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Bardia to Enfidaville

Change of Plan

Change of Plan

In the afternoon of 24 March the Army Commander made proposals to Lieutenant-General Freyberg for the future, and shortly after the receipt of his message (at the most an hour or so) Lieutenant-General Horrocks arrived to discuss them. So although the piecemeal activities of NZ Corps continued into 25 March, Operation PUGILIST was now over, and its place taken by something new.

In itself PUGILIST had not been a success. On 30 Corps' front the check was disappointing to all concerned, not least to Montgomery. But without exception they can be grateful that he did not persist with the attack on First World War lines, and that he changed his plan so speedily. It was a bold decision, all the more marked in that it was taken about 2.30 a.m. after two days of strain.

The point naturally arises whether a move by 10 Corps, the Army Reserve, had been considered at the planning stage. A study of the facts as known at the time shows that 10 Corps was intended to exploit success only on 30 Corps' front. It is true that de Guingand, Montgomery's Chief of Staff, had, as an orthodox task, initiated some preliminary staff planning on the possible move of 10 Corps to Tebaga. Such planning must have been very sketchy, however, for the traffic confusion with 4 Indian Division during the early stages of the eventual move of 10 Corps pointed to an absence of study or planning, and lack of maintenance arrangements resulted in 10 Corps, on arrival at Tebaga, having to depend on NZ Corps for supplies. Horrocks himself had no knowledge of the possibility of a move to Tebaga, although there had been many conferences, and much planning, over the various alternatives on the 30 Corps front.

page 197

A fact of greater importance, however, is that 10 Corps was so positioned that it could be transferred to Tebaga, where no more than a lodgement had been made. Yet PUGILIST had achieved something. Apart from its attrition of the enemy, a route avoiding the hazards of the Wadi Zigzaou and the fixed defences of the Mareth Line had been established. The most important feature, Point 201, in the entrance to Tebaga Gap had been secured, and a force of all arms threatened the enemy's flank, and indeed had impelled him to react and redispose his divisions. PUGILIST provided the practicable line of attack for further effort, and although inconclusive everywhere, in itself it gave the opportunity for a second stage, now to begin.