nb. This diary has been written in two parts, the first of which makes very little reference to the Battalion's activities on Operation Fustian. The second part covers this in more detail.
Durham Light Infantry
Month and year: July 1943
Commanding Officer : Lt. Col. E.C. Yeldham
1st July 1943
Bn. settling in new area (M.R. 481372 Sheet 5 1/50000).
2nd July 1943
Bn training continues. Receive Operation Order No.14 for Operation Husky Fustian from 1st Parachute Brigade.
3rd to 5th July 1943
Bn training. Material being prepared for briefing for the forthcoming operation.
Divisional ammunition dump blows up as a result of a heath fire. Bn turned out to scene of fire (½ mile from camp) in an endeavour to save the dump. The 2i/c of the Bn Major C.T. Smith sustained a serious head wound when the dump blew up. Major C.T. Smith admitted to hospital.
7th to 8th July 1943
9th July 1943
Coy Commanders briefed for Operation Husky Fustian. General Montgomery visits Battalion.
10th July 1943
Platoon and section Commanders briefed for Operation Fustian. Bn publish Operation Order No.1 for Operation Fustian. Lt. Col Young attached to Bn as 2 i/c. Captain Menzies leaves Battalion.
11th July 1943
Final preparations being completed.
12th July 1943
Bn goes to airfield to take off. Signal for operation not recd so return to camp.
13th July 1943
Take off on receipt of code word "Marston tonight".
14th July 1943
Lt. Colonel Young wounded and missing. Lt. Ellis M.C. wounded.
18th July 1943
At sea en route for Sousse. Lts Mortimer and Harrison attached to Battalion.
19th July 1943
Dock at Sousse and proceed to camp.
20th July 1943
Visited by Divisional Commander.
21st July 1943
Lt. Mortimer posted to 4th Bn.
22nd to 24th July 1943
25th July 1943
Lt. Dorrien-Smith posted to Battalion.
26th to 29th July 1943
30th July 1943
T/Major G.T. Dadson posted from Battalion to H.Q. Sousse area.
13th July 1943
1700 - Arrive at Aerodrome.
1800 - C.O. receives message to the effect that the operation is on.
1950 - Take off.
2210 - Plane fired on by our own flac ships somewhere between Malta and Sicily.
2250 - Ran into heavy flac, this time the enemy's.
2300 - Flac increases, plane appears to have been hit.
2305 - Red light - Green light - we float down into a world of searchlights, tracer bullets and burning corn stacks.
2315 - Unable to find baskets with wireless sets or containers with arms.
2320 - 3rd Bn. Para Regt. consists of C.O. and batman, R.S.M. and batman, Int. Sjt. and one Int. Pte.
2325 - Realise we are dropped on wrong D.Z. so establish position and start for Bn. H.Q.
2400 - Arrive at Bn. H.Q. and find a special who is waiting to direct gliders. No sign of remainder of Bn. C.O. and Int. Sjt. go off on recce to try and find Bn.
14th July 1943
0100 - Bn. contact 20 men of 1st Bn. and find 6 of the 3rd, 1st Bn men make their way towards bridge.
0130 - Follow track and arrive at N. end of bridge finding the 20 1st Bn. men previously contacted.
0245 - C.O. sends Lt. Lazenby and 7 men of Bn. to capture bridge. Int. Sjt. sent with them to contact Bde. H.Q. Bridge found to be deserted at N. end. Party cross bridge and find S. end unoccupied. Find a glider 100 yds S. of bridge, crew trying to get gun and jeep out of wreckage. Lt. Lazenby and men help glider crew, Int. Sjt. proceeds to Bde. H.Q. Bde. H.Q. not in appointed place.
0500 - I. Sjt. makes his way back to bridge and finds Brigadier Lathbury approaching it. Brigadier Lathbury gets wounded shortly afterwards in melêe with occupants of two German lorries that had got past N. end of bridge but were stopped at S. end. One Coy of 1st Bn. under Col. Pearson and 15 men of 3rd under Capt. Waddy arrive at bridge. On Pl. of A Coy. 3rd Bn. under Major Dennison arrive approx same time.
0530 - Col. Pearson takes charge and organises defences.
0600 - 3rd Bn. establish H.Q. in pillbox 50 yds north of bridge. Enemy shows no sign of life.
0700 - Italians waving white rags are coming out of the hiding places they bolted to when they saw us drop the previous night.
0900 - No contact with enemy but 2nd Bn. appear to be heavily engaged.
1000 - Bridge area straffed by M.E's.
1210 - Our posns both sides of river accurately shelled. Mostly air bursts exploding 20-30 feet above us.
1300 - Shelling stops and enemy puts in attack which we repulse. Strength of 3rd Bn. - 35 men, 5 Offrs.
1430 - Attack repulsed. No sign of relief. Prepare to meet inevitable second attack.
1500 - Shelling starts. Intense and accurate. Four lorry loads of infantry reinforce enemy.
1530 - Barrage continues. Enemy closing in on N. side of bridge. Are as close as we and their own shelling will allow them to get.
1600 - Shelling concentrated on bridge itself and S. bank of river. Enemy launches attack.
1630 - No sign of 8th Army. Enemy held but only just.
1700 - Shelling continues. Enemy pressing with renewed vigour and is increasing pressure on flanks continues. Enemy have an armoured car on the road N. of bridge firing a heavy M.G.
1800 - Enemy car held back mainly by the M.G. fire from our pillbox on S. end of bridge.
1830 - Enemy are crossing river 400 yds E of bridge. S.A. fire is also coming from our E. flank. We are expecting enemy to put in an assault within the next hour.
1900 - C.O. orders withdrawal to the 2nd Bn. positions. We withdraw under mortar and S.A. fire.
1950 - Arrive at 2nd Bn posns where we find remainder of Bn.
2000 - Help 2nd Bn. in defence of their posns.
2100 - Informed that 2nd Bn. are in touch with tanks of 8th Army and that Bn. of D.L.I. is on the way to relieve us.
2400 - Tanks and D.L.I. arrive.
15th July 1943
0800 - SP guns and tanks shell bridge area. D.L.I. then put in an attack upon bridge. Attack fails, D.L.I. suffering heavy casualties.
1200 - Artillery duels throughout the day. D.L.I. scheduled to put in another attack after dark.
2400 - Attack by D.L.I. in progress.
16th July 1943
0600 - Bridge taken.
0700 - 3rd Bn. moves from 2nd Bn. posns. and is taken by M.T. to Syracuse.
1400 - Embark on Tank Landing Ship.
2300 - Air raid on Syracuse harbour lasting on and off till first light.
17th July 1943
0500 - All clear signalled.
1400 - Set sail for Sousse via Malta.
2300 - Drop anchor at Malta.
18th July 1943
0800 - Set sail for Sousse.
19th July 1943
0700 - Dock at Sousse and proceed to camp by M.T.