Entry into Tunis, 8th May 1943.

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by bexley84, May 8, 2013.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    It is 70 years since the first infantry troops from the British First Army entered Tunis. In the next few days, over 200,000 German and Italian forces were taken prisoner. Of course, there are several members on this forum, who will be able to recall their part in the events of May 1943.

    After six months of extremely resilient German resistance in northen Tunisia, my father and his comrades expected some street fighting in Tunis.
    However the London Irish and Faughs's war diaries described their welcome into the city:

    "The Battalion commences to clear town, all resistance had ceased by this time in Tunis and in the surrounding areas and those who had escaped were making for the Cap Bon area. The battalion was mobbed by huge enthusiastic crowds who lined the streets, waving flags, giving the ’V ‘sign and wanting to shake all of us by the hand. No opposition was met whatsoever except the terrific crowds and the battalion managed to reach the south side of Tunis by 1645 hrs...”

    "Resistance has been announced as being at an end in Tunis. A tremendous welcome awaits the Battalion. Most of the public buildings are flying tricolours. Group of people stand on the road cheering, clapping and giving the ‘V’ sign. Reaching Rue De France there was a crowd right across the road. The vehicles have to force a passage through a sea of people, waving flags and throwing roses to us. Some civilians asked if we were the 8th Army. They seemed badly informed about the situation of the war...”

    My father also recalled the scene that day:

    The Irish Brigade was given the distinction of being the first marching troops into Tunis. The London Irish entered the town in buses through crossroads at La Mornaghia. A senior officer in immaculate uniform stood beside his jeep. It was the ‘boss’, General Sir Harold Alexander. Debussing at the entrance of the city, the battalion marched in single file along both sides of the road. I remained in my three-tonner, which soon became be-decked with flowers. The men were garlanded, kissed and cheered by the French colons, who were relieved the war was over for them with little damage to their home.”

    On 20th May, men from the British 1st and 8th Armies joined a "Victory Parade" in Tunis.

    Like many others, my father had mixed emotions that day:

    “I insisted on joining it as I was one of the few survivors of the company that had landed at Algiers the previous November and was the only colour sergeant on parade. As we approached the saluting stand, we could see Eisenhower, Alexander, Montgomery and the Free French Commander General Giraud. An American film cameraman shouted: ‘Getta load of this!’ as he saw our saffron kilted pipers and the caubeens with their green and blue hackles. The detachment of London Irish wore the only hackles that could be found among the few hundred survivors from the Tunisian campaign.

    High above the city of Tunis, and dominating the skyline, were the twin white towers of one of the oldest basilicas of the Catholic Church. Close by were the ruins of a great Roman city. It had been built on the site of Carthage, Hannibal’s capital, which had been destroyed after the 2nd Punic war.

    The Catholics of the 78th Division marched to a Mass of thanksgiving and remembrance. Leading the division were the pipes and drums of the Skins, the Faughs and the London Irish Rifles. I again was the only colour sergeant from the battalion. To me, these parades were a duty I would never avoid:. it was both a pleasure and a privilege to march behind the pipes.

    My main prayers, apart from thanksgiving for survival, were for the repose of the souls of my many comrades and friends: Denis Griffin and Andy Gardiner, the gentle provost sergeants; George Rock and Ian Brooks; Captain Carrigan; Snootch McDowell, whom I escorted to his death, and Harry McRory. I thought of the hundreds of others from the battalion who had died, were missing or had been wounded. I also remembered those I had helped to bury, without due prayer, both friend and foe. What a waste.

    I also thought of myself and my constant terror which I had successfully hidden, except once when it showed in my eyes. I was with Doc Samuels, our beloved medical officer, who grasped my wrist and reassured me. My biggest fear was to show that fear to others. I had tried to serve my fellows and to act as their mother: feeding them, clothing them, finding them somewhere to rest, giving them comfort and often listening to their worries and fears for their families. ....”

    My father was indeed remembering the 100 men from his battalion and 350 from the Irish Brigade who were left behind in Algeria and Tunisia, as well as the tens of thousands from all Allied forces who died during those months of desperate struggle.


    Attached Files:

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  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

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  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Excellent, Ron, thank you..of course there was 2 more years of desperate struggle ahead of you.

  4. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Lovely post and pictures Richard.
    Thank you

  5. jwp59

    jwp59 Member

    My dad also took part in the parade, a resident of our village came round to tell my gran the cinemain the local town was showing a newsreel of the parade and he had seen my dad riding atop of a vehicle, my gran caught the train down the next night but they had changed the film !!.
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  6. Rosey

    Rosey Member

    Thank you Richard for sharing your father's courageous and compassionate thoughts.

    Lovely post and the pictures most interesting.

  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Gents and lady,

    Thanks for your kind comments...

    I was just reading comments made at the time by Brigadier Nelson Russell -

    "The good, solid infantry soldier – decent chap as he is – humping his load – and with a happy, smiling, sweaty face, pushing his way good humouredly through the crowded streets of Tunis. You could see that he thought all foreigners were a bit potty – but these were being potty in a nice way."

    Also, a link to one of a number of clips of the Tunis parade:

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  8. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    'B' Sqn Churchills of the North Irish Horse were opposite saluting base during the Tunis Victory parade. 'Bangor' on which I was aboard, is the first one in the photograph.

    Memories of a long time ago.

    Cheers, Gerry
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  9. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Brilliant...I was just reading Brigadier Russell noting that one of the NIH Churchills on Mahdi had the monicker "Lily from Pontaferry"

  10. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD


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  11. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Today is the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Africa right. Last Axis units ( 90th Light Division from Deutsche Afrikakorps ) surrendered to New Zealanders (because they were their oldest foes) in Tunis. General Alexander commanding 15th Army Group send this message to Churchill "We are the masters of North African shores" He took the title "Alexander of Tunis" later.

    Anyone wish to add anything...
  12. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Just take a few moments to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of the tens of thousands who made this possible..

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  13. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

  14. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    More about the parade on the 20th May '43

    From 1IG War Diary:

    20 May 1943
    The 24 GUARDS BRIGADE contingent marched past in a solid block, nine abreast, with 1 DIVISION.
    In the absence of the Divisional Commander, the Commanding Officer led the 1 DIVISION contingent.
    What appeared to be the whole French Forces in AFRICA, including the picturesque and blood-thirsty GOUMS, headed the Parade, followed by a number of American troops, Infantry tanks, armoured cars and guns of the 1st and 8th ARMIES.
    The Salute was taken by General GIRAUD, who had with him on the same platform Generals EISENHOWER, ALEXANDER and ANDERSON, Air Chief Marshal Sir A. TEDDER, and Admiral Sir Andrew CUNNINGHAM.


    17 May 1943
    In conjunction of orders issued verbally to Divisions on 17 May 1943 regarding the Victory Parade, the following are the orders for the March Past:-
    Formation : Strength
    78 DIVISION : 2,400
    46 DIVISION : 2,400
    1 DIVISION : 1,000
    4 DIVISION : 1,500
    1 ARMY TROOPS : 500
    8 ARMY : 1,000

    The above will all march and will be followed by the following mechanised units:-
    30 vehicles and guns : Free French
    One Field Regiment (detailed by 78 DIVISION), guns only
    One Battery 4 Medium Regiment, guns only
    One Troop 93 Anti-Tank Regiment (17-pounders), guns only
    One Squadron Shermans (detailed 6 ARMOURED DIVISION)
    One Squadron Churchills (detailed by 25 TANK BRIGADE)

    2. Guns, tanks and vehicles above will march two (2) abreast down the centre of the route at two (2) yards interval and five (5) yards distance. In the case of tanks, the Commander, Wireless Operator and Co-Driver stand and Gunner stands behind the Driver. On passing the Saluting Base guns will not be dipped nor will turrets be swivelled. Crews other than the Driver will eyes-right at the second marker. Pennants will not be flown. Ten (10) feet of ‘A’ serial and one (1) foot of ‘B’ aerial to be carried.

    3. (a ) The British Contingent will be preceded by massed Drums and Pipes of 24 GUARDS BRIGADE which will wheel left just short of the Saluting Base on to the pathway, counter-marching and halt on the edge of the pavement and will play the British Contingent past.
    (b ) Major-General V. EVELEGH, OBE, Commanding 78 DIVISION will lead the British Contingent. He will march 20 yards in rear of the massed Drums and Pipes and will be accompanied by his G.S.O. 1 and A.A.&Q.M.G. two (2) paces in rear and two (2) paces to the flanks. The Commander of the leading Group of 78 DIVISION will be ten (10) paces in rear of the Division Commander.
    (c ) Strengths of Groups will be as in APPENDIX A attached.
    (d ) 20 yards distance between the Tail of one Division and the Head of the next and 10 yards distance between Groups.
    (e ) Troops will march past in 9s. Officers will march past in ranks at the head of their Group.
    (f ) Within each Division all Infantry will be grouped together; similarly all Artillery.
    (g ) Divisions will be commanded by a Brigadier and Groups by a Lieutenant-General.
    (h ) Eyes-Right will be given by Group Commander at the second Marker. Division Commanders and Group Commanders only will salute.
    (j ) Proportion of Officers to Men - one to twenty approximately, but adjusted to make complete ranks of Officers.
    (k ) Troops armed with the rifle will march at the slope throughout, arms being changed at intervals, but care will be taken that they are the correct side when approaching the Saluting Base. Bayonets will NOT bet fixed.

    4. Drill.
    Shirts inside shorts. Belt, Rifle & side-arms for those arms equipped with them. Berets and bonnets for those regiments who wear them; remainder F.S. Caps, Pro khaki S.D. Cap.

    5. March Table is being issued separately by ‘G’, 5 CORPS.

    6. Saluting Base has now been changed and is Road Junction 078566.

    7. Orders as regards Infantry, guns and tanks lining the route are being issued separately.

    8. Detail Parade states by units showing exact numbers on Parade including lining the route will be rendered by Divisions, 25 TANK BRIGADE and Commanders. Corps and Army Troops contingents to ‘A’ 5 CORPS by 1200 hours 19 May in duplicate on pro-forma which will be issued shortly. Troops lining the route and troops marching past will be shown separately. No states are required for Guards of Honour and escorts.

    Method of Despatch: S.D.R. or Division L.O.

    Signed Brigadier, D.A.&Q.M.G. 5 CORPS



    1. Troops of 24 GUARDS BRIGADE, as under, will take part in the March Past of Allied contingents at the TUNIS Victory Parade on 20 May 1943 as part of 1 DIVISION:-
    Brigade H.Q. - 9 Other Ranks
    Each Battalion - 3 Officers, 54 Other Ranks
    In addition each Battalion will have one Officer and six Other Ranks in readiness who will proceed to the Assembly Area with the remainder.

    2. Command:
    (a ) Major-General V. EVELEGH, OBE commander 78 DIVISION is in command of the British Contingent.
    (b ) Lieutenant-Colonel C.A. MONTAGU-DOUGLAS-SCOTT, 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, will command 1 DIVISION Contingent.

    3. Order of March, British Contingent.
    Formation : Strength
    78 DIVISION : 2,400
    46 DIVISION : 2,400
    1 DIVISION : 1,000
    4 DIVISION : 1,500
    1 ARMY TROOPS : 500
    8 ARMY : 1,000

    4. 1 DIVISION contingent, which consists of 1,000 all ranks, will be divided into two groups:-
    (a ) No. 1 Group - Infantry only - Commander Lieutenant-Colonel WEBB CARTER, 1 D.W.R.
    (b ) No. 2 Group - Division Troops - Commander Lieutenant-Colonel FULBROOK, 1 LOYALS.

    5. Troops will march past in 9’s, bayonets will be fixed. Officers will march in ranks at the lead of their group.
    Order of March - 1 DIVISION:-

    No. 1 Group:
    9 Officers 24 GUARDS BRIGADE
    9 Officers 2 INFANTRY BRIGADE
    9 Officers 3 INFANTRY BRIGADE
    9 Other Ranks H.Q. 24 GUARDS BRIGADE
    54 Other Ranks 5th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS
    54 Other Ranks 1st Battalion SCOTS GUARDS
    54 Other Ranks 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS
    Other Ranks 2 INFANTRY BRIGADE
    Other Ranks 3 INFANTRY BRIGADE

    No. 2 Group:
    Division Troops

    6. Troops will be formed up and ready to march past by 1150 hours 20 May 1943.
    Place of Parade will be notified.

    7. Saluting: Eyes Right will be given by Group Commanders at the Saluting Base. Only Division Commanders and Group Commanders will salute.

    8. Dress:-
    (a ) Officers: K.D., shirts inside shorts, S.D. caps, Web Anklets, Web belt, revolver and ammunition pouch, no sticks.
    (b ) Other Ranks: K.D., shirts inside shorts, S.D. caps, Web Anklets, Belt, Sidearms and Rifle.

    All Ranks will wear designations and Division signs sewn on to their shirts. Equipment will be scrubbed and not blanched. Brasses will be polished.

    9. Route for March Past: Avenue GAMBETTA.

    10. Saluting Base: Road Junction 078566

    11. Assembly:
    It has not yet been decided whether or not 24 GUARDS BRIGADE contingent will have to assemble in the area MUTUEVILLE 0659 on 19 May and sleep there night 19/20 May. It is hoped that personnel taking part wil be able to sleep 19/20 May in present areas and proceed to assembly area on morning 20 May. A decision on this will be given as early as possible 19 May. In either case unit transport will be used.

    12. S.C. is attending recce of assembly area at 0930 hours 19 May and will call for Battalion representatives if necessary.

    13. Dispersal: Unit transport will be used to carry personnel back to Battalion areas at the conclusion of the Parade. Details as to RendezVous and time will be issued later.

    Signed Brigade Major, H.Q. 24 GUARDS BRIGADE
    In the Field
    18 May 1943.


    Ref Maps: TUNISIA 1/50,000 Sheets 13 & 20. Town Plan TUNIS 1/10,000

    Further to even number of 18 May 1943.

    Herewith orders for assembly and dispersal 24 GUARDS BRIGADE Contingent for the VICTORY PARADE on 20 May 1943.

    1. Assembly:-
    (A ) All personnel taking part will assemble in 1 DIVISION Area in the olive grove 0560 by 0700 hours 20 May 1943. The area is clearly marked. Move in own transport.
    (B ) Route:- LE BARDON 0356; X-roads BAB BOU SADOUN 0556; Avenue MARECHAL GALLIENI; Road junction 064573; Road junction 067574; Road junction 061587; Olive Grove 0560.
    (C ) There wil be a rehearsal on the ground at approximately 0830 hours 20 May. Officers in command Detachments will report to Lieutenant-Colonel C.A. MONTAGU-DOUGLAS-SCOTT, 1st Battalion IRISH GUARDS, on arrival who will give final instructions.
    (D ) Breakfasts before leaving billets. Dinners on return.

    2. Dispersal:-
    (A ) At the conclusion of the March Past, Battalion Detachments will continue marching to Car Park ‘C’ 078532 where they embus in own transport and return to billets independently.
    (B ) Brigade Transport Officer will collet all 24 GUARDS BRIGADE Transport from Assembly Area at 0745 hours 20 May and guide it to Car Park ‘C’.
    Route:- Outward Route reversed to LE BARDO and thence to road junction 052555 - road junction 076535 3/4 [sic]
    Vehicles will return to billets by this route reversed.
    (C ) It is hoped that all transport will be back in billets by 1430 hours.

    3. Spectators:-
    There is no objection to personnel not on duty attending the Parade as spectators. No seats are available and if a good view is to be obtained spectators should arrive at the Avenue Gambetta as early as possible. No transport for conveyance of spectators is allowed.

    Signed Brigade Major, H.Q. 24 GUARDS BRIGADE
    In the Field
    19 May 1943
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  15. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Before anyone gets carried away by the most excellent initial report of Richard and his Irish bde from 78th Division that they in fact were the only ones who were

    involved in the last Battle - ain't so……as the Order of Battle makes it quite clear - first are the two Heavy Bdes of 21st and 25th Tanks ( mine and Gerry's) - then

    the two Armoured Divisions 6th (1st Army) and 7th (8th army) then 4th Div ( 1st Army ) and 4th Indian( 8th army) the rest ---78th Div ( 1st army)coming in from the

    Left flank as 1st Armoured( 8th army) looked after the Right Flank - always bugged me that I too missed both the last attack and the parade as we were stuck - as

    reinforcements in an Cap Matifou Transit camp….

  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    all excellent points indeed,

  17. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Re-Remembering what my Dad and his mates were doing 75 years ago today:

    ".Debussing at the entrance of the city, the battalion marched in single file along both sides of the road. I remained in my three-tonner, which soon became be-decked with flowers. The men were garlanded, kissed and cheered by the French colons, who were relieved the war was over for them with little damage to their home.

    Tunis was a beautiful French colonial city with a native quarter, the kasbah. The latter would remain out of bounds to British soldiers. The London Irish had the task of clearing the docks. When this was finished, E Company assembled at a caravanseri just outside Tunis. Here we bivouacked. The camels had left but their fleas had not. A few cans of AL63 insecticide were shared among the men. Some who were too enthusiastic in their use of it discovered to their cost the effect it had on parts where they perspired.

    We were soon moved to billets in the suburbs which to us were the height of luxury. One platoon was in a house that was the terminus of the undersea cable to southern France and Italy. As I arrived to issue rations, I was greeted with an explosion from within. A man was brought out covered in blood. The apparatus had been booby-trapped. I immediately took him to hospital where I handed him over to the nuns and left him to their care...”

    P1060141 - Copy.JPG
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  18. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    12th May 1943: "All organised resistance ended at 2000 hrs..."

    P1040811 (3).JPG
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  19. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    IMG_8005 (2).JPG

    (Photo taken at British Embassy in Tunis recently)...

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