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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Attack on Takrouna

The Attack on Takrouna

At 11 p.m. on 19 April Eighth Army began the Allied general offensive, which for the next three weeks raged along the whole front. This attack was carried out by 2 NZ Division in the coastal sector and 4 Indian Division on the left. The New Zealanders attacked with 5 Infantry Brigade on the left and 6 Infantry Brigade on the right. Their objectives were the castle-like Takrouna feature and the long spur to the east of it. Good progress was made by 6 Brigade against only slight opposition, German troops of 90 Light Division leaving Enfidaville village almost without fighting. Fierce resistance was met by 5 Brigade in its assault on Takrouna, a rocky crag surmounted by a village which, from the plain below, looked like some medieval castle. Takrouna was a steep, stony hill with large masses of rocky outcrops. Amidst these were several caves which had been utilised as strongpoints. At the top was the stone village, built out to the edge of the precipice over the greater part of the area. Mines had been laid on and around the hill. It was a truly formidable position, perhaps the most formidable position ever stormed by New Zealand troops.

Takrouna had been turned into a fortress bastion of the enemy's Enfidaville line, and, as was learnt later from prisoners, was considered to be impregnable. Fighting here was as hard as any of the whole campaign.

Acting with commendable initiative during the confused fighting on the night of 19–20 April, a small party from 28 (Maori) Battalion scaled the precipitous heights to the pennacle, the highest part of the village, where the enemy was holding out in a group of stone buildings. The Maoris charged the strongpoint and captured page 438 the pinnacle, and were reinforced by a platoon of 21 Battalion in the morning. The remainder of the village of Takrouna on the lower slopes to the north was still held by the enemy, who counter-attacked fiercely throughout 21 April, but the New Zealanders held on. Meanwhile, the enemy positions in Takrouna were battered by our artillery all day on 21 April, and that evening parties of 21 and 28 Battalions stormed the village, taking the remnants of the garrison prisoner.

The capture of the Takrouna feature left the Division firmly established on a line which constituted an immediate threat to the rest of the enemy's Enfidaville line. In accordance with Eighth Army's task of keeping as many of the enemy as possible fully engaged on its sector, the New Zealanders maintained the pressure. The severely tried 5 Brigade was relieved by 152 Highland Brigade on the night of 22–23 April. On 24 and 25 April 6 Brigade, with tanks of 8 Armoured Brigade in support, carried out night advances, capturing several more features which increased still further the dent in the enemy's line. When 6 Brigade was relieved on the night of 26–27 April, only artillery units of 2 NZ Division remained engaged.