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THE WORCESTERSHIRE AND SHERWOOD FORESTERS REGIMENTAL ASSOCIATION
Patron: HRH The Princess Royal
President: Brig P Dennis
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Patron: HRH The Princess Royal
President: Brig P Dennis CBE
27 January 2023 WFRA NEWSLETTER Volume 14 Issue 04
19038063 Colour Sergeant Donald Wilfred Ward
It is with great sadness that we report the death of 19038063 Colour Sergeant Donald Wilfred Ward who died on Wednesday 25th January aged 95.
Donald enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters in December 1946 and served with A Company in Malaya in 1958 where he was burnt on the back by a phosphorus grenade. Donald went on to serve with other companies with MMG's Support Platoon. He holds the GSM clasp Malaya, UN Cyprus, LS & GC and Pingat Jasa medals. Donald served for 22 years and was discharged in 1969. After leaving the army he went to work for the Gas Board.
FUNERAL DETAILS FOR EDWARD ‘TED’ WARREN
Ted’s funeral will take place on Friday 3 February at 09.50 hours at Brimington Crematorium , Chesterfield S43 1AU.
All Association Members and Standards Bearers are invited to attend.
This will be followed by the wake at the Victoria Pub, Knifesmith Gate, Chesterfield S40 1RL to which all are also invited.
001 THE MERCIAN REGIMENT QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
The next edition of the Mercian Regimental Quarterly Newsletter is now available for viewing.
Our newsletter covers recent events over a three month period, with a look ahead on what is coming up within the regiment; including the battalions, the museums & associations.
The newsletter is hosted online, which means that you can view it on your smartphone or tablet while on-the-go.
We would like to extend a thank you to all who are involved with the MERCIAN regiment for your continued support.
Stand Firm, Strike Hard.
002 EDMUND SZYMCZAK 100TH BIRTHDAY
Members of Worcester Branch W.F.R.A. are invited to a surprise event to mark the 100th birthday of a local Polish Second World War hero Mr Edmund Szymczak, who serves at Monte Cassino, and the 8th British Brigade – it will be at the Worcester Guildhall, Sunday 29th January 1300-1500hrs. There will be a cake for 100 people, live music, champagne, etc.
When a similar event was held last year for his 99th in the N Worcs LPA sent uniform representatives, and police cadets also attended. Other dignitaries, including the Mayor, MP and representatives from the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, Army Attaché, high profile officials plus other members of the local Polish community also attended.
Edmund is a great chap, and well deserving of appreciation.
Dress: Blazers. Berets, Medals. Standards welcome if available
003 LOST COMRADES
Barry Goodwin is trying to track down James (Jimmy) Owen who served in the Australian Army in the mid mid 1970's who was ex British Army in the early 70's and toured Northern Ireland. He said he served in the 1st Battalion. If anyone has contact details for him please let Barry know it will be very much appreciated.
Barry Goodwin WO1 Retired Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
004 REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
Scott Pomeroy is looking for any information or pictures of his grandfather Thomas J Pomeroy aka Johnny or nickname Tec. He enlisted in 1953 at Norton Barracks.
I believe Tec went to Bulford Barracks in about 1955/56 not sure if he was stationed there or just drove the unit there. He also served in Germany. As well as driving, he was also the batman to an officer.
Any information or pictures would be well received.
Scott can be contacted on email@example.com
005 SHERWOOD FORESTERS, WFR & FRIENDS
Sherwood Foresters, WFR and Friends end of month get together on Friday 27th January 19.30hrs at the Nottingham Royal Naval Association Club, 22 Church St, Nottingham NG7 1SJ
All are welcome to attend.
006 LONG EATON & WEST NOTTS BRANCH SOCIAL EVENING
Long Eaton and West Notts Branch social evening on Wednesday 1st February at the Last Post PH in Beeston Square. 19.30 Hrs for 20.00 Hrs start .
All are welcome to attend.
007 TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN - PART ONE
The Tunisian campaign was a series of battles that were part of the wider North African campaign from 17 November 1942 to 13 May 1943.
After the success of Operation Torch large quantities of supplies became available to the British from the United States and the supply situation of the Eighth Army was eventually resolved, with the Eighth Army no longer constrained they were able to drive the Axis forces westwards from Egypt.
Due to the closeness of Sicily to Tunisia, the Allies expected that the Axis would move to occupy the country as soon as they heard of the Torch landings. To forestall this, it would be necessary to occupy Tunisia as quickly as possible after the landings were made. However, there was a limit to how far east the Torch landings could be made because of the increasing proximity of Axis airfields in Sicily and Sardinia which at the end of October held 298 German and 574 Italian aircraft. Algiers was accordingly chosen for the most easterly landings. This would ensure the success of the initial landings in spite of uncertainty as to how the incumbent French forces would react. Once Algiers was secured, the Eastern Task Force, would be projected as quickly as possible into Tunisia in a race to occupy Tunis, some 800 km distant along poor roads in difficult terrain during the winter rainy season, before the Axis could re-establish themselves.
However, planners had to assume the worst case regarding the extent of Vichy opposition at Algiers and the invasion convoys were assault loaded with large quantities of infantry to meet heavy ground opposition. This meant that at Algiers the disembarkation of mobile forces for an advance to Tunisia could potentially be delayed. Plans were thus a compromise and the Allies realised that an attempt to reach Bizerte and Tunis overland before the Axis could establish themselves represented a gamble which depended on the ability of the navy and air force to delay the Axis build-up. The Allies, although they had provided for the possibility of strong Vichy opposition to their landings both in terms of infantry and air force allocations, seriously underestimated the Axis appetite for and speed of intervention in Tunisia.
Once operations had commenced and despite clear intelligence reports regarding the Axis reaction, the Allies were slow to respond and it was not until nearly two weeks after the landings that air and naval plans were made to intercept Axis sea transport to Tunis. At the end of November, naval Force K was reformed in Malta with three cruisers and four destroyers and Force Q formed in Bône with three cruisers and two destroyers. No Axis ships sailing to Tunis were sunk in November but the Allied naval forces had some success in early December sinking seven Axis transports. However, this came too late to affect the fighting on land because the armoured elements of 10th Panzer Division had already arrived. To counter the surface threat, Axis convoys were switched to daylight when they could be protected by air cover, simultaneously denying the Allies the advantage of using radar in night surface combat. Night convoys resumed on completion of the extension of Axis minefields which severely restricted the activities of Force K and Force Q.
Map of Tunisia during the 1942–1943 campaign
Tunisia has its northern and much of its eastern boundary on the Mediterranean coast. Most of the inland western border with Algeria is astride the eastern line of the Atlas Mountains which run from the Atlantic coast of Morocco, 1,900 km east to Tunis. This portion of the border is easily defensible at the small number of passes through the two north south lines of the mountains. In the south a lower range of mountains limit the approaches to a narrow gap, facing Libya to the east, between the Matmata Hills and the coast. The French had earlier constructed a 20 km wide and 30 km deep series of defensive works known as the Mareth Line along the plain, to defend against an Italian invasion from Libya.
Only in the north was the terrain favourable to attack, here the Atlas Mountains stopped near the eastern coast, leaving a large area on the north west coast unprotected. Defensive lines in the north could deal with approaching forces, while the Mareth Line made the south secure. In between, there were only a few easily defended passes through the Atlas Mountains. Tunisia has two big deep water ports at Tunis and Bizerte, only a few hundred miles from Italian supply bases in Sicily. Ships could deliver supplies at night, safe from RAF patrols and return the next night, while Libya was a full day trip, making supply operations vulnerable to daylight air attacks. In Hitler's view, Tunisia could be held indefinitely, upsetting Allied plans in Europe.
Run for Tunis
Tunisia campaign operations 25 November to 10 December 1942
By 10 November, French opposition to the Torch landings had ceased, creating a military vacuum in Tunisia. The First Army Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson was immediately ordered to send the 36th Infantry Brigade Group, which had been the floating reserve for the Algiers landing, eastward by sea to occupy the Algerian ports of Bougie, Philippeville, and Bône and the airfield at Djedjelli, preliminary to advancing into Tunisia. The Combined Chiefs of Staff had decided that with the forces available, Torch would not include landings close to Tunisia. Anderson needed to get his limited force east quickly, before the Axis could reinforce Tunisia, but the Allies had only two brigade groups and some additional armour and artillery for the attack.
The French governor in Tunisia, Admiral Esteva, was afraid to support the Allies or oppose the Axis. He did not close airfields to either side; the Germans moved first and by 9 November, there were reports of 40 German aircraft arriving at Tunis and by 10 November, aerial reconnaissance reported 100 aircraft. Two days later, an airlift began that carried over 15,000 men and 581 long tons of supplies and ships brought 176 tanks, 131 artillery pieces, 1,152 vehicles and 13,000 long tons of supplies. By the end of the month, three German divisions, including the 10th Panzer Division, and two Italian infantry divisions had arrived. Walther Nehring took command of the new XC Corps on 12 November and arrived on 17 November. The French military commander in Tunisia, General Barré, moved troops into the western mountains of Tunisia and formed a defensive line from Tebersouk through Majaz al Bab.
There were two roads eastwards into Tunisia from Algeria. The Allied plan was to advance along the two roads and take Bizerte and Tunis. On 11 November, the British 36th Infantry Brigade had landed unopposed at Bougie but supply shortages delayed their arrival at Djedjelli until 13 November. Bône airfield was occupied following a parachute drop by British 3rd Parachute Battalion and this was followed by No. 6 Commando seizing the port on 12 November. Advanced guards of the 36th Infantry Brigade reached Tebarka on 15 November and Djebel Abiod on 18 November, where they met Axis forces. Further south, on 15 November, a US parachute battalion made an unopposed drop at Youks-les-Bains, capturing the airfield and advanced to take the airfield at Gafsa on 17 November.
On 19 November Nehring demanded passage for his forces across the bridge at Medjez and was refused by Barré. The Germans attacked twice and were repulsed, but the French defensive success was costly, and lacking armour and artillery, the French had to withdraw. Some Vichy French forces, such as Barré's, joined the Allies. But the attitude of Vichy forces remained uncertain until on 22 November, when the "Darlan Deal" placed French North Africa on the Allied side. This allowed US and British forces that had been securing Algeria to go to the front. By this time, the Axis had deployed a corps in Tunisia and outnumbered the Allies there in almost all ways.
Two Allied brigade groups advanced toward Djebel Abiod and Béja respectively. The Luftwaffe, happy to have local air superiority while Allied planes had to fly from relatively distant bases in Algeria, harassed them all the way. On 17 November the leading elements of the British 36th Brigade on the northern road met a mixed force of 17 tanks and 400 paratroops with self propelled guns at Djebel Abiod. The German paratroopers, with Luftwaffe and Italian fire support from the 1st Infantry Division "Superga", knocked out 11 tanks but their advance was halted while the fight at Djebel Abiod continued for nine days. On 22 November, tanks from the Italian 50th Brigade forced US paratroopers to abandon Gafsa. The two Allied columns concentrated at Djebel Abiod and Béja, preparing for an assault on 24 November. The 36th Brigade was to advance from Djebel Abiod toward Mateur and 11th Brigade was to move down the valley of the River Merjerda to take Majaz al Bab shown on Allied maps as Medjez el Bab or just 'Medjez' and then to Tebourba, Djedeida and Tunis. Blade Force, an armoured regimental group made up of 37mm gun M3 Stuart light tanks and 75mm M3 GMC self propelled anti tank guns, was to strike across country on minor roads in the gap between the two infantry brigades towards Sidi Nsir and make flanking attacks on Terbourba and Djedeida.
The northern attack did not take place because torrential rain had slowed the build up. In the south 11th Brigade were halted by stiff resistance at Medjez. Blade Force passed through Sidi Nsir to reach the Chouigui Pass, north of Terbourba part of B Squadron Stuart's from Blade Force infiltrated behind Axis lines to the newly activated airbase at Djedeida in the afternoon and destroyed more than 20 Axis planes but lacking infantry support, withdrew to Chouigui. The understrength tank Squadrons and three M3 GMC French 75’s were to hold the pass. A mixed unit of Panzer III and Panzer IVs and a small Italian scouting Force, around 15 tanks all told. Frontal attacks by the GMCs and Stuarts were ineffective losing 12 tanks, but allowed a rear attack by B Squadron firing into the weaker rear armour of the German tanks. The German commander, believing he had encountered a much stronger force, retreated. Blade Force's attack caught Nehring by surprise and he decided to withdraw from Medjez and strengthen Djedeida, only 19 miles from Tunis. The 36th Brigade's delayed attack began on 26 November but they were ambushed with the leading battalion taking 149 casualties. Further attacks were driven back from cleverly planned interlocking defences. 1 Commando landed 14 miles west of Bizerte on 30 November to outflank the Jefna position, but failed and rejoined 36th Brigade by 3 December. The position remained in German hands until the last days of fighting in Tunisia the following spring.
Early on 26 November, as the Germans withdrew, 11 Brigade were able to enter Medjez unopposed and by late in the day had taken positions in and around Tebourba, which had also been evacuated by the Germans, preparatory to advancing on Djedeida. However, on 27 November the Germans attacked in strength. 11th Brigade tried to regain the initiative in the early hours of 28 November, attacking toward Djedeida airfield with the help of US armour, but failed. On 29 November, Combat Command B of US 1st Armored Division had concentrated forward for an attack in conjunction with Blade Force planned for 2 December. They were forestalled by an Axis counter attack, led by Major-General Wolfgang Fischer, whose 10th Panzer Division had just arrived in Tunisia. By the evening of 2 December, Blade Force had been withdrawn, leaving 11th Brigade and Combat Command B to deal with the Axis attack. The attack threatened to cut off 11th Brigade and break through into the Allied rear, but desperate fighting over four days delayed the Axis advance and permitted a controlled withdrawal to the high ground on each side of the river west of Terbourba.
The Allied force initially withdrew roughly 9.7 km to the high positions of Longstop Hill, Djebel el Ahmera and Bou Aoukaz on each side of the river. Concern over the vulnerability to flanking attacks prompted a further withdrawal west. By the end of 10 December, Allied units held a defensive line just east of Medjez el Bab. Here, they started a build up for another attack and were ready by late December 1942. The slow build up had brought Allied force levels up to a total of 54,000 British, 73,800 American and 7,000 French troops. A hasty intelligence review showed about 125,000 combat and 70,000 service troops, mostly Italian, in front of them. The main attack began the afternoon of 22 December. Despite rain and insufficient air cover, progress was made up the lower ridges of the 270 m Longstop Hill that controlled the river corridor from Medjez to Tebourba and thence to Tunis. After three days of to and fro fighting, with ammunition running low and Axis forces now holding adjacent high ground, the Longstop position became untenable and the Allies were forced to withdraw to Medjez, and by 26 December 1942 the Allies had withdrawn to the line they had set out from two weeks earlier, having suffered 20,743 casualties.
French political Situation
While the battles wound down, factionalism among the French again erupted. On 24 December, François Darlan was assassinated and Henri Giraud succeeded him as High Commissioner. To the frustration of the Free French, the US government had displayed considerable willingness to make a deal with Darlan and the Vichyists. Consequently, Darlan's death appeared to present an opportunity to bring together the French in North Africa and Charles de Gaulle's Free French. De Gaulle and Giraud met in late January but little progress was made in reconciling their differences or the constituencies they represented. It was not until June 1943 that the French Committee of National Liberation was formed under the joint chairmanship of Giraud and de Gaulle. De Gaulle quickly eclipsed Giraud, who openly disliked political responsibility and more or less willingly from then on deferred to the Leader of the Free French.
Changes in Command
Nehring, considered by most to be an excellent commander, had continually infuriated his superiors with outspoken critiques. He was "replaced" when the command was renamed the 5th Panzer Army and Colonel General Hans Jürgen von Arnim arrived in Tunis unannounced on 8 December, to assume command. The Army consisted of the composite von Broich battlegroup in the Bizerte area, the 10th Panzer Division in the centre before Tunis and the 1st Infantry Division "Superga" on the southern flank, but Hitler had told Arnim that the army would grow to three mechanised and three motorised divisions. The Allies had tried to prevent the Axis build up with substantial air and sea forces but Tunis and Bizerte were only 190 km from the ports and airfields of western Sicily, 290 km from Palermo and 480 km from Naples, making it very difficult to intercept Axis transports which had the benefit of substantial air cover. From mid November 1942 to January 1943, 243,000 men and 856,000 tons of supplies and equipment arrived in Tunisia by sea and air.
General Eisenhower transferred further units from Morocco and Algeria eastward into Tunisia. In the north, the British First Army, over the next three months, received three more British divisions, the 1st, 4th, and 46th Infantry Divisions, joining the 6th Armoured and 78th Infantry Divisions. By late March the British IX Corps HQ commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker had arrived to join the British V Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Charles Allfrey in commanding the expanded army. On their right flank, the basis of a two division French XIX Corps commanded by General Alphonse Juin was assembling.
In the south was the US II Corps commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredendall, consisting of the 1st and 34th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division. Giraud refused to have the French XIX Corps under the command of the British First Army and so they, along with the US II Corps, remained under command of Allied Force Headquarters. New forward airfields were built to improve air support. The Americans also began bases in Algeria and Tunisia, to form a large forward base at Maknassy, on the eastern edge of the Atlas Mountains, well placed to cut off the Panzerarmee in the south from Tunis and the Fifth Panzer Army in the north.
During the first half of January, the allies had with mixed results kept constant pressure through limited attacks and reconnaissance in strength, however there was an obvious lack of Allied co ordination which led Eisenhower to change the command structure. On 21 January Anderson was made responsible for the co ordination of the whole front, and on 24 January his responsibilities were extended to include "the employment of American troops". That night, Juin accepted the command of Anderson, confirmed by Giraud the next day but with forces spread over a 320 km front and poor communication Anderson motored over 1,600 km in four days to speak to the corps commanders the practical difficulties remained.
Erwin Rommel had made plans for forces retreating through Libya to dig in in front of the defunct French fortifications of the Mareth Line. The Axis forces would control the two natural entrances into Tunisia in the north and south, with only the easily defensible mountain passes between them. In January, those parts of the German Italian Panzer Army on the Mareth defences were renamed First Italian Army commanded by General Giovanni Messe, separate from the units he had facing the Western Dorsale. On 23 January 1943, the Eighth Army took Tripoli, by which point the army retreating through Libya was already well on its way to the Mareth position. Part of the II US Corps crossed into Tunisia through passes in the Atlas Mountains from Algeria, controlling the interior of the triangle formed by the mountains. Their position raised the possibility of a thrust eastwards towards Sfax on the coast, to cut off the First Italian Army at Mareth from Arnim's forces to the north around Tunis. Rommel could not allow this and formed a plan for a spoiling attack.
008 VETERANS SUPPORT
The following are available to support veterans and their families who may be experiencing mental health difficulties;
Forcesline Tel: 0800 731 4880 (between 9am and 5pm Monday-Friday)
Combat Stress (24 hours)
Veterans and their families; Tel: 0800 138 1619
Serving personnel and their families; Tel: 0800 323 4444
Samaritans (24 hours); Tel: 116 123
M A DACK
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