- Contributed by
- Huddersfield Local Studies Library
- People in story:
- Harry Green
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 13 July 2004
This story has been submitted to the People's War website by Pam Riding of Kirklees Libraries on behalf of Mrs Green and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the terms and conditions.
MEDGEZ-EL-BAB AND TUNIS
After a month’s rest at Letif we were given another job of work, this time as infantry attached to the 1st Brigade of Guards east of the town Megdez-el-Bab to hold a section of ground 1,500 yards long, with the Grenadiers on our right flank and the Hampshire’s on our left. We left Letif on May 31st for our old place of concentration Louk-ell-Kemess there we made our way uneventful to Louk-ell-kerness and took up positions in Bellefame two miles west of the Town, overlooking a plain and the main road to Tunis.
In this position we had on our left the Hampshire and in front of them, still occupied by Jerry was the well known, “Long Stop Hill”on our right the Grenadiers on “Grenadier hill” and in front of us the Jerry on “Bannana Ridge”, so called because of its shape. Our first morning there we got a fine display of mortar fire from Jerry on “Long Stop” who was just giving the Guards on our right there morning ration of mortar shells, this lasted till he was pushed back ten days later, the position of my section was in a hay stack overlooking the plain and a track that led directly with Jerry’s lines, this we had to keep covered day and night with the MG, nothing happened there till the night of June 3rd when Jerry launched an attack on the Grenadiers on our right and drove them back right behind us, the battle lasted all night and by morning the guards had driven them back and taken “Bannana Ridge.
During this battle one of our men was killed and two taken prisoner but managed to escape and returned in the confusion of the Guards counter attack. The next day the Hampshire’s put in an attack on “Long Stop Hill” and took it with tanks, pushing Jerry back another six miles, our job there was finished so we moved forward with the Hampshire’s on to Hill 546 overlooking Tunis at last.
On June the 10th at our new position Jerry launched an attack on “Hampshire Hill” to our left but they were ready for him and took a severe beating losing 15 tanks and 1,200 dead wounded and prisoners in a battle that lasted for four hours which was the last attack he ever put us in N.A. for on June the 14th our big attack went in on Tunis.
At 5.30am we opened up with a barrage of 400 guns at 2000 yards and that was continued for 6 solid hours, after that wave after wave of bombers went in for two hours then the guns again, then the tanks and infantry, the tanks pushed within 200 yards of our position and we counted 150 and gave up there were dozens more followed. We then withdrew and started to march to Tunis which we finished in the market square at 21.30 hours on June 15th, the campaign in NA was over.
But we still had work to do rounding up prisoners taking over German HQ’s and airfields this kept us busy for two months when we gave up and camped in the Bay Palace at La-masa for a well earned rest from there we went to Ilammemet right on the beach and had two months revival holiday at the government’s expense, we were also getting ready for our next job which should have been in Sicily but it was cancelled so we stayed in NA at airfields doing guard duties at places called Grombalia, Carowan, East and South Souse, Hammund Souse but we had orders to sail to Italy which we did in due course on board LST from Begerta on the 17th of December1943 and landed in Baynoti south of Naples on the 19th December 1943.
On our arrival in Italy our first place to camp was in a staging area on the outskirts of Naples and of course we had to be swamped out again with a real heavy rainfall, we stayed in this camp for two days then started our move inland to our first real camp and job in Italy which was guarding an American drome in Cherignola right across the other side of Italy.
We left the staging camp at 7am on Dec 21st and arrived at our destination on Dec 22nd 16.00 hrs, a large open field overlooking the drome then we spent Xmas and had a real good time indeed, thanks to a supreme effort by our cooks and Sgt Johnston our stores Sgt, who managed to acquire all the necessary goods for a good Xmas feed and drink.
We stayed at the drome for a month then moved out to a farm 1 mile south of Cherignola to wait further developments for our real job.
After a few days on Jan 11th 1944 we were told we had been given a job as fighting escort to an American special force which would be entering Rome on the day it fell and take over all dromes, railway stations and all the other valuable installations. We left Cherignola on Jan 12th bound back to Naples, a suburb called Caserta, the residence of Victor Emanuel in winter, we were stationed there in the Italian barracks for nearly three weeks undergoing training for our job, but after three weeks we were told it would be cancelled temporarily but to stand in readiness for when it would take place.
On Feb 2nd we left Caserta for a place called Minescola and Faisaro which we later named “Saluting camp”, this was occupied by 27th and a detachment of American specialist troops under the command of Lt/Col Young, the remainder of the section was on a torpedo factory at Minescola right on the beach, it was at this camp that we lost two men, one by drowning on a lake at “Saluting camp” and one by accident in Naples, the second one we never knew how it happened or when we were informed from the hospital there. After being at Minescola for 13 weeks on May the 29th we left and embarked on a LST for the well known beach head Angio, we arrived there on May 30th and stayed there until June 2nd.
At 5.00am on June 2nd we started to move forward towards Rome with the American Infantry, and it was while enroute I saw some of the worst sights I have ever seen, at one particular cross road a tank battle had been raging only a few hours before we got there, 12 USA and 2 Tiger tanks were knocked out and the bodies of the crews laid all over the place, one place along the road was a file of men 8 in line crouching with rifles ready, but every one was stone dead, killed by emission from a shell landing nearby, and so it went on for miles along the road to Rome.
Our first object was the Central Radio Station 2 miles south of Rome, this we took, with 8 German prisoners who had been left behind to blow it up but luckily we bet them to it.
Our next object was Chumpigano airfield only a mile further on, this was our HQ and literally smashed to the ground by our bombers before hand, a section and myself were sent out to a sub station of the radio station which we found intact and again 6 German prisoners including an officer.
On June 6th 1944 we entered into Rome, the first British troops to do so, so by ending the first part of our Italian campaign. For this effort on the Sqdn part, the Sqdn as a whole were awarded the American “Bronze Star Medal” by Lt/Col Young who also got promotion.
After this excitement we began a period of ease again guarding aerodromes north of Rome. Our first one was Lettorice, 6 miles N of Rome where we stayed till June 24th, then we moved from there to another one Ovieta, 95 mls N of Rome and stayed there till July 8th where we again moved and caught up with the line again, this time we were at Fiano with 7 SAAF fighter squadron only 2 miles behind the lines and a good view of action at night.
We left there for Jessi on the east coast of Italy on Sept 2nd. While at Fiano 3 fit had a job of security police in Florence with the 8th Army H.Q. which lasted for 3 weeks. 1 section and myself were left behind to carry on with the guards as usual.
On arriving at Jessi we found out that we were attached to DAF and 4 men and myself attached to No 3 SAAF Fighter Command Squadron with MK1X Spitfires, our job was loading up the planes for operational purposes over Rimini and Lombardy Plains, we were at the place till Sept 21st where we again went into the line at St Angelo with the 57th Lancers as a reconnaissance unit, but Jerry had moved back so far that we were only there till Sept 28th when we moved again to our new base at Citte-Di-Castello where we spent two days and then up to our next position at St Pedro in Bana where we established our advanced HQ.
On the morning of Oct 2nd we moved into our position in the line which was a farm house overlooking the valley and village of San Sofia which at that time was occupied by German troops of 721 Jagger regiment, from this position we did patrols out into the valley around quite a number of scattered farm houses, our job was to gather as much information as we possibly could about Jerries movements at night from the local farmers.
On Oct 16th one partisan, two men and myself volunteered to reconnoitre a house and farm that we had so far left alone, knowing that Jerry occupied these buildings, on the 18th we were moving out and a Polish Div was taking over to join in a push for the hills overlooking Bolognia 10 miles in front of us, our job was to find out if Jerry still occupied this house, we left our position at 12.00hrs and had to be back at 15.00hrs we had a return march of nearly 12 miles, we arrived within 2000yds of our object at 13.00hrs and sat down to observe the place for movement and to eat sandwiches which we had taken with us, after 1/2 hr we had seen no movement so we decided to go right in, one man and one partisan on the left of the house and one man and myself on the right, this we did do and arrived in the farm yard without any challenge or trouble, as my two left men were approaching the door a grenade was thrown at them from a well concealed slit trench in the edge, neither were hit but both put a burst of fire into the trench from Tommy guns killing one and badly hitting another, meanwhile on our side we had surprised a sentry asleep in a haystack, he never knew what hit him, the third one I caught through a window, making three killed and one more injured, but we had found out what we wanted so away we got, arriving back at our base, no casualties and only 10 minutes late.
On Oct 17th we pulled out of St Pedro and advanced onto the Lombardy Plains after weeks of looking at it from a distance of 16 miles, we arrived after a pretty bad journey over roads blown up and long diversions which made travelling in 3 ton lorries but after 9 hours travelling we put in at Cherana on the edge of the plain, the next morning we set out for our next advance base at Merccato Lercana and so into our positions as a forward observation post for the Artillery and aircraft.
Nothing exciting ever happened at this place, not even shelling which was very restful indeed. On Oct 30th we pulled out again for a well earned rest at our rear camp at Citta-Di-Castello and stayed there till Nov 11th and we again went into the line at Revena, a place called Casteglione-Di-Castello, 9 miles south of the town that Jerry was occupying, our first place was in an old deserted granary used again as a OP and also a position for self propelled 75mm guns that nearly shook the building down, after nearly a week in this position we were put in a fight with a detachment of the 57 Lancers to attack and capture a village and sugar factory which Jerry held as a strategic OP and defence lines, the attack went in at dawn precluded by1 ½ hr barrage, the attack was quick, successful and 50 prisoners were taken we had one casualty, a man hit by shrapnel from a shell, the position was taken and held by 11.00am on the day Sunday 19th Nov. After the place was taken we started a system of flight in for two days and out for four days which was not bad, the worst part was the change over at 3.00 or 5.00 in the morning, we usually had a nice reception of mortars and 88 shells lucky no one was hit at any time.
We stayed at that position till 5th Dec when Revena fell and we went forward once more.
On Dec 8th we took up positions on the Somanu ruin and what a place, we had no trouble there, after staying in that position till Dec 23rd when we pulled out for a well earned rest which we spent in Remy opening 17 rest and leave camp.
On Jan 28th we again went in to the line, this time into positions on the Senio where we stayed about a week. On Feb 2nd 1945 we pulled out for the last time in Italy, our next place was as security troops in Palestine where we still are and likely to be until we are sent home town and ex en demobbed which most of us will be by Dec 1945.
And so ends the exploits of 2721 Field Sqdn RAF Reg during their overseas tour.
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