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Bardia to Enfidaville

20–21 April—Some Reorganisation

20–21 April—Some Reorganisation

During the afternoon of 20 April General Freyberg again visited Headquarters 5 Infantry Brigade and was told that the casualties in the brigade were likely to be about 400. In the discussion that ensued Brigadier Kippenberger asked for another battalion to relieve 23 Battalion, and the GOC agreed that 25 Battalion, the reserve battalion of 6 Brigade, should do so. Lieutenant-Colonel T. B. Morten reported to Brigadier Kippenberger at 3 p.m. and was told to carry out the relief after dark, moving up to Cherachir westwards from 24 Battalion area.

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At 7 p.m. 25 Battalion moved on foot along the 6 Brigade axis to the Zaghouan road, and thence to 23 Battalion area. Transport was used for support arms for part of the way. There was a little shelling, but the relief was completed without incident at 11 p.m. The companies were placed in a perimeter with the mortars and only two six-pounder anti-tank guns, and with the carriers on the east flank of the battalion. The remaining anti-tank guns were not retained as the country was naturally tank-proof. One platoon of 2 Machine-Gun Company was withdrawn from the west side of Takrouna in the early hours of 21 April and sent up to 25 Battalion. It came under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire while getting into position, and both this platoon and a later relief platoon were so severely shelled that they could do little effective work.

The 23rd Battalion withdrew down the valley between Takrouna and Djebel Bir up which it had attacked, and without much incident was picked up by transport and taken well back.

During the night D Company of 24 Battalion moved into the gap between the left of 24 and the right of 25 Battalions, so completing the divisional line. The engineers cleared the Zaghouan road from Enfidaville as far as 25 Battalion, and also cleared a passage through the mines between Djebel Bir and Takrouna. The 28th Battalion by this time had reorganised and taken up a position facing north-west between Djebel Bir and the olive groves south of Takrouna.

On Takrouna itself 14 Platoon of 21 Battalion under Lieutenant Hirst1 joined 15 Platoon shortly after 9 p.m. on 20 April, and almost immediately afterwards the enemy attacked, achieved a measure of surprise, and succeeded in occupying the mosque and other buildings on the pinnacle, but was stopped from clearing the ledge. The enemy had gained access through the tunnel, which had been overlooked in the course of the various changes of personnel. A period of stalemate followed, for neither side could move the other, but when daylight came on 21 April the enemy if anything had the better of it, as he was on higher ground. Lieutenant Shaw was wounded early in the morning of 21 April and was evacuated with difficulty. Lieutenant Hirst took charge.

1 Lt I. H. Hirst, MC; Auckland; born Auckland, 5 Feb 1915; farmer; wounded 3 Sep 1942.