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Bardia to Enfidaville

Eighteenth Army Group Plan

page 251

Eighteenth Army Group Plan

WHILE all the turmoil had been going on between Medenine and Gabes, elsewhere Eighteenth Army Group was increasing its activity after the upheaval at the end of February. There have been occasional references in preceding chapters to the action taken by 2 US Corps in attacking towards Maknassy, and this pressure was kept up in early April but without much success. Farther north First Army was now organised into 5 and 9 Corps—which comprised 6 Armoured, 1, 4, 46, and 78 British Divisions—and the French 19 Corps of about two divisions. On this front an Anglo-French force resumed the offensive north of Medjez el Bab on 28 March, and in the course of a few days advanced some 18 miles. It was intended that this offensive should continue and free Medjez from enemy threat.

Alexander by this time had prepared a long-term plan for ending the war in North Africa, of which the first two phases were to be the advance of Eighth Army through the Akarit position and a thrust by 9 Corps towards Kairouan, so threatening the rear of 1 Italian Army. (In the preliminary stage of the second phase, American troops entered Fondouk on 27 March.) By these two offensives Alexander would obtain the use of the coastal plain west and north of Sousse and, in his own words, ‘seize and secure airfields … from which we can develop the full weight of our great superiority in the air, thereby paralysing the enemy's supply system’.