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Bardia to Enfidaville

10 Corps' Orders

10 Corps' Orders

On 18 April 10 Corps issued its final order for ORATION, amplifying and bringing up to date the earlier order of 15 April. The objectives were given as the line EnfidavilleTakrounaDjebel Mdeker and a hill feature four miles to the west of Djebel Garci. The New Zealand and 4 Indian Divisions would carry out this attack, while 7 Armoured Division, which General Montgomery had explained earlier must be kept as protection on the left flank until 56 (London) Division came up from Tripoli, carried out a limited advance on the left, and 50 (Northumbrian) Division, which was not to get heavily involved, would watch the right flank, occupy Enfidaville after the objectives had been carried, and send out patrols.

The objectives for the attack were divided into two series. First, 2 New Zealand Division was to break into the EnfidavilleTakrouna line, 4 Indian Division was to capture both Djebel Garci and Djebel Biada, and 7 Armoured Division was to advance to the EnfidavilleDjebibina road and be prepared for a further advance on the west flank. Second, 2 NZ Division was to capture Djebel Froukr, a high peak commanding the coastal area, and 4 Indian Division was to capture Djebel Mdeker, about four miles north of Garci and over five miles north-west of Froukr. The 4th Indian Division was then to swing to the east and advance along the ridges towards the page 300 coast, occupying in particular two features, Djebel Abid and Sidi Mehed. The New Zealand Division was to assist in this by exploiting forward from its second objectives, and 7 Armoured Division was to make further advances on the west flank. The village of Enfidaville, tactically desirable only as an important road junction, would then be occupied by 50 (N) Division, which would also send patrols up the coast road.

Timing for the operation, a reflection of the uncertainty of the degree of opposition that would be encountered, was laid down only for 2 NZ Division's two objectives, and for Djebel Garci, the major part of 4 Indian Division's first objective. As was explained at the final conference, everything depended on what was met, and General Horrocks did not expect that 4 Indian Division would be launched on its hook to the coast until at least the night 20–21 April, twenty-four hours after the operation had begun.

When all objectives had been consolidated, and when at least one brigade from 56 (L) Division was available for the protection of the western flank, 7 Armoured Division would be launched along the coast road towards Hammamet. This was to be the culmination of the whole operation, and it was hoped that, protected by the infantry on the high ground, covered by the guns of the Army, the armour would achieve a decisive breakthrough.

The first objective for 2 NZ Division was an east-west line passing just north of Djebel ech Cherachir, and the second an east-west line passing north of Djebel el Froukr. The right boundary of the Division, and of 6 Brigade, was a ‘grid easting’ running about a mile west of Enfidaville. The left boundary of the Division, and of 5 Brigade, was a series of points between Takrouna and Garci which ran two miles west of the peak of Takrouna. This boundary was changed just before the attack to include Djebel ed Debonaa, east of Djebel Biada, an Indian objective, in the New Zealand sector. The widened sector was covered by placing one squadron of Divisional Cavalry under command of 5 Brigade for duty on that flank, and by adding Djebel ed Debonaa to the brigade's exploitation tasks.

The 2 NZ Division operation order was issued before it was decided that 6 Brigade would be attacking with two battalions, and was accordingly amended on 18 April to meet the new requirements. The intention was to ‘attack and capture the Dj el Froukr and Dj el Ogla features and exploit to the NW and North’. From a two-brigade front the battalions would advance under a barrage at the rate of one hundred yards in two minutes. Sixth Brigade, on the right, with two battalions attacking and one in reserve, had a start line behind that of 5 Brigade because of the wadi across its page 301 front. For this reason, and because it was necessary to cover the area west of Enfidaville, the barrage line was hinged at the brigade boundary, straightening out to a straight line covering both brigades before lifting on the 5 Brigade front. Attacking due north, it was simple to define the first and second objectives, and the boundaries, by the map grid lines. First objective for 6 Brigade included Djebel Ogla, for 5 Brigade Djebel ech Cherachir, a ridge to the north of Takrouna. The second objective for 6 Brigade was less well defined by geographic features but included a ridge system, Hamaid en Nakrla, beginning just to the east of Ogla and running north and south. Djebel Froukr was second objective for 5 Brigade.1

Timings were so arranged that, with the artillery opening at 11 p.m. on the opening line of the barrage, the infantry would have eighteen minutes to close up to the barrage from their start lines. Thereafter the barrage would lift one hundred yards at two-minute intervals for 2000 yards, to the first objective, where it would pause for eighty minutes while the infantry consolidated and, on 5 Brigade's sector, a fresh battalion passed through to its start line. The barrage would then continue a further 800 yards in the same manner to the final objective. Smoke shells were to be fired on each of the outside edges of the barrage as a guide for the infantry. The barrage was to be fired on 6 Brigade front by two and a half field regiments, and on 5 Brigade front by three and a half, the three field regiments of 50 (N) Division coming under command for the purpose. One other field regiment was allotted special targets over the whole front, particularly Takrouna and the west side of Enfidaville. Two medium regiments from 5 AGRA were to fire on suspected enemy positions, track junctions and possible concentration areas, with one regiment devoting a whole hour to Takrouna.

The rate of the barrage was fixed, after an earnest discussion between the brigadier and his commanding officers, at 100 yards in two minutes. This rate, which proved to be too fast, was based mainly on the rate used in the Battle of El Alamein (100 yards in three minutes), where in flat, open country the commanding officers thought the rate too slow.

An armoured regiment from 8 Armoured Brigade was to come under command of each brigade, to support the attack and to supply flank protection after the objectives had been reached. The remainder of the armour was to be used for exploitation towards Enfidaville, and should the armour get beyond the town, Divisional Cavalry, being held in reserve, was to be passed through to work along the coastal strip.

1 See maps on pp. 294 and 313.