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Bardia to Enfidaville

10 Corps' Plan

10 Corps' Plan

On 15 April Lieutenant-General Horrocks visited 2 NZ Division and discussed the future, roughing out a plan with Lieutenant-General Freyberg. Later in the afternoon the Army Commander also called to see General Freyberg, after which it was arranged that 50 (N) Division was to take over the eastern part of 2 NZ Division's front on the night 16–17 April.

Late on 15 April 10 Corps Operation Order No. 22 was issued. The ‘Intention’ was that 10 Corps would prepare to advance to the Bou Ficha line, the high ridges between Zaghouan and Bou Ficha. The 4th Indian Division, on the right, and 7 Armoured Division were coming into the line on the left of 2 NZ Division, and the latter would arrange with its neighbours, 50 (N) Division and 4 Indian Division, for mutually acceptable inter-divisional boundaries.

The role of 2 NZ Division was ‘To break into the Enfidaville line in the area Takrouna - Djebel el Froukr. Thereafter the division will be prepared to exploit north-east to the coastal road via Djebel Mengoub’. It was then to advance along the coastal road. The 50th Division was to capture Enfidaville and patrol up the road. The 4th Indian Division was to capture Djebel Garci and then Djebel page 294 Biada, and exploit north and east to the coast road near Sebkra Sidi Kralifa, about eight miles north of Enfidaville. There would be full-scale air support by fighter-bombers and light bombers. The codename was ORATION, and ‘D’ day was later set for the night 19–20 April.

black and white plans for military attack

10 corps' plan for operation oration

page 295

On 18 April 10 Corps issued a further order (No. 23) elaborating on the above, but adhering to the objectives. Thus does the failure to realise that the terrain had changed become more apparent. Operating from flat country overlooked by the enemy, 10 Corps was proposing to break into the hills, and with successive actions advance across them for some 15 miles. Such penetrations were common in the desert where the mass of supporting arms could invariably closely follow the assault, as 10 Corps had only recently done in the breakthrough at Akarit, but in the circumstances of 18 April the plan was certainly ambitious and seems to have ignored the marked difference in the terrain. It was based on the belief that the enemy's main line of resistance was farther north, in which case the attack would progressively come up against stronger defences. The plan reflects the general atmosphere at the time, that it would be easy to push the enemy back at least as far as Bou Ficha. Horrocks knew that the plan was ambitious and relied for success in part on the low state of morale in the Axis troops. But this was to prove illusory, for even the Italians showed a sudden revival of spirit.