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Bardia to Enfidaville

16 January—across Wadi Zemzem

page 98

16 January—across Wadi Zemzem

The Highland Division attacked at 10.30 p.m. and found that resistance gradually declined, and that by daylight on 16 January the enemy was retiring. For the New Zealand Division the next few days had an overall sameness, a steady advance over increasingly difficult country, often through clouds of dust, often with long delays, with only the most advanced troops ever seeing the enemy, and with no general deployment—altogether a rather wearisome and monotonous period. But again the engineers worked unceasingly on mine clearance, removal of booby traps, and finding ways round demolitions.

The Division began the 16th by discovering that Dor Umm er Raml was deserted by the enemy, except for a few members of 115 Panzer Grenadier Regiment of 15 Panzer Division, who appeared to have been forgotten and who were promptly captured. Their morale was good.

The divisional column was led by the screen of Divisional Cavalry and the Greys, with Tactical Headquarters always well forward, ‘leading the field at a cracking pace until pulled up by enemy opposition at 4 p.m.’1 In fact the Greys recorded that the GOC moved at twenty miles an hour and that their heavy tanks could not keep up and had to lag behind. Next after this advanced guard came a gun group of 4 and 6 Field Regiments and 211 Medium Battery. Minefields, both real and dummy, caused delay on Dor Umm er Raml and in Wadi Zemzem, and parties from both 6 and 8 Field Companies were called forward to deal with them. Wadi Zemzem basically was no obstruction. The forward troops were across by 1 p.m. and nearing Wadi el Breg, 12 miles short of Sedada.

After crossing this wadi Divisional Cavalry met heavy and accurate shelling from the direction of Wadi Nfed, on which Sedada was located. The 4th and 6th Field Regiments were both deployed, opened fire about 4 p.m. and continued until dusk. Tactical Headquarters got so far ahead that it outdistanced the Divisional Cavalry screen during this period, and captured three tanks from Centauro Battle Group. The crews, who surrendered to the GOC himself, said they were anti-German and glad to be out of the war.

As daylight faded enemy tanks increased in number, and it was estimated that there were about fifteen German and fifteen Italian. The Greys knocked out two Italian tanks and destroyed many vehicles and guns in an action lasting two hours, but had four page 99 tanks hit and evacuated. They captured some twenty prisoners. The 6th Field Regiment finished the day gloriously by capturing sixteen Germans, all from 115 Panzer Grenadier Regiment.

In the late afternoon there were two attacks from enemy aircraft on the forward troops of both 7 Armoured and 2 NZ Divisions, one by twelve aircraft and one by fifteen, but no damage was done. The 41st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery shot down one raider from the first attack.

The Division had advanced about 40 miles during the day, with 7 Armoured Division keeping level on the right, despite delays on minefields. The leading troops laagered for the night between Wadi el Breg and Wadi Nfed, with 25 Battalion providing perimeter defence for the tanks. The rear of 5 Infantry Brigade was still on Dor Umm er Raml, with the Administrative Group even farther back. And Sedada had not yet been captured, although there were signs that the enemy would go during the night. The opposition had been from 15 Panzer Division and Centauro Battle Group.

The GOC held a conference at 8 p.m., mainly to confirm that the axis for next day would be SedadaTmed el Chatua—thence north-west to a point on the Beni UlidBir Dufan road about 18 miles east of Beni Ulid named Obelisco di el Mselleten. The Division had a quiet night except for the comforting noise of aircraft passing overhead to bomb the coastal road and the Bir Dufan landing ground.

1 Divisional Cavalry war diary.