Eisenhower takes salute in Tunis victory parade

The Axis retreat and the Tunisian campaign 1942 - 1943: Scots Guards march past during the Victory Parade in Tunis.

The Axis retreat and the Tunisian campaign 1942 – 1943: Scots Guards march past during the Victory Parade in Tunis.

In North Africa there was time for some brief celebrations even as the preparations for the invasion of Sicily got under way. Amongst those taking part was ‘ABC’ – Andrew Browne Cunningham – the Allied Commander Naval Forces Mediterranean:

It had been decided to hold a Victory March at Tunis in which units of the First Army, with representative detachments of the American and French forces which had taken part in the recent victory, should all appear.

This took place on May 20th, with the troops marching past, bands playing and General Eisenhower taking the salute. Most of the Allied Commanders were with him — Alexander, Tedder, General Juin, various other French Generals, and myself. Mr. Harold Macmillan and Mr. Murphy were also on the saluting platform.

It was an impressive display, and I was greatly struck by the fine appearance of the men of the British First Army. They were in wonderful fettle— – magnificent young men, fit, smart and in great spirits: toughened by their hard fighting and trying winter in the cold and mud. I remarked to Mr. Macmillan who was standing beside me that the very sight of them made one proud to be British.

The Americans and French also looked grand, the French particularly so in their many different uniforms – the Foreign Legion; Chasseurs d’Afrique ; Tirailleurs; Zouaves; the Goums in their long, camel-hair robes and slapping sandals. The parade had been timed to last an hour and a half. Actually it took twice as long as the French had crowded in many more units than their proper allowance. They naturally wished to impress the Tunisian inhabitants, particularly the Arabs.

We all went to lunch with General Juin and afterwards rather unexpectedly, were taken off to call on the new Bey of Tunis, who presented Eisenhower and the rest of us with the highest Tunisian Order, that of Nichan Iftikhar, the ‘Order of Glory’. The diplomats, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Macmillan, set out for the palace, but diplomatically lost their way, so did not appear for the investiture.

The Sultan of Morocco must have become aware that the Bey of Tunis had decorated the Allied Commanders, for he decided to do the same. General Nogués, the French Resident-General in Morocco was deputed to carry out the investitures, and he arrived at Algiers to do so.

The Order with which we were presented was that called ‘Ouissam Alaouite’, a gorgeous- looking decoration with a bright orange ribbon. Eisenhower was invested with the sash and star. Another sash and a star were placed upon me, after which the supply ran short. So mine were removed and hung upon Tedder, finally coming to rest upon Bedell Smith, the American Chief of Staff. My insignia reached me later.

See Viscount Cunningham: A Sailor’s Odyssey, London, 1951

25-pdr guns and 'Quad' artillery tractors parade through Tunis, 20 May 1943

25-pdr guns and ‘Quad’ artillery tractors parade through Tunis, 20 May 1943

Contemporary newsreel of the last stages of the campaign with combat footage of British and American troops:

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