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Bardia to Enfidaville

28 (Maori) Battalion

28 (Maori) Battalion

The plan for 28 Battalion was finalised from a forward vantage point in the afternoon of 19 April and orders were verbal. The battalion objectives were Takrouna and Djebel Bir, and the road running between these features and Djebel ech Cherachir was, in all discussions, generally regarded as the final objective, although provision was made for exploitation for 200 yards beyond the road.

Takrouna was a peak, rising abruptly on the south side from the plain for some 450 or 500 feet. The southern slopes were steep but by no means unscaleable, although the last twenty feet before the summit was precipitous. On the summit was a stone village of Berber origin, with a domed mosque as the most striking feature. This area was later known as ‘the pinnacle’. Nearby, on a lower level north-west of the pinnacle, was a line of stone buildings running along a level ridge with very steep sides, known later as ‘the ledge’. On the northern side the slope was more gradual, and here was the small native village of Takrouna, a collection of a dozen or two stone and mud houses. It was known as ‘the lower page 305 village’ to distinguish it from the village on the pinnacle. From the lower village the ground sloped irregularly but not steeply to the Zaghouan road. The normal approach to both villages was by way of a track up the northern slope.

Stretching south from the base of Takrouna was a series of large olive groves, and among them a distinctive white house. It was expected that the summit would be strongly held, although the garrison was believed to be Italian. It was not expected that much opposition would be met on the southern slopes, and no special steps were taken to deal with this area.

The second feature, Djebel Bir, was some 1000 yards east of Takrouna, with a valley between. It was a roundish feature rising some 300 feet above the plain, with a steep bluff dropping down to a wadi on the west side. The indications were that it would be defended. The ground between it and Takrouna was uneven, and was cultivated in places, with occasional cactus hedges.

Beyond Djebel Bir the EnfidavilleZaghouan road ran through a defile between Djebel Bir and Djebel ech Cherachir, the latter being an east-west ridge. Just across the road a deep wadi ran eastwards to join Wadi el Brek. Little was known about Cherachir, and its tactical importance appears to have been overlooked.

The battalion was to attack with three companies in line. The fourth company was to mop up and was to swing round and capture Takrouna from the rear after the leading companies had reached the road. To help deceive the enemy and make him think that a frontal attack was intended, one of the leading companies was to send two sections up the southern face, and Kippenberger advised that attack by the most difficult approach might be the most effective.

One Crusader tank was attached to each forward company to breach gaps in hedges, and all available machetes were issued to the troops for the same purpose.