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Operatio Scipio - Wadi Akarit - WW2 diary extract

Discussion in 'North Africa: Operation Torch to Surrender of Tuni' started by paulcheall, Oct 29, 2011.

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  1. paulcheall

    paulcheall Member

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    I thought members might be interested in the following extract from my Dad's war memoirs about the bloody battle of Wadi Akarit which he was in the thick of.

    6 April 1943 - The allies are attacking an enemy holed up in some hills in Tunisia. The troops had to attack across a flat plain across thousands of yards without cover before they could get to the enemy ...

    "The Wadi Akarit – a dried-up riverbed – was about five thousand yards long, running inland from the sea. My section moved along the top of the Wadi, advancing further into the hills, then making for higher ground on the right of us, and shells were bursting all the time around us but happily not too near our Section, then suddenly we were fired upon from across the valley and one boy was killed as we froze to the ground. The slightest movement of our bodies brought fire to bear upon us for about twenty minutes until, quite unexpectedly, two of our tanks came along the bank of the Wadi and fired shell after shell on the machine gun post pinning us down.

    We then made our way to join more of our company down the hill in the Wadi, which was about thirty feet wide with almost straight sides four or five feet deep, just starting to crumble; I can easily recall having to jump down into it.

    We were now attacking as platoons and sections, and our section, led by Lance Corporal Coughlan, bending low to the ground, moved to the right and we had to tread warily because we were very often overlooked. We must have advanced about two hundred yards, not realising that we were being observed from a concealed trench. All of a sudden machine gun fire came from our right and we dropped flat. We knew roughly where the fire came from, and quite unexpectedly Coughlan did a silly thing; without any command he stood up to move forward, instead of giving us instructions to fire while he observed. He was no sooner on his feet than a single shot rang out and Coughlan, who was next to me on my right, dropped dead in an instant. It was an awful experience seeing poor Coughlan’s life being ended so suddenly.

    For a moment, we could not believe it, then my rage was up and I, being the senior soldier, took command. It all happened in seconds and I shouted to the other lads to keep firing towards the enemy trench on the hillside to make them keep their heads down. Angry, I grabbed poor Coughlan’s sub-machine gun and shouted: ‘Come on lads, kill the bastards, send them to hell, but keep firing and don’t forget your grenades.’ Firing as I was running, I killed the first Italian who showed his head.

    When we were about ten yards away we had reached the top of the slit trench and we killed the survivors, five of them cowering in the bottom of the trench. It was no time for pussy footing; we were consumed with rage and had to kill them to pay for our fallen pal. We were so intoxicated; we could not hold back, given the chance they would have killed us. This much I had learned at Dunkirk – no quarter given
    – and those Italians paid the supreme penalty. It was almost impossible to believe that a healthy young man’s life could be ended in a split second. Only a few minutes before, I was talking to Coughlan and now he was dead. That event is still imprinted in my thoughts as if it were yesterday."

    To read more about Dad's memoirs, click on this WW2 diary link.

    Paul
     

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