[ The Battle of Tunisia, 1942-1943. ] Autograph War Diary of Captain V. Duncan Jones, 6th Armoured Division, British Army, covering the entire period of the Tunisia Campaign. With two Autograph Letters Signed to military historian Barrie Pitt.

Captain Vincent Duncan Jones, 6th Armoured Division, British Army [ Tunisia Campaign [ Battle of Tunisia; Run for Tunis ] 1942-1943, in the Second World War North Africa Campaign ] [ Barrie Pitt ]
Publication details: 
War Diary ('Army Form C.2118.') from 14 November 1942 to 31 May 1943. The two letters 22 April and 7 July 1976. The first letter on Jones's letterhead, and from 89 Defoe House, Barbican, EC2 [ London]. The second letter with no place stated.
SKU: 17330

The present diary is of some significance, presenting a first-hand account by a British officer of the Anglo-American 'Run for Tunis' that followed Operation Torch - the invasion of French North Africa in November 1942. It marks Eisenhower's first campaign following his appointment as Commanding General, European Theater of Operations. Four years before the writing of the two letters present here Jones and Pitt had collaborated in the publication of Jones's book 'Operation Torch' (1972), which Pitt (1918-2006) edited for a series first published by the American firm Bannatine. Vincent Duncan Jones was on the operational staff of 6th Armoured Division during the Tunisian campaign and took part in Operation Torch, later serving with the Inniskilling Dragoon Guards in 7th Armoured Division in Belgium, Holland and Germany, and in the Armoured Corps section of Rhine Army HQ. He was subsequently on the directing staff at the Staff College, Camberley. The three items are all in good condition, with light signs of age and wear. DIARY: 173pp., landscape 8vo. In buff card folder with 'CURRENT WAR DIARY' in blue pencil on cover. 14 November 1942 to 31 May 1943. Each page on a printed 'Army Form C.2118', with heading 'WAR DIARY | or | INTELLIGENCE SUMMARY', and divided into five columns: 'Place', 'Date', 'Hour', 'Summary of Events and Information' and 'References to Appendices'. All in autograph, with corrections and deletions, except for three typed pages, covering February 1943, with each of those three pages signed by 'V. Duncan Jones Capt.' Clearly contemporaneous: from the beginning to January 1943 in ink, thereafter in pencil, and becoming increasingly untidy and hurried. The entries on the first page set the scene and give a feel of the tone: '14 Nov 42 | Convoy carrying part of 6 Armd Div, including Adv HQ, sailed from British Waters in the afternoon | 22 Nov 42 Convoy arrived ALGIERS without loss. Detachments of Div planned to land BÔNE | landed at ALGIERS with remainder of Convoy. Adv HQ opened L'Ecole des Jeunes Filles, Algiers | 24 Nov 42 Adv Div HQ moved to Polygone d'Artillerie near Maison Carree | 25 Nov 42 First Vehicles of Div HQ unloaded at Algiers. T.E.W.T. held at Div HQ.. by G.O.C. | 26 Nov Decided to send fwd Adv Party with G.O.C. to recce concentration area area [sic] SOUK EL ABAR. | 27 Nov 42 1600 Adv. Party, composed G.O.C., ADC, GSOI, AA & QMG, IO & two LOs left Polygone d'Artillerie. Remainder of Adv Div HQ placed under comd 2 ¼. | [27 Nov 42] 1900 Adv Party arrived area TABLAT. | 28 Nov 42 Adv Party reached SÉTIF. Unloading of 6 Armd Div vehicles at ALGIERS continued.' The entry for 11 January 1943 comes during a period of intense activity: '0600 Div CP est J 565 027 | 0900 Coy 10RB with one sqn 17/212 supported by Regt arty less one Bty attacked enemy on J6809. Inf went into attack on tks & got within 600 yds of posn without casualties. Tks went either side of hill & engaged enemy inf & mortar psns. Coy 10RB assaulted & reached posn with few casualties. Enemy inf posn and counter attack of estimated two oys engaged by our arty. | 1515 Sqn 2 Lothians with Coy & LIR attacked psns at J6117, 6617. Considerable opposition, inf & atk fire. Six of our tks bogged & two destroyed. Force unable to push on. Sqn Lothians withdrew 2LIR in posn WEST of rd J6518 but unable to reach frm EAST of rd. | 1600 6 Innisks took over posn held by 10RB across GOUBELLAT rd. | 1700 10RB withdrew through 6 Innisks from J6809 covered by tks. During night 2LIR withdrew from area J6518.' The entry for 19 February 1943 is particularly vivid: '10:00 Enemy tks led by a SHERMAN and closely followed by inf started to move North from SBEITLA. The first two tks with inf stopped at the first minefield in front of the MEFTAH ridge and lifted the mines. Our arty opened and the tks withdrew. Later about twenty five tks incl one Pz Kw VI adv through the gap in the first minefield and up to the main minefield, where they were heavily engaged by our arty but NOT by any A.Tk guns apart from one 2-pr which was manhandled into range by the Gds. At least 12 tks were knocked out incl one totally destroyed by 2-pr fire. Four tks of 16/5 L were knocked out when moving fwd to recce the ground by fire from the Pz Kw VI. By 1500 hrs the tk attack had been beaten off but about one bn inf had succeeded in taking up posns on the MEFTAH ridge and in front of 18 CT. | 1830 Sappers went fwd to blow up the knocked out tks. Seven were destroyed but the remainder were well within the enemy's posns. | During the day a message was sent by FIRST Army pointing out the condition of 16/5 L. | 2140 Orders received from FIRST Army that there would be no withdrawal from posns held. | 2310 O.O. No. 15 issued.' The first part of the entry for 4 May 1943 indicates that the end is in sight: 'During the night 9 Corps Operation Order No 12 for Operation "STRIKE" was received. The plan was based upon the conclusion that the enemy was ready for a Knockout blow & in his endeavours to evade it was withdrawing his right & the intention was "9 Corps will break through to TUNIS". The operation was to be divided into three phases (a) The first assembly of formations (b) the initial breakin by the inf divs. 9 Corps was to consist of 6 Armd Div, 7 Armd Div 4 Bv Div 4 Ind Div 21 Atk Bd less one bn 25 Atk Bd less one bn. | The objective of the Inf divs was to be MONTARNAUD, FRENDJ & the high ground to the NORTH J 75. | 5 Corps was to capture DJ BOUAKOUAZ 57145 & DJ SAHBI J9137 on 5 May. | The armd Divs were to pass through to FRENDJ POSN right 6 Armd Div LEFT 7 Armd Div with the MEDJEZ-TUNIS rd as the boundary between them to (a) seize the high ground NORTH & SOUTH of the rd at J 9543 & J 9354 (b) break through the perimeter defences of TUNIS. | 1430 G.O.C. 6 Armd Div outlined his plan for "STRIKE" at a conference attended by Brig Roberts comd 26 Armd Bd, Brig Forster comd 1 Armd Bd, Brig cmd 201 Armd Bd, Brig Lyon-Smith CRA, Lt-Col Pearson O.C. Sig, Lt Col Browing CRE, Lt Col Swetenham GSOI, Lt Col Seaver AA & QMG, GS02 & GS03'. A brief summary of the conference follows, and the entries for the next few days describe the advance towards Tunis. By the end of the diary all objectives have been gained. The entry for 13 May 1943 summarises the events of the previous days, and begins: 'Mopping up of prisoners & collection of captured material continued. | Messages of congratulation were received during the day and circulated to the div as follows | From General EISENHOWER to all the forces fighting in North Africa | From Gen ALEXANDER to 9 Corps | From HM the King to Gen EISENHOWER | In the course of the seven day operation 6 Armd Div fought over some 76 miles fighting all the way & incl one major attack covering over 24 hours at HAMMAM LIF, about which Maj gen Von BROICH, cmd 10 Pz Div, said "I was amazed at the break through of a complete armoured division through the defile of HAMMAM LIF. I did not think it was possible." A similar statement was later made by Gen von ARNIM, cmd 5 Pz Army. | As the operation developed the speed of adv & the disintegration of the enemy made any count of pw or enemy equipment & materials impossible. [...]' Both the letters are signed 'Vincent' and addressed to 'Dear Barrie'. FIRST LETTER: 22 April 1976. 2pp., 8vo. The letter gives a valuable summary of the order of battle in the aftermath of Operation Torch, beginning: 'In Tunisia originally we had five troops of three tanks to a squadron but this was modified to four troops of four which was more effective. One tank was taken from squadron headquarters to make up the number, having the HQ with three. Each armoured regiment had three such squadrons. RHQ had four tanks making a total of 61 tank per regiment.' SECOND LETTER: 7 July 1976. 2pp., 4to. Following on from the previous letter he begins: 'The orders of battle and establishments in my notebook are correct, but, of course, as was normal during much of the war formations and units rarely had what they were supposed to have. | For example, owing to the decision to load for opposed landings 6 Armd Div (and other formations) had indeed an armoured regimental group on the ground from the beginning (though with reduced transport) but it took, speaking from memory, something like eight or nine weeks for the division to be build up to full strength with all its services.' He continues with reference to 'air inferiority' ('My recollection is that the balance did not turn until late March.'), the 'inadequate tanks' of the British armoured regiments ('Don't believe those who decry the Churchill.'), staff tables and 'the A1 and A2 echelons in an armoured division' ('I had to command A1 echelon for a short time for my sins with 5 Dn in Germany.').