Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

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Duncan_M
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Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Duncan_M » 14 Feb 2022 18:21

Was it Anderson who made the decision to split his forces into three separate axes to advance into Tunisia, or did that order originate from Eisenhower? And what were the reasons for separating instead of massing them?

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Urmel
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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Urmel » 20 Feb 2022 10:55

Can you be more specific? What dates and axes are you talking about?
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Duncan_M » 22 Feb 2022 18:58

Urmel wrote:
20 Feb 2022 10:55
Can you be more specific? What dates and axes are you talking about?
Mid Nov-mid Dec 1942. After the Algiers landing, elements from the Eastern Task Force (under Anderson) raced eastwards into Tunisia to capture Tunis as the primary objective, as well as Bizerte to its NW.

But Anderson broke the advancing forces down into three separate axes of advance as shown in the map below:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... ec1942.jpg

I'm trying to figure out if the concept of operations for the advance was pushed by a micromanaging Ike and his AFH staff. Or did it come directly from Anderson and from his staff.

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Kingfish » 23 Feb 2022 00:04

Seems the terrain and available roads influenced that decision.
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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Duncan_M » 23 Feb 2022 01:23

Kingfish wrote:
23 Feb 2022 00:04
Seems the terrain and available roads influenced that decision.
Whose decision?

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by daveshoup2MD » 23 Feb 2022 05:00

Duncan_M wrote:
14 Feb 2022 18:21
Was it Anderson who made the decision to split his forces into three separate axes to advance into Tunisia, or did that order originate from Eisenhower? And what were the reasons for separating instead of massing them?
The Eastern Task Force (for the assault) amounted to two British Infantry brigade groups drawn from the 78th Infantry Division, and two US Army RCTs, one each drawn from the 9th and 34th divisions, under MG Ryder of the 34th Division as task force commander. Anderson's force for the drive east amounted to 2/3rd of the 78th Infantry Division, including a small armored/motorized force (two batallions+); realistically, given the terrain and minimal road and rail net, unless the French in Tunisia had resisted the Axis from Nov. 8 onwards, and in Bizerte and Tunis, odds were pretty long to get any meaningful forces into Tunisia at all, period.

The only way around would have been for a major landing farther east then Algiers, probably - and that would have required more resources than were available, historically.

Detailed map:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... NWA-VI.jpg

Detailed history:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... WA-15.html

The planning was Anderson's and Evelegh's:
When the Eastern Task Force, alternatively referred to as the British First Army, began its attack it consisted only of the 78th Division with elements of the 6th Armoured Division and miscellaneous other units attached, plus a line of communications. The British 5 Corps headquarters arrived in Algiers with the third fast convoy on 22 November but did not move up and assume its mission until after the first attack had been made. Anderson's army headquarters in Algiers, with a forward command post at Jemmapes, dealt directly with General Evelegh's division headquarters at Rhardimaou and on 22-23 November at Souk el Khemis. Principal subordinate elements of the 78th Division were the 36th Infantry Brigade, Blade Force, and 11th Infantry Brigade, commanded, respectively, by Brig. A. L. Kent-Lemon, Col. R. A. Hull, and Brig. E. E. E. Cass.39 On 23 November General Anderson directed General Evelegh to secure the line Mateur-Tebourba as soon as possible. Next day, the 78th Division issued a plan of attack setting the opening phase for that same night.

General Evelegh's plan was to move his forces eastward to the objective line in three widely separated columns, two of which would converge in the vicinity of Tebourba. These three columns were to consist of the British 36th Infantry Brigade Group on the left (north), Blade Force in the center, and the 11th Infantry Brigade Group on the right, each reinforced by American armored and artillery units. To seize Medjez el Bab and advance along the northwestern bank of the Medjerda river, he designated the 11th Infantry Brigade Group, protected at first by detached elements of Blade Force. The main body of Blade Force, including the 1st Battalion, U.S. 1st Armored Regiment of light tanks, was to thread its way through the mountains past Sidi Nsir into the valley of the upper Tine river and thence via Chouïgui pass in the eastern hills onto the plain northwest of Tebourba. During this advance it would block any hostile blow against the Allied northern flank, and might grasp an opportunity to seize Mateur, but it was expected to seize the bridges over the Medjerda river at El Bathan, south of Tebourba, and at Djedeïda, northeast of it. Subsequently, it would turn over defense of these bridges to the 11th Infantry Brigade Group.
Too small a force, and landed too far away, to manage an overland movement of 500 miles and an assault at the end of the road march.

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Duncan_M » 24 Feb 2022 20:32

daveshoup2MD wrote:
23 Feb 2022 05:00
The Eastern Task Force (for the assault) amounted to two British Infantry brigade groups drawn from the 78th Infantry Division, and two US Army RCTs, one each drawn from the 9th and 34th divisions, under MG Ryder of the 34th Division as task force commander. Anderson's force for the drive east amounted to 2/3rd of the 78th Infantry Division, including a small armored/motorized force (two batallions+); realistically, given the terrain and minimal road and rail net, unless the French in Tunisia had resisted the Axis from Nov. 8 onwards, and in Bizerte and Tunis, odds were pretty long to get any meaningful forces into Tunisia at all, period.

The only way around would have been for a major landing farther east then Algiers, probably - and that would have required more resources than were available, historically.

Detailed map:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... NWA-VI.jpg

Detailed history:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... WA-15.html

The planning was Anderson's and Evelegh's:
When the Eastern Task Force, alternatively referred to as the British First Army, began its attack it consisted only of the 78th Division with elements of the 6th Armoured Division and miscellaneous other units attached, plus a line of communications. The British 5 Corps headquarters arrived in Algiers with the third fast convoy on 22 November but did not move up and assume its mission until after the first attack had been made. Anderson's army headquarters in Algiers, with a forward command post at Jemmapes, dealt directly with General Evelegh's division headquarters at Rhardimaou and on 22-23 November at Souk el Khemis. Principal subordinate elements of the 78th Division were the 36th Infantry Brigade, Blade Force, and 11th Infantry Brigade, commanded, respectively, by Brig. A. L. Kent-Lemon, Col. R. A. Hull, and Brig. E. E. E. Cass.39 On 23 November General Anderson directed General Evelegh to secure the line Mateur-Tebourba as soon as possible. Next day, the 78th Division issued a plan of attack setting the opening phase for that same night.

General Evelegh's plan was to move his forces eastward to the objective line in three widely separated columns, two of which would converge in the vicinity of Tebourba. These three columns were to consist of the British 36th Infantry Brigade Group on the left (north), Blade Force in the center, and the 11th Infantry Brigade Group on the right, each reinforced by American armored and artillery units. To seize Medjez el Bab and advance along the northwestern bank of the Medjerda river, he designated the 11th Infantry Brigade Group, protected at first by detached elements of Blade Force. The main body of Blade Force, including the 1st Battalion, U.S. 1st Armored Regiment of light tanks, was to thread its way through the mountains past Sidi Nsir into the valley of the upper Tine river and thence via Chouïgui pass in the eastern hills onto the plain northwest of Tebourba. During this advance it would block any hostile blow against the Allied northern flank, and might grasp an opportunity to seize Mateur, but it was expected to seize the bridges over the Medjerda river at El Bathan, south of Tebourba, and at Djedeïda, northeast of it. Subsequently, it would turn over defense of these bridges to the 11th Infantry Brigade Group.
Too small a force, and landed too far away, to manage an overland movement of 500 miles and an assault at the end of the road march.
Thanks, that was exactly what I was looking for! :thumbsup:

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by daveshoup2MD » 25 Feb 2022 06:10

Duncan_M wrote:
24 Feb 2022 20:32
daveshoup2MD wrote:
23 Feb 2022 05:00
The Eastern Task Force (for the assault) amounted to two British Infantry brigade groups drawn from the 78th Infantry Division, and two US Army RCTs, one each drawn from the 9th and 34th divisions, under MG Ryder of the 34th Division as task force commander. Anderson's force for the drive east amounted to 2/3rd of the 78th Infantry Division, including a small armored/motorized force (two batallions+); realistically, given the terrain and minimal road and rail net, unless the French in Tunisia had resisted the Axis from Nov. 8 onwards, and in Bizerte and Tunis, odds were pretty long to get any meaningful forces into Tunisia at all, period.

The only way around would have been for a major landing farther east then Algiers, probably - and that would have required more resources than were available, historically.

Detailed map:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... NWA-VI.jpg

Detailed history:
https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/US ... WA-15.html

The planning was Anderson's and Evelegh's:
When the Eastern Task Force, alternatively referred to as the British First Army, began its attack it consisted only of the 78th Division with elements of the 6th Armoured Division and miscellaneous other units attached, plus a line of communications. The British 5 Corps headquarters arrived in Algiers with the third fast convoy on 22 November but did not move up and assume its mission until after the first attack had been made. Anderson's army headquarters in Algiers, with a forward command post at Jemmapes, dealt directly with General Evelegh's division headquarters at Rhardimaou and on 22-23 November at Souk el Khemis. Principal subordinate elements of the 78th Division were the 36th Infantry Brigade, Blade Force, and 11th Infantry Brigade, commanded, respectively, by Brig. A. L. Kent-Lemon, Col. R. A. Hull, and Brig. E. E. E. Cass.39 On 23 November General Anderson directed General Evelegh to secure the line Mateur-Tebourba as soon as possible. Next day, the 78th Division issued a plan of attack setting the opening phase for that same night.

General Evelegh's plan was to move his forces eastward to the objective line in three widely separated columns, two of which would converge in the vicinity of Tebourba. These three columns were to consist of the British 36th Infantry Brigade Group on the left (north), Blade Force in the center, and the 11th Infantry Brigade Group on the right, each reinforced by American armored and artillery units. To seize Medjez el Bab and advance along the northwestern bank of the Medjerda river, he designated the 11th Infantry Brigade Group, protected at first by detached elements of Blade Force. The main body of Blade Force, including the 1st Battalion, U.S. 1st Armored Regiment of light tanks, was to thread its way through the mountains past Sidi Nsir into the valley of the upper Tine river and thence via Chouïgui pass in the eastern hills onto the plain northwest of Tebourba. During this advance it would block any hostile blow against the Allied northern flank, and might grasp an opportunity to seize Mateur, but it was expected to seize the bridges over the Medjerda river at El Bathan, south of Tebourba, and at Djedeïda, northeast of it. Subsequently, it would turn over defense of these bridges to the 11th Infantry Brigade Group.
Too small a force, and landed too far away, to manage an overland movement of 500 miles and an assault at the end of the road march.
Thanks, that was exactly what I was looking for! :thumbsup:
Not a problem. The US official histories are well worth reading. Along with various at the Hyperwar website, the US Army MHC site is a great source.

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Re: Eastern Task Force/British First Army Run for Tunis

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 24 Mar 2022 18:46

I cant fault Eveleigh's decision for the three columns or advance axis. Its one of those things that might seem easy to second guess in hind sight, but in the moment is a tough call. Every time I game this out, or read up on it, I'm reminded the German commander on the spot Nehring became very pessimistic and recommended to Kesselring evacuation of the Axis force. Looking at the situation strictly from Nehrings PoV he was correct. Had the western TF or Eveleigh's force been as strong as Nerving thought he would have been correct. Unfortunately for the Allies Eveleigh lacked those few extra battalions needed to break the embryonic Axis army fighting for Bizarre & Tunis.

That the Axis have interior lines & easy communications within their coastal lodgment, vs the compartmented hills or mountains of the eastern Dorsal the Allies were approaching through, makes out tough to concentrate along any single approach. The Axis forces can shift faster across better and shorter roads.

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