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Kilemall

What happened to 4RCA

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My squad is named after an historical regiment from North Africa (the idea was that we would be ready to go to a North African environment, and meantime RCAs historically came back to France to fight including WWII).

We could not find out what had happened historically, we knew the regiment had it's one big battle as part of the early going, got beat on, then paraded for De Gaulle and became the Free French armor training unit. That is, until now.

From the France 1940 forum-

From the France 1940 group- what happened at Medjez...

MEDJEZ-EL-BAB (18-20 November 1942)

Following the landing of the Allies in North Africa in November 1942,

German forces started landing at the aerodrome of Tunis-El Aouina. The

race for key terrain in Tunisia was on. One such piece of "key terrain"

was the bridge over the Medjerda River and road junction at

Medjez-el-Bab. The army that held this town, held the key to opening up

the way to Tunisia as Hannibal quoted. Both Allied and Axis commanders

dispatched their most mobile forces to secure the town -- paratroopers.

Oddly enough, it would be the French that would play a hand in the game

on the Allied side.

The 4^th RCA (Colonel Coulteux de Caumont) stationed in Tunis, consisted

of two Groups de Escadrons (1^st and 2^nd ) under the command of Majors

Klobukowski and Lambilly, 7^th Squadron of D1 tanks and the 21^st

Squadron of motorcyclist. The 3^rd Group de Escadrons (horse) was held

in garrison at Sousse. Orders from higher command specified the

motorized Chasseur squadrons (1^st Group and 6 D1 tanks) were to do

there utmost to delay the Axis without getting into direct fighting. The

2^nd Group de Squadrons (Lambilly), reinforced by 9 Char D1, two

anti-tank guns and a squadron of the 8^th Legion of the Mobile Guard,

received the mission to hold the crossroads at Medjez-el-Bab, located on

the Medjerda wadi (river) with a possible mission to regroup on the

slopes north of the djebel El Melah.

The majority of the town itself was located on the east bank of the

river. In order to hold the bridge, the town had to be held. This task

was left up to the Chasseurs. Allied forces stay west of the river.

The German 3^rd Battalion, 5^th Fallschirmjager Regiment tried to push

towards Beja, but had been slowed down by French outposts which parleyed

without fighting. To the west, the British 1^st Parachute Battalion (500

strong) airdropped into Tunisia and marched into Beja on 18 November.

Major Klobukowski's delaying group of armoured cars, motorcycle

chasseurs and tanks, were obliged to fall back under German pressure

towards the west that same day. That evening the British paratroopers

passed on a flying column of US forces from the 175^th Field Artillery,

34^th Infantry Division, and quickly followed behind with a small

detachment.

German General Nehring hoped to persuade the French to step aside and

sent an ultimatum to the French stating hostilities would open at 0700

hours on the 19^th if they did not. A German plane flying over the

general locality spotted Allied vehicles and was attacked by US

anti-aircraft fire. The German forces were ordered to prepare for an

attack.

The morning of the 19^th arrived and the French forces, backed by US

artillery, had not moved. After two hours of hopeful delay, fighting

erupted. French forces defending the town held firm for the rest of the

morning, however, Stuka dive-bomber attack every other hour were

breaking their hold. In time a retreat was called. Stukas attack the

remains of a French cavalry squadron galloping to get across the bridge,

effectively destroying it. The last rearguard elements of cavalryman

held out until the afternoon in the train station until ammunition ran

out. After more aerial bombardments, the Germans attacked the bridge

directly and established a bridgehead on the westside. Contained by the

Chasseurs, Legion Guards, and a few US troops, the Germans were pushed

back by a counter-attack of Char D1 tanks held in reserve. Further

attempts to cross were defeated by the French with support from a

British paratrooper detachment and US artillery.

The Germans, however, were not done. Reinforced by two Italian

companies, they sent numerous patrols of paratroopers across the river

to infiltrate the west bank. At 0100 hours in the morning the hidden

patrols attacked with satchel charges in coordination with a main

attack. The bridge was taken intact and a bridgehead formed on the

westside. With French forces nearly out of ammunition and the situation

looking bad, the British commander decided to withdraw the detachment of

paratroopers on the afternoon of the 20^th (the British commander was

under orders to preserve his force as much as possible for a future

push). The paratrooper commander, LTC Hill, informed the local senior

French commander that there would be no counterattack and of their plans

to withdraw. Colonel de Caumont decided then to evacuate the locality

and fall back. The remains of 2^nd GE dug-in on djebel El Melah on both

sides of the Wadi Zerga--Beja road. The Germans did not follow.

The Army of Africa, which had just taken up arms again the Axis forces,

delayed for a few days the German advance, allowing the arrival of

British reinforcements. On 22 November the French formally joined the

Allies, who would again occupy Medjez-el-Bab on the 25^th .

*4 RCA*

· 2^nd Group Mounted (GEM) (Major Lambilly)

2^nd and 4^th Squadrons of Horse Cavalry

· 7^th Squadron of Chars (two platoons (9 Char D1)).

· Squadron of the 8^th Guard Legion Recce motorcycle troops with

47mm A/T guns.

*Allied Forces*

· Elements of the 1^st Battalion British Paratroopers

· US 175^th Field Artillery Battalion (in support outside town)

· US A/T gun section (two 37mm)

· US Assault Cannon section (two self propelled 75mm howitzers)

*Axis Forces*

· German paratroopers: 3^rd Battalion 5^th Fallschirmjager Regiment

· Italian infantry battalion

· Various unidentified support units

· Stuka Air support

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I think the Chasseurs d'Afrique were not engaged in 1940, I am not exacty sure why, outdated equipment probably, but that saved those regiments and gave them a very important role eventually. While some at Vichy were trying to help Germany, others (Weygand comes to mind) were engaged in several more or less clandestine programs aimed at re-building a French military force. The Chasseurs d'Afrique, since they had not taken losses in combat, and had not been disbanded nor deprived of their equipment, managed to maintain some level of training in North Africa. As a result, and after massive deliveries of US equipment, they formed a good deal of France's armoured force in 1943-45. But previously they had been engaged in Tunisia.

Your narrative tells of this pivotal moment when troops still officially bound by terms of the Armistice with Germany, who only one week before had been ordered by Vichy to oppose US and British landings, went back to action against the Axis. Must have been quite confusing times.

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Your narrative tells of this pivotal moment when troops still officially bound by terms of the Armistice with Germany' date=' who only one week before had been ordered by Vichy to oppose US and British landings, went back to action against the Axis. Must have been quite confusing times.[/quote']

Quite so Pachy.

I've been trying to get the whole story for years now, even was going to write to SHAT if I had to, or the 4th Chasseurs at Gap (I understand they have the colors).

At one point 4RCA had their guns AT THE AIRFIELD at Bizerte ready to fire and stop the German airlift, but were waved off because of the confused political and command situation.

I have more questions- I had always heard that a D1 got a PzIII and I have a book with a picture of a burning PzIII ID'd as being at Medjez in the right timeframe, but I sure would like more tactical details.

Here is some more background about the 5th FJR and what happened afterwards.

Ha! More!

The battle after 4RCA is relieved (including the same 11th Brigade I believe as Bakalava).

http://www.flamesofwar.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=970

Hmmm, turns out there was a 5th FJ squad in game run by XoomXoom. Looks defunct to me.

Ooooh, more follow-up on Medjez and the 5th FJ (including the Bovington Tiger, I just knew we were nearby).

http://www.flamesofwar.com/Article.asp?ArticleID=989

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Ooooh' date=' more follow-up on Medjez and the 5th FJ (including the Bovington Tiger, I just knew we were nearby).[/quote']

You sure that's the bovy tiger?

The crew got out because the turret was jammed by a 6 or 2lb'er shell.

I know that's a famous piccy, and all that.

I could be wrong.

:-)

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According to Sledgehammer (a Ft. Leavenworth study republished as a popular military overview of Tiger operations) 501st permanently lost 11 Tigers in Tunisia, 3 to ATG fire, one to artillery, 7 to extensive minefields.

http://cgsc.cdmhost.com/cgi-bin/showfile.exe?CISOROOT=/p4013coll2&CISOPTR=304

So given that result, the Tiger pictured tipped over is not necessarily the Bovington Tiger.

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Babelfish translation-

BRIEF HISTORY OF

4E HUNTERS Of AFRICA

(by Lt-colonel(H) Henri Azema)

The 4E regiment of hunters of Africa is formed on December 23, 1839 in Bone by royal decree of August 31, 1839 with the 6E squadron of the 2E and 3E R.C.A. and of the detachments of various regiments of dragons and lancers. Until December 1841, it counts five French squadrons and an indigenous squadron of spahis.

Conquest of Algeria:

Whereas the three other R.C.A. are affected each one with the one of the three provinces of Algeria, the 4E does not have a province of assignment and passes from the one to the other following the needs; it is the "regiment traveller or Nomad". Constantinois in Morocco, it delivers many combat during the pacification of the territory: Miliana (1842), Tagin (1843), Isly (1844).

Countryside of the Crimea:

Affected with the army of the East it embarks with ARZEW and unloads in Gallipoli in June 1854; Fights in Thrace then with Varna and embarks for the Crimea, takes part in the load of Balaldava in October 1854 and in the siege of Sebastopol (1855).

Dissolved on April 5, 1856 in the Crimea the 4E regiment of hunters of Africa forms the regiment of hunters of the Imperial Guard.

It is recreated as 4E R.C.A. the 1erApril 1867 in Algeria with Mostaganem with six squadrons resulting from the three other R.C.A. from the 1er hussards and the 4E hunters, the regiment takes part in the columns of the Algerian South and the Moroccan borders.

The war of 1870 - 1871:

Embarked for France with 4 squadrons, the regiment unloads in Toulon. Affected in the army of the Rhine then to the army of Trawl-nets, it takes part with the division of hunters of Africa in the load of the plate of Floing the 1er September 1870.

The 5E and 6E squadrons, unloaded in France on December 29 form with two other squadrons of 2E R.C.A., 2E R.M.C.A. and join the army of the East.

Period 1871 - 1914:

Reconstituted in Mascara (Algeria) on October 15, 1870, 4ER.C.A. takes part in the columns of the Oranian South and the forwarding of Large Kabylie.

In July 1882 it stations in Tunisia; initially in Goulette then with Gabes and in the Tunisian South then little by little goes up towards North: Kef, Souk-el-Djena, Sousse, Mamnouba, finally in 1885 it is in Tunis.

From 1911 to 1912 the 2E squadron takes part in the forwarding of Morocco. In 1914, 4E R.C.A. stations in Tunis (three squadrons), Sousse (a squadron) and Bizerte (deposit).

War 1914 - 1918:

Mobilized at the beginning of August 1914, 4E R.C.A. leaves Tunis the 4 and embarks in Algiers on August 9. In France, directed on Doubs, 4e R.C.A is affected to 44E D.I., goes to Alsace (August 16-22), is folded up in the Vosges then in Lorraine. It fights in Artois (October) in Arras and in Flandres towards Amiens then in Belgium (November). Of return in Artois it occupies until September 1915 the sectors of Mount-Saint-Eloi, Berthonval.

With the army of the East:

Indicated for the army of the East 4E R.C.A embarks in Marseilles at the beginning of November and unloads in Salonique between the 13 and on November 23, 1915; it forms brigade with the 1er R.C.A. During this first stay it carries out operations on Strouma in August and Albania from October to December 1815.

A second stay takes it along to Macedonia (January at May 1917) then in Thessalie (June-July). A third stay from August at December 1917 and it will be the Hurdy-gurdy Crack in February August 1918. The fourth stay in Macedonia in September 1918 will give the opportunity to him to be distinguished at the time of the offensive towards the Danube. Catch of Uskub on September 29, 1918 then of Mitrovitza. Its squadrons cross Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary and arrive to Romania in November 1918.

Between two wars 1919-1939:

In January 1919 the squadrons of 4E R.C.A are in Bessarabia, in Ukraine (March February) with Odessa, in Turkey then in Bulgaria. Leaving some elements on the spot the remainder of the regiment returns to Tunis on September 12, 1919 and is reformed. It belongs to the 4E brigade of cavalry of Africa and passes then on the partially motorized type.

The second world war:

The regiment remains in Tunisia and joined the area of Medenine, Tataouine, Ben-Gardane then in July 1940 returns to Tunis.

The countryside of Tunisia:

With the arrival of the German troops in Tunisia 4E R.C.A takes again the combat; it ensures the defense of Bridge of Medjez el Bab November 19, and 20 1942 and takes part in the engagements in Djebel Mansour, El-Aroussa, (December 18), Siliana (January 20, 1943). In May it returns to Tunis and in Sousse it is then directed on Morocco to reorganize there.

Transformed into tank regiment in Casablanca it is affected to 3E D.B.; After the dissolution of this great unit, 4E R.C.A. comes in Meknes and becomes center of instruction of the armoured weapon of the army B the 1er September 1944.

The CIAB/1armedera leaves Meknes on November 10, embarks with Seas-el-Kebir for France where it will station in Besancon (November 27, 1944) then with Saverne of April 22 at November 15 goes back to its dissolution.

For the third time, the 4er R.C.A. is recreated in Tunisia the 1er April 1948. It holds garrison with SFAX, Gabes, Zarzis then Mareth.

In 1952 it is gathered with GABES and takes part in the operations of maintenance of law and order. From August 2, 1958 it embarks for Algeria and unloads in Bougie and fact movement on the area of Setif where its squadrons operate in the sectors of Hodna-Is of El-Keur and Kerrata.

The regiment is dissolved on January 31, 1959 and its squadrons are versed to the 4E, the 18E hunters with horse and the 29E Dragons.

The 1er April 1959 9E R.C.A. takes number 4; It occupies the sector of Batna and its squadrons are dispersed between Arris, Timgad, Foum-Toub, Laveran, Chemora. From April 1961 and until August 1962, it stations on the stopping in the sector of Medjerda. Folded up on Ain-Seymour, it embarks for France where it is dissolved on November 15, 1962.

Its standard and its traditions are preserved by the 4E hunters in garrison at Valbonne then at GAP.

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Where the Hell Are the Guns?: A Soldier's View of the Anxious Years, 1939-44

The Guns of Normandy: A Soldier's Eye View, France 1944

The Guns of Victory: A Soldier's Eye View, Belgium, Holland, and Germany, 1944-45

For those interested in what happened to the other 4RCA (The 4th Royal Canadian Artillery Reginemt), the above trilogy of books is an excellent source of information on that unit's involvement in the Second World War. Some people would say that there is no more accurate, more honest and more detailed book written about front line combat in any conflict at any time in history. This is because the author and central figure of the triliogy (it is autobiographical) was a report, and he kept his own diary diligently throught the war, as well as conducting extensive interviews both at the time and following the war.

The author himself had the distinction of being the Forward Observation Officer who survived the longest period of front line service in the Canadian Artillery (July to the war's end), and was awarded the Military medal for calling down an artillery barrage on his own position during the fighting in Holland in early 1945.

(End Thread hijack)

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