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Bardia to Enfidaville

Plans and Orders

Plans and Orders

At a 30 Corps conference on 1 April, the Corps' plan was explained for the first time. The New Zealand Division would not take part in the main attack, but would pass through a gap made by 50 Division, and would not advance until the gap was made. The Army's final objective was the line Sfax-Faid (codename RUM), but at that stage the situation would be reconsidered, as there should by then be a junction with the Americans. Thirtieth Corps was responsible for a sector from the sea up to and including Djebel Tebaga Fatnassa, with 10 Corps west of that point. The objectives of the attacking divisions were:

  • 51 (Highland) Division—Djebel er Roumana

  • 50 (Northumbrian) Division—the pass between Djebel er Roumana and Tebaga Fatnassa, where a gap was to be made for 2 NZ Division

  • 4 Indian Division—Djebel Tebaga Fatnassa

The 7th Armoured Division was in reserve. As 2 NZ Division was to pass through a gap made by 30 Corps, it was under tactical command of that Corps at the outset, but at a suitable time when it was into or through the gap it would revert to the tactical command of 10 Corps.

For the moment 10 Corps was responsible only for the line west of 30 Corps. On the night before ‘D’ day the Corps—in effect 1 Armoured Division and ‘L’ Force—was to make a feint attack by way of deception. The 1st Armoured Division would follow 2 NZ Division, with the latter responsible for armoured car reconnaissance across the whole Corps' front until 1 Armoured Division could speed up and position itself on the left.

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The right boundary of 10 Corps after the breakthrough was a line parallel to but one mile west of the main road for about 20 miles, and thereafter due north. ‘L’ Force was to relieve 1 Armoured Division early on ‘D’ day and would then protect the left flank during 10 Corps' advance, ranging just as far to the west as terrain and resources would permit. The initial objective for 10 Corps was to be the area round Sebkret en Noual, bounded by the line of the railway from Mahares to Mezzouna.

Both the 30 Corps break-in and the 10 Corps break-out were to be closely supported by the Desert Air Force, as an extension of the air attacks on enemy positions, transport and landing grounds which were already going on relentlessly day and night. For 30 Corps' attack there would be a fighter screen to protect close and concentrated attacks similar to those at Tebaga. Subsequently 2 NZ Division would have steady air support, on call through four air tentacles. The arrangements included many details for indicating targets and forward defended localities, and for making specified landmarks by letters bulldozed in the sand and blackened with burned petrol tins.

One small point of interest at this time is that the shadow of United States formations falls across Eighth Army, for in many orders, including those of 10 Corps, it was thought better to specify that the British formation was ‘1 British Armoured Division’, as the United States formation round Maknassy was 1 US Armoured Division.

For this operation there was an absolute proliferation of code-names, and one paragraph in a 30 Corps' instruction reads:

To avoid any risk of duplication or confusion any code names to be used by divs will be restricted to the following types of words:—

HQ 30 Corps Classical names
CCRA Birds
7 Armd Div Biblical names and animals
2 NZ Div Food names
50 (N) Div Girl's names
51 (H) Div Scotch place names
4 Ind Div Games and sports.

Army Headquarters used names of drinks, e.g., GIN and RUM; 1 Armoured Division used names connected with horses and harness, while ‘L’ Force used colours.