Headquarters, Grenadier Guards
Birdcage Walk, S W I
28th May 1943
News from the 5th Battalion has been scarce, but the following extracts, the first from the commanding Officer, the second from the Brigade Staff Captain, (Until recently Adjutant) and the third from an Officer in the Scots Guards, are circulated for information.
1. 3rd May “Please forgive only a brief account of our doings; the amenities for writing in my slit trench are not good. Incidentally I can remember no dates, for the last fortnight has been so hectic as to obliterate time: we have been going hard for about fourteen days.
We started active operations with the Battalion in great heart and anxious to take part in less sedentary activities; being shelled on Grenadier Hill at long range and being unable to take any exercise in consequence had begun to pall a bit.
The launching of our attack, however, was not to be so easily arranged as all that. The Huns forestalled our attack by twenty-four hours and over-running another Unit on Banana Ridge pushed about twenty-five tanks and four hundred Infantry through behind Grenadier Hill. The Brigadier moved up a Squadron of Churchill Tanks in the dark, and I was very glad to see them when dawn broke. We spent an hour or two machine-gunning and mortaring the Boche Infantry who had followed the tanks, and then the whole enemy force withdrew. After this interlude we continued our preparations for a night attack. We were successful in reaching our objectives and took about 150-200 prisoners, a considerable number of whom were French, who had been forced to fight under German Officers. We followed this by another night attack, and lastly we did a daylight attack on a mountain, capturing 150 prisoners, a number of Mortars (some sixteen) and occupying a very strong position which we now hold. It is a battle of shells and sniping at the moment, and we are all rather tired of the former. However, the men have stuck it well, and I am very proud of them. The Officers have one and all been quite splendid, and I find it impossible to differentiate between them all.”
2. 9th May “I am very proud to be able to tell you that this Brigade made the hole through which the Armoured Division made their final sweep. The 5th Battalion Grenadier Guards and the 1st Battalion Irish Guards started their attack on the 27th April. A series of hills had to be captured, and one after another they were, in spite of many counter attacks by tanks. When they reached their final objectives they had to remain there for eight days while the striking forces were being prepared.
The Divisional Commander issued a special Order of the Day in which he said: ‘The relentless courage and cheerful sacrifice and the great tenacity of the 24th Guards Brigade was outstanding, and indeed without it the victory of the First Army could never have been achieved.’
The defence of Point 212, by the Irish Guards was incredible, and you will no doubt, hear a full account of the Action. The 5th Battalion is in terrific heart and extremely proud of itself.
We are now in tropical kit. It poured with rain as soon as I had changed into my shorts.”
3. 19th May “To use General Alexander’s words, the 24th Guards Brigade made the way open to TUNIS by some of the stickiest fighting possible and the capture of a very important feature. They have made a great name for themselves as the 1st Guards Brigade had already done in this theatre. The young officers were simply full of enterprise and guts.”