Battle of Wadi Akarit
April 1943

The battle of Wadi Akarit took place in a narrow coastline strip between the sea and the coastal towns of Gabes and El Hamma. Between these was the Gabes gap. The Wadi Akarit ran across the gap at the coastal end and to the Roumana Ridge inland and to the west. This area was the objective for the 51st Highland Division.

5th Black Watch Briefing, Gabes, Apr 1943

5th Black Watch Briefing

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The Plan

The overall plan was for a three Division assault with 51st Highland Division on the right (assaulting the ground already described), 50th Division in the centre and the 4th Indian Division on the left. The 210th Guards Brigade was under command of 51st Highland Division holding the coastal gap to the east of 153 Brigade.

The Divisional attack required 153 Brigade (less 5th Black Watch as the Divisional Reserve) to move forward and establish a line about 2000 yards for the Wadi Akarit. 152 Brigade would move through on the left to assault the Roumana Ridge and 154 Brigade on the right would assault the Wadi. There were two heights of significance on the Roumana ridge, 198 in the centre and 112 on the right or northern end.

Lieutenant Colonel Lorne Campbell VC

Lieutenant Colonel Lorne Campbell VC

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In more detail, in 152 Brigade, the 5th Camerons on the left and 5th Seaforth on the right were to take the left end of the ridge and point 198. 2nd Seaforth would follow up behind 5th Seaforth and swing right to clear the ridge up to point 112. On the right, 154 Brigade would lead with 7th Argylls who would move through a minefield and attack an anti tank ditch and Wadi to form a bridgehead. 7th Black Watch would then pass through and turn west to clear along the Wadi up to the Roumana feature to link with the 2nd Seaforths.

The Action

On the right the minefield clearance and bridging of the anti-tank ditch went well and at 0515hrs the 7th Argylls advanced crossing the anti-tank ditch and secured their objective. They were immediately subject to counter attack but the Argyll's put up a great defence. It was on this occasion that their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Campbell, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In the 152 Brigade area on the left, 5th Camerons and 5th Seaforth attacked the Roumana feature.

Diagram of Battle of Wadi Akarit

Diagram of Battle of Wadi Akarit

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Point 112 & 198
Roumana Ridge

At 0545hrs the 5th Seaforth were secure on Point 112 and the 2nd Seaforth moved through and hooked right. The counter attack came an hour later and point 112 was lost and then retaken and lost again, at the same time 5th Seaforth could not take point 198 and were forced back. This left 7th Black Watch vulnerable to fire from the heights dominating the Wadi.

From his observation post General Wimberley was well able to assess the situation and ordered forward 5th Black Watch, the divisional reserve. They joined the battle for 198 and by last light it was firmly in the Highlander's hands although the defenders at point 112 obstinately held out blocking the way along the ridge.

While all this had been going on the 5th Camerons, on the divisional right on Roumana Ridge, had been very heavily engaged. 50th Division on their left and failed to make their objectives exposing the 51st Highland Division to a flank attack.

The Camerons had held their ground against heavy counter attack. Help came from 5th Black Watch when they moved forward to support 2nd and 5th Seaforth.

Towards dark the fighting died down and the Highlanders consolidated on their objectives. The next morning the enemy had withdrawn.