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

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

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Excellent photograph. A treasurable moment in time... and before the realities of their responsibilities became clear.

  2. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member


    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.


    Those cap badges do not look like R Sigs 'Jimmies' to me!

  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Fourth from the left on the top is Jack Goulding, his best mate Bert third from the left on top. I also have snaps, of Jack and Bert from Christmas of 1942 on a post card, as well as another Army buddy later on in the war from the same platoon shot.

    Jack was in the RCS that is for sure, in the British 1st, but was later on assigned to an American unit, which we believe to be the US 8th Army(Sicily possibly). He was injured outside Monte Cassino and removed from active duty at that time.

    I'm not entirely sure how the RCS was utilized during the war due to the reassignment to the US Army, so I wasn't sure if the photo was a complete RCS unit or not, or a unit with some RCS attached.

  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Slight correction - the US 7th Army was alongside the British 8th Army in Sicily -making up the 15th Army Group - then the US 5th Army was alongside the British 8th Army in Italy - The British 1st Army only fought in Algeria / Tunisia then was merged with British 8th Army......
  6. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

  7. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Thanks Tom,

    The history is what I'm lacking in for sure in this endeavour and I appreciate your help. What I'm working with is family recollections from 70 years ago and these photos. I'm shooting to get the history of Jack's service documented for those that go after me. The RCS is conducting a search, due in the winter of this year. The aim is to put together a memorial picture setting with his medals, some photos, unit badges, rank, service record, and a Jimmie.

    We also have the IWM sending us a copy of a newsreel from the archives of an RCS unit laying cable in Tunisia. We're hoping for some footage of his actual unit, but will be happy to have that footage as a reference.

  8. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The RCS had many and varied duties and depending on which area was his strength
    so some facts emerge but the true records can be found in Glasgow and they should be applied for as soon as possible - it would appear that he landed in Algiers to spend Christmas '42 there - then Sicily and finally Italy - so I would assume that he was part of a large group such as Divisional Signals mainly laying communication cables - which we in Tanks would tear up amid much cursing by the RCS - on the other hand we had ONE signalman to each Tank squadron mainly carrying out troubleshooting to our # 19 wireless sets.

    He would then be entitled to the 1939/45 Star - Africa Star with 1st army Clasp -Italy Star
    - Defence medal and 1939/45 war medal which we call the Victory Medal....I wouldn't
    attach too much importance to the assignation to a US unit - probably meant that they were near at one point

  9. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Thanks, the perplexing insistence that he was in the US 8th is now explained.

    Part of the reasoning the family thought that he was assigned to the US Army was that he definitely was eating better food, prior to that he had boils and dysentery from poor rations.

    Those are the medals and clasp that were passed down, there was also a sheet with the medal descriptions.

  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Jack -
    the food served by the 1st Army wasn't all bad but there was a shortage of fresh
    vegetables at times which would account for the boils etc but the dysentery might have come from other sources - see my article on that subject in "Tunisia 1943" in the BBc link below ...
  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Tom, Jack,

    My father, a CQMS, had a couple of interesting perspectives on food/dietary issues in N.Africa and Italy:

    He wrote:
    "Winter rains had replaced summer drought with a vengeance. We were part of the 1st Army under General Anderson...We followed and the quartermaster set up the supply base in a wooded area close to El-Aroussa to the west of the front that was to be used for the next three months. When we arrived, we found boxes of rations had been broached and the more attractive items of food and cigarettes replaced by a half brick. This felony was compounded by the thought that sailors had risked their lives to bring half-bricks thousands of miles to be dumped in the hills of Tunisia. The absence of comforts was to be a trial and it would be months before fresh food and bread would replace the eternal hard tack.

    Later in 1944 in Italy, things had developed somewhat:

    "Major Davies was not happy with the cooks and with me....That evening, Jim Sadler excelled himself and produced roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast and boiled potatoes, cabbage and thick brown gravy. This was followed by a slice of baked jam roll with a sweet sauce. Davies watched Jim serving the repast in his usual serious manner. I think he was convinced that his men’s food was equal to, if not better, than that served at the officers’ mess.

    The officers’ mess reputation suffered when statistics proved that hepatitis, which filled our hospitals, was most prevalent among officers and least so among front line troops. It was discovered that hygiene must be the cause. Officers’ eating utensils were improperly cleaned and shared. Front-line troops ate with their own utensils or fingers. Drink was discounted as a cause when it was discovered that senior NCOs were almost free of the complaint...”

    We still keep in contact with Sir Mervyn Davies, now 94 years of age, so he didn't retain any hard feelings for my father and his team.

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  12. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Thanks Richard, that would explain plenty. It will remain to be seen from the RCS record where Jack was.

    Got news last week about the IWM film of the RCS in Tunisia, it was sent two months ago, but didn't make it through the post. We're expecting to see it in the next week or two, I'll put it on line shortly there after.

  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Richard -
    I went down with Gastro - enteritis in Italy after stupidly eating peaches - straight from the trees - the field ambulance chaps moved my litter to the latrine to save me walking too far - my worst three weeks in the Army - lost about 20 pounds in weight - with NO sympathy from the troop - my fault but escaped a 252 charge !
  14. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Losing 20 lbs must have (and excuse the expression) really knocked the stuffing out of you.

    My Dad had his "gastro moment" in Aug 1943 - when he joined up in Oct 1939, he weighed 111 lbs so I'm not sure how much weight he could have lost:

    “When we took Centuripe, I followed closely behind and entered the town in the early morning of its capture. I was not allowed to progress beyond the town walls as the battalion had to clear up pockets of resistance. Dysentery had me in its grip and I was in desperate need of a latrine. I knocked at the nearest house and stumbled out: ‘Scusati, il gabinetto?’ The lady went into the house and brought out a brown earthenware pot and held it out to me. I shook my head, saying: ‘Grazie.’ I saw a young man and approaching him I said: ‘Dove si trove il gabbinetto.’ Looking puzzled, he motioned me to follow him. We went to the town wall and climbed down steps and a steep path. There before us under the walls was a vast culvert lined with metal. With municipal pride he pointed to it and said: ‘Il gabbinetto.’ I thankfully made use of it despite the terrible smell. Hygiene and sanitation were primitive in central Sicily. Most people had only the earthenware pot which was emptied into the vast dump under the town walls. I suspect that the open fields were more frequently used...”

  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    Irish units had a very strong presence in 1st Army, much more so than in the 8th. Besides the 38th (Irish) Brigade and the North Irish Horse, there was also 1st Irish Guards of 1st Division, best known for a brilliant action on Djebel Bou Aoukaz.
  16. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this link.

    Of course, the 1st Bttn, Irish Guards (along with many others) had a most dreadful experience at Anzio in early 1944.

  17. robograndpa

    robograndpa Junior Member

    My father was with the 5th btn Grenadier Guards as part of 1st army and was at Bou Arada which he allways called the battle of the bou. He allways wanted to go back to Tunisia but sadley never did.
  18. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this - shame that your father couldn't make it back. You'll find that the town of Bou Arada is not wildly exciting to visit today, although you can get a nice cup of coffee. Timing is everything - spring is really pretty nice to visit the rollling countryside nearby.

    As you know, 5 Grenadiers were in 24 Brigade, British 1st Division, who took over the Bou Arada - Goubellat sector in March 1943, from parts of 6th Armoured/78th Div including my Dad's 38 (Irish) Brigade, who had been fighting over it for 4 months - Hills 286,279/Grandstand Ridge/One Tree,Two Tree Hills/Stuka Ridge became legends in the brigade, not forgetting the 213 men who continue to lie at peace from that Dec 1942 - Mar 1943 period.

  19. Jack_Goulding_info

    Jack_Goulding_info Junior Member

    Got Jack's record from the Army, it took about 11 months total. Some interesting information regarding his service in the Territorial Army that my family hadn't known about.

    I'm now trying to track the history of the 3rd Railway Telegraph Company to confirm where Jack was wounded somewhere around Dec. 5th 1944. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated.

    5th/7th Bn. Hampshire Regiment 15-04-21 Enlisted
    5th/7th Bn. Hampshire Regiment 15-03-23 Discharged

    SOT Bn. 20-03-41 Posted

    1st Depot Bn. RCS Catterick 17-06-41 Posted
    1st Depot Bn. RCS Catterick 21-02-41 Passed test Linesman Group C Class III

    3rd Railway Tele. Company 18-03-42 Posted
    3rd Railway Tele. Company 09-11-42 Embarked for Service overseas

    3rd Railway Tele. Company Several hosp. Stays (Cellulitis, Boils, Malaria)

    X(4) 3 T/C 05-12-44 Posted from 3rd Rlwy. Tele. (Gunshot Wound)
    X(4) 3 T/C 26-12-44 Embarked to UK

    London District Signals 19-02-45 Posted
    London District Signals 06-11-45 Y List

    Y List 28-01-46 Released to TA Reserve

    TA Reserve 10-02-54 Released from TA Reserve
  20. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Ah........ the 1st Army !

    You will forgive me, I hope, for repeating this little story about why I don't have the 1st Army clasp on my Africa Star :(

    Back in the early days of the BBC WW2 website there was a thread running to do with the entitlement of a clasp to the Africa Star, either of the 1st or the 8th Army type.

    I had already posted a photo of my medals to accompany an article:
    BBC - WW2 People's War - Stick it in your Army.....Album!
    and someone spotted that my medals lacked the 1st Army Clasp despite the fact that I had written about arriving in Algeria on the 23rd of April 1943 well before the campaign finished on the 12th of May of the same year.

    I was being pestered by other site members with would-be helpful hints of the "you should have received a clasp" variety and so to settle the matter I wrote to the relevant MOD department and received the following reply:

    Dear Sir
    Thank you for your letter received 7 September enquiry as to the progress in your application for the supplementary award of the clasp ' 1st Army" to the Africa Star.
    To qualify for the clasp 'Ist Army" personnel are required to have served between 8 November I942 and 12 May 1943 on the posted strength of. or attached for duty to. a formation or unit which appeared on the Order of Battle of the First Army. I can confirm that 49 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (49 LAA Regt) appears on the relevant Order of Battle and so earns the clasp. However, available official documents show that on disembarkation in North Africa you were placed into the unposted reinforcement pool and remained so until being posted to 49 LAA Regt on 22 May 1943.
    You will appreciate that as you only performed service on the strength of an operational unit after the final qualifying date, you are not entitled to the clasp ' 1st Army.
    I am sorry to forward such a disappointing reply
    Yours faithfully
    Officer in charge Division 3

    Although I had realised from day one that I was not entitled to the 1st Army clasp, I was still amused to think that although we were subjected to air raids during our stay in Algiers (awaiting posting to our various Regiments) had we been killed our heirs would have been entitled to our medals but sans the appropriate clasp :smile:

    Attached Files:

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