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Bardia to Enfidaville


page 342

THE three weeks following the capture of Takrouna were some of the most irritating and frustrating ever to befall 2 NZ Division. There was a consciousness that the campaign could not be brought to an end on the front of Eighth Army, and that further efforts to effect this would be pointless. The final disappointment was to miss participating in the spectacular advance farther north, by remaining on the holding front while others had the immense exhilaration arising from a triumphant and speedy victory.

After ORATION, there was briefly some doubt in the minds of both the Army and Corps Commanders how best to implement the Army Group plan, for the result of attacking into the hills head-on had not been encouraging. Late on 21 April in a telephone conversation with General Freyberg, General Horrocks said that the Army Commander thought the best thing to do would be to advance astride the coast road for four or five thousand yards, and then swing westwards into the hills—still of course with the intention of getting to Bou Ficha and Hammamet. But this policy was not adopted. There was, however, no intention of persisting with ORATION, and the basic policy for the immediate future finally became that of enlarging the entrance into the coastal strip north of Enfidaville, then to enlarge this encroachment farther north by pushing to the west in a series of piecemeal operations. Small wonder, however, that no one liked this scheme, for the configuration of the ground was such that Eighth Army, with diminishing forces, would be hard put to it not to finish up in a complete bottleneck, where it would be no better placed to act as anvil to First Army's blows than at Enfidaville. There was so far little sign that the Eighth Army had drawn enemy troops from the western face, indeed quite the reverse, for on 24 April the armour of 15 Panzer Division was identified in the north.

General Montgomery was still concerned with the planning for Sicily. When it was clear that ORATION had failed, he left Eighth Army to extend its positions at Enfidaville while he visited Cairo, where, since 13 April, he had been represented at the planning conferences by his Chief of Staff, de Guingand. Montgomery was page 343 away between 23 and 26 April1 and the responsibility for the activities and planning within Eighth Army for this period was carried by General Horrocks. Headquarters 30 Corps was being rested prior to the Sicily campaign, and General Leese was in Egypt.

1 De Guingand, Operation Victory, p. 280.