The Battle of the Peaks and Longstop Hill Tunisia April -May 1943

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Educator, Nov 27, 2018.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian layabout

    Ahh, as soon as I have money again... I rarely buy books from the UK new as that's quite expensive but for this, I think I will make an exception.
  2. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    While I find this book very interesting, well researched and well written, I do not share Bexley84's enthusiasm for the maps. As in almost every such book I have ever read, the text constantly refers to places and peaks/spot heights which are not shown on the maps. Tiresome, but possibly the maps would get too cluttered if every point mentioned was shown. I would still recommend the book to anyone with an interest in this campaign.
    bexley84 and Chris C like this.
  3. jwp59

    jwp59 Member

    Got my copy this week ! working my way through it, seems a very detailed and well produced book, glad to see the RASC gets a mention !, from his records my dad was with 294 Co. RASC attached to the 36th infantry division.
    Cheers, John.

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  4. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Fair points.

    I suppose as I've tramped the ground a couple of times, I get carried away with something that maps with my memory.... the ground in the Djebels north of Medjez is particularly "difficult" to link to war diaries etc.. for me, Mahdi, Bettiour, Heidous, Djebel Ang, 667, the Kefs and Tanngoucha all make much more sense after visiting last year.. shame that my Dad isn't around now to advise...picture of him and his mates below at the end of the campaign.. in Guelma I think.

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    Last edited: Aug 29, 2019
  5. Educator

    Educator Junior Member

    Thanks for the feedback. I am aware that the text and index sometimes includes reference to multiple locations which are not shown on the maps. There were so many spot heights and locations. I would make two points first I was limited in how many maps I could have and I wanted to avoid the clutter you mention for clarity in very confused terrain. Secondly creating viable maps for the book proved to be a particular challenge for me and Paul Hewitt of Battlefield Design as modern maps of Tunisia don't exist. If you were able to see what the original GSGS maps look like you would realise some compromises had to made. The choices on what to include and exclude were mine. I can say that Paul did a marvellous job of creating the maps thus any fault is mine. Happy to provide links to the GSGS maps so you can fill in any gaps.
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  6. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Ordered a copy from the big A as it is considerably reduced on offer (but more than I would normally pay).
    It hopefully covers the fighting for Point 144, 151, 156, 166, 174 and 187 even if it doesn't, it should provide a flavour of the actions fought south of Longstop.
    Pt 144 saw Lt France 67th FR earn an MC together with his action on Banana Ridge and Major Shepherd an MiD
    supporting 6th Gordons.
    Anyway the author seemed a descent sort of guy.
    Should arrive mid week.
    Will be back after reading it.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
  7. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    The book arrived at mid day. Some excellent colour photos of the landscapes and seemingly intricate detail.
    Its going to take a while to read to do it justice so will have to wait a while as I am unexpectedly busy.
    I am fairly sure that a friends father was in the 78th Div although he doesn't want to know about the war (which is frustrating).
    I saw some photos of his father in Austria which I think was occupied by the 78th so need to try a bit of diplomacy to get to see them again.
    Perhaps I should try to lend him the book in case it should whet his appetite.
    Chris C likes this.
  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    There is an extensive (2.5 pgs) review in the November 2020 edition of the British Journal of Military History (BJMH), which can be downloaded for free via: View of Ian Mitchell, The Battle of The Peaks and Long Stop Hill: Tunisia, April-May 1943

    Here is one passage:
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  9. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Having purchased the book which is in itself an impressive piece of work I am struggling not to appear over critical.
    The author in the opening post on here refers to the 1st Army being airbrushed from history but then falls into the trap of writing a highly detailed work about his obvious core interest
    the 78th Division.
    I struggled through half the book trying not to cheat by looking at the index but relented to find no mention has been made of the British 1st Infantry Division (not even in the Index) or its actions at Djebel Djaffa, Banana Ridge or Guariat el Atach which had to be taken for the 78th to advance on Longstop. There is not even a scratch on any of the maps in the book about these battles.
    The 4th Division gets a mention but the East Surreys also fought at Djebel Djaffa prior to the attack on Longstop.

    Would someone please check that I am not going "dippy" and that the 1st Division were part of the 1st Army, or if not which Command did they come under.
    I appreciate that one cannot spend a lifetime including everyone and what is done is a good work of reference.

    Perhaps someone reading this posting might be inspired to take up the challenge and give the 1st Infantry Division some credit for their efforts here, at Anzio, Florence, Monte Cece and the Gothic Line.
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  10. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Couple of immediate observations on the above as you've invited it.

    Firstly, I certainly agree with your comment: "I appreciate that one cannot spend a lifetime including everyone and what is done is a good work of reference... "

    Educator can answer for himself but the book is titled "The Battle of The Peaks and Long Stop Hill: Tunisia, April-May 1943" And the content/scope was clearly stated, so 78th Division's role would obviously be in the front, centre and back of this particular narrative... and perhaps an updated 1st Division history is well overdue....

    Full disclosure: my father was present during the period covered by this book and coincidentally I was on a Zoom call last night and Educator mentioned that he was having trouble logging in to respond to you directly.. I'm sure he will.. My own next Zoom session will look at 56th (London) Division's time at Anzio.. and 1st Division will be covered (but possibly not fully enough?) within that narrative: grim times indeed.

    best wishes
    Wobbler likes this.
  11. Instructor6

    Instructor6 New Member

  12. Instructor6

    Instructor6 New Member

    Thank you Uncle Target for your feedback on Battle of the Peaks and Longstop Hill. My apologies for taking a while to reply but as Bexley 84 so kindly stated I was having problems as Educator6 accessing the site. I have now registered under this name. I note your comment that 1st Division isn't cited in the index and covered in depth in the book. For some reason the indexer did not pick up the 1st Division which is actually mentioned on pages 252-254. It is true I don't cover the 1st Division in any depth I made the conscious decision that the focus of the book would be about The Battle of the Peaks and Longstop Hill. As I am sure you know all this happened north of the river and primarily involved the 78th Division. I also decided that the book would be as I mentioned in the preface a book restricted in time, by formation and geographical area.

    I agree entirely that the story of the fighting south of the river by the 1st Division and other formations especially at Bou Aoukaz should be told after all 2 VCs were won there. Hopefully someone will do so in due course. Tunisia is such a overlooked campaign and I encourage anyone to write about it. . Thanks again for your feedback.
    Uncle Target likes this.
  13. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Sadly I dont think that I am capable but if there is a serious author around I would gladly help if necessary.
    You are welcome to Drop me a PM (Conversation) regarding such a project.
  14. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Having just read the pages mentioned 252 - 254 I must comment upon the excellent commentary on Fliederblute and the subsequent battles to secure "The Bou" as the 1st Div protagonists called it.
    I am studying and writing from the perspective of the 1st Div Artillery, in particular the 67th Field Regt who were directly on the receiving end of both prongs of this attack at Banana Ridge and Djebel Djaffa. The fighting later became intense in the gap leading towards the Longstop area known as Gab Gab with many tanks and armour destroyed in the nearby Olive Groves. I have been able to put together the story in detail from various Regimental sources including letters by the GPO (Gun Position Officer) of C Troop 67th FR together with those of his Battery Commander at Point 187 overlooking their positions and description of being under direct effective fire a few days earlier, in a slit trench OP at Point 144 from a Tiger tank "who Had us taped."
    I can now re visit my sketch map of the Battle Area to check it against this account.

    It might prove to be good fortune that I failed to spot this in my initial reading as it could further enhance the possibility of someone taking up the challenge of writing the full story.
    Patience is not one of my virtues. Recent correspondence with a well known author was very encouraging but his mention that it took six years to obtain his first publisher convinces me otherwise, as I am not sure that I have that much time left.
    Maybe I should give it a go once Covid subsides and I can go forth to meet potential partners who could carry on if (or when) I fail..
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2021
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  15. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Taken the advice on the rear dust cover now reading The Plain Cook and the Great Showman to broaden the narrative on the battles south of the river.
    Sadly I cant afford the fare to Tunisia, I doubt I would get medical insurance or even survive the trip, nor cover the cost of getting the book published if I wrote one.
    So I will just enjoy the research and having had the jab, just dream on.
  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Big shame, UT... I had the privilege of visiting Tunisia, once in 2012 and then again in 2018. In March/April time - 20 degree day time temps; lucky with no rain and also lucky to link up with a knowledgeable Tunisian historian (whose father was around in 1943 and met then with Rommel !!). We stayed in central Tunis and got out on day trips to Medjez, Beja, Bou Arada etc. With a permit, we were able to film although the secret police stopped us each day. Clearly, things are not great at the moment but I would really hope to be able to get out there again... the topology of the battlefields is still very clear, though watch out for the dogs.

    By the way, there's a chap on Twitter @EarlOfTunis and he seems to be doing some good work: "Doctoral Student at University of Leeds, researching the Tunisian Campaign, 1942-3. Reenactor, bass guitarist and a bit of a tank fanatic..."

    Nice photo below I took of the Medjerda valley looking towards Longstop from the top of Djebel Tanngoucha...

    Best wishes

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  17. Uncle Target

    Uncle Target Hoping to help others

    Thanks for the photo. Noel Beadle a Lieutenant and GPO then CPO of C Troop 67th Field Regt wrote of "the Yellow Dogs yapping in the hills, which means the patrols are out, so we watch for the flares that mean that some poor group of infantry needs our support".

    Its not so sad, I spent several years working as an engineer around Europe spending time in Florence (before I inherited the letters of Lt Beadle who was killed there by a landmine) It was my favourite city although Fiesole was my favourite place overlooking the domes, towers and rooftops. I worked in West Berlin when the Brandenburg Gate was still closed off and Rjukan Telemark at Norsk Hydro where the heavy water was made. Bogen near Narvik where I saw the Northern lights and where the Warspite broke the windows every time she opened fire then Ingolstadt in Bavaria, a contrast where no one would speak English.
    Anther favourite was Bordeaux then Lyon, a trip down by train to Bilbao in Spain where I worked for some time, coming close to being shot coming back in a replacement Hertz Hire car with a San Sebastian number plate and spending four hours in jail because I had a Romanian Visa in my passport which Franco didnt appreciate at that time.
    I now have four adult children and a granddaughter.
    I play bass guitar, have done since I was 14. Most of my friends from that period are dead or living abroad. I was never interested in going pro although some were incredibly successful, it never appealed to me to go from place to place playing the same tunes over and over.
    The only re enactment that I really took to was watching the Ermine Street Guard and the Civil War Society with their big guns.. The children were always more amused watching men going into the portaloo to see who produced the most pee coming out of the drain pipe.
    Having spent many an hour on Gallery Ranges as an FPO or i/c Butts I cant really appreciate people acting as soldiers.
    To me there is only one way to do it and you have to be young, disciplined and well practised to do it properly.

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    Last edited: Feb 10, 2021

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