Monday 27 February 2023

Sedjenane, 80 Years On and Book Progress Update

I just thought I would put on record that today marks the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Sedjenane, in which the 16th Durham Light Infantry suffered huge casualties between 27/2/43 and 4/3/43. There's a wealth of material on my web site relating to the Battle, see previous posts for links to some of the most salient pages and photographs. With the Battalion's Commanding Officer, Lt Col Richard Ware MC and his five Company commanders away on a recce to what would have been the Battalion's new frontline positions when the crisis emerged, the unit was led into action on the morning of the 27/2/43 by the Second in Commands, Major David Bannerman, 2 i/c of the Battalion and the 2 i/cs of the four rifle companies. It was a disastrous start: Captain Denis Stark, commanding the leading Company, 'A' was killed as the very start of the advance, as was his CSM, John Plemper. Capt Derek Clarke, leading the second forward company, 'D' was seriously wounded and his CSM, George Broadhead, was killed. So today I particularly salute their courage in leading their men into what soon turned out to be another veritable 'Valley of Death.'....... I'm still working flat out on the book project, but there's still a huge amount of interview material to transcribe and information to collate, so I would describe the project's current status as just over half way there.... I'm not getting any younger, so the important thing now above all is to get all of this priceless material out of the cardboard boxes and off the ageing cassette tapes and into the public domain before my inevitable demise--when otherwise it will all end up discarded in a skip.... Obviously the IWM interviews I undertook are safely out there to listen to online, but my long, more informal, telephone interviews with Les Bernard, C Coy, Duggie Wakefield, HQ Company, Laurence Buck, 46th Division Signals, awarded the MM and wounded during the Battle and several others, still need to be transcribed. Also I have a huge collection of wartime letters between Sgt Charles Bray, ex D Coy and his Mother, which I scanned from originals loaned by him many years ago. These letters will provide the spine of the narrative in the chapters covering the 16th DLI in Home Forces between 1940 and the end of 1942. I've now got a definitive 1940-1947 casualty listing for the Battalion, including wounded and POWs, or as near to definitive casualty listing as we can hope for after all this time. Also I now have full transcripts of two of my longest IWM interviews, with Sgt Joe Drake MM, who was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the Battle, and Sgt John Lewindon MM, who was with the 16th DLI from the start in 1940 was awarded his MM for his actions at Salerno in September 1943. So, the project continues.........So all that's left for me now is to make the usual plea for the missing 1942 group photographs of 'A' Company, 'C' Company and the various platoons of HQ Company. They ARE still out there somewhere and someone must have them.... The quest continues!

Thursday 3 March 2022

And Finally, My Sedjenane Battle Book Project.

I've just done a general clean up on the website, deleting dead links and tidying up pages. Still a way to go, but it should work and look a bit better now than it did before. I'd forgotten what a big site it is now: the site's search engine is the best way into it. There's probably still quite a few broken and rogue links, but a lost less than before. The software is now so old now (Serif Web 6, copyright year 2000!) that it's becoming very unstable, however I will still be adding the odd item and updating photo captions as appropriate. Next year, February 27th-4th March 2023, will be the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Sedjenane in Tunisia, in which 16 DLI suffered extremely heavy casualties. I'm finally getting around to writing what I hope will be the definitive history of the Battle and have a lot of additional original research and eyewitness testimony which is not on the website. I've got the 'untold story' and the structure of the book, firmly mapped out now in my head, but if there's anyone out there who thinks they can add to it with photographs, documents and the rest, please get in touch. This will be your last chance to contribute to the real story of one of the most costly, most mis-reported--and least understood--battles in the entire history of the Durham Light Infantry. Whether this book is self-published, published by a reputable publisher or simply handed over as a completed project to the relevant museums will be decided in due course. The imperatives of commercial publishing generally result in hastily written and/or sensationalised rubbish, so I will see what I've got when I've got it and decide on the matter then. I hope to have a complete manuscript/narrative by the end of the year. Writing the book also means finally getting around to transcribing the several telephone interviews I undertook with various 16th DLI, No 1 Commando and 2/5th Sherwood Forester veterans in the late 1990s. These were in addition to those undertaken by yours truly for the IWM in 1999-2004 and tended to be more informal. I also interviewed over the phone several veterans who were not interviewed by the IWM, and with the passage of time and WW2 now passing out of living memory, these interviews are even more important now than previously. I aim to have these tape interviews copied as MP3s and passed on to the IWM as part of the project in due course. Which brings me to my usual plea: the 1942 Company photographs of A Company, 16 DLI, C Company 16 DLI, and the various platoons of HQ Company 16 DLI, bar the Mortar Platoon, which is on the site here: are still lost to history. No museum or archive has them, yet they must still be out there somewhere. I've done my best to caption the photographs I do have, for instance see the B Company 16 DLI photograph here: These missing photographs, and the officers and men featured on them, deserve to see the light of day again after 80 years. The quest to find them continues!

Sunday 10 March 2019

Pte B Di Duca, 16 DLI

I've now added some fascinating and very rare documents to the site relating to the Army career of  L/Cpl Bragia 'Ben' Di Duca, from Hartlepool, Co Durham. 

Ben enlisted in 16 DLI on its formation in July 1940, with the Army number 4466417. He later served in Italy as an Army interpreter with both the 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade and the Special Investigation Branch.

The documents posted include: passes for both these organizations, a 1942 markmanship score card for B Di Duca while serving in 17 Pln, 16 DLI, a 1941 16 DLI Christmas Card, a guard roster listing several D Coy soldiers, several pages from his AB64 Paybook, the reference from his 1945 Soldier's Release Book, his Record of Service Card and a detailed ammunition cargo listing for a lorry from Di Duca's time as a driver with 16 DLI.

These pages start here.

It seems Di Duca served in D Company after training so he very well could feature on the 1942 D Company, 16 DLI photograph, which is posted on the site here

If you can spot him, or know anything more about him, please get in touch.

Sunday 10 February 2019

Change to my 16 DLI Website Address

The old address for my 16 DLI 1940-1946 site is suddenly defunct, so from now on the address of the main page will be:

Content should mainly be as before.

However, the site was first published way back in 2004 and I'm still using the same ancient software, so there will be quite a few dead links and errors while I rebuild some of the bits that went missing in re-uploading the pages.

Use the site's Freefind search engine to find anything you're looking for that comes up as a dead link.

Monday 21 August 2017

Pte J B Hindmarch, 4464321, 16 DLI POW Group Photograph

Pte J B Hindmarch, 4464321, was wounded and taken POW at Sedjenane, Tunisia in late February-early March 1943 and was subsequently a POW in Italy, at Hospital camp PG 206 and in Germany, where he was assigned the POW number 6151.

Stalag 18A was one of the camps he was held at in 1943-43. This page of the site has a 1945 group photograph of him and several of his fellow POWs:

It's noteworthy that in the official British POW listings, Pte Hindmarch's surname is often mis-spelled as 'Hindmarsh'

As ever, there's plenty of hidden history in this photograph. Any and all further details welcome.

'New' Name Added to 1940 16 DLI Recruits Photograph

Pte J R Richardson, 4465653, is notable as the first fatal combat casualty suffered by the 16 DLI--he was killed in an air raid while on leave in South Shields in April 1941. He has now been identified by a close relative on the 1940 16 DLI Recruits photograph here:

Also new to the site is a photograph of his grave:

'New' Name Added to 1942 D Coy Photograph

One of the main reasons I put this web site together was in a bid to unlock some of the secrets of the several 1942 group photographs of the Battalion which were taken in 1942 before the unit went abroad.

Five of these are currently on the site: the Officers; the Sergeants; B Coy; D Coy; and the Mortar Platoon, with work-in-progress captions built up for all of these with information supplied by the 16 DLI veterans I interviewed in the late 1990s and early 2000s (sadly all now deceased) and various relatives of 16th DLI soldiers who have been in touch since the web site was first published in 2004.

To all those who have helped with this so far, many thanks.

As I've remarked in several other places on the site and on this blog, the 1942 photographs of 'A' Coy, 'C' Coy and all the platoons of HQ Coy bar the Mortar Platoon, are still lost to DLI history. Where are they?

Also, of the group photographs taken while the unit was in the Middle East in early 1944, only the photographs of HQ Coy, C Coy and the Signal Platoon, which are on the site, seem to have survived. Where are the others?

If you have any of these, let me know!

The World War Two era is now passing into beyond living memory, but it is possible even now for identities to be fixed by close relatives. This is the latest example:

Pte Clement Ross Ackroyd, 4470369, from Oldham, who was reported wounded and missing at Sedjenane, Tunisia 27/2/43 and who became a POW in Italy and Germany in 1943-45, has now now been placed by a relative on the 1942 D Coy photograph here: