Soudia, also known as the Battle of Gue Hill, was an engagement which took place on 24 November 1942 in the neighbourhood of Djebel es Soudid during Operation Torch in Tunisia between the British 1st Parachute Battalion and Italian and German forces. It is a regimental battle honour.
The 1st Parachute Battalion was deployed as part of 1st Parachute Brigade on Operation Torch from November 1942 until April 1943. The defeat of Axis forces in North Africa cleared the way for an Allied advance into Sicily and Italy later in 1943.
1st Para Bn, commanded by Lt Col James Hill, supported by Senegalese troops moved to attack a force of Italian and German soldiers at a tank harbour at the base of Gue Hill. The attack also involved a detachment of Sappers from the 1st Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers, who were tasked to mine the road east to prevent enemy withdrawal or reinforcement.
The element of surprise was lost after Hawkins Mines carried by the Sappers detonated fifteen minutes before the start time for the operation. As a result of the explosion it appears that some of the enemy forces may have vacated the area leaving around 70 troops guarding the tank harbour with well prepared machine gun emplacements on the summits.
After concentrated mortar fire on the enemy positions the assault groups went in ferociously. Lt Stan Wandless' platoon attack came under heavy fire during the assault but succeeded in clearing one of the enemy positions, killing or wounding all its defenders. His gallantry was later recognised with a Military Cross.
Lt Col Hill approached an Italian tank and fired through the visor slit, at which point the crew surrendered. At the next tank he banged on the side with his stick and again the Italian crew surrendered. Unfortunately the third tank was crewed by Germans who opened fire, hitting Lt Col Hill three times in the chest, neck and arm. Although critically wounded, he was evacuated, operated on, and recovered in hospital. Hill was later awarded the DSO.
It took approximately an hour and a half to defeat the enemy force. 26 German and Italian soldiers were captured and taken as Prisoners of War. There are no accurate estimates of enemy casualties. Five members of the 1st Para Bn were wounded, two severely: Lt Col Hill and his Adjutant, Capt Whitelock.
The detachment, comprising Capt Geary and 17 other personnel, from 1st Para Sqn RE were all killed in the Hawkins mine explosion. To save time the Sappers had been carrying their Hawkins mines already fully primed in sandbags. It is believed that one man slipped into a wadi causing his mines to detonate and triggering further sympathetic detonations of the remaining mines carried by the party.