Two V.C.s in fierce Tunisian battles

A CMP truck and motorcycle of 11th Royal Horse Artillery (Honourable Artillery Company), 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, 22 April 1943.

A CMP truck and motorcycle of 11th Royal Horse Artillery (Honourable Artillery Company), 1st Armoured Division, Tunisia, 22 April 1943.

A Churchill tank in the Medjez-el-Bab area, 23-25 April 1943.

A Churchill tank in the Medjez-el-Bab area, 23-25 April 1943.

The final battles for the strategic high points surrounding the approach to Tunis now saw the fighting as intense as ever, with heavy casualties on both sides. Once again it was the personal determination of a few individuals that could make a difference to winning objectives that were crucial to the whole battle. Two men were recognised with the Victoria Cross for their extraordinary actions on this day:

Lieutenant Willward Alexander Sandys Clarke (86517), The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) (Egerton, nr. Bolton).

For most conspicuous gallantry in action at Guiriat El Atach on the 23rd April, 1943.

By dawn on that date, during the attack on the Guiriat El Atach feature, Lieutenant Clarke’s Battalion had been fully committed. ” B ” Company gained their objective but were counter-attacked and almost wiped out.

The sole remaining officer was Lieutenant Clarke, who, already wounded in the head, gathered a composite platoon together and volunteered to attack the position again. As the platoon closed on to the objective, it was met by heavy fire from a machine- gun post.

Lieutenant Clarke manoeuvred his platoon into position to give covering fire, and then tackled the post single-handed, killing or capturing the crew and knocking out the gun. Almost at once the platoon came under heavy fire from two more machine-gun posts.

Lieutenant Clarke again manoeuvred his platoon into position and went forward alone, killed the crews or compelled them to surrender, and put the guns out of action. This officer then led his platoon on to the objective and ordered it to consolidate.

During consolidation, the platoon came under fire from two sniper posts. Without hesitating, Lieutenant Clarke advanced single-handed to clear the opposition, but was killed outright within a few feet of the enemy.

This officer’s quick grasp of the situation and his brilliant leadership undoubtedly restored the situation, whilst his outstanding personal bravery and tenacious devotion to duty were an inspiration to his Company and were beyond praise.

Stretcher bearers of the East Surrey Regiment, with a Churchill tank of the North Irish Horse in the background, during the attack on Longstop Hill, 23 April 1943.

Stretcher bearers of the East Surrey Regiment, with a Churchill tank of the North Irish Horse in the background, during the attack on Longstop Hill, 23 April 1943.

Lieutenant (temporary Captain) (acting Major) John Thompson McKellar Anderson, D.S.O. (126502), The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s), (Bagshot, Surrey).

For conspicuous gallantry and outstanding devotion to duty during the attack on ” Longstop” Hill, Tunisia, on the 23rd April, 1943.

Over a period of five hours Major Anderson led the attack through intense enemy machine-gun and mortar fire. As leading Company Commander he led the assault on the Battalion’s first objective, in daylight, over a long expanse of open sloping hillside and most of the time without the effective cover of smoke. Enemy infantry opposition was most determined, and very heavy casualties were sustained, including all other rifle Company Com- manders, before even the first objective was reached.

On the first objective and still under continual enemy fire, Major Anderson re-organised the Battalion and rallied men whose Commanders, in most cases, had been either killed or wounded. The Commanding Officer having been killed, he took command of the Battalion and led the assault on the second objective.

During this assault he received a leg wound, but in spite of this he carried on and finally captured ” Longstop ” Hill with a total force of only four officers and less than forty other ranks.

Fire had been so intense during this stage of the attack that the remainder of the Battalion were pinned down and unable to advance until Major Anderson had successfully occupied the hill.

During the assault, he personally led attacks on at least three enemy machine-gun positions and in every case was the first man into the enemy pits; he also led a successful attack on an enemy mortar position of four mortars, defended by over thirty of the enemy.

Major Anderson’s force on the hill captured about 200 prisoners and killed many more during the attack.

It is largely due to this officer’s bravery and daring that ” Long- stop ” Hill was captured, and it was the inspiration of his example which encouraged leaderless men to continue the advance.

Priest 105mm self-propelled gun of 11th Royal Horse Artillery (Honourable Artillery Company), 1st Armoured Division, 22 April 1943.

Priest 105mm self-propelled gun of 11th Royal Horse Artillery (Honourable Artillery Company), 1st Armoured Division, 22 April 1943.

Sherman tanks advance past a knocked-out 88mm anti-tank gun, 23 April 1943.

Sherman tanks advance past a knocked-out 88mm anti-tank gun, 23 April 1943.

See The London Gazette 29th June 1943

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