty of bloody action.”

    “The Germans were trying to cut us off… that’s when we came under heavy machine gun fire. We was only a few feet from the ground. We were by a haystack and there was a brick wall. I could see the bullets hitting this bloody wall… chunks were flying out all over the place. We drove them off at first but they came back.”

    “That machine gun at bloody night time at El Aroussa. That’s when the Germans really got stuck into us. I was just brewing up. I was driving you see…the gun team. Every gun team had to have a driver who also knew every thing about the gun. You trained for the gunner’s role so you could take over when necessary…but you were in charge of the vehicle.”

    WD 56th Recce

    22nd

    0530: Stand to, enemy air reconnaissance.

    0900: CO to B Sqn at GAFOUR

    1130: IO to B Sqn to interrogate Frenchmen who have arrived from Tunis with information of enemy.

    1430: IO takes Frenchmen to BLADE FORCE HQ, information imparted. BLADE HQ bombed out whilst there.

    1600: B Sqn lose 2 ARCs and 5 killed. Lt Robinson injured in melee with German heavy LRC at BOU ARABA.

    Arriving night B Sqn who now hold positions at EL AROUSSA, had exchanges with the enemy and defensive position across the road 3 miles from Le Krib held by RHQ & HQ Sqn.



     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2022
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  17. EmpireUmpire

    EmpireUmpire Well-Known Member

    Hi,

    It's my understanding that Major Hart, 5 Northamptonshire Regiment claimed the honour of the first man to cross into Tunisia. Under Harts command, it was 56 Recce and elements of 5 Northants (Carrier Platoon) that made first contact with German ground forces in Tunisia, East of Djebel Abiod.

    Word reached 6 Royal West Kents at Djebel Abiod that a mixed German / Italian force was on the way and a battle ensued on the 17th November. This is considered to be the first contact but it wasn't.

    Regards
     
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  18. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    20 November – Medjez el Bab evacuated by allies.

    WD 56th Recce

    SOUK AHRAS

    1200: Arrived at BLADE force HQ. Immediate conference of situation with OC Col Hull

    1630: News of Capt R Hodsolls party. Had arrived at SOUK AHRAS and were ordered to proceed to LE KRIB. “A” party remained at SOUK EL ARBA for the night.

    21st


    SOUK EL ARBA

    1100: “B” party reports at SOUK AHRAS and were ordered to proceed LE KRIB

    1200: “A” party split. CO to LE KEF and IO to LE KRIB, arrangements made at LE KRIB to harbour RHQ & HQ Sqn.

    LE KRIB


    1730: Capt R Hodsoll arrives, ordered to bring up party & harbour with HQ at LE KRIB.

    2000: “B” Party harbouring force arrive & harbour planned

    2200: “B” party arrives. “B” Sqn ordered to harbour at GAFOUR with detachment of A/Tk guns and assault troop holding bridge at EL AROUSSA. Record of journey of main party received.

    22 November - Beginning this date 56th Recce Squadrons were involved in a number of engagements at El Aroussa, Sloughia, Medjez, and Tebourba. The squadron's assault troop, with the regiments anti-tank guns, were the first elements into El Aroussa village where 56th Recce had been told to seize and hold the bridge. Two recce cars were sent out but both were hit and knocked out with five men of their crews killed and the troop commander, Lieutenant Robinson, seriously wounded.

    “We were the first British troops into El Aroussa…assault troop and two anti tank guns. The French reported that the Germans were about 1,000 yards away…it turned out that they were a German Recce unit. And we came under heavy machine gun fire while we were by a haystack with our gun alongside of us. The German’s had a go at us twice… they wanted to let us know they’d surrounded our position. We were at El Aroussa 2 or 3 bloody times, we were all around that area Sidi Nsir, Medjez el Bab, Mateur putting our guns in position and taking them out of position going somewhere else with them. We were moving all around being shot at bombed, strafed. Long before I was wounded I had seen plenty of bloody action.”

    “The Germans were trying to cut us off… that’s when we came under heavy machine gun fire. We was only a few feet from the ground. We were by a haystack and there was a brick wall. I could see the bullets hitting this bloody wall… chunks were flying out all over the place. We drove them off at first but they came back.”

    “That machine gun at bloody night time at El Aroussa. That’s when the Germans really got stuck into us. I was just brewing up. I was driving you see…the gun team. Every gun team had to have a driver who also knew every thing about the gun. You trained for the gunner’s role so you could take over when necessary…but you were in charge of the vehicle.”

    WD 56th Recce

    22nd

    0530: Stand to, enemy air reconnaissance.

    0900: CO to B Sqn at GAFOUR

    1130: IO to B Sqn to interrogate Frenchmen who have arrived from Tunis with information of enemy.

    1430: IO takes Frenchmen to BLADE FORCE HQ, information imparted. BLADE HQ bombed out whilst there.

    1600: B Sqn lose 2 ARCs and 5 killed. Lt Robinson injured in melee with German heavy LRC at BOU ARABA.

    Arriving night B Sqn who now hold positions at EL AROUSSA, had exchanges with the enemy and defensive position across the road 3 miles from Le Krib held by RHQ & HQ Sqn.
     
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  19. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    23 November – Heavily outnumbered 56th Recce pulled out of El Aroussa.

    Retreating before the British 8th Army (Montgomery), Panzerarmee Afrika reaches El Agheila, the starting-point of its great counter-offensive that began on January 21, 1942.

    “At El Aroussa people lining the streets mainly women and children not many blokes. The kids were asking cigarette, cigarette, biscuit, biscuit, biscuit. What had happened the yanks had been going through and throwing their rations to the kids. So every time they saw a soldier they knew we had those things. The soldiers got a kick out of throwing these things to the kids and watching them fight over them.”

    Bob Bryson was also on patrol at El Aroussa, he was assault troop, he was Scotch…broadest Scotch accent that I knew. We was great mates. He was telling me they went out and encountered a German patrol one night.”

    “I was brewing up when these 2 armoured cars were fired upon. The road was straight as a ruler almost out of sight and then a bloody shell came flying over the top of us, an 88 had opened up and the first round must of missed and ricocheted off the bloody house behind us and all the bloody slates came tumbling down onto the road and the 2nd one you could hear the clang as it hit the armoured cars.”

    “We were experienced troops and were more valuable because of our experience in that we saved casualties. We could do our jobs much better. It was quite surprising how you did get more experienced, you got to know the sound of the German machine gun as opposed to the British machinegun.”

    “I remember one night we’d moved the gun into position and there was a mortar attack going on. The Germans were using their mortars and we were using ours and I was stretched out on the front seat of the Portee trying to get some kip as I’d done my job when all of a sudden a flamethrower opened up. The Germans had crept up on the bloody gun to try and destroy it. Our Bren then opened up and it was quickly over. Sgt Robinson was in charge of us then. Old Robbo then moved another gun into position. The 2 pounders were so light one man could move them into position.”

    “We had to get out of this place (El Aroussa) rather quickly as we came under heavy machine gun fire, Robbo was signalling us to leave everything under the covering fire of 2 Bren’s. We disabled the gun by removing the firing pin which the number 1 or 2 kept on him. At Dunkirk we spiked guns here we only disabled them. We had to get out between bursts of machine gun fire. When I left the Portee I had to jump over this bloody big cactus (approx 3-4 ft high), I jumped that bastard, I don’t know how I did it but I jumped it, and that is when I see this Bren gunner (Robbo) under a little tree, signalling us to cross the road. When you crossed the road in those days you crossed in a bunch not on your own that was part of our training. We’d been trained for this street fighting business, how to cross the road in a bunch, if you crossed singly a sniper could pick you off. I could see these bullets tearing into this bloody brick wall, bloody great chunks of mortar flying everywhere. The cordite the smell of the cordite got up your nostrils. I’ve never smelt cordite as bloody strong as at that bloody place. The bullets were going right over the top of you hitting this wall where the Sergeant had told us to leave the gun.”

    “We had to make for a railway cutting that we could see in the distance and there was all open ground from where we were. I could see this open ground where we had to go and there was a small tree and a Bren gunner under it giving us covering fire as we ran over this open ground and I stumbled over a bloody big stone you’d think I’d been hit. I think the Jerries must have thought because they were firing at us. Bloody bullets were whizzing past my bloody ear hole from both ends. As we got to this railway cutting it seems there had been some road works going on as there was these bloody big concrete pipes that you could almost walk through. I thought here would be a good place to get under cover. So I get one end and when I get to the other end there was this bottle lying on its side. I don’t know if it was whiskey or brandy in it, the only thing that put me off was all these bloody flies in it. I was so thirsty at this stage as I had no water. Then I saw this Jeep and it had an officer in it and he asked who I was, I replied anti tank gunner sir. You come with me he said , it seems that his batman didn’t know how to load this bloody Bren gun. So he handed this gun over to me and I got into position on this slope. This young Lieutenant asked what’s that, I replied I can’t make out if they’re ours or jerry sir; they’re a long way off. And that’s when this German fighter came overhead and we started banging away at it as it was circling. It didn’t fire on us. A truck then came and picked us up and took us back to a farm. In a shed a Sgt Major came up and we gave particulars as to where we were from and he said righto lads we’ll go back and organise a truck to go back and get your gear any volunteers. We got in this Truck and goes down this road where we were stopped and I heard voices telling us we can’t go any further as jerry had taken over the area. That was when the enemy took it over in strength. This was disappointing to me as I wanted to retrieve my Portee. I eventually got it back later. I had been having trouble with the starter motor at this time. This would have been 30 miles from Tunis. There was a signpost.”

    “At El Aroussa one time a lone jerry plane flew overhead. Everybody started firing at it and I nearly got my bloody head shot off. It was so close to my ear.”

    WD 56th Recce

    23rd

    0800: IO reaches BLADE HQ in hills NE of SOUK EL ARBA, Col Hull gave new situation & new role.

    1100: B Sqn made tactical withdrawal from El Aroussa to defensive line held by RHQ on previous night in face of heavy enemy fire and in order to conserve strength in vehicles and personnel.

    1900: IO liaise with BLADE force – RBs & American Tank Batt in case assistance required, night passed quietly."
     
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  20. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    24 November - Laval sets up Phalange Africaine, to fight allies in Africa.

    WD 56th Recce

    24th


    0830: 56 Recce Regt now under command 78 Div (ie whole Regt less A Sqn). Contact made with C Sqn who were given orders to join up with the main body.

    1100: CO & IO to Ops conference with GI at 78 new HQ

    1500: Operations explained to Sqn leaders, operational order received from 78 Div.

    1630: B Sqn & RHQ and HQ Sqn leave for new locations

    1830: Force arrive at Testour, C Sqn already in position to south & on patrol. 2 prisoners (German) taken by C Sqn

    2100: Cos “O” GP. Lt Ennis reported killed in carrier accident.


    25 November – Medjez el Bab recaptured.

    WD 56th Recce

    25th

    TESTOUR

    0440:
    Nothing to report during then night. B & C Sqns start their patrols.

    0615: C Sqn progressing quietly on Southern route.

    0635: B Sqn bump enemy in strength at Sloughia

    0705: C Sqn bump enemy in strength at Goubellat, considerable enemy activity in area. B Sqn dive bombed, several soft vehicles become casualties.

    1100: RHQ move along C Sqn route to new harbour. C & B Sqns patrolling maintaining contact and observation of enemy in respective positions.

    1130: Heavy ARCs of enemy on patrol in region of Bou Arada & north, enemy positions too strong for us to attack. This situation continues all day until nightfall when Regiment harbours for the night.

    News received that main attack on Medjez El Bab has been temporarily held up. 3 prisoners taken, 2 German, 1 Italian.

    26 November – 36th Brigade sets out for Mateur. East Surreys occupy Tebourba unopposed.

    WD 56th Recce

    26th


    TESTOUR AREA

    During night situation reports arrive and instructions from 78 div

    0720: Owing to bad weather, communication position obscure so that CO decided to go to 78th Div (rear HQ) to clear up position.

    1200: CO returned with new orders. Now under 11 Bde.

    “B” Sqn report enemy withdrawn from SLOUGHIA area and they are pushing on to MEDJEZ EL BAB.

    C Sqn trying to bypass enemy positions in south and push on to MEDJZ EL BAB.

    1530: RHQ proceed towards MEDJEZ EL BAB following reports that the town had fallen

    1600: “B” Sqn through MEDJEZ EL BAB and report road clear several miles to the east towards TEBOURBA.

    1800: Latter reported clear as far as outskirts. “B” Sqn withdraw to harbour for night several miles from town.

    1900: RHQ established 3 mile NE of MEDJEZ EL BAB. “C” Sqn covering southern route to Tunis. E Surreys and artillery occupying TERBOURBA. “B” Sqn take 2 German & one Arab prisoner.

    27 November – Germans attack Tebourba but were beaten off after heavy fighting. British troops are only 22 miles from Tunis.

    WD 56th Recce

    27th


    MEDJZ EL BAB

    0900: No fresh orders received during the night. IO to Bde at first light for orders. Regt ordered by 11 Bde to patrol Southern flank

    1200: German tanks, Pz KW Mark II & III attack E Surreys position in TERBOURBA. One troop of “B” Sqn in town during attack. Casualties to both vehicles and personnel. 14 tanks destroyed. E Surreys and artillery receive heavy casualties. 5 x 25pdrs, 1 x 6 pdr and soft vehicle lost. “B” Sqn withdraw to harbour for night. “C” Sqn have been in observation of enemy strong points on southern road all day.

    28 November – Argyll’s ambushed near Sedjenane between Bald Hill and Green Hill.

    WD 56th Recce

    28th

    0200: CO to Bde & discovers that since1400 hrs 27/11/42 Regt has been under 78 Div and our role is to continue very much as heretofore. Guarding southern flank of move to TUNIS.

    0600: RHQ moved to new harbour SW of MEDJEZ EL BAB. C & B Squadrons given orders to proceed on patrol within given boundaries towards Tunis.

    1000: B Sqn in contact and observation of enemy at MASSICHAULT, patrols spend day in area trying to get round position.

    C Sqn recce further South towards PONT DU FAHS. Enemy in area and kept under observation. Enemy forces in both areas appear to be 6 wheeled ARCs, Tanks and lorried infantry.

    2000: CO to 78 Div
     
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