US and British infantry in heroic attacks
9th April 1943: Strongly held Tunisian hilltop positions are taken with much valor - with Medal of Honor for one soldier
In Austria Hitler and Mussolini were meeting to decide that Tunisia was to be ‘held at all costs’. In Tunisia the natural defensive positions surrounding the mountain passes gave the German and Italian forces some advantage even as they fell back, increasingly short of ammunition, fuel and other supplies.
One of these critical passes lay at Fondouk. The tanks of the British 6th Armoured Division were ordered to ‘breakthrough at all cost’ on 9th April. The hills overlooking the pass had to be taken by the infantry. Sometimes it was possible to soften up the German positions with artillery barrages, occasionally it was possible to get some tanks onto the hills to support the infantry. Often the ‘PBI’ were left to make uphill assaults on the own
British intelligence was also faulty. It was mistakenly believed that the critical position of Djebel Rhorab was lightly held or not held at all. In fact, the Germans were well established in some strength. An attack by the 3rd Battalion Welsh Guards saw all four companies pinned down with most officers and NCOs dead or wounded. They were roused for a final attack by the Adjutant, Captain G.D Rhys-Williams who led the final successful assault. “Keep your distance, not too fast. Come on boys we can do it”.
Rhys-Williams was found kneeling to reload his rifle on the top of the feature. He had been shot through the head in the final moments of the battle