El Hadjeba

El Hadjeba is a battle honour of The Parachute Regiment and took place in North Africa in February 1943, during Operation Torch. It is also known as the Battle of Argoub.

By February 1943 the three battalions of the 1st Parachute Brigade were occupying defensive positions south of Bou Arada and west of Djebel Mansour, in an area nicknamed as 'Happy Valley' by the troops.

The 1st Parachute Battalion, being more limited in numbers following its losses at Djebel Mansour earlier in the month, had deployed R Company in defensive positions at Argoub with T Coy allocated as the brigade’s mobile reserve at Toutla.

2nd Para Bn manned a three-mile front from Krammasia to Argoub. It was supported by French anti-tank artillery, two squadrons of Spahis cavalry and two dismounted squadrons of Chasseurs d’ Afrique.

3rd Para Bn, which was numerically the strongest of the three battalions, occupied three points on the Tagoubet El Araan feature (numbered 375, 414 and 466.) However the channels of scrub covered wadis (dried up river beds) and wooded countryside near to the Para's defensive positions provided significant opportunities for enemy infiltration.

On 26 February the brigade was subject to a major enemy attack comprising German, Italian and Austrian troops.

Part of the infantry attack was launched against B and C Coys of 2nd Para Bn. Some of its forward observation post and easterly platoon positions held by B Coy were over run. However, the attack was repulsed by the other battalion positions. The various attacks during the course of the day all failed, with the assistance of the French Spahis who protected the left flank. These attacks resulted in a high casualty count for the attacking force while the 2nd Para Bn suffered only one killed and two injured.

Around 19:00 hrs that evening 2nd Para Bn sent out a two platoon fighting patrol, led by Captain Ronnie Stark, which made further contact with enemy forces. The patrol took 52 prisoners.

1st Para Bn’s R Coy remained in its defensive positions during the assault. Although it was not attacked by infantry, it was heavily shelled resulting in one fatality.

The main brunt of the attack fell on the 3rd Para Bn and the positions of A and B Coys. Subsequent interrogation of captured soldiers revealed the assault was carried out by four German battalions.

Initially, a B Coy platoon position on Point 375 was over run. A Troop from 1st Para Sqn Royal Engineers was sent to assist 3rd Para Bn and re-took the feature with a successful counter attack.

One platoon of the mobile reserve company (from T Coy 1st Para Bn) reinforced the 3rd Bn’s A Coy, while a second platoon supported B Coy.

After fierce fighting A and B Coys drove off the enemy, who retired to the network of wadis to re-group.

The enemy made several further attempts to assault 3rd Para Bn’s positions but was beaten off each time.Further enemy losses were sustained by accurate use of mortars and machine guns.

The mobile reserve was bolstered by the arrival of S Coy, from 1st Para Bn, around lunchtime personally led by the 1st Bn’s Commanding Officer, Lt Col Pearson.

A counter attack was launched to sweep the surrounding area, and yielded a large number of prisoners. Accounts vary on the number taken. War Diary records indicate that over 200 Axis prisoners were captured, although photographic evidence suggests this figure could be much larger.

24 men from the 1st Parachute Brigade were killed in the battle, mostly from 3rd Para Bn, along with four men from the 1st Parachute Squadron RE.

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