Two personal accounts of the 61st Anti-Tank Reg. at Wadi Akarit
Two personal accounts of the 61st Anti-Tank Regiment at Wadi Akarit (April 1943), reproduced here by kind permission of B. S. Barnes, author of "Operation Scipio - The 8th Army at the Battle of Wadi Akarit".
PTE. A. G. SHAW
61st ANTI TANK REGIMENT
"My chief memory of Wadi Akarit is being taken to the Akarit gap towed behind tanks, the powers that be thought it would be too dangerous to go into such a heavy cauldron of fire with our usual soft-skinned vehicles, so special hooks were welded onto the rear of each tank for our guns to be attached to which were six pounders at that time.
"The five man gun crew sat on top of the tanks with all their ammunition and equipment, all I could see was a long line of tanks towing guns behind them. I was on 84 gun, the last one in the regiment; we were loaded up and ready to move at first light and behind our tanks as far as the eye could see was a line of ambulances, I thought 'Christ!'
"Each man was issued with two 36 grenades with seven second fuses in case we had to fight our way off the tanks, which thank God we didn't. I always remember my apprehension at the time - wondering if the intense heat of the tank's engine under my backside would set the grenades off.
"Upon arriving in our fighting positions, the tanks remained protectively in front of us warding off the enemy small-arms-fire until we got dug in. The tanks then withdrew leaving us to get on with it. Jerry was putting down a hellish bombardment on us - and there was a lot of air-bursts - these exploded about 25 yards up in the air and rained shrapnel down on us - these were going like hell" .
SGT. R. T. MACDONALD
61st ANTI TANK REGIMENT
"At Wadi Akarit we were armed with six pounder anti tank guns which were towed forward by tanks under a hail of fire from Jerry. This was the first time I had seen Tiger tanks, but it was obvious that the enemy commanders did not want to risk losing them so they stood off about 1,500 yards and shelled us with their 88s - a nerve wracking experience even if you are not the immediate target. Another troop sergeant told me his Troop Commander asked him to engage the enemy, but he advised the officer that this would be unwise as the fire would be ineffective at such a range and it would reveal his positions to the enemy gunners making them sitting ducks; fortunately he concurred.
"The real answer to this - as we all knew - was to use the 3.7" anti-aircraft gun in an anti tank role; there were thousands of these weapons in service and it is comical to think that a 3.7" gun was developed as an anti tank weapon a fortnight before the war ended".