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Bardia to Enfidaville

The Assault on Takrouna

page 327

The Assault on Takrouna

Sergeant Rogers with 10 Platoon of B Company, 28 Battalion, remained at the south end of Takrouna when the rest of the company went on to the Zaghouan road. The platoon had a difficult task in front of it, for the southern face of Takrouna was sufficiently steep to make climbing hazardous even in daylight, and although the impression that this face was unoccupied was soon proved to be wrong, it was expected that the summit would be securely held.

The initial attacking party consisted of ten men from B Company, one man from D Company, and Sergeant W. J. Smith1 of 23 Battalion, who had lost touch with his own unit and so attached himself to the party, a most welcome addition. Sergeant Rogers and his second-in-command, Lance-Sergeant Manahi,2 consulted together and decided to divide their forces. Rogers with one party, including Smith, would attack from the south-east, and Manahi with the other from the south-west. A forward observation officer from 5 Field Regiment, Captain Catchpole,3 arrived about this time and gave some advice and encouragement before reporting to his regiment.

The parties set off just before daybreak and found that the slopes were occupied. They gradually worked their way up the hill, running for shelter from rock to rock, and firing on enemy positions. By first light they were halfway up the slope and able to fire down into what turned out to be deep fighting pits, and soon convinced the enemy that they had the upper hand in more ways than one. Italians, their pits now exposed, showed signs of surrendering, and Private Grant4 alone rounded up some sixty prisoners. Even though daylight had come they pushed on, and little by little reached the ‘ledge’, the last twenty feet being up an almost sheer rock face. To climb this they made good use of bunches of telephone cables running to the abandoned enemy positions below. From the ledge they occupied the maze of buildings on the ‘pinnacle’, which surprisingly enough was not specifically defended, and their movements round the pinnacle resulted in the capture of a German artillery observation officer and his wireless operator.

From the pinnacle they looked down into Takrouna village below, and got what Sergeant Smith described as ‘lovely targets’, as the enemy was unaware that the pinnacle had been captured. Shots page 328 from our men soon scattered the Italian soldiers in the village, and Rogers and Manahi decided to block all access to the pinnacle from the village, which meant posting men to overlook some steps cut in the stone, and blocking the mouth of a tunnel with a large boulder. The pinnacle and the ledge were then organised for defence. Some stragglers from both 28 and 23 Battalions, some of them hailed by Manahi from the top, filtered up the hill and joined the tiny garrison, and soon afterwards a forward observation officer from 64 Medium Regiment arrived but only for a reconnaissance. By this time it was mid-morning.

1 2 Lt W. J. Smith, DCM; Lower Hutt; born Timaru, 24 Sep 1917; labourer; wounded 26 May 1941.

2 Sgt H. Manahi, DCM; Rotorua; born Ohinemutu, 28 Sep 1913; labourer; wounded 23 May 1941.

3 Maj S. F. Catchpole, MC, m.i.d.; Auckland; born Huntly, 12 Apr 1916; salesman.

4 Lt H. Grant, MM; Rotorua; born Mourea, Rotorua, 9 Jul 1921; chainman; twice wounded.