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Association Newsletters.  2.

If you are not in receipt of the WFRA ENewsletter and have internet connection,please contact

RHQ Mercian Nottingham (rhqmercian.notts@btconnect.com) and we will send you the ENews update.


Patron: HRH The Princess Royal
President: Brig P Dennis



10 March 2023    WFRA NEWSLETTER    Volume 14 Issue 10

It is with sadness that I report the death of Billie Grainger.

Billie was the wife of Bill Grainger who, until his death in 2007, was the Honorary Colonel of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters, a Canadian Militia unit affiliated to the Sherwood Foresters in 1936. Bill landed on D Day with the Sherbrooke Fusiliers,an armoured regiment, and was badly wounded on D+3. He hosted soldiers of 3WFR on training visits to Canada in 1993 and 1994 and came to the Crich Pilgrimage the following year. 
Bill was always accompanied by his American born wife Billie who was born in Ohio in August 1921 and died on 12 February 2023 in Chatsworth, Ontario.



As many of you know, the cost of coach travel has virtually doubled over the past couple of years and I have not ventured to arrange any trips due to the possible cost implications. In order to make a trip viable there would need to be a minimum number of people wishing to go on a trip.  I have made enquiries with regard to visiting some of the following places (some suggested by Friends):
Bletchley Park (Entry fee)
National Memorial Arboretum (No entry fee)
Royal Hospital Chelsea (Entry fee)
Slimbridge (Entry fee)
RAF Museum Hendon (No entry fee)
I would be really grateful if you would take the time to indicate any of the trips you would be interested in going on and I can then assess which may be viable and sort out the costs involved. Also if you can make a visit any day or just a weekend.
Sandra Taylor Events Organiser. Friends of the Mercian Regiment Museum friendsoftheworcesters@gmail.com


The event will start at 10.30hrs on the morning of Monday 13 March 2023 in the Sir Peter Hilton Memorial Gardens and will feature a flag raising ceremony to symbolise the UK’s commitment to the shared values and principles of the Commonwealth, including co-operation in economic and social development, diversity, respect, friendship and the promotion of peace around the world.
Veterans and Standard Bearers are most welcome to attend and should be there in time for the 10.30hrs start.



Following their sell out performances at London’s Royal Albert Hall in March 2023, The Massed Bands of His Majesty’s Royal Marines are taking another spectacular show on their first ever UK tour in September 2023.  This world famous Band will be live in concert at The Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham on Friday 15 September 19.30hrs - 22.00hrs Tickets are scheduled to go on general sale on Friday 10 March 2023 at 1000. Tickets are priced from £25-£37 (subject to change before the general sale date). Bookings through the box office team on 0115-989-5555, open Monday-Saturday 1000-2000, from 1000 this coming Friday 10 March.

3 Mar 2023         WFRA NEWSLETTER        Volume 14 Issue 08

FUNERAL DETAILS The funeral of Michael John Millward will be held on Friday 17 March at 13:30hrs at Chesterfield Crematorium Chesterfield Road, Brimington, Chesterfield S43 1AU.


Pension members who have served in the Armed Forces since 1975 and did not qualify for an immediate pension, may be entitled to a Deferred Pension. Veterans UK will not contact you to commence payment of a deferred Pension; you must contact them. To find out if you are entitled to a deferred pension, you are first advised to read the attached and then ring or write to the Veterans UK Enquiry Service on 0800 085 3600 or 94560 3600 or alternatively: E-mail: Veterans-uk@mod.uk

Overview and History Pension members who have served in the Armed Forces since 1975, and did not qualify for an immediate pension may be entitled to a Deferred Pension. Prior to 6 April 1975, there was no provision for a preservation of pension benefits and Service personnel who left the Armed Forces had to have completed 16 years service from age 21 (Officers) or 22 years from age 18 (Other Ranks) to be eligible for a pension. Those who left before that date, without completing the above criteria, had no pension entitlement unless they were medically retired. The Pension rules were changed so as to allow for individuals who left before the immediate pension point to accrue benefits under the scheme but not to be paid until they had reached pension benefit age.
From 06 April 1975, deferred pensions could be claimed for payment at age 60 for all those discharged over the age of 26 with a minimum of five years reckonable service. Reckonable service starts from age 18 for other ranks and age 21 for officers. In 1978, the age criterion was removed. From 06 April 1983 Service personnel no longer needed 5 years reckonable service, but 5 years contracted out service (contracted out service is service from age 16 earned after 6/4/78.
On 06 April 1988, the qualifying period was reduced from five years to two years. On 6 April 2006, the deferred pension age changed to age 65

AFPS 75 deferred pension member whose service ended before 6 April 2006, should claim their pensions, from Veterans UK, at age 60. AFPS 75 deferred pension members whose service ended on or after 6 April 2006, but who had at least two years service before 6 April 2006, should claim the proportion of their pension which relates to their pre 6 April 2006, service at age 60 with the remainder becoming payable at age 65.

AFPS 05 was introduced in 2005 and for those joining or rejoining the Regular Armed Forces from 6 April 2005. Serving members of AFPS 75 were given the opportunity to transfer to AFPS 05 by 6 April 2006. AFPS 05 deferred pension members should claim their pensions from Veterans UK at age 65.

RFPS 05 is a scheme applicable for those starting or renewing a Full Time Reserve Service commitment /contract from 6 April 2005 and Serving members of FTRSPS 97 were given the opportunity to transfer to RFPS 05 by 6 April 2006. AFPS 05 and RFPS05 deferred pension members should claim their pensions from Veterans UK at age 65.

Claiming an Early Payment of a Pension in the Event of Permanent ill Health A deferred member of any of the pension schemes mentioned above, is entitled to apply to claim for an immediate payment of a deferred pension and lump sum before reaching age 65 and,

In the opinion of Veterans UK (who has received evidence from a medical practitioner or other specialists) that the deferred member has suffered a permanent break down in health which has left them unable to work full-time, in any capacity, and this condition will continue until deferred pension age (age 65). He is not an active member of another occupational pension scheme. Early payment of the pension may be subject to review and stopped if it is considered that the criterion for payment was no longer met. Early Payment of Deferred Pensions with Actuarial Reduction A deferred member can claimed for an immediate payment of a deferred pension but with an actuarial adjustment to take account of the longer period for which the pension will be in payment. The ages from which this form of early payment may be claimed are.
AFPS 75 member - the proportion of the deferred pension payable at age 65 may be claimed from age 60. AFPS 75 Pension Credit Member (PCM)* – If this pension is the result of a Pension Sharing Order (PSO) and the PSO has taken effect then the PCM can opt to claim it from age 55,
AFPS 05 - from age 55. Such a claim will not affect any EDP payments which are being paid.
AFPS 05 PCM* – If this pension is a result of a Pension Sharing Order (PSO) and the PSO has taken effect then the PCM can opt to claim it from age 55.
Reserve Forces Pension Scheme (RFPS) from age 55.
RFPS 05 PCM* - If this pension is a result of a Pension Sharing Order(PSO) and the PSO has taken effect then the PCM can opt to claim it from age 55.
* Pension Credit Member (PCM) – This relates to an ex spouse of the member in whose favour a Pension Sharing Order has been made by a Court as part of a divorce settlement. A PCM becomes a member of their ex spouses pension scheme and they are a member of that pension scheme in their own right.
Reduced life expectancy
Deferred members of AFPS 05 and RFPS 05 and Pension Credit Members of these schemes, with a reduced life expectancy of 12 months or less may claim their deferred entitlement earlier. Applications of this nature should be made to Veterans UK.


002 WORCESTER BRANCH AGM The Museum of the Mercian Regiment (WFR Collection) are now registered with easyfundraising, which means you can raise FREE donations for us every time you shop online. Over 7,000 brands will donate to us when you use easyfundraising to shop with them – at no extra cost to yourself!

These donations really mount up and make a BIG difference to us, so we’d really appreciate it if you could take a moment to sign up and support us. It’s completely FREE and only takes a moment.

If you shop online for anything including big ticket items like holidays, chances are the supplier is signed up to easyfundraising and will make a donation of a small percentage of the purchase price to your chosen cause - in this case the Museum of the Mercian regiment (WFR Collection). Over 7000 suppliers are signed up to donate. 

Donating via easyfundraising will cost you nothing and if offered an extension that will flag up easyfundraising as the route for your shopping accept it. It means that, if you go straight to the supplier's site rather than starting with the easyfundraising site, you will be asked if you want to channel your purchase through easyfundraising.

You can find our easyfundraising page at https://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/causes/museum-of-the-mercian-regiment-wfr-collection/?utm_campaign=raise-more&utm_medium=email&utm_content=rm-gs-e1 You spend, brands donate to Museum of the Mercian Regiment (WFR Collection). Help us when you shop with 7,000+ brands. Join now.

003 WORCESTER BRANCH AGM The Worcester Branch W.F.R.A. AGM will be held on Tuesday 21 March at 19:30 hrs start.  In the lounge at Barbourne Ex Services Club. The Moors Worcester WR1 3ED.
If you have any Nominations or Resolutions they are to reach me before Sunday 12 March either in writing or by email.
There will be a raffle, if you have any prizes you would like to donate please bring them along.
Letters can be sent to:- N Fish. 19 Langland Ave, Malvern Worc`s 
WR14 2EG.

This is the recurring calendar invite to the Gheluvelt Gardening Club, which will take place on the second Monday of every month going forward. If anyone has any task or ideas they would like to put forward please drop me an email or phone call ahead of the session. When: Second Monday of every month at 11:00 am. (The next one is on Monday the 13th).
Where: Gheluvelt Park (Sons of Rest Building). 
All are welcome to join the incredible park keeper at Gheluvelt Park for gardening activities. Activities available to take part in our as follows;
• Weeding • Leaf collection • Planting • Pruning • Litter-picking • Cleaningm
Contact Nathan for more info: Nathan.Gunnell@worcester.gov.uk

005 LOOKING FOR FAMILY OF PTE G H FLETCHER RHQ have come into possession of some letters that were sent by Pte George H FLETCHER and would like to return them to his family.  George served with ‘A att G’ Company, the 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and was stationed in Seaburn, Sunderland in late 1916.  We know that his wife lived in Sherwood Rise.  If anyone has information that could help reunite the letters with the family, it is requested that they contact the Assistant Regimental Secretary cindy.clark247@mod.gov.uk

The Badajoz Parade 2023 will take place in the Old Market Square, Nottingham on Thursday 6th April 2023 at 1100 hours. For any Association Veterans wishing to take part, it will be a very short march on the flat from the “left lion” to Parade in front of the Council House steps where the Scarlet Coatee will be raised on the Council House flagpole. Anyone wishing to parade is to meeting at 1040 hours for briefing at the “left lion”. Dress is Regimental blazer, ties, berets and medals. Full admin instruction to follow in due course.


24 February 2023   WFRA NEWSLETTER     Volume 14 Issue 08

Major Michael Simpson TD It is with great sadness that I report the death of Major Michael Simpson TD who died at the end of January.
Further details will follow when known.

OBITUARY Michael John Millward
It is with great sadness that I report the death of Michael John Millward who died on 19 February.
Further details will follow when known.


RHQ have come into possession of some letters that were sent by Pte George H FLETCHER and would like to return them to his family.  George served with ‘A att G’ Company, the 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters and was stationed in Seaburn, Sunderland in late 1916.  We know that his wife lived in Sherwood Rise.  If anyone has information that could help reunite the letters with the family, it is requested that they contact the Assistant Regimental Secretary cindy.clark247@mod.gov.uk

The Badajoz Parade 2023 will take place in the Old Market Square, Nottingham on Thursday 6th April 2023 at 1100 hours. For any Association Veterans wishing to take part, it will be a very short march on the flat from the “left lion” to Parade in front of the Council House steps where the Scarlet Coatee will be raised on the Council House flagpole. Anyone wishing to parade is to meeting at 1040 hours for briefing at the “left lion”. Dress is Regimental blazer, ties, berets and medals. Full admin instruction to follow in due course.


11151 Corporal Herbert Pearce
Herbert was born in 1892 in Maidstone, Kent to Richard and Elizabeth Pearce.  He had nine siblings; George, Grace, Archibald, Ernest, Lily, Edith, Leonard, Reginald and Doris. Herbert enlisted with the Worcestershire Regiment in 1911 and served with the 2nd Battalion in India and Egypt and the 4th Battalion in France and Belgium.  It is believed that whilst in France Herbert met up with some of his brothers and relatives including his cousin Jack Harvey VC.
 During the early months of 1918 the 4th Battalion were active in the Lys Valley and remained in that area until September. Their next main action was to be at Ypres where they were involved in the retaking of Gheluvelt. In October 1918 they saw action at the Battle of Courtrai. 

On October 20 1918 Herbert aged 27 was killed by a German sniper during the liberation of Harelbeke and Stasegem. He had survived almost the entirety of the war, only to be killed a few weeks before the Armistice.
After years of research by local researcher Michiel Vanmarcke Herbert’s grave which was marked as an Unknown Corporal of the Worcestershire Regiment was identified and on the 18 October 2022 Herbert’s grave was rededicated with a new headstone.  Michiel Vanmarck & Cpl Pearce's original headstone Cpl Pearce's new headstone The service at Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium was organised by the MOD’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC), also known as the ‘MOD War Detectives’. It was conducted by The Reverend Andy Nicolls, CF. Cpl Pearce was previously commemorated on the CWGC Tyne Cot Memorial. Cpl Pearce's rededication was one of six happening around Ypres, Belgium over the 18 and 19 October for soldiers lost in World War One with each ceremony attended by representatives from the current day equivalents of these casualties’ regiments (Royal Fusiliers, the Mercian Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps and the Royal Regiment of Scotland). The service of Cpl Pearce led by Rev Andy Nicolls, CF, was attended by members of the Mercian Regiment and representatives on behalf of the British Embassy. Louise Dorr, MOD JCCC case worker said:  “Our thanks go to several of our regular researchers, who have investigated these six graves and been able to prove who is buried in each of them. Thanks to their efforts we have been able to confirm their findings and return these soldiers’ names to them.  I’m so honoured to have been able to be here to rededicate their final resting places”. Director for the Central and Southern European Area at the CWGC, Geert Bekaert, said:  “We are privileged to be able to honour these six brave men, who all paid the ultimate sacrifice fighting in the Great War. Thanks to the research and work of many, we are able to renew our commitment to care for these soldiers’ graves, in perpetuity”. Michiel Vanmarcke said “I am very proud to be able to give the families of these men the closure they deserve.” Michiel Vanmarcke with members of 1 Mercian. Unfortunately, members of Cpl Pearce’s family were not contacted in time for the rededication service.  At the recent visit to 1 Mercian I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Mannering who is the Great Nephew of Cpl Herbert Pearce and during the welcome address he was presented with the Union Flag used at Herbert’s rededication service by Lt Col Dean Canham OBE.

Peter Mannering his good friend Terry Bensted (Left) Peter said “I am very grateful to all of those who worked so hard to find Herbert.  My Grandmother Doris would have been so happy to know that her brother had been found and had a recognised resting place.  My Mother June and I are extremely proud of Herbert’s service and it is good to know that Herbert will not be forgotten and his grave will be cared for in perpetuity”.


17 February 2023    WFRA NEWSLETTER     Volume 14 Issue 07

It is with great sadness that we let you know that 14821774 Pte Kenneth ‘Ken’ Roy GOODALL of Nottingham, died on 11 January 2023 aged 96.  His funeral has taken place. Ken was originally in the Air Training Corps and enlisted into the Army on 18 August 1944 and joined C Company, 1st Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters (he may have served in the GSC prior to the Sherwood Foresters) . He served in various locations in Germany and volunteered to look after the Garrison Cinema and then became sub-editor of Maroon & Green in 1946/7.  During his time with the Regiment, Ken was a keen sportsman and a regimental cricketer. He was discharged on 2 February 1948.  Ken worked for Boots before and after his military service which is where he met his wife, Florence; they were married for 72 years.  They had two sons who were kind enough to donate editions 1-53 of Maroon & Green as well as other items, to the museum.  If anyone knew Ken, it is requested that they contact his son Neil, as the brothers would love to hear stories about him neilgoodall@rocketmail.com  


On Tuesday 7 February 1 Mercian played hosts to members of the WFRA and representatives from other antecedent Regimental Associations.  The day started with tea and coffee in the Officers Mess where we received a warm welcome from Lt Col Dean Canham MBE who during his address presented a Union Flag to Peter Mannering, the Great Nephew of Cpl Herbert Pearce whose grave was rededicated in October 2022.
An excellent Indian Curry lunch followed in the Officers Dining Room and in the afternoon we were invited to meet some of the soldiers who were keen to speak to us and show us their equipment, including a Warrior IFV, small arms and optics, mortars, Pioneer's and mine detection equipment  Finally we were invited to the Sergeants Mess for tea and a guided tour of their museum pieces. On behalf of the Association I would like to thank Lt Col Canham and the soldiers of 1 Mercian for their hospitality and for taking time away from their duties to spend a very enjoyable day with us all and last but no means least thank you to Cindy Clarke for arranging the visit. 

002 GUINNESS RECORDS CONFIRMED Captain Preet Chandi, known as Polar Preet, has not only surpassed the world record for the longest polar ski expedition by a woman, but also the overall record. A Guinness spokeswoman said Captain Chandi, from Derby, had taken 70 days and 16 hours to do her polar ski trek.  She first made history by trekking to the South Pole in 2021.  Her latest journey, from the Hercules Inlet to the Reedy Glacier, took place between 13 November and 23 January. Guinness confirmed she had broken the world record for both the longest solo unsupported one way polar ski journey for a woman and also the longest solo unsupported one way polar ski journey. Captain Chandi was seeking to become the first woman to ski across the Antarctic continent from coast to coast, but due to bad weather had to end the journey about 160 kilometres (100 miles) inland." Captain Chandi said: "It feels incredible to have travelled such a distance, though it was always about so much more than a record. It was a lot tougher than last year's expedition - the toughest thing I've ever done. I'm disappointed I ran out of time to make the crossing of Antarctica, but I did everything I could." When asked if she would be returning to Antarctica Captain Chandi said she had not yet thought about whether she would attempt the crossing again she was looking forward to having time to recover.
003 COMPANY OF MAKERS The Company of Makers exists to support Veterans and their families who are struggling on Civvy Street no matter how long ago they left the armed forces.
We host a podcast featuring members of the armed forces community with fascinating stories to tell, a programme of online talks featuring authors, journalists, poets and musicians with a strong connection to the armed forces and a range of online workshops including drawing, photography and writing.
If you're interested in attending our workshops please complete the questions below - We'll be in touch to arrange dates and times. 
Feel free to contact us if you have any question or want to find out more about our podcasts, talks and workshops. Failing that, you can always sign up to our newsletter and get all the latest news direct to your inbox.

004 FOREST FORCES EVENTS Thanks to the incredible support and funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, we are able to provide our ‘Forest Forces’ programme, which tackles social isolation in veterans by providing a variety of regular activities and events that brings people together from different backgrounds and armed forces communities. From coffee mornings, comedy nights and day trips, we work with our veterans to come up with different initiatives that everyone will enjoy. Nottingham Forest Community Trust and Nottingham Forest Football Club are committed to supporting the Armed Forces community. We currently hold the Ministry of Defence Employer Recognition Scheme Gold Award, recognising the outstanding transferable skills that ex-service personnel can bring to organisations such as ourselves. If you want to get involved in our Forest Forces programme you can view our upcoming events here.
Forest Forces Mental Health Hubs Tuesday, 7 March '23   6pm – 7:30pm GMT Nottingham Forest Football Club, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 5FJ 20 spaces available Details Join us at the City Ground for Tricky Hub, an informal and confidential mental health and wellbeing group where participants can share how their week has been and get peer support and signposting to professional support services. Participants can drop in at any time during the session, which runs from 6-7.30pm. We ask that: That all attendees are treated with respect, that everyone is listened to and that any discussions within the group are kept confidential. If you need to use your phone for any reason during the session and someone is sharing during the check in, please step away from the session. During the session, if you have any concerns or worries, please let the facilitator know. If any participant displays behaviour that is disrespectful or harmful to others in the group, that person will be asked to leave the session. Breakfast Club Forest Forces Friday, 21 April '23   10am – 12pm BST
 Nottingham Forest Football Club, The City Ground, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 5FJ 34 spaces available Details Join us at The City Ground for our quarterly breakfast club where we'll be serving refreshments, hot breakfast and some light hearted fun. Spaces are extremely limited and we're expecting a sell out so if you are unable to attend please let us know so we can offer a space to someone else. Please note, this event is for Armed Forces Veterans only. Please arrive by 10am. Parking is available in the Brian Clough car park, just off Scarrington Road. If you are using a sat nav, please use the post code NG2 5FU.


10 February 2023        WFRA NEWSLETTER         Volume 14 Issue 06


This years Band & Drums Reunion will be taking place on Saturday 21st October 2023. At The Coopers Brooke. Mansfield Road, Daybrook Nottingham. NG5 6BH. Next door to this venue is a Premier Inn Hotel. We advise that anyone that wishes to attend the Reunion Book a room at this Hotel. Partners of Band & Drum Members are also welcome to join us on the day. To Book your Place at the Reunion Dinner please contact the Organiser; Ken Bradshaw at ken.bradshaw18@ntlworld.com. Where there is a Menu Selection to choose from. Payment is required in advance to confirm attendance. There is a “WOOFER BAND (WFR) REUNION” Facebook Page where anyone can visit . Any past Members of the Band and Drums can join the Facebook Page and connect with as many “Old Friends” as they can.

002 RAIN BY BARNEY CAMPBELL Drawing on his own experience, Barney Campbell's Rain is a powerful, vivid and affecting portrait of the Afghan frontline. 'No better on-the-ground description of Britain's war will ever be written. Rain is what Chickenhawk or, more recently, Matterhorn was to Vietnam. It's unputdownable, except for when the reader needs to draw breath or battle a lump in the throat' Evening Standard
Tom Chamberlain was destined to be a soldier from the moment he discovered a faded picture of his father patrolling the streets of Belfast.
With the war in Afghanistan at its savage peak, Tom is despatched from home in the dead of an anonymous September night, a blood tribute leaving without fanfare.
Full of eagerness, but wracked by self-doubt, he must discover who he is and what he is capable of.
But as the bonds with his comrades grow, home - and the loved ones left behind - seem ever more remote from the surreal violence and exhilaration of war.
Drawing on the author's own experience, Rain is the most powerful, vivid and affecting portrait of the Afghan frontline to have yet emerged - a novel of war that will take its place among the classics from previous generations.
Rain is available in all formats from Amazon using the link below or any good bookshop.


Free online event on Tuesday 21 February 2023, 19:00 – 20:00hrs.
Tickets available by following the link below.
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soldiering-on-a-journey-with-ptsd-by-nathan-bate-tickets-474756017027?aff=ebdsoporgprofile Soldiering on - A journey with PTSD Signed up to the army as a fresh-faced sixteen-year-old, Nathan had little idea of what was realistically ahead of him. Ten years of dedicated service later and a multitude of horrifying memories, the ex-soldier’s struggles truly began as he tried to integrate back into civilian life with no support. As his mental health gradually declined, so did the world around him. Each day became a waking nightmare with vivid traumatic flashbacks, paranoia and a constant barrage of intrusive and violent thoughts. He lost jobs, and his home and relationships, lived rough, attempted suicide and narrowly escaped a prison sentence. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Nathan’s soldier mantra “adapt and overcome” demonstrates how a veteran can return from the brink of despair to finding love and leading a fulfilled life on Civvy Street. Now a fundraiser for other veterans – Nathan’s story brings hope, resilience, courage and a dose of good humour. Signed up to the army as a fresh-faced sixteen-year-old, Nathan had little idea of what was realistically ahead of him. Ten years of dedicated service later and a multitude of horrifying memories, the ex-soldier’s struggles truly began as he tried to integrate back into civilian life with no support. As his mental health gradually declined, so did the world around him. Each day became a waking nightmare with vivid traumatic flashbacks, paranoia and a constant barrage of intrusive and violent thoughts. He lost jobs, and his home and relationships, lived rough, attempted suicide and narrowly escaped a prison sentence. Eventually, he was diagnosed with PTSD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Nathan’s soldier mantra “adapt and overcome” demonstrates how a veteran can return from the brink of despair to finding love and leading a fulfilled life on Civvy Street. Now a fundraiser for other veterans – Nathan’s story brings hope, resilience, courage and a dose of good humour.
About Nathan Born in 1980.in Wolverhampton after leaving school signed up to the Army in 1996. After serving several years joined the Prison service for a further 10 years. During this time became friends with the prison education manager who later on in life became his wife Keen motorcyclist, member of the Royal British legion Riders Branch and an ambassador for the Battle Back Centre. Known as the Fundraising veteran uk. Completes charity events to raise money for different charities. Now a public speaker and motivational speaker aim to help others in overcoming general life issues, using his own life experiences Now lives in Cheshire with wife Emma and 2 French Bulldogs Barry and Beryl Live Talk Nathan will talk about his book. Hosted by Company of Makers' co-founder Steve Bomford.

Q&A Nathan's talk will be followed by an interactive Q&A session, so you'll have the opportunity to get involved and he'll answer as many of your questions as we can squeeze in.

 Allied victory Tunisia Campaign operations, 20 April to 13 May 1943

The salient at Medjez had been relieved and lateral roads in the V Corps area cleared so that Anderson was able to turn his full attention to the orders he had received on 12 April from Alexander to prepare the large-scale attack, scheduled for 22 April, to gain Tunis. By this stage, Allied aircraft had been moved forward to airfields in Tunisia to prevent the aerial supply of Axis troops in North Africa Operation Flax and during this operation large numbers of German transport aircraft were shot down between Sicily and Tunis. British destroyers operating from Malta prevented marine supply, reinforcement or evacuation of Tunisia by sea Operation Retribution. Admiral Cunningham, Eisenhower's Naval Task Force commander, issued Nelsonian orders to his ships: "Sink, burn, capture, destroy. Let nothing pass" but very few Axis ships even attempted passage. By 18 April, after attacks by Eighth Army from the south and flanking attacks by IX Corps and French XIX Corps, the Axis forces had been pushed into a defensive line on the north east coast of Tunis, attempting to protect their supply lines but with little hope of continuing the battle for long.
Alexander planned that while II US Corps would attack on the north towards Bizerte, First Army would attack towards Tunis while Eighth Army attacked north from Enfidaville. Anderson would co-ordinate the actions of First Army and II US Corps, issuing the appropriate orders to achieve this. Anderson's plan was for the main attack to be in the centre of the V Corps front at Medjez, confronting main Axis defences. However, IX Corps on the right would first attack north east with, by speed of movement, the intention of getting in behind the Medjez position and disrupting their armoured reserves. II US Corps would make a double thrust: one to capture the high ground on V Corps' left flank and a second toward Bizerte. French XIX Corps would be held back until IX Corps and Eighth Army had drawn in the opposition and then advance toward Pont du Fahs.
The Allied forces had reorganised and during the night of 19/20 April, the Eighth Army captured Enfidaville against the Italian 16th Motorized Division "Pistoia", which counter attacked several times over the next three days and was repulsed and the action at Takrouna also took place. The northward advance of Eighth Army had "pinched out" US II Corps' eastward facing front line, allowing the corps to be withdrawn and switched to the northern end of the Allied front. Arnim knew that an Allied offensive was imminent and launched a spoiling attack on the night of 20/21 April, between Medjez and Goubellat on the IX Corps front. The Hermann Göring Division supported by tanks from 10th Panzer Division penetrated up to 8 km at some points but could not force a general withdrawal and eventually returned to their lines. No serious disruption was caused to Allied plans, except that the first attack of the offensive, by IX Corps, was delayed by four hours from 4:00 a.m. on 22 April.
On the morning of 22 April, the 46th Division attacked on the IX Corps front, creating a gap for the 6th Armoured Division to pass through by nightfall, followed by 1st Armoured Division, striking east for the next two days but not quick enough to forestall the creation of a strong anti tank screen which halted their progress. The battle had drawn the Axis reserves of armour south, away from the central front. Seeing that no further progress was likely, Anderson withdrew the 6th Armoured Division and most of the 46th Infantry Division into army reserve. The V Corps attack began on the evening of 22 April and the US II Corps launched their offensive in the early hours of 23 April in the Battle of Hill 609, in which the hill was captured, which opened the way to Bizerte. In grim hand to hand fighting against the Hermann Göring Division, 334th Infantry and 15th Panzer Divisions, it took V Corps with the 1st, 4th and 78th Infantry Divisions, supported by army tanks and heavy artillery concentrations, eight days to penetrate 9.7 km and capture most of the Axis defensive positions.
The fighting was mutually costly but in the Battle of Longstop Hill, Longstop was captured, which opened the way to Tunis and Anderson felt a breakthrough was imminent. On 30 April, after a failed attempt by the 169th Infantry Brigade of the recently arrived 56th London Infantry Division, which had just arrived over 3,300 miles from Syria, it had become clear to both Montgomery and Alexander that an Eighth Army attack north from Enfidaville, into strongly held and difficult terrain, would not succeed. General Alexander gave Montgomery a holding task and transferred the British 7th Armoured Division, the 4th Indian Infantry Division and the 201st Guards Motor Brigade from the Eighth Army to the First Army, joining the British 1st Armoured Division which had been transferred before the main offensive.
 The redeployments were complete by the night of 5 May; Anderson had arranged for a dummy concentration of tanks near Bou Arada on the IX Corps front, to deflect attention from the arrival of the 7th Armoured Division in the Medjez sector and achieved a considerable measure of surprise as to the size of the armoured force when the attack began. The final assault was launched at 3:30 a.m. on 6 May by IX Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks who had taken over from Lieutenant General John Crocker, who had been wounded. V Corps, under Lieutenant General Charles Walter Allfrey, had made a preliminary attack on 5 May, to capture high ground and secure the left flank of IX Corps. The 4th British and 4th Indian Divisions, concentrated on a narrow front and supported by heavy artillery concentrations, broke a hole in the defences for the 6th and 7th Armoured divisions to pass through. On 7 May, British armour entered Tunis and American infantry from II Corps, which had continued its advance in the north, entered Bizerte.
Axis surrender
Six days after the fall of Tunis and Bizerte, the last Axis resistance in Africa ended with the surrender of over 230,000 Germans and Italians who became prisoners of war. Major General Lucian Truscott, commander of the US 3rd Infantry Division and Major General Ernest N. Harmon, commander of the US 1st Armored Division, reported that German resistance in the American sector ceased on 6 May and German troops started surrendering en masse. On 8 May, the 334th Division surrendered to the British forces between Mateur and Tebourba. At 10:00 a.m. on 9 May, the US II Corps, under Major General Omar Bradley, cornered Major General Gustav von Vaerst and what remained of the 5th Panzer Army, which surrendered before noon. At least 12,000 Germans surrendered in Major General Fritz Krause's sector. Around 22,000 Germans in the mountainous Zaghouan sector also ceased fighting on 11 May and surrendered with their equipment to the Free French. British and Commonwealth forces reported 150,000 Axis POWs taken in the German held sector from 5 May – 12 June. Major General Count Theodor von Sponeck, commander of the 90th Light Division, had surrendered unconditionally to the 2nd New Zealand Division, after threatening to fight till the last round. Arnim surrendered to the Royal Sussex Regiment. Messe, commander of the 1st Army, held the line north of Takrouna and on 12 May, cabled Comando Supremo vowing to fight on; at 7:55 p.m. that evening, after the German collapse, Mussolini ordered Messe to surrender. Next day, the 1st Army was still holding opposite Enfidaville but the remaining 80,000 men were surrounded; the RAF and artillery continued their bombardment and around noon, the 1st Army surrendered to the Eighth Army. Messe along with Kurt Freiherr von Liebenstein formally surrendered to British and New Zealand forces under General Bernard Freyberg.
Aftermath & Analysis
In 1966, the British Official Historian I. S. O. Playfair wrote that
Had the Allies been able to get a tighter stranglehold on the Axis communications immediately after the 'Torch' landings, they might have won the gamble of the Tunisian Campaign by the end of 1942 and victory in Africa as a whole might have been close. Conversely, the Axis might have staved off for a long time their defeat in May 1943 had their forces received the supplies they needed.
 In 1995 American historian Williamson Murray was more critical:
The decision to reinforce North Africa was one of the worst of Hitler's blunders: admittedly, it kept the Mediterranean closed for six more months, with a negative impact on the Allied shipping situation but it placed some of Germany's best troops in an indefensible position from which, like Stalingrad, there would be no escape. Moreover, Hitler committed the Luftwaffe to fight a battle of attrition under unfavourable conditions and it suffered losses that it could not afford.
 The Axis gamble failed, and at the cost of heavy losses in men and materiel had only slowed the inevitable. The Allied gains were considerable; control of the North African littoral, and the Mediterranean open to traffic. Even the US defeat at Kasserine may have been paradoxically advantageous; Rommel and the Axis were lulled into a false impression of US capabilities, while the Americans learned valuable lessons, and made positive changes in their command structure and tactics. With North Africa in Allied hands, plans quickly turned to the invasion of Sicily and Italy. Joseph Goebbels wrote that it was on the same scale as the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad; Tunisgrad was coined for the defeat.
A Victory March was held in Tunis on May 20, 1943, in which units of the First and Eighth Armies and representative detachments of the American and French forces marched past, with bands playing and generals Eisenhower, Alexander and Giraud taking the salute.
 Allied casualties of 76,020 include the losses incurred by the First Army from 8 November 1942 and the Eighth Army from 9 February 1943. British and Commonwealth casualties amounted to 38,360 men; 6,233 were killed, 21,528 were wounded and 10,599 reported missing. The Free French suffered 19,439 casualties; 2,156 killed, 10,276 wounded and 7,007 missing. American casualties amounted to 18,221 men; 2,715 killed, 8,978 wounded and 6,528 missing.
From 22 to 30 November 1942, the RAF flew 1,710 sorties and lost at least 45 aircraft. The USAAF flew 180 sorties and lost at least 7 aircraft.  From 1 to 12 December, the RAF flew 2,225 sorties and lost a minimum of 37 aircraft. The USAAF flew 523 sorties and lost another 17 aircraft. From 13 to 26 December, the RAF flew 1,940 sorties for a loss of at least 20 aircraft while the USAAF conducted 720 sorties for a loss of 16 aircraft. From 27 December 1942 to 17 January 1943 the RAF flew 3,160 sorties and lost 38 aircraft while the USAAF flew an estimated 3,200 sorties and lost 36 aircraft From 18 January to 13 February the RAF flew 5,000 sorties, excluding those against shipping, for the loss of 34 aircraft while the USAAF flew an estimated 6,250 sorties for the loss of 85 aircraft.  During the remainder of February to 28 March, 156 allied aircraft were lost. Between 29 March and 21 April, 203 Allied aircraft were destroyed. From 22 April to the end of the campaign, 45 bombers and 110 fighters were lost; 12 bombers and 47 fighters of the RAF, the USAAF losing 32 bombers and 63 fighters, while the French lost 1 bomber.
 The Axis armies suffered casualties of 290,000 to 362,000 men; the losses are uncertain but it is estimated that the German army suffered 8,500 men killed during the campaign and the Italians 3,700 men killed; another 40,000 to 50,000 Axis soldiers were wounded. In the British official history, Playfair wrote that the Allies took 238,243 unwounded prisoners; 101,784 German, 89,442 Italian and 47,017 others. In 2004, Rick Atkinson wrote that a quarter of a million prisoners is a reasonable estimate.  Playfair wrote that G. F. Howe, the American official historian, recorded the capture of 275,000 Axis soldiers, an 18th Army Group calculation of 244,500 prisoners, that Rommel estimated 130,000 Germans were taken prisoner and Arnim estimated 100,000 German and 200,000 Italian prisoners of war.
The Luftwaffe lost 2,422+ aircraft in the Mediterranean theatre from November 1942 to May 1943 which amounted to 41% of the Luftwaffe. At least 1,045 aircraft were destroyed; from 22 to 30 November 1942, the Luftwaffe flew 1,084 sorties losing 63 aircraft, including 21 destroyed on the ground. The Regia Aeronautica recorded the loss of four. From 1 to 12 December, the Luftwaffe flew 1,000 sorties and lost 37 aircraft, including nine on the ground, while the Italians recorded the loss of ten more. From 13 to 26 December, the Luftwaffe flew 1,030 sorties and lost 17 aircraft, while the Italians lost three. From 27 December 1942 to 17 January 1943, the Luftwaffe lost 47 aircraft, Regia Aeronautica losses are unknown. From 18 January to 13 February, the Luftwaffe lost another 100 aircraft but Italian losses are unknown. From 14 February to 28 March, 136 German aircraft were lost and the Regia Aeronautica lost 22 more. From 29 March to 21 April, 270 Luftwaffe aircraft were destroyed and 46 operational aircraft and almost their entire remaining air transport fleet was lost. From 22 April until the end, the Luftwaffe lost 273 aircraft; 42 bombers, 166 fighters, 52 transport aircraft, 13 Storch observation aircraft and the Italians recorded the loss of 17 aircraft, and 600+ aircraft were captured by the Allies.


03 February 2023      WFRA NEWSLETTER       Volume 14 Issue 05

OBITUARY It is with great sadness that we inform you that 21013026 SSgt Kenneth ‘Ken’ HAYES BEM of Hartlepool died on 1 July 2022 aged 90.  Ken was originally from Nottingham and joined the Sherwood Foresters in 1947 aged 15 as a bandsman and remained in the Infantry until he transferred to the RAPC in 1958.  During his service, Ken served in Egypt, Libya, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaya, Borneo, Singapore and the UK.  He discharged from the Army in 1972 and was awarded the LS&GC medal.  In civilian life, Ken had a variety of jobs and was awarded the BEM for his work with local charities.  His pure cremation took place in 2022. His daughter, Viv,  would love to hear from anyone that knew Ken and she can be contacted at vivmoffatt@hotmail.co.uk

OBITUARY It is with great sadness that we inform you that Mrs Wendy Truswell , wife of the Chesterfield Branch Vice Chairman passed away on Tuesday 24th January.  She had been recovering from cancer for the past two years and had been given the all clear but was admitted to hospital and passed away after a short illness. The funeral will be a private family only event.

001 VETERANS SURVEY The Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are carrying out this important survey. It covers a range of topics related to the circumstances and lifestyles of people who have left the UK Armed Forces. These people are commonly known as veterans. The UK Government wants to make the UK the best place for veterans to live by 2028. Change has already started. For the first time, the Census counted UK Armed Forces veterans. We need to find out more. By taking part in this survey, you will help us to produce statistics about the lives of the UK Armed Forces community, veterans, and their families. Government departments, public bodies and charities will use the anonymous findings from this survey to make plans. This is your unique opportunity to tell us about your experiences. Your responses will provide information not available from any other sources. Do not miss your chance to have your say. The online UK Veterans Survey will close at midnight on Thursday 2 February 2023. The paper UK Veterans Surveys need to be returned to the Office for National Statistics by midnight on Friday 17 February 2023.
Please use the link below to take part in the survey.
Veterans’ Survey - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

002 FRIENDS OF THE MERCIAN REGIMENT MUSEUM A talk on the Falklands War’ by Major (Retd) David Seeney. David’s talk will cover the lesser known facts about the Falklands War and some of the untold stories. Initially researched over 30 years ago, only now are some of these facts being revealed to the public. Major David Seeney is Chairman of the Friends of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum Royal Warwickshire.  He is a life-long collector of medals and militaria. He served 40 years in the armed forces, mainly in Airborne Forces.  He served in the Falklands War but admits to only taking in some sightseeing and souvenir hunting! Date: Saturday 18th February 2023 Venue: Lyppard Hub, Ankerage Green, Worcester, WR4 0DZ Time: 13.30 for 14.00 start Parking is free both outside the venue and in the access road. Tea or coffee are provided. Friends: Free            Non Friends £3.00 The second talk will be ‘La retraite de Moscou’ by Major (Retd) Mike Atkinson (our excellent speaker on Bomb Disposal in October 2022). The story of the greatest military disaster in history. In 1812, the greatest General in history invaded Russia with the largest army the world had seen up until that date. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out almost everything did. The story is told using many artifacts from Mike's collection that were actually there, including a surprise item belonging to the Emperor, which will be revealed and shown on the day. Major Atkinson spent 26 years in the British Army as a Bomb Disposal operator. During that time he attended over 1,000 explosive related incidents in Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, the Falklands and Belize. He has undertaken extensive research into the Napoleonic Wars and other more modern conflicts. Date: Saturday 18th March 2023 Venue: Lyppard Hub, Ankerage Green, Worcester, WR4 0DZ Time: 13.30 for 14.00 start Parking is free both outside the venue and in the access road. Tea or coffee are provided. Friends: Free     Non Friends £3.00 

003 DERBY BRANCH MEETING The next meeting of the Derby Branch WFRA is on Friday 10th February 2023. Venue is the Allestree Social Club, 39 Cornhill, Alestree, Derby. DE22 2FS. Meeting starts at 19.45 hrs. Dress is casual.

004 3 STAFFORDS INFORMATION REQUEST Ian Walton is looking for a contact in 3 STAFFORDS who is able to help locate a mess photograph of his son who was an O/Cadet at the time.  The photographs were taken at their Colours parade in the seventies. If you are able to help please contact newsletter@stand-firm-strike-hard.org.uk

005 AUTHORS TALKS This is an online event on Tuesday 7th February at 19.00hrs.  Free tickets are available by using the link below.
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hms-turbulent-by-stephen-wynn-tickets-483124316837 HMS Turbulent was a Royal Navy T-class submarine. From its launch in May 1941 to when it was lost at sea, along with its entire crew, in March 1943, it was responsible for the sinking of nearly 100,000 tons of enemy shipping. Besides the number of enemy vessels it sunk, HMS Turbulent has gone down in history for the attack on the Italian merchant vessel the Nino Bixio, which at the time was carrying more than 3,000 Allied POWS who had been captured during the fighting in North Africa. Having left the Libyan port of Benghazi on 16 August 1942, accompanied by the Italian cargo vessel the Sestriere, the Nino Bixio was attacked the following day. A total of 336 Allied POWs, most of whom were either Australian or New Zealanders, were killed or died of their wounds in the explosion. Although badly damaged, the Nino Bixio stayed afloat and was towed to Navarino, in southern Greece, where the surviving POWs disembarked. The wounded were treated in hospital, while the rest were shipped on to POW camps in Bari, Italy. Although there have been different theories put forward as to how HMS Turbulent met its end off the Italian coast in 1943, there is still no absolute certainty as to where, when and how the boat and its crew were lost. About Stephen Stephen is a retired police officer having served with Essex Police as a constable for thirty years between 1983 and 2013. He is married to Tanya and has two sons, Luke and Ross, and a daughter, Aimee. Both Stephen’s grandfathers served in and survived the First World War, one with the Royal Irish Rifles, the other in the Mercantile Marine, whilst his father was a member of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps during the Second World War. When not writing Stephen can be found walking his dogs with his wife, Tanya, at some unearthly time of the morning when most normal people are still fast asleep. Q&A Stephen’s talk will be followed by an interactive Q&A session, so you'll have the opportunity to get involved and he'll answer as many of your questions as we can squeeze in.

006 POLAR PREET RETURNS HOME British Army Captain Preet Chandi says she hopes she inspires people to believe they can achieve anything, even when they may be newcomers to a challenge, as she reflects on her record breaking Antarctic expedition. ‘Polar Preet’, as she is known, covered 922 miles (1,485 km) in 70 days and 16 hours in freezing conditions, breaking the record for the longest, solo, unsupported and unassisted polar expedition by any woman in history, which also surpassed the previous world record of 907 miles (1,459.8 km) set by fellow soldier Henry Worsley, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, in 2015. Severely adverse conditions stopped Capt Chandi from meeting her own coast to coast target around 100 miles from where she was picked up but even with her ultimate goal out of reach, she refused to give up and kept pushing to see how far she could go. Captain Chandi said: "I think this record hopefully gives me a platform to do what I really want to do, which is, inspire people to push their boundaries and show that we can achieve anything. "For me, and I know that I did the last journey, I did this one now, but I didn't know anything about Antarctica at all, I genuinely didn't, I didn't know about the explorers, and I think that's really important because, to show people, actually you can start from anywhere."You don't need to know anything about whatever it is you want to go into, and you can achieve anything. "I think, for me to get something that's endurance related it suits me very well because, if anything, I think that's probably my forte I can just keep going. I'm probably not the quickest or the strongest but I will keep going." Polar Preet had to endure temperatures of -50°C and wind speeds up to 60mph as well as hauling a sledge, weighing around 120kg, loaded with her kit. This was not her first Antarctic mission, in January last year she became the first woman from an ethnic background to reach the South Pole unsupported, which she completed in 40 days, just short of the female world record. Capt Chandi is a physiotherapist from 3 Medical Regiment working at a Regional Rehabilitation Unit in Buckinghamshire, providing rehabilitation for injured soldiers and officers.

007 TUNISIAN CAMPAIGN - PART TWO Battle of Sidi Bou Zid 8th Army operations, 30 January to 10 April 1943 On 30 January 1943, the German 21st Panzer and three Italian divisions from the 5th Panzer Army met elements of the French forces near Faïd, the main pass from the eastern arm of the mountains into the coastal plains. Fredendall did not respond to the French request to send reinforcements in the form of tanks from 1st Armored Division and after desperate resistance, the under-equipped French defenders were overrun. Several counterattacks were organised, including a belated attack by Combat Command B of the US 1st Armored Division but all of these were beaten off with ease by Arnim's forces which by this time had created strong defensive positions. After three days, the Allied forces had been forced to pull back and were withdrawn into the interior plains to make a new forward defensive line at the small town of Sbeitla.
  In Operation Frühlingswind ("spring wind"), Arnim ordered four armoured battle groups forward on 14 February in the area of Sidi Bou Zid held by 34th Infantry Division's 168th Regimental Combat Team and 1st Armored Division's Combat Command A. The defenders' dispositions were poor, with concentrations dispersed so that they were unable to be mutually supportive. By 15 February, CCA had been severely damaged leaving the infantry units isolated on hilltops. Combat Command C was ordered across country to relieve Sidi Bou Zid but were repelled with heavy losses. By the evening of 15 February, three of the Axis battlegroups were able to head toward Sbeitla, 32 km to the northwest. Pushing aside the remains of CCA and CCC, the battlegroups were confronted by Combat Command B in front of Sbeitla. With the help of air support, CCB held on through the day. However, the air support could not be sustained and the defenders of Sbeitla were obliged to withdraw and the town lay empty by midday on 17 February.
To the south, in Operation Morgenluft ("morning air"), an Italian First Army battlegroup made up of the remains of the Afrika Korps under Karl Bülowius had advanced toward Gafsa at dusk on 15 February to find the town deserted, part of a withdrawal to shorten the Allied front to facilitate a reorganisation involving the withdrawal of French XIX Corps in order to re-equip. II US Corps withdrew to the line of Dernaia-Kasserine Gap Sbiba with XIX Corps on their left flank vacating the Eastern Dorsal to conform with them. By the afternoon of 17 February, Rommel's troops had occupied Feriana and Thelepte 24 km southwest of Kasserine forcing the evacuation on the morning of 18 February of Thelepte airfield, the main air base in British First Army's southern sector.
 Battle of Kasserine Pass. After further discussion, the Comando Supremo issued orders on 19 February for Rommel to attack through the Kasserine and Sbiba passes toward Thala and Le Kef to threaten First Army's flank. Rommel's original proposal was for a limited but concentrated attack through Kasserine to confront II Corps' strength at Tébessa and gain vital supplies from the US dumps there. Although he was to have 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions transferred to his command, Rommel was concerned that the new plan would dilute his force concentration and expose his flanks to threat.
 On 19 February 1943, Rommel, having now been given formal control of the 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions, the Afrika Korps battlegroup as well as General Messe's forces on the Mareth defences launched what would become the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Hoping to take the inexperienced defenders by surprise, he sent the light armour of the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion racing into the pass. Colonel Alexander Stark's Stark Force, a brigade group made up of US and French units, was responsible for the defence of the pass. It had not had time to organise properly but was able to direct heavy artillery fire from the surrounding heights which brought the leading mechanised units of the Afrika Korps batlegroup to a halt. Before they could continue, infantry had to be sent up into the high ground seeking to eliminate the artillery threat. A battlegroup under Hans Georg Hildebrand including tanks from 21st Panzer were advancing north from Sbeitla toward the Sbiba Gap. In front of the hills east of Sbiba they were brought to a halt by 1st Guards Brigade and 18th Regimental Combat Team which had strong field and anti-tank artillery support and were joined by two infantry regiments from 34th Infantry Division.
 By the morning of 20 February, the bitter hand to hand fighting in the hills above Kasserine was continuing while the Afrika Korps Kampfgruppe and a battalion from the 131st Armoured Division "Centauro" and more artillery, prepared for another attack through the pass, once it had been joined by a 10th Panzer Division battle group from Sbeitla. The morning attack made slow progress but the intense pressure applied during the renewed attack that afternoon triggered a collapse in the Allied defences.
 Having rolled through the Kasserine Pass on the afternoon of 20 February, units of the Centauro Division headed west toward Tébessa, meeting little or no resistance. Following them came the von Broich battlegroup from 10th Panzer, which forked right onto the road to Thala where they were slowed by a regimental armoured group from 26th Armoured Brigade Gore Force. Their tanks outgunned, Gore Force sustained heavy losses but bought time for Nick Force, a composite force from British 6th Armoured Division with tanks from the 2nd Lothians and Border Horse of the 26th Armoured Brigade with extra infantry and artillery which Anderson had ordered the previous day to leave the Kesra area to bolster the Thala defences to prepare defensive positions further up the road. Meanwhile, Fredendall had sent 1st Armored Division's CCB to meet the threat to Tébessa.
 By 1pm on 21 February, Battlegroup von Broich was in contact with the dug in tanks of B Squadron 2nd Lothians and Border Horse of the 26th Armoured Brigade on the Thala road and making slow progress. Rommel took direct control of the attack and forced the defences by 4pm. However, 26th Armoured Brigade were able to withdraw in reasonable order to the next, final, defensive line in front of Thala. Fighting at this position started at 7pm and continued at close quarters for three hours with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage. Nick Force had taken a heavy beating and did not expect to be able to hold out the next day. However, during the night a further 48 artillery pieces from US 9th Infantry Division arrived after a 1,300 km trip from Morocco on poor roads and in bad weather. On the morning of 22 February, as Broich prepared to launch his attack, his front was hit by a devastating artillery barrage. Surprisingly, Rommel told Broich to regroup and assume a defensive posture, so surrendering the initiative.
 The 21st Panzer battlegroup at Sbiba was making no progress. Further south, the Afrika Korps battlegroup on the road to Tébessa had been halted on 21 February by CCB's armour and artillery dug in on the slopes of Djebel Hamra. An attempt to outflank them during the night of 21 February was a costly failure. A further attack early on 23 February was again beaten back. In a dispirited meeting on 22 February with Kesselring, Rommel argued that faced with stiffening defences and the news that the Eighth Army's lead elements had finally reached Medenine, only a few kilometres from the Mareth Line, he should call off the attack and withdraw to support the Mareth defences, hoping that the Kasserine attack had caused enough damage to deter any offensive action from the west. Kesselring was keen for the offensive to continue but finally agreed that evening, and Comando Supremo formally terminated the operation. The Axis forces from Kasserine reached the Mareth line on 25 February. Aftermath
Action then abated for a time and both sides studied the results of recent battles. Rommel remained convinced that US forces posed little threat, while the British and Commonwealth troops were his equal. He held this opinion for far too long, and it would prove very costly. The Americans likewise studied the battle and relieved several senior commanders while issuing several "lessons learned" publications to improve future performance. Most important, on 6 March 1943 command of the II US Corps passed from Fredendall to George S. Patton, with Omar Bradley as assistant Corps Commander. Commanders were reminded that large units should be kept concentrated to ensure mass on the battlefield, rather than widely dispersed as Fredendall had deployed them. This had the intended side effect of improving the fire control of the already-strong US artillery. Close air support had also been weak although this had been hampered by the generally poor weather conditions.
 At the Casablanca Conference, it had been decided to appoint General Sir Harold Alexander as Deputy Commander in Chief of the Allied forces in French North Africa. This came into effect on 20 February and at the same time, in order better to co-ordinate the activities of his two armies in Tunisia, Eisenhower at AFHQ brought First and Eighth Armies under a new headquarters, 18th Army Group, which Alexander was to command. Shortly after taking up his new appointment, Alexander reported to London,
 ..I am frankly shocked at the whole situation as I have found it...Real fault has been the lack of direction from above from the very beginning resulting in no policy and no plan.
 The Casablanca Conference had agreed to reorganise the air forces in the Mediterranean to integrate them more closely; Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder was made commander of Mediterranean Air Command, responsible for all Allied air activity in the Mediterranean and Major General Carl Spaatz became commander of the Northwest African Air Forces under Tedder, with responsibility for all air operations in Tunisia. By 23 February, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham had succeeded Kuter at the Allied Air Support Command, which became Northwest African Tactical Air Force under Spaatz, with the Desert Air Force supporting Eighth Army, under its operational control.
 Coningham found that the air organisation in Tunisia was that of the Western Desert in 1941 when he had first assumed command of the Desert Air Force. The lessons of the Desert Campaign had not been used in planning for Torch, which constrained the ability of the air arm, already short of aircraft and supplies, to provide tactical support to the army during the Run for Tunis. Coningham unified the British and American operational commands and trained them in new operational practices.
The Axis also created a combined command for their two armies. Hitler and the German General Staff (OKH) believed that Arnim should assume command but Kesselring argued for Rommel. Rommel was appointed to command the new Army Group Africa on 23 February.
 Southern front Battle of Medenine The Eighth Army had been consolidating in front of the Mareth defences since 17 February, and launched probes westward on 26 February. On 6 March 1943, three German armoured divisions, two light divisions and nine Italian divisions launched Operation Capri, an attack southward in the direction of Medenine, the northernmost British strong point. The Axis attack was repulsed with massed artillery fire; 55 Axis tanks were knocked out. With the failure of Capri, Rommel decided that the only way to save the Axis armies would be to abandon the campaign, and on 9 March he travelled to Italy for discussions with Comando Supremo in Rome. Finding no support for his ideas, he travelled on 10 March to see Hitler at his headquarters in Ukraine, to try to convince him to abandon Tunisia and return the Axis armies to Europe. Hitler refused and Rommel was placed, in strict secrecy, on sick leave. Arnim became commander of Army Group Africa.
 Battle of the Mareth Line. Montgomery launched Operation Pugilist against the Mareth Line on the night of 19/20 March 1943. XXX Corps of the Eighth Army commenced Operation Pugilist along with the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division. They penetrated the 136th Armoured Division "Giovani Fascisti" held line and established a small bridgehead west of Zarat on 20-21 March. The terrain and rain however prevented the deployment of tanks, aircraft and anti-tank guns, which left the infantry isolated. A determined counter-attack by 15th Panzer Division and the Giovani Fascisti Division on 22 March, recaptured much of the bridgehead. XXX Corps prepared a new attack towards Tallouf, in which the 4th Indian Infantry Division commanded by Major General Francis Tuker was to make a night attack on 23-24 March, around the inland end of the line. This would coincide with the wide left hook manoeuvre Montgomery was planning with a new operation called "Supercharge II".
On 26 March, X Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks drove around the Matmata Hills, capturing the Tebaga Gap and the town of El Hamma at the northern extreme of the line in "Operation Supercharge II", making the Mareth Line untenable. The following day anti-tank guns from German and Italian units checked the advance of X Corps, to gain time for a withdrawal. In the next 48 hours the Axis defenders pulled out of the Mareth Line, establishing a new defensive position 60 kilometres to the north-west at Wadi Akarit near Gabès.
 Gabès The reorganised US II Corps advanced from the passes again and got behind the Axis lines; the 10th Panzer Division counter-attacked at the Battle of El Guettar on 23 March. The German tanks rolling up lead units of the US forces ran into a minefield, and US artillery and anti tank units opened fire. The 10th Panzer Division rapidly lost 30 tanks and retreated out of the minefield. A second attack supported by infantry in the late afternoon was also repulsed, and the 10th Panzer Division retired to Gabès. The US II Corps was unable to exploit the German failure and each attack was stopped by the 10th Panzer Division or 21st Panzer Division counter attacks up the road from Gabès; co ordination of Allied air and ground forces remained unsatisfactory. The Eighth Army and the US II Corps attacked for the next week and on 28 March, the Eighth Army captured El Hamma, forcing the Axis to abandon Gabès and retreat north towards the Fifth Panzer Army. The hills in front of the US forces were abandoned, allowing them to join the British forces in Gabès later that day. The 2nd New Zealand Division and 1st Armoured Division pursued the Germans 225 km northwards into defensive positions in the hills west of Enfidaville, which were held until the end of the campaign.
 Northern sector.On 26 February, Arnim, in the mistaken belief that the Kasserine battles had forced the Allies to weaken the north to reinforce the south, launched Operation Ochsenkopf "Ox Head" against V Corps, across a wide front and commanded by General Weber. The main attacks were by Corps Weber which had the 334th Infantry Division, newly arrived elements of the Hermann Göring Division and the part of the 10th Panzer Division not involved in Operation Frühlingswind "Spring Wind". Weber's force was to advance in three groups: a central group moving west toward Medjez el Bab; a second to the north advancing south-west, on the route from Mateur to Béja which was some 40 km west of Medjez and the third group pushing west 40 km south of Medjez. The northern flank of Weber's corps was to be protected by the Manteuffel Division advancing west Operation Ausladung and forcing the Allies out of their advanced positions opposite Green Hill and the Axis-held Jefna Station.
 The aim of Operation Ausladung "Outward thrust" was to gain control of the vital town of Djebel Abiod. This attack by the Manteuffel Division made good progress across the French held, lightly defended hills between Cap Serrat and the railway town of Sedjenane. Costly counter-attacks on February 27 and 2 March by part of the 139th Infantry Brigade, 46th Infantry Division), No. 1 Commando and supporting artillery delayed the Axis advance. Withdrawals of French battalions in the Medjez area to join XIX Corps, left little opposition to the German occupation of the high ground dominating the town, which was left in a dangerous salient. As a result, Sedjenane was abandoned by the British on 4 March and the 139th Infantry Brigade was pushed slowly back over the next three weeks some 24 km toward Djebel Abiod.
 Operation Ochsenkopf
 The main offensive, Ochsenkopf led to fierce fighting Kampfgruppe Lang attacking in the northern sector were held up by a small force of artillery and a battalion of the Hampshire Regiment for a whole day at Sidi Nsir and Hampshire Farm before they could be overcome. This delay was critical and as a result the British force was able to prepare a significant killing field at Hunts Gap (an area between Medjez and about 24 km north east of Béja. In the Southern attack Kampfgruppe Audorff made some progress west toward Medjez el Bab but a British ad hoc force, Y Division was able to repel the Southern attack, particularly after two Churchill tanks shot up an entire German transport column at a place called 'Steamroller' Farm. The final attack by Lang's battered force was stopped at Hunt's Gap by the 128th Infantry Brigade of the 46th Infantry Division with substantial artillery, RAF air cover and two squadrons of Churchill tanks from the North Irish Horse under command.
 Fighting lasted until 5 March and in terrible weather conditions the operation was called off by Arnim. The failure had cost the Axis grievous losses in infantry as well as tanks, particularly the loss of many of the heavy Tiger Tanks. Ochsenkopf was to be the last major Axis offensive by the 5th Panzer Army.  On 25 March, Alexander ordered a counter attack on the V Corps front and on 28 March, Anderson attacked with the 46th Infantry Division, with the 138th Infantry Brigade, 128th Infantry Brigade in reserve and reinforced by the 36th Infantry Brigade, 1st Parachute Brigade and French units including a tabor of specialist mountain Goumiers, the artillery of two divisions plus more from army resources. In four days, it succeeded in recapturing all lost ground and took 850 German and Italian prisoners. On 7 April, Anderson tasked the 78th Infantry Division with clearing the Béja Medjez road. Supported by artillery and close air support, they methodically advanced 16 km through difficult mountain terrain over the next ten days, clearing a front 16 km wide. The 4th Infantry Division joined the fighting, taking position on the left of the 78th Division and pushing toward Sidi Nsir.


27 January 2023   WFRA NEWSLETTER         Volume 14 Issue 04


19038063 Colour Sergeant Donald Wilfred Ward

It is with great sadness that we report the death of 19038063 Colour Sergeant Donald Wilfred Ward who died on Wednesday 25th January aged 95. Donald enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters in December 1946 and served with A Company in Malaya in 1958 where he was burnt on the back by a phosphorus grenade. Donald went on to serve with other companies with MMG's Support Platoon.  He holds the GSM clasp Malaya, UN Cyprus, LS & GC and Pingat Jasa medals. Donald served for 22 years and was discharged in 1969.  After leaving the army he went to work for the Gas Board.

FUNERAL DETAILS FOR  EDWARD ‘TED’ WARREN Ted’s funeral will take place on Friday 3 February at 09.50 hours at Brimington Crematorium , Chesterfield S43 1AU. 
All Association Members and Standards Bearers are invited to attend. 
This will be followed by the wake at the Victoria Pub, Knifesmith Gate, Chesterfield S40 1RL to which all are also invited.


The next edition of the Mercian Regimental Quarterly Newsletter is now available for viewing.
 Our newsletter covers recent events over a three month period, with a look ahead on what is coming up within the regiment; including the battalions, the museums & associations.
 The newsletter is hosted online, which means that you can view it on your smartphone or tablet while on-the-go. 
 We would like to extend a thank you to all who are involved with the MERCIAN regiment for your continued support.
Stand Firm, Strike Hard. Kind regards, RHQ Mercian


Members of Worcester Branch W.F.R.A. are invited to a surprise event to mark the 100th birthday of a local Polish Second World War hero Mr Edmund Szymczak, who serves at Monte Cassino, and the 8th British Brigade – it will be at the Worcester Guildhall, Sunday 29th January 1300-1500hrs. There will be a cake for 100 people, live music, champagne, etc. When a similar event was held last year for his 99th in the N Worcs LPA sent uniform representatives, and police cadets also attended. Other dignitaries, including the Mayor, MP and representatives from the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, Army Attaché, high profile officials plus other members of the local Polish community also attended.
Edmund is a great chap, and well deserving of appreciation.
Dress: Blazers. Berets, Medals.   Standards welcome if available


Barry Goodwin is trying to track down James (Jimmy) Owen who served in the Australian Army in the mid mid 1970's who was ex British Army in the early 70's and toured Northern Ireland. He said he served in the 1st Battalion. If anyone has contact details for him please let Barry know it will be very much appreciated.
Barry Goodwin WO1 Retired  Email Address: bazgoodwin@gmail.com


Scott Pomeroy is looking for any information or pictures of his grandfather Thomas J Pomeroy aka Johnny or nickname Tec.  He enlisted in 1953 at Norton Barracks.
I believe Tec went to Bulford Barracks in about 1955/56 not sure if he was stationed there or just drove the unit there. He also served in Germany.  As well as driving, he was also the batman to an officer.
Any information or pictures would be well received.
Scott can be contacted on scottypom89@gmail.com


Sherwood Foresters, WFR and Friends end of month get together on Friday 27th January 19.30hrs at the Nottingham Royal Naval Association Club, 22 Church St, Nottingham NG7 1SJ 
All are welcome to attend.

Long Eaton and West Notts Branch social evening on Wednesday 1st February at the Last Post PH in Beeston Square. 19.30 Hrs for 20.00 Hrs start . All are welcome to attend.

The Tunisian campaign was a series of battles that were part of the wider North African campaign from 17 November 1942 to 13 May 1943.
After the success of Operation Torch large quantities of supplies became available to the British from the United States and the supply situation of the Eighth Army was eventually resolved, with the Eighth Army no longer constrained they were able to drive the Axis forces westwards from Egypt. Allied plans Due to the closeness of Sicily to Tunisia, the Allies expected that the Axis would move to occupy the country as soon as they heard of the Torch landings. To forestall this, it would be necessary to occupy Tunisia as quickly as possible after the landings were made. However, there was a limit to how far east the Torch landings could be made because of the increasing proximity of Axis airfields in Sicily and Sardinia which at the end of October held 298 German and 574 Italian aircraft. Algiers was accordingly chosen for the most easterly landings. This would ensure the success of the initial landings in spite of uncertainty as to how the incumbent French forces would react. Once Algiers was secured, the Eastern Task Force, would be projected as quickly as possible into Tunisia in a race to occupy Tunis, some 800 km distant along poor roads in difficult terrain during the winter rainy season, before the Axis could re-establish themselves.
 However, planners had to assume the worst case regarding the extent of Vichy opposition at Algiers and the invasion convoys were assault loaded with large quantities of infantry to meet heavy ground opposition. This meant that at Algiers the disembarkation of mobile forces for an advance to Tunisia could potentially be delayed. Plans were thus a compromise and the Allies realised that an attempt to reach Bizerte and Tunis overland before the Axis could establish themselves represented a gamble which depended on the ability of the navy and air force to delay the Axis build-up. The Allies, although they had provided for the possibility of strong Vichy opposition to their landings both in terms of infantry and air force allocations, seriously underestimated the Axis appetite for and speed of intervention in Tunisia.
 Once operations had commenced and despite clear intelligence reports regarding the Axis reaction, the Allies were slow to respond and it was not until nearly two weeks after the landings that air and naval plans were made to intercept Axis sea transport to Tunis. At the end of November, naval Force K was reformed in Malta with three cruisers and four destroyers and Force Q formed in Bône with three cruisers and two destroyers. No Axis ships sailing to Tunis were sunk in November but the Allied naval forces had some success in early December sinking seven Axis transports. However, this came too late to affect the fighting on land because the armoured elements of 10th Panzer Division had already arrived. To counter the surface threat, Axis convoys were switched to daylight when they could be protected by air cover, simultaneously denying the Allies the advantage of using radar in night surface combat. Night convoys resumed on completion of the extension of Axis minefields which severely restricted the activities of Force K and Force Q.

Tunisia has its northern and much of its eastern boundary on the Mediterranean coast. Most of the inland western border with Algeria is astride the eastern line of the Atlas Mountains which run from the Atlantic coast of Morocco, 1,900 km east to Tunis. This portion of the border is easily defensible at the small number of passes through the two north south lines of the mountains. In the south a lower range of mountains limit the approaches to a narrow gap, facing Libya to the east, between the Matmata Hills and the coast. The French had earlier constructed a 20 km wide and 30 km deep series of defensive works known as the Mareth Line along the plain, to defend against an Italian invasion from Libya.
 Only in the north was the terrain favourable to attack, here the Atlas Mountains stopped near the eastern coast, leaving a large area on the north west coast unprotected. Defensive lines in the north could deal with approaching forces, while the Mareth Line made the south secure. In between, there were only a few easily defended passes through the Atlas Mountains. Tunisia has two big deep water ports at Tunis and Bizerte, only a few hundred miles from Italian supply bases in Sicily. Ships could deliver supplies at night, safe from RAF patrols and return the next night, while Libya was a full day trip, making supply operations vulnerable to daylight air attacks. In Hitler's view, Tunisia could be held indefinitely, upsetting Allied plans in Europe.
 Run for Tunis

Tunisia campaign operations 25 November to 10 December 1942
By 10 November, French opposition to the Torch landings had ceased, creating a military vacuum in Tunisia. The First Army Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson was immediately ordered to send the 36th Infantry Brigade Group, which had been the floating reserve for the Algiers landing, eastward by sea to occupy the Algerian ports of Bougie, Philippeville, and Bône and the airfield at Djedjelli, preliminary to advancing into Tunisia. The Combined Chiefs of Staff had decided that with the forces available, Torch would not include landings close to Tunisia. Anderson needed to get his limited force east quickly, before the Axis could reinforce Tunisia, but the Allies had only two brigade groups and some additional armour and artillery for the attack.
 The French governor in Tunisia, Admiral Esteva, was afraid to support the Allies or oppose the Axis. He did not close airfields to either side; the Germans moved first and by 9 November, there were reports of 40 German aircraft arriving at Tunis and by 10 November, aerial reconnaissance reported 100 aircraft. Two days later, an airlift began that carried over 15,000 men and 581 long tons of supplies and ships brought 176 tanks, 131 artillery pieces, 1,152 vehicles and 13,000 long tons of supplies. By the end of the month, three German divisions, including the 10th Panzer Division, and two Italian infantry divisions had arrived. Walther Nehring took command of the new XC Corps on 12 November and arrived on 17 November. The French military commander in Tunisia, General Barré, moved troops into the western mountains of Tunisia and formed a defensive line from Tebersouk through Majaz al Bab. There were two roads eastwards into Tunisia from Algeria. The Allied plan was to advance along the two roads and take Bizerte and Tunis. On 11 November, the British 36th Infantry Brigade had landed unopposed at Bougie but supply shortages delayed their arrival at Djedjelli until 13 November. Bône airfield was occupied following a parachute drop by British 3rd Parachute Battalion and this was followed by No. 6 Commando seizing the port on 12 November. Advanced guards of the 36th Infantry Brigade reached Tebarka on 15 November and Djebel Abiod on 18 November, where they met Axis forces. Further south, on 15 November, a US parachute battalion made an unopposed drop at Youks-les-Bains, capturing the airfield and advanced to take the airfield at Gafsa on 17 November.
 On 19 November Nehring demanded passage for his forces across the bridge at Medjez and was refused by Barré. The Germans attacked twice and were repulsed, but the French defensive success was costly, and lacking armour and artillery, the French had to withdraw. Some Vichy French forces, such as Barré's, joined the Allies. But the attitude of Vichy forces remained uncertain until on 22 November, when the "Darlan Deal" placed French North Africa on the Allied side. This allowed US and British forces that had been securing Algeria to go to the front. By this time, the Axis had deployed a corps in Tunisia and outnumbered the Allies there in almost all ways.
 Two Allied brigade groups advanced toward Djebel Abiod and Béja respectively. The Luftwaffe, happy to have local air superiority while Allied planes had to fly from relatively distant bases in Algeria, harassed them all the way. On 17 November the leading elements of the British 36th Brigade on the northern road met a mixed force of 17 tanks and 400 paratroops with self propelled guns at Djebel Abiod. The German paratroopers, with Luftwaffe and Italian fire support from the 1st Infantry Division "Superga", knocked out 11 tanks but their advance was halted while the fight at Djebel Abiod continued for nine days. On 22 November, tanks from the Italian 50th Brigade forced US paratroopers to abandon Gafsa. The two Allied columns concentrated at Djebel Abiod and Béja, preparing for an assault on 24 November. The 36th Brigade was to advance from Djebel Abiod toward Mateur and 11th Brigade was to move down the valley of the River Merjerda to take Majaz al Bab shown on Allied maps as Medjez el Bab or just 'Medjez' and then to Tebourba, Djedeida and Tunis. Blade Force, an armoured regimental group made up of 37mm gun M3 Stuart light tanks and 75mm M3 GMC self propelled anti tank guns, was to strike across country on minor roads in the gap between the two infantry brigades towards Sidi Nsir and make flanking attacks on Terbourba and Djedeida.
 The northern attack did not take place because torrential rain had slowed the build up. In the south 11th Brigade were halted by stiff resistance at Medjez. Blade Force passed through Sidi Nsir to reach the Chouigui Pass, north of Terbourba part of B Squadron Stuart's from Blade Force infiltrated behind Axis lines to the newly activated airbase at Djedeida in the afternoon and destroyed more than 20 Axis planes but lacking infantry support, withdrew to Chouigui. The understrength tank Squadrons and three M3 GMC French 75’s were to hold the pass. A mixed unit of Panzer III and Panzer IVs and a small Italian scouting Force, around 15 tanks all told. Frontal attacks by the GMCs and Stuarts were ineffective losing 12 tanks, but allowed a rear attack by B Squadron firing into the weaker rear armour of the German tanks. The German commander, believing he had encountered a much stronger force, retreated. Blade Force's attack caught Nehring by surprise and he decided to withdraw from Medjez and strengthen Djedeida, only 19 miles from Tunis. The 36th Brigade's delayed attack began on 26 November but they were ambushed with the leading battalion taking 149 casualties. Further attacks were driven back from cleverly planned interlocking defences. 1 Commando landed 14 miles west of Bizerte on 30 November to outflank the Jefna position, but failed and rejoined 36th Brigade by 3 December. The position remained in German hands until the last days of fighting in Tunisia the following spring.
 Early on 26 November, as the Germans withdrew, 11 Brigade were able to enter Medjez unopposed and by late in the day had taken positions in and around Tebourba, which had also been evacuated by the Germans, preparatory to advancing on Djedeida. However, on 27 November the Germans attacked in strength. 11th Brigade tried to regain the initiative in the early hours of 28 November, attacking toward Djedeida airfield with the help of US armour, but failed. On 29 November, Combat Command B of US 1st Armored Division had concentrated forward for an attack in conjunction with Blade Force planned for 2 December. They were forestalled by an Axis counter attack, led by Major-General Wolfgang Fischer, whose 10th Panzer Division had just arrived in Tunisia. By the evening of 2 December, Blade Force had been withdrawn, leaving 11th Brigade and Combat Command B to deal with the Axis attack. The attack threatened to cut off 11th Brigade and break through into the Allied rear, but desperate fighting over four days delayed the Axis advance and permitted a controlled withdrawal to the high ground on each side of the river west of Terbourba.
The Allied force initially withdrew roughly 9.7 km to the high positions of Longstop Hill, Djebel el Ahmera and Bou Aoukaz on each side of the river. Concern over the vulnerability to flanking attacks prompted a further withdrawal west. By the end of 10 December, Allied units held a defensive line just east of Medjez el Bab. Here, they started a build up for another attack and were ready by late December 1942. The slow build up had brought Allied force levels up to a total of 54,000 British, 73,800 American and 7,000 French troops. A hasty intelligence review showed about 125,000 combat and 70,000 service troops, mostly Italian, in front of them. The main attack began the afternoon of 22 December. Despite rain and insufficient air cover, progress was made up the lower ridges of the 270 m Longstop Hill that controlled the river corridor from Medjez to Tebourba and thence to Tunis. After three days of to and fro fighting, with ammunition running low and Axis forces now holding adjacent high ground, the Longstop position became untenable and the Allies were forced to withdraw to Medjez, and by 26 December 1942 the Allies had withdrawn to the line they had set out from two weeks earlier, having suffered 20,743 casualties.
 French political Situation
 While the battles wound down, factionalism among the French again erupted. On 24 December, François Darlan was assassinated and Henri Giraud succeeded him as High Commissioner. To the frustration of the Free French, the US government had displayed considerable willingness to make a deal with Darlan and the Vichyists. Consequently, Darlan's death appeared to present an opportunity to bring together the French in North Africa and Charles de Gaulle's Free French. De Gaulle and Giraud met in late January but little progress was made in reconciling their differences or the constituencies they represented. It was not until June 1943 that the French Committee of National Liberation was formed under the joint chairmanship of Giraud and de Gaulle. De Gaulle quickly eclipsed Giraud, who openly disliked political responsibility and more or less willingly from then on deferred to the Leader of the Free French.
 Changes in Command
 Nehring, considered by most to be an excellent commander, had continually infuriated his superiors with outspoken critiques. He was "replaced" when the command was renamed the 5th Panzer Army and Colonel General Hans Jürgen von Arnim arrived in Tunis unannounced on 8 December, to assume command. The Army consisted of the composite von Broich battlegroup in the Bizerte area, the 10th Panzer Division in the centre before Tunis and the 1st Infantry Division "Superga" on the southern flank, but Hitler had told Arnim that the army would grow to three mechanised and three motorised divisions. The Allies had tried to prevent the Axis build up with substantial air and sea forces but Tunis and Bizerte were only 190 km from the ports and airfields of western Sicily, 290 km from Palermo and 480 km from Naples, making it very difficult to intercept Axis transports which had the benefit of substantial air cover. From mid November 1942 to January 1943, 243,000 men and 856,000 tons of supplies and equipment arrived in Tunisia by sea and air.
 General Eisenhower transferred further units from Morocco and Algeria eastward into Tunisia. In the north, the British First Army, over the next three months, received three more British divisions, the 1st, 4th, and 46th Infantry Divisions, joining the 6th Armoured and 78th Infantry Divisions. By late March the British IX Corps HQ commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker had arrived to join the British V Corps commanded by Lieutenant General Charles Allfrey in commanding the expanded army. On their right flank, the basis of a two division French XIX Corps commanded by General Alphonse Juin was assembling.
 In the south was the US II Corps commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredendall, consisting of the 1st and 34th Infantry Divisions and the 1st Armored Division. Giraud refused to have the French XIX Corps under the command of the British First Army and so they, along with the US II Corps, remained under command of Allied Force Headquarters. New forward airfields were built to improve air support. The Americans also began bases in Algeria and Tunisia, to form a large forward base at Maknassy, on the eastern edge of the Atlas Mountains, well placed to cut off the Panzerarmee in the south from Tunis and the Fifth Panzer Army in the north.
 Kasserine Prelude
 During the first half of January, the allies had with mixed results kept constant pressure through limited attacks and reconnaissance in strength, however there was an obvious lack of Allied co ordination which led Eisenhower to change the command structure. On 21 January Anderson was made responsible for the co ordination of the whole front, and on 24 January his responsibilities were extended to include "the employment of American troops". That night, Juin accepted the command of Anderson, confirmed by Giraud the next day but with forces spread over a 320 km front and poor communication Anderson motored over 1,600 km in four days to speak to the corps commanders the practical difficulties remained.
 Erwin Rommel had made plans for forces retreating through Libya to dig in in front of the defunct French fortifications of the Mareth Line. The Axis forces would control the two natural entrances into Tunisia in the north and south, with only the easily defensible mountain passes between them. In January, those parts of the German Italian Panzer Army on the Mareth defences were renamed First Italian Army commanded by General Giovanni Messe, separate from the units he had facing the Western Dorsale. On 23 January 1943, the Eighth Army took Tripoli, by which point the army retreating through Libya was already well on its way to the Mareth position. Part of the II US Corps crossed into Tunisia through passes in the Atlas Mountains from Algeria, controlling the interior of the triangle formed by the mountains. Their position raised the possibility of a thrust eastwards towards Sfax on the coast, to cut off the First Italian Army at Mareth from Arnim's forces to the north around Tunis. Rommel could not allow this and formed a plan for a spoiling attack.

The following are available to support veterans and their families who may be experiencing mental health difficulties;

Forcesline Tel: 0800 731 4880 (between 9am and 5pm Monday-Friday)
Combat Stress (24 hours)
Veterans and their families; Tel: 0800 138 1619
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Samaritans (24 hours); Tel: 116 123

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