1st Army, Algeria/Tunisia - The Not So Forgotten Army.

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by bexley84, May 24, 2012.

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  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    I joined a First Army Association event today at the UK National Memorial Arboretum which included the unveiling of a plaque to further commemorate the 1st Army's Nov 1942 - May 1943 campaign in North Africa.

    About 200 people attended today including 21 veterans - a good turnout on a day that could easily have been a Tunisian May day - it was 27C. The National Memorial Arboretum is developing nicely and I hope many will be able to visit the Mediterranean campaigns' garden area at some point in the future.

    Today was particularly resonant for our family as it was the 3rd anniversary of my father's death - Edmund "Rosie" O'Sullivan Feb 1919 - May 2009, CQMS E Company, 2 London Irish Rifles :poppy:

    My mind's eye (stimulated by the attached photographs) could also imagine my father and his comrades entering Tunis on 8th May 1943, 2 LIR with its pipes and drums joining the victory parade in the city on 20th May 1943, and the battalion relaxing (despite the flies and the occasional scorpion) at Sousse in June 1943.

    And we will remember their comrades who did not return....Never to be forgotten.
     

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    4jonboy likes this.
  2. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Thanks.

    This is 1 LIR being inspected in Kent.

    Colonel MacNamara MP (for Chelmsford) is there. Sadly after leaving 1 LIR he was killed in Northern Italy in Dec 1944 - he is buried at Forli.

    1 LIR spent their war largely with 56th Dvision first in Iraq, and later with them in Italy, as well as a short spell with 50th Division in Sicily.
     
  4. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Lovely pictures Richard. Thank you for posting. Did I see a Recce badge on one of the vets?

    Lesley
     
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lesley -
    it was NOT the recce who won the war - it was The Irish - ask anyone
    Cheers
     
  6. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Tom-
    I didn't say Recce won the war but they certainly played their part in it, did they not?

    Lesley
     
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  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Lesley,

    Most likely - I didn't get to speak to everyone.

    Tom,

    The cemeteries of Tunisia, Sicily and Italy tell the story.
     
  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lesley
    All played their parts - some more - some less

    Richard
    The cemeteries usually do
    Cheers
     
  9. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Richard thanks for posting.

    Cheers
    Paul
     
  10. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Lesley -
    it was NOT the recce who won the war - it was The Irish - ask anyone
    Cheers

    Tom

    Would you care to explain about the Irish?
    Was it a "tongue in cheek" attempt of yours to comment about them? ;)

    Lesley
     
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Lesley
    you are by NO means the first to fail to understand my attempts at humour - Richard got the point - as I would start many lectures by asking if everyone could hear me - then owing to my accent - could everyone understand me - at that affirmation- I would turn to the M.C. and declare that we had an exceptional audience as they can both hear and understand me - in minutes as I have been married for X years - and my wife still doesn't understand me - usually got a laugh and settled them down to listen to what I had to say....so don't feel too bad ....

    Cheers
     
  12. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Tom,

    Thanks for the clarification. That being said, I didn't fully get the joke - perhaps a sense of humour by pass in Windsor, Berkshire !!

    Hopefully, by sharing the photos/small story of yesterday's event, I was able to highlight the experiences of the 1st Army in N.Africa (a number of topics do get aired on this forum, which is fantastic) and the fact that 21 veterans of that campaign came together to a field in the middle of England to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

    The point of my reference to 2 London Irish Rifles (2 LIR) and my father and his comrades' part in the battles in Tunisia ? They were, of course, just one unit amongst so many - they had a dreadful campaign like so many others - indeed they were the first infantry unit into Tunis after so many had battled so hard for 7 months to get there - they had the same mixed memories when they paraded through Tunis in front of the brass: the pomp of that ceremony was a difficult mix with the thoughts still of the loss of so many of their friends. The LIR did (and do) not have exclusive rights, but my father did in fact share his story with me, and I thought it worthwhile sharing the pictures of my Dad and his mates at that moment in time in June 1943 - and of course many of the lads in that jolly picture didn't make it through the next 23 months of local difficulties - at Centuripe, Salso/Simeto rivers, Maletto, Termoli, San Salvo, Mozzagrognia, Montenero, San Angelo, Castellone, Sinagoga, Piumarola, San Giovanni, Morrano Ridge, Sanfatucchio, ...ahem..Cairo...., Monte Spaduro, Reno/Senio rivers, and at the Argenta Gap.

    Just also to clarify the make up of 2 LIR in 1942/43 - they were comprised of about 70% Englishmen, mostly Londoners, although quite a number of whom had Irish ancestry, or had Irish names. The Irishmen involved were from both the north and south, both orange and green, all volunteers. There were also Welshmen, Scotsmen, South Africans, and one or two Aussies in the battalion/brigade.


    best,
     
  13. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Richard

    My father too had his first taste of war in Tunisia aged 19.

    I was very pleased that you posted the pictures and memories of your fathers unit (and why not-2 LIR is personal to you).

    The WHOLE aim of this forum is to share stories and pictures for other members to see and I for one am delighted as some of the lesser known campaigns don't always get mentioned.

    Lesley
     
  14. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I'd love to go back to Tunisia & do a battlefield tour.
    Only been once, as I've said before, back in 1994 for a beach holiday.
    There was a Veteran in our hotel but didnt get chance to speak to him.
     
  15. Rosey

    Rosey Member

    Richard
    thank you for posting the photos of the Arboretum Memorial and for sharing the war time photos of your dad.
    As we have no photos of our own soldier ( 2nd Hamps who did not return) from the Tunisian campaign it was very enlightening and heartwarming to see yours and to know that they did have some times when they could smile and relax, they were all so young but seemed to keep their sense of humour.
    I am so pleased that there is a memorial to the 1st Army.
    Cheers
    Rosey
     
  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Owen,

    Thanks for this.

    My recent experience of visiting, as you know, was excellent. Good timing for weather - March/Apr, and friendly Tunisians with stories to tell - with some pretty tragic. And since the revolution no secret policemen following you around - clearly there's a whole lot of history to uncover.

    My brother and I only touched on a small segment of battle areas - Bou Arada / Goubellat / Medjez/ Beja / Mejerda valley, and we did a relatively limited amount of actual clambering around. Some of those 2000/3000 foot high ridges north of Medjez looked might appetising - we shall return.

    Lesley,

    As mentioned, I just wanted to clarify a couple of possible misapprehensions from my original posting. Despite my second name starting proudly with O'S (to London via the late 1840s migrations), I've got no particular brief apart from relating some of the high level stories to my father's personal ones. I'm glad he wrote it down and I was able to spoke to him in detail. Shame he (allegedly) supported Axxxxxl.

    thanks,
     
  17. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Rosey,

    Thanks - yes, I've only started to pick up some of the photos recently from the National Archives. And a few had my Dad in which was pretty nice to see.

    2 Hampshires' truly had a mighty difficult North African Campaign (an understatement) - I think they became honorary "Irishmen" at one point in Apr 1943 near to Djebel Mahdi.
     
  18. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Richard -

    Many in the 1st Army became honorary Irishmen in that campaign - no matter where they came from and I was always reminded of a very old TV commercial for something or other when an obvious Irishman asked a chap who was as black as night - "where did he come from in Ireland " -

    The respect didn't wane either in Italy as they held their own with the fire brigade that was 36th Bde in 78th Div -good friend of mine left school in Dublin- took the wrong turning and ended up in Belfast - and joined the NIH in 25th TB
    Cheers
     
  19. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Tom,

    Thanks - good one.

    I often used to be asked "which part of Ireland are you from ?" at school by the oiks, who came from places like Farnham Common, and Stoke Poges as I was speaking in my broad Slough accent. But I did have the name and freckles combo, and lived in a council house, so couldn't really blame them for their silver spoon confusions.

    best
     
  20. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Hello,

    I've posted this picture on the Royal Signals thread, but thought it might be of interest here as well.

    On the back of the photo is Algiers Dec. 1942, it's a photo of what I believe to be an Royal Corps of Signals platoon. I'm expecting an RCS service record before the end of the year to confirm the unit. Hoping to find out something sooner.

    Cheers,
     

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