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Bardia to Enfidaville

24 Battalion

24 Battalion

The battalion moved off with B Company (Major E. R. Andrews) on the right and A (Captain Santon1) on the left, and for the first thousand yards or more all went well; but when the companies reached the angle between the Zaghouan road and the road past Djebel el Ktatiss, they ran into a heavy artillery concentration which for a while was thought to be ‘shorts’ from the barrage. B Company went to ground for a while, but then crossed the roads at their point of junction, being by this time in some confusion. Gradually the troops edged to the east towards Wadi el Brek, and took shelter in its upper reaches. While they were reorganising here a heavy mortar concentration landed amongst them, but when the fire page 314 slackened the company pushed on up the wadi and there made contact with the left-hand platoon of 26 Battalion, in whose area they now were.

A Company had a similar experience, and also finished up in the wadi in 26 Battalion sector, where it spent some time reorganising.

Meanwhile C Company (Captain R. J. H. Seal), with battalion headquarters immediately behind, had moved up the centre of the battalion sector without opposition except for some steady shell and mortar fire. Both proceeded until well across the Zaghouan road. Lieutenant-Colonel Conolly then sent runners forward to his leading companies, but they reported that they could not find them. Luckily wireless contact was made and the companies were asked to put up flares, but to Conolly's surprise these were not only to the right but to the right rear. The CO then ordered both companies to push on to the final objective. Each time flares were sent up the enemy fired concentrations against them. The truth of the matter was that 24 Battalion was passing across the front of the enemy on Djebel Bir and Djebel ech Cherachir, and so was going through an area which the enemy had registered well. Such points as the road junction and Wadi el Brek were obvious targets.

While C Company and Headquarters were waiting for the situation to clear they were heavily shelled, the No. 11 wireless set was destroyed, and Conolly was wounded but remained on duty.

After A and B Companies had reorganised, the two company commanders decided to advance round the east side of Djebel el Ogla, as there seemed a better chance of avoiding the continued shelling. They did this without direct opposition, and in the end both companies went well beyond Ogla and reached a line among olive groves very close to the final objective, although the eastern end was still in 26 Battalion sector.

As soon as the forward companies had reached these positions Headquarters and C Company moved forward, using small wadis as cover from the persistent shelling, and by 3 a.m. were established slightly in advance of Djebel el Ogla. For some time the battalion was out of touch with Brigade Headquarters owing to breaks in the telephone line and the loss of the wireless set, and had to pass messages through 26 Battalion.

It was not necessary to call on D Company's services. Casualties had been heavier than with 26 Battalion, being five killed and forty-one wounded, a lower than usual proportion of killed to wounded that was to be repeated all over the front. There was practically no physical contact with the enemy.

1 Capt T. G. Santon, ED; Taneatua; born Taneatua, 17 Mar 1907; farmer; wounded 25 Apr 1943.