Visit to Tunisia, March 2018

Discussion in 'WW2 Battlefields Today' started by bexley84, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    I have posted a couple of threads recently in respect of a visit last week to Tunisia to film some part of the route that my father, Edmund, took during his journey from Algiers to Tunis in late 1942/early 1943.

    My father's unit, 2nd Bn London Irish Rifles (2 LIR), as part of 38 (Irish) Brigade, landed in North Africa on 22nd November 1942 during the second wave of 6th Armoured Division's push towards Tunis..They fought hard in the Bou Arada/Goubellat sector during Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar before transferring to 78th Division and entering the mountains north of Medjez-el-Bab where the division's fighting advance in April 1943 opened the road to Tunis. After the 1st Army's final breakthrough west of Tunis in late April/early May, 2 LIR would be the first marching troops to enter the city on 8th May 1943.

    It was an excellent few days in good weather and we received a very hospitable welcome and I am sharing "a few" photos below. As discovered during my previous visit to the country in March 2012, northern Tunisia can be wonderfully green and fertile at this time of the year although it seems that the rainfall this year has been below average so the reservoir levels were well down and crop heights much lower.

    The first two days of the trip was spent on the hills astride of the Bou Arada-Goubellat Roman road where there was some bitterly fought battles for the Irish Brigade on Two Tree Hill, Grandstand Hill, Points 286/279 and Stuka Ridge/Farm during January and February 1943.

    1) View from Grandstand Hill west toward Jebel Rihane.
    2) View from Grandstand east towards Two Tree Hill (without the two trees).
    3) Stuka Ridge looking north towards Goubellat.
    4) Filming north from Goubellat direction towards Medjez-el-Bab
    5) Memorial wall at Medjez CWGC cemetery.
    6) Bridge at Beja.

    IMG_7726.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
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  2. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    The second set of photographs shows some of the hills east of Beja and then north of Medjez where the 78th Division sustained a campaign of fighting battles from 7th April to 26th April (Easter Monday) when Longstop Hill was eventually taken (for good).

    1-2: Jebel Mahdi looking west towards Beja.
    3 View from near Heidous looking south towards the Medjerda valley.
    4. At Heidous looking north towards Jebel Bettiour.
    5. Kef el Tior and Point 622 north of Heidous.
    6.Tanngoucha (550 metres) from Heidous.
    7. From the peak of Tanngoucha north towards Ang, the Kefs and Point 622.
    8 Longstop Hill from the Medjez to Teboruba road.
    9 Memorial to Regiments who ultimately took Longstop Hill in April 1943.
    10. View from Tannogucha south across the Medjerda valley with Longstop in the foreground.

    IMG_7859.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
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  3. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Final set.

    1.Tunis by early morning.
    2. Sousse from where the Irish Brigade left for Sicily on 25th July 1943.
    3-4 Bay of Tunis at sunrise.
    5. Mohammed V Avenue (formerly Gambetta Avenue) where the Allies held a victory parade on 20th May 1943
    6. Carthage looking towards Tunis.
    7. Portrait of Alexander at the residence of British Ambassador.

    IMG_8185.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Thanks for sharing those.
    Would be great to do a Tunisia battlefield tour, how was the security situation ?
     
  5. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    a
    Owen.

    Thanks.
    FCO advice is cautious : Tunisia travel advice - GOV.UK
    The Embassy is cautiously optimistic. They are commemorating some part of the 75th anniversary period and sharing a "liberation" narrative with the Tunisians... although it's a complex historical backstory (French colonial excesses).
    We were filming so we had a permit from the Tunisian government (no drones allowed). We had a 4 wd and an guide/interpreter (Arabic/French) which was essential, of course.
    There was a large visible security police presence in Tunis and Sousse and we were stopped a number of times on the main roads when we stopped to film (including right outside the CWGC cemetery in Medjez) so you are always aware of police presence. Out in the mountain villages no sign - people there were very friendly although a few yapping dogs were worth looking out for... a bit like the castle corgis around here.
    Tunis itself seemed relaxed - the usual Ave Habib Bourguiba security notwithstanding. We attended the Sunday service at the Anglican church and everyone seemed pretty cheerful there (diplomats/media and aid workers with the usual expat niggles) . Carthage was quiet (albeit we were there at 830am on a Sunday morning).
    Tourists were quite "plentiful" in Sousse (Germans/English/Chinese and bus loads of Algerians), no doubt it would be the same on the beaches in Hammamet as well. We were there during the rugby so maybe many were watching TV - as you know, the tour companies have resumed package tours.
    Further afield, Kasserine is out of bounds. When we visited Kairouan, it was completely devoid of any tourists. Sfax etc and further south not sure.

    So overall we had a great week - the Tunisian dinar has depreciated massively over the past years so costs are really low.... but please do spend plenty of tourist dollars, the Tunisians need them.

    best wishes
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018
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  6. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Richard

    I confess to many envious thoughts regarding your recent travels but many thanks for sharing your story and the excellent snaps.

    Ron
     
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  7. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Ron,

    Many thanks... we were indeed thinking of my Dad and all his friends and comrades who battled their way to Tunis (thousands of whom are at rest at the various CWGC locations in Tunisia) and then took the boat from Sousse to Cassibile.... no doubt that part will bring back memories for you.

    We hope to be filming in Sicily in June (with plenty of Factor 50 on hand).

    best wishes

    Attached photo from Medjez:
    Private WILBY, SAMUEL

    Service Number 3459187

    Died 26/02/1943

    ALIAS See WISEBERG, the true family name.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    A great end to the week was spending time yesterday chatting to Charles Ward who joined the 2nd London Irish Rifles on the same day as my father in October 1939.

    As we had been to Tunisia last week, it was remarkable to listen to Charles' first hand accounts of his time on 20th/21st January 1943 at Hill 286/279 just to the north of Bou Arada. Luckily for us, Charles had kept a diary during that period. It was a quite dreadful time for the battalion with over 250 killed, missing or wounded over a 24 hour period. In the middle of him remembering that most difficult period, we all smiled at his recollection of the comparative mundanity of him getting a chance to go back to Gaffour in mid February for a much needed bath...

    A most moving occasion indeed and, of course, it was fantastic also to chat to Charles' wife, Margaret who he met at Massingham in Algeria in late 1943 (it'll never last !!) . I look forward to seing Charles on parade at the Cenotaph in November....a mere 5 weeks before his 100th birthday !!

    The picture attached is of my brother Edmund and cousin Harry recording Charles and Margaret's memories

    best wishes
    IMG_8415.JPG
     
  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Richard,
    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful set of photographs with us. Congratulations on an excellent thread.

    Steve
     
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  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I was interested to here about the security element of your trip Richard. Back in 2008 I visited Burma and part of the itinerary was a rail journey in the north of the country. Being so enthralled by where I was and what I could learn, I rarely noticed the armed guard on the roof of the train. The people of Burma were so polite, generous and gentle, it made you wonder why he was necessary really.
     
  11. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately the attacks at Sousse and at the Bardo are very fresh in the memory....obviously some of the area near the Algerian and Libyan borders are out of bounds.
     
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  12. Takrouna

    Takrouna New Member

    I am in Tunisia later this month for the Italian Army ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Takrouna.
     

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