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  • Writer's picturePaul Press

Part 5: Operation Torch (North Africa)

Albert sailed from Greenock in Scotland to Algeria on a converted cruise liner with the rest of the 2nd Battalion in November 1942, as part of Operation Torch. His letter from the boat suggests that he was still with ‘HQ’ Company at that time and, while onboard, he enjoyed the food and cheap cigarettes – keeping himself fit by participating in a boxing tournament. He disembarked on 13th November and spent some time at Maison Carée, in Algiers. By then, he was already wearing his parachute wings on his right shoulder, his golden lanyard on his left shoulder, and an Army Air Corps cap badge on his beret – all signs of a Parachutist. Had he still been a Cook at this stage, he would have retained his Army Catering Corps cap badge.

Albert’s testimony states that he then entered Tunisia by parachute. The only opportunity for him to have done so is if he had dropped into Oudna by Douglas C-47 (Dakota), on 29th November 1942, taking part in the Battle of Depienne until 3rd December 1942. Thereafter, Albert would have fought as infantry throughout Tunisia, alongside the 1st Army, until the Battalion was withdrawn to Boufarik, in April 1943, to prepare for the Sicily invasion. Unable to send letters from the Tunisian battlefields, Albert sent at least two Field Service Postcards home – one at the onset of the Battle of Argoub, and one during the first Battle of Tamera. Albert retained his map from the two Battles of Tamera, which remained folded in such a way that the locations of the battles were still prominently visible. These sections are stained in deep red dust, in an otherwise immaculately preserved map. Thus, Albert clearly saw active service in Tunisia and, immediately prior to this, was photographed wearing the uniform of a Qualified Parachutist, which supports his testimony of parachuting into Oudna.

Heavy casualties during the Tunisia campaign (80%, according to Frost, who had been the Commanding Officer of the Battalion since they departed for North Africa) necessitated a number of reorganisations. At some stage, Albert transferred from ‘HQ’ Company to ‘A’ Company, which may have been when the Battalion was reformed in March 1943 into only two Companies, ‘A’ and ’B’.

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