By Ben Hilton · December 7, 2017
After their successful operations in Algeria, the Sixteenth Infantry Regiment was soon to be sorely tested in early 1943 when the Big Red One entered Tunisia to engage the German Afrika Korps as Montgomery’s Eighth Army pushed up from the south from Libya.
Tunisia was mud and mines…
On January 18, 1943, General Juergen Von Arnim, commander of the German Fifth Panzer Army, launched a ferocious assault on the French troops of XIX Corps just South of Pont Du Fahs. The lightly armed French forces did not stand a chance as they had no effective antitank capabilities to deal with the German armour, and were forced to pull back. Von Armin knew that it was crucial to halt any Allied attempts to reach the Tunisian coast and by the evening of January 18th, his forces had reached the crossroads at Sidi Said, creating a serious crisis for Eisenhower and the Allied high command. The following day, Eisenhower ordered British troops to the town of Rebaa Oulad Yaha to link up with French forces and block any further German attacks. Combat Command B (CCB) of the U.S. 1st Armoured Division was then ordered into the Ousseltia Valley to counter-attack alongside French units and drive the Germans back. On the 21st January, Lloyd Fredendall, commander of II Corps, ordered General Terry Allen to commit Combat Team 16 (CT 16), commanded by Colonel d’Alary Fechet, and the 7th Field Artillery Battalion to the Maktar region in Tunisia. Whilst CT 16 was moving into position, the British 36th Brigade responded to French cries for assistance and moved the 5th Buffs Battalion through Rebaa Oulad Yaha on the 21st of January and established a defence near Sidi Said which would serve to protect the left flank of CT 16’s Second Battalion, arriving the next day. On the 27th of January, the Second Battalion of the Sixteenth Infantry was attached to the 36th Brigade and was now under British command.