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Bardia to Enfidaville

10 April—Cross-country Journey

10 April—Cross-country Journey

The idea of a night advance, and indeed of any advance due north, was abandoned quite early, and at 3.40 a.m. on 10 April was replaced by an advance by 2 NZ Division to the north-east towards La Hencha (on the main road north of Sfax), with the object of cutting off the troops opposing 30 Corps in Sfax. The 4th Light Armoured Brigade would come up on the left of 2 NZ Division, and farther left would be 1 Armoured Division and ‘L’ Force.

So at 6.30 a.m. the GOC held a conference about the day's move. King's Dragoon Guards, Divisional Cavalry and 8 Armoured Brigade were to lead, on an axis via Triaga and La Hencha. The change in plan delayed the start until 9 a.m., and in any case at 8.15 a.m. word was received that Sfax had been entered, almost inevitably, by 11 Hussars of 7 Armoured Division. However, the plan was not altered, and the advance continued, but contacts with the enemy were confined to brushes with the tail of his rearguards. Air reconnaissance discovered little south of Sousse; nevertheless the enemy's demolition parties were active, and KDG reached La Hencha at 11.30 a.m. just as the main road to the north was blown—and badly blown—where it crossed a marsh. All that could be done was to send a few shells after retreating MT. King's Dragoon Guards ended the day deployed on an arc from the main road north of La Hencha to the coastal road at Djebiniana, where it was in touch with 7 Armoured Division.

Divisional Cavalry made no contact with the enemy, but managed to penetrate off the roads through the gap between Sebkret mta el Rherra and Sebkret mta el Djem, despite the very enclosed nature of the country. They ended the day at El Djem itself, well in the lead.

Staffs Yeomanry, by dint of much cross-country work, also got through the gap between the two sebkrets, to within seven miles of El Djem, but was then almost out of petrol because wheeled transport was held up at the large ‘blow’ north of La Hencha.

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Sappers of 6 and 7 Field Companies worked on this all afternoon, and indeed through the following night. Meanwhile other engineers were sent during the day to report on landing grounds north-east of Telil. The party was bombed just as it was leaving one ground, and two men were killed and eight wounded. This episode showed the importance that both sides attached to advanced landing grounds, we to use them, and the enemy to stop us. It is again an example of the active part played by the engineers.

The gun group was partially deployed south of La Hencha and got off some rounds at straggling enemy transport. Infantry had no action of any kind, and most unit diaries comment on the pleasant move among green crops and wild flowers and under olive trees.1

By the end of the day 10 Corps was in a long arc from Djebiniana through La Hencha, north of Sebkret mta el Rherra, north of Djebel bou Thadi and Djebel Kordj to Kefer Rayat. The only forward element of 30 Corps was 11 Hussars, which in its usual style had a patrol on the coast as far north as Chebba. From now on, however, Eighth Army operated with one corps only, leaving Headquarters 30 Corps planning the next stage, the invasion of Sicily. In any case it was time to give some thought to the administrative position, for the army was still dependent on supplies from Tripoli, now some 300 miles away. It was an urgent matter to get the port of Sfax into order.

The 6th Armoured Division of 9 Corps was now fighting hard at the gates of Kairouan, and this was the enemy's greatest danger. The 21st Panzer Division had already been moved there and now 15 Panzer Division was sent back to the defile between Sebkra Kelbia and Sebkra de Sidi el Hani, so blocking the direct road from Kairouan to Sousse. Rearguards south of this line were provided by 90 Light Division on the coastal strip and 164 Light Division farther inland. It was commonly remarked that Eighth Army would be chasing ‘90 Light’ to the end of time.

The 15th Panzer Division had supplied the rearguards opposing 2 NZ Division, but had now moved to its new task. Except for some small unarmoured elements, the Division was not again to meet 21 Panzer Division which, with 10 Panzer Division, was transferred to the First Army front.

1 The country around Sfax is probably the most fertile in Tunisia.