Fighting to the last man at Sidi Nsir
26th February 1943: British gunners from the 155th Battery alongside the Hampshire Regiment make a famous stand against a fresh German assault
In aftermath of the battles at the Kasserine Pass, General von Arnim launched Operation OCHSENKOPF (Ox Head) - a three-pronged assault on British lines in Tunisia. One of these attacks was made by ‘Kampfgruppe Lang’ - a battle group of panzers, including a number of Tigers. Supported by the Luftwaffe, they sought to break through to ‘Hunt’s Gap’, the only route through the mountainous terrain accessible to tanks.
Standing in their way was the remote outpost of Sidi Nsir railway station, twelve miles in front of Hunts Gap. Here the 155th Battery of the 172nd Field Regiment RA, alongside the infantry of the 5th Battalion Hampshire Regiment, was to make an epic stand.
F Troop engaged them, No 1 gun over open sights. Three tanks were hit and the road was blocked very conveniently just where it passed through a protective minefield. No 1 gun remained in action in spite of mortar and machine-gun fire.
On the 26th February 1943, the Germans attacked this position intending to break through the British lines - in what could have been a major reverse for the Allies in Tunisia.
The nine officers and one hundred and twenty-one men of the 155th battery were to bear the brunt of the action, only nine of them would not be killed, wounded or captured. Brigadier Graham1, commanding 172nd Field Regiment RA, left this account:
That night an abnormal number of green and white Very lights were seen, and by dawn the mountains and valleys all around were alive with the movement of troops, guns, tanks and infantry columns.
Soon after 6 a.m. on February 26th F Troop came under fire from mortars behind Chechak Ridge and replied with artillery fire. From this moment until dark, F Troop and to a lesser degree E Troop and the command posts, cooks’ shelters, etc, were under increasingly heavy mortar fire. At 7 a.m. enemy tanks attempted a direct assault down the main road from Mateur.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to World War II Today to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.