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Bardia to Enfidaville

Takrouna, 20 April

Takrouna, 20 April

The foothold on Takrouna was no more than a foothold, and as soon as the enemy realised that he had lost the pinnacle he subjected it to a steady deluge of shells of all kinds. Casualties were heavy, and of the gallant first party five at least were soon killed, including Sergeant Rogers, so that Manahi was left in charge. The enemy fire on Takrouna persisted during all the activities still to be described.

The few troops still left on the top continued to guard the pinnacle offensively by firing at targets on lower levels, including two captured 25-pounders that the enemy had sited on the northern slopes.1 Every member of the little garrison played his part.

Meanwhile Captain Catchpole moved his armoured car as close to Takrouna as possible and established a post in the northern fringe of the olives, sending back to his CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Glasgow, what information he received from the top. Another officer from 5 Field Regiment, Captain Muirhead,2 originally detailed as forward observation officer to 23 Battalion, climbed to page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page break page 333 the top and made a detailed reconnaissance. From there he went back to 5 Field Regiment and reported the position to Glasgow, so confirming reports from Catchpole. Both officers said that more infantry were wanted if Takrouna was to be held.

black and white photograph of soldiers on desert road

Italian troops surrender north of Enfidaville

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General Montgomery

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Lieutenant-General Horrocks

black and white photograph of soldiers relaxing

10 Corps Headquarters awaits word of the enemy's capitulation, 13 May 1943

black and white image of military report

10 Corps' message to 1 Italian Army, 9.5 p.m., 12 May 1943, and situation report on 13 May notifying the surrender of the Italians

black and white photograph of surrendering soldiers

Field Marshal Messe surrenders to General Freyberg, 13 May 1943

black and white photograph of officers in desert

General Mannerini, GOC Saharan Group (left), with his Chief of Staff at Divisional Headquarters, 8 April 1943. They were captured after the breakthrough at Wadi Akarit

black and white photograph of army officers

General von Liebenstein, GOC 164 Light Africa Division. surrenders on 13 May

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German prisoners in Tunisia

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An Italian taken at Akarit

black and white photograph of desert cemetry

War cemetery at Enfidaville. Takrouna and the white farmhouse are in the background

black and white photograph of army trucks on desert road

The Division returns to Egypt

black and white photograph of WW2 army truck

The end of a 2000-mile journey. Above: Passing through Maadi township; below: Arriving at Maadi Camp

black and white photograph of army trucks on desert

By this time Brigadier Kippenberger had himself been up to the foot of Takrouna and had decided that the Maoris on the summit would be relieved by a platoon from 21 Battalion, instructions to this end being given at 11.45. a.m. Kippenberger had rejected a suggestion from both Corps and Divisional commanders that all troops in the vicinity of Takrouna should be withdrawn and the feature pounded with artillery. In view of the comparative failure of the whole attack he preferred to hold on to what had been gained, especially when it was such a key point. But until the top could be made secure the success of this policy hung in the balance.

During his forward reconnaissance Kippenberger visited the area held by 28 (Maori) Battalion and made some adjustments to the line.

Before reinforcements could arrive the retention of even the toehold on Takrouna became doubtful, as was only to be expected when the defenders of the peak were confined to such a restricted area and under such heavy and continuous fire. Fortunately the enemy was limiting his action to fire, and still showed no signs of counter-attacking. Manahi realised that very soon there would be nobody left to defend the spot, so took a risk, went down from the summit, found Lieutenant Haig of C Company and obtained from him a section of men and some stretcher bearers, food and ammunition. On the way back he was told by the Medium Regiment forward observation officer (who did not know that this policy had been dropped), that he should clear his men away from the feature as it was going to be heavily shelled. Manahi then consulted Catchpole, who told him to hang on at all costs, that reinforcements were on the way (this was an inspired guess), and that he would stop any artillery programme against the summit.

So Manahi went back with his section and again posted them to cover all approaches, and not long afterwards 15 Platoon of 21 Battalion arrived under Lieutenant Shaw. But while Shaw and Manahi were making a brief reconnaissance the enemy at last attacked both pinnacle and ledge. The defence was furious in its vigour, and the enemy troops were shot, bayoneted, or pushed over the cliff. And at this point Captain Muirhead arrived back with a few Maoris he had collected and clinched the victory. The attackers were believed to be all Italians, but 90 Light Division mentions a few Germans from 47 Regiment.

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It was now 6.45 p.m. The ledge and pinnacle were cleared, and in the following lull most of the Maoris, by now near exhaustion, went back to their battalion.

Captain Muirhead and Lieutenant Shaw then consulted together, with the result that Shaw sent a runner to Brigade Headquarters to ask for more men, and 21 Battalion was promptly instructed to send up another platoon. Runners had to be used to and from the top, as despite wearying work the brigade signallers were unable to keep up communication by telephone for the cable was continually cut.

At last light, therefore, while the territory held on Takrouna had not been increased, it had at least been held.

1 Later recaptured by our troops.

2 Maj J. C. Muirhead, MC; Palmerston North; born Palmerston North, 5 Oct 1911; clerk; wounded 23 Nov 1941.