Battle of Mega

The stream of messages passing between Divisional Headquarters and the two brigades approaching Mega placed a heavy strain on the Divisional Signals Company. For No. 1 Brigade Signals Company, S.A.C.S., with an approach entirely on foot, the task of maintaining communications with 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade was particularly difficult, as the combination of mountains and bad weather militated against efficient use of wireless. Telephone lines were laid behind the infantry as they advanced and the Brigade Headquarters signals platoon under Captain C. H. M. Morillion carried this line right forward to a central point between 3rd Transvaal Scottish and the S.A. Irish and then spread laterally to the two Battalion Headquarters. From there, the battalion signals officers, Lieutenants E. G. Adderley and D. W. V. Frykberg, took over. Communications were kept open with barely an interruption though the line from Brigade Headquarters was blown up by enemy shellfire three times.

On 17 February, the advance of 3rd Transvaal Scottish, through thick mud among boulders and bushes, was painfully slow and the men, encumbered as they were with mortars, Vickers guns and ammunition, were subjected to great physical strain. Their one consolation was that they struck no serious man-made obstacles, with the result that the accompanying Sappers were not called upon to lift mines or blow wire entanglements.

Along the worse ridges east of the road from Yavello and opposed by a succession of defended posts and well-sited landmines, 1st S.A. Irish struggled laboriously forward, always in the hope of eventual support on the left flank from 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group's expected attack from the east.

For almost an hour from 8 a.m. the advancing troops came under heavy enemy artillery fire, and the S.A. Irish at about midday ran into landmines. A subsection of 5th Field Company, S.A.E.C. had reported to Major A. W. Clare, the Second-in-Command of the S.A. Irish, at about 8 o'clock but had been told to go on with road clearance, which they did to such good effect that by 10 a.m. the road was free of mines as far as Two Tree Hill. It was 1 o'clock before the Sappers heard that Major Clare himself had been blown up on a landmine, receiving wounds from which he died on 19 February.

Not long afterwards, Private P. A. Zwanepoel, a Vickers-gunner, was


blown up. Stretcher-bearers again went forward and as they started back with the wounded man on the stretcher, one of them, Private C. H. Wheeler, also trod on a mine, which killed him and Zwanepoel but miraculously did no more than severely shock the other bearer. Nevertheless, Captain C. McN. Cochran led his company through the minefield without further casualties, but troops were badly affected elsewhere.

It was here that the South African Engineers first came across the home-made Italian mines fabricated out of steel hoardings and iron piping and filled with dynamite, bits of iron and nails. With such improvised mechanisms, fitted with hair-triggers, mine-lifting was extremely risky. Nevertheless, Lieutenant H. J. Barker of 5th Field Company, S.A.E.C. went forward with his men under fire, prodding the road with their bayonets and clearing the way for the S.A. Irish.1 He won the Military Cross for his action, and Corporal Joseph Wallis was awarded the Military Medal for his earlier retrieving of the infantry truck under shellfire and then going forward with Lieutenant Barker to locate and expose the mines. With extraordinary coolness--with a casualty already near him--when Sapper Windsor discovered the first mine, Wallis took it to pieces on the spot to discover how to disarm them. No fewer than forty-three mines and three craters were found.

In spite of these hold-ups, by 2.30 p.m. the S.A. Irish had occupied Hill 'A' and shortly afterwards they repulsed a determined counterattack by Banda. Fortunately, their company covering the rear of 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group was soon to be relieved by a composite company of the Natal Mounted Rifles from Kunchurro, with support weapons, a section of armoured cars and a detachment of Engineers, all under Major L. M. Harris and placed under 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade command by General Brink that morning. In spite of the mud and more rain, the 4-5-inch howitzers of 9th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) were moved forward to the northern slopes of Dobbs Ridge, east of the road, in the early afternoon.

While 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group thus struggled with the combined forces of the Italians and Nature, in the form of cold, rain, broken mountainous country and sodden black cotton soil on 17 February, Brigadier Buchanan carried out a reconnaissance at first light for 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group's part in what was meant to be a co-ordinated attack. To the north of his Brigade's position, the Moyale road entered Mega through a narrow poort in a range of lofty hills which forms the southern side of a rough rectangle of mountains round the Italian Residency, the castellated stone fort and the village of Mega. On each side of this poort the ground rose sharply to the mean level of the hills, and parallel to the road there was high ground on either side stretching away towards the north of the stronghold, where the hills were not as steep and formidable as on the south, though quite enough to be proving a severe strain on 3rd Transvaal Scottish and the S.A. Irish pushing down from Medaccio.

'The poort', a 2nd Field Force Battalion officer recorded, 'was strongly fortified by the enemy and the entrance to the poort was mined and was covered by machine gun positions. In various positions on the plateau on the ranges of hills forming the rectangle, were enemy posts


and artillery emplacements, whilst their main fortifications were in the basin. Their defences had been built to repulse an expected attack from the south, although most of them were capable of being used for all-round defence.'2

Local tribesmen told 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Intelligence Staff that a considerable enemy force had entered Mega the previous day from the south-west, which constituted a rather incredible feat without being spotted by any South African ground or air patrols. A Native Irregular guide attached to the Brigade, who claimed to have lived some years in Mega, advised the South Africans that it was quite impossible to approach the fortress from the east. Only baboons could scale the cliff-like eastern face of the mountain, said the guide. This apparently confirmed impressions gained by 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters the previous day.

Continuous rain made observation both from the air and on the ground difficult, and air co-operation was impossible until the weather cleared. Brigadier Buchanan apparently became convinced that it was not feasible to attack from the east.

The task of demonstrating from the south was entrusted to 1st Field Force Battalion while 2nd Field Force Battalion was initially instructed to hold a position 5 miles south-east along the Moyale road to protect the brigade from possible attack from that quarter.3 In addition, it was to provide a company to protect Brigade Headquarters and 8th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.)4 with its 18-pounders.

Lieutenant-Colonel van Noorden decided to contain the enemy by holding the Mega-Mogado road--incorrectly shown on the maps as leaving Mega in a westerly direction, whereas it branched off the Mega-Moyale road--with Captain Davie's company, and to secure the high ground west of the poort with Major Jack Bester's company, who moved out for some 8 miles5 early in the morning on 17 February to gain contact and occupy the hills (west of the defile) christened Hill One, Two, Three and Four, the last-named being nearest the poort and indicated as the objective.

They had hardly moved before enemy artillery opened ineffectual fire on 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group transport along the Moyale road, from gun positions on the high feature on the eastern perimeter of Mega defences, and fortunately just out of range of the brigade.

Major Jack Bester's company made a wide flanking march on the opposite side of Mega to that intended by General Brink, to get within striking distance of Hill One. As they approached the hill at about 11 a.m. heavy rain and mist blanketed the mountain.6 In the meantime, 2nd Field Force Battalion, with what it had left from other tasks, was vainly attempting to work up the Mega mountain east of the defile. At 1.25 p.m. 2nd S.A. Brigade Headquarters signalled to Division that progress was slow and extremely difficult. The strongly held defile had high features on either side, and the ascent on both flanks was steep. Details followed regarding the obscuring of visibility by rain and cloud, and the Brigade reported that it was unable to locate the Italian artillery position which was firing from about 8,000 yards with heavy calibre guns.

Pilots of 40 Army Co-operation Squadron, S.A.A.F., in spite of heavy


rain and thick cloud, made daring attempts to co-operate with the ground forces but had to give up, and air observation for the South African artillery was impossible. Not till the afternoon did the enemy guns turn their attention to 8th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.), but the shells all landed harmlessly in rear of the 18-pounder battery position near the Moyale road. The bombardment continued intermittently but no enemy gun-flashes could be seen and the South African gunners had to content themselves with digging in and camouflaging their guns and vehicles.

The forward company of 1st Field Force Battalion, working up the hills west of the defile, had to be recalled in view of the mist. Brigadier Buchanan regularly attempted to report his difficulties to both 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade and to General Brink's Headquarters, and at 12.50 p.m. 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade reported back to him that its own progress was slow, but that 3rd Transvaal Scottish and 1st S.A. Irish were gradually moving along the features to the left and right of the road into Mega from the north.

It was only ten minutes later that Brigadier Buchanan received General Brink's long-delayed message stressing the importance of pressing home the attack, and at the same time dispelling any remaining doubts about General Brink's intentions, which were that 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group was to attack from the east.

In the north, the Transvaal Scottish and S.A. Irish struggled on. Wallowing through mud inches deep in a hollow, the S.A. Irish came to yet another range of hills, with one particularly high one on which they spotted an Italian observation post. An officer, corporal and a dozen men of 'A' Company, with rifles and two Bren guns, scaled the rugged slopes to within 30 yards of the post before replying to the enemy's fire with an intense fusillade for nearly ten minutes. A white flag went up.

'Don't get up', ordered the S.A. Irish officer, according to an eyewitness, quoted by Kenneth Gandar Dower. He then stood up himself and when an Italian officer did likewise the South African called him over. The Italian spoke to his men, and the South African riflemen down below could see him pointing downwards as though he were telling them to ground arms and give themselves up. Suddenly the Italian dropped flat and his men opened fire again. The South Africans replied fiercely, ignoring the white flag that was soon being shown again,7 and killing or capturing the whole detachment.

Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Kirby, with his Transvaal Scottish, reaching the furthest edge of a chain of heights, beyond which lay an uneven plateau with Mega Hill to the south-east, halted his battalion and took stock.8 The S.A. Irish had not yet advanced far enough to offer him support in any direct bayonet attack on the keypoint of Mega Hill, and his own men were plainly nearing exhaustion, so he abandoned his original intention and decided to effect a lodgment in strength on high ground on a plateau directly ahead of him across a valley. Keeping two companies firm on the hill where he stood, he launched one company on a wide detour to the west and then south to seize and consolidate on the higher of two sub-features across the valley before him. The going was very heavy, but by good luck the enemy


failed to fire on the men as they climbed to their objective, completely exposed and in full view of Mega Hill.

During the earlier part of the afternoon, both General Brink and Brigadier Armstrong--unaware of exactly what was going on south of Mega--reiterated instructions to 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group to attack from the east, but at 3 p.m. Brigadier Buchanan replied that it was impossible .. . transport could not move over the ground in such weather, and the attack would have to be made on foot up a steep mountain 1,500 feet high, which would necessitate discarding support weapons. Any such ascent, he felt, would result in serious loss of life. He was assured by the Irregular interpreter that they were covering the only entrance or exit other than from the north, and he suggested that pressure from that direction was the only course.

Still unable to make contact with any 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group troops, Brigadier Armstrong at 5.30 p.m. decided that his own battalions should consolidate on the line they held about 1| miles north and north-east of Mega. At 6 p.m. General Brink's Advanced Headquarters received from 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade a report with brief but disturbing details of a little drama played out by the platoon left behind at El Sod to protect the wounded Lieutenant Vernon Kay.

While 2nd Field Force Battalion wasted the day with one company under Major Hugh Bester protecting 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters, and most of the rest of the battalion in a defensive position on the Moyale road, Lieutenant Brail's lone platoon at El Sod had kept on their toes. At about 1 p.m. his look-outs observed infantry on foot advancing over a rise from the direction of The Crossroads. Brail immediately disregarded his orders about abandoning the wounded Kay and sent him off in care of the Medical Officer, Captain Harrington, to make for 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters.9 Three enemy armoured cars were now sighted approached from Neghelli, and Brail's platoon hid their own transport and took up position astride a defile on the road to delay the enemy for quarter of an hour, so as to allow Captain Harrington to get clear with his wounded patient. By luck, the Italians gratuitously granted them a respite by wasting time on a meticulous search of the area, apparently still unhampered by the mines sown by the brigade before leaving.

When Lieutenant Brail eventually ordered a withdrawal to the platoon's hidden transport, the armoured cars were still some 600 yards off and he left two men behind to keep them under observation. He managed to drive about 4 miles along the muddy route previously taken by 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group, and then the deepening morass induced him to abandon his vehicles and continue on foot.

First news of the bedraggled little party at 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters was the safe arrival of Captain Harrington, his orderly and driver and their wounded charge at about 3.30 p.m. Then they reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Fouché of 12th Field Ambulance, S.A.M.C., after which Divisional Headquarters was dramatically informed that one platoon left at El Sod with some wounded 'had been overrun by enemy armoured cars', losing two vehicles and two men. One of the enemy vehicles had blown up on a landmine; and another was disabled by 40 Army Co-operation Squadron, S.A.A.F. next day.


... It was a rather ineffectual-looking machine reminiscent of World War I.10

Playing out its now almost melodramatic role, at 6.50 p.m. on 17 February, 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters signalled to Advanced Divisional Headquarters that if the weather cleared they would do their utmost to move round and link up with the left flank of 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade. Once again stressing his own difficulties, Brigadier Buchanan informed General Brink's headquarters that a force from Sololo was reported by Natives to be on the Moyale road, and another force was reported to be in his rear at El Sod. He urged pressure from the north and the securing of his lines of communication on the eastern flank.

Confronted with such mounting evidence of enemy forces whose existence they could hardly credit, and whose presence could not be confirmed or denied by air reconnaissance on account of the weather, the Staff at Divisional and 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters were placed in a dilemma. Brigadier Armstrong reported to General Brink at 7.25 p.m. that his own troops were exhausted and consolidating within 2 miles of Mega. Some 50-60 men had already been brought in to 11th Field Ambulance suffering from exposure. On the left flank the brigade was already overlooking Mega, but it appeared that 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group was not yet in position to launch the assault. Brigadier Armstrong requested full air support next day.

Shortly afterwards Brigadier Armstrong gave his position to Brigadier Buchanan and added that 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade should endeavour to launch its assault to coincide with his own forward movement at 7 a.m. next day.

Next day was 18 February--two days later than intended.

In what appears in retrospect to have been almost a gesture of philosophic resignation at the outcome of events which had thwarted all his plans in 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group sector, at 8.35 that night General Brink sent off a personal message to both his Brigadiers. He accepted Brigadier Buchanan's reasons for coming in from the south, said General Brink as Brigadier Buchanan, being on spot, was the best judge. The 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade should push on at first light if conditions permitted and 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade should also act vigorously from the south. The enemy, in General Brink's estimation, was completely trapped. Air reports said that all roads were waterlogged and he could expect no support. Divisional Headquarters intended to have air reconnaissance over at the earliest possible hour. General Brink felt that everything was in the South Africans' favour, and he wished the two brigades every success next day.

The men, 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade recorded, were certainly sticking it. They were without water except for rain caught in waterproof groundsheets, and many of them were down to their last ration biscuit. Roads were waterlogged to their disadvantage as much as to the enemy's and rations could not follow the brigade's route, which had deteriorated into a quagmire beyond El Sod. The troops, like those of 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group, had travelled light, though they did have at least one blanket per man. But they were soaked to the skin.

Conditions were hardly conducive to good temper when Brigadier


Buchanan called an Order Group on the night of 17-18 February--at about 4 a.m. according to Field Force Battalion accounts.11 Lieutenant-Colonel Engelbrecht attended with Captain Grobbelaar, who now heard for the first time any actual mention of an intention to attack. As Brigadier Buchanan stressed the difficulties and issued his orders, Colonel Engelbrecht grew increasingly exasperated until he burst out, 'Just give me a free hand and I'll give you Mega!' When asked where he intended to attack, Colonel Engelbrecht--as far as his T' Officer could afterwards recollect--retorted curtly, 'How do I know? It's dark. I'll see where to attack when it's light.'

With that, the Commanding Officer of 2nd Field Force Battalion was given instructions to move at 7 o'clock to assist in the attack on Mega, and to try to support the S.A. Irish by putting in his assault from the east.12 Thus, by a long, drawn-out process that had already involved the loss of two whole days, one battalion of 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade, unfavourably placed, already tired and in bad weather, was ordered to carry out General Brink's original intention of moving in on Mega's eastern flank.

Exasperated by the interminable delay in carrying out his orders, General Brink sent for Major Jimmy Durrant, commanding 40 Army Co-operation Squadron, S.A.A.F., and told him that he wanted an aircraft to fly him over the Mega position, and particularly over the area occupied by 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group. The young air force officer looked at General Brink for a few moments and then said, 'Sorry Sir, I must refuse. I will get all the information I possibly can for you, but I am not prepared to take the risk of taking you up yourself.'

General Brink eyed Major Durrant for a few moments and then said with emphasis, T order you to place an aircraft at my disposal'.

Ready to face the possibility of a court martial but not the chance of being shot down with the Divisional Commander as his passenger, Major Durrant again refused to comply with General Brink's wishes. It looked as though a storm could be brewing, but after some minutes of strained discussion General Brink relented and gave way. He would have to leave a personal reconnaissance of 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade's area till later.

'Kom-kom' Engelbrecht and his party, meanwhile, had stalked off from Brigadier Buchanan's Order Group in the rain and slush, and in the very early hours of 18 February he moved 'B' Company of 2nd Field Force Battalion up to an assembly area near his 'A' Company, before both companies set out on a forced march of some 16 miles13 across country* to the eastern end of the great buttress which formed the southern wall of the Mega mountain rectangle. Lieutenant L. J. Gifford's platoon of'A' Company had a narrow escape when, just after they had left it, an enemy shell burst on the very spot where he had previously assembled his men. No one was hurt.

Colonel Engelbrecht took with him one lorry carrying reserve ammunition, the Vickers gun and mortar detachments' vehicles and a single water-tanker filled with all the water left in the battalion's five water-tankers. Four armoured cars from No. 2 S.A. Armoured Car Company, which had been patrolling far and wide in the direction of

* 1st S.A. Division estimated the distance as 12 miles.


El Sod and further east,14 as well as far south towards Moyale, without sighting any of the supposed enemy columns, had been placed under his command by Brigadier Buchanan and accompanied him. Near the eastern end of the hills south of the Mega stronghold, he halted to make a quick appreciation.15

Either he could continue along the eastern side of the Mega mountain rectangle towards the S.A. Irish, or he could attempt to climb the easternmost edge of the southern side of the rectangle about 4 miles from the poort through which ran the Moyale road. In the first case, he appreciated, the hill was neither so steep nor as high as in the second case and his ascent would probably be protected by 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group--but he would have to march at least another 5 miles and it was already getting light. The second course, though offering earlier intervention in the battle, suffered from the two great disadvantages of a steeper and higher climb and probable emergence at the summit on to enemy positions not yet engaged by 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group.

The second and more audacious approach was selected and as it grew lighter Colonel Engelbrecht turned to Captain Grobbelaar, who happened to be an ardent and active member of the Mountain Club of South Africa.

'Well, you're a mountaineer,' said 'Kom-kom' chaffingly to his T Officer, 'where would you try to climb?'

Grobbelaar considered the prospect, with a mountain before him apparently about two-thirds as high though not as steep as Table Mountain, which he knew intimately. 'I'd choose that spur', he said and pointed to a spur running out from the mountain in such a way that it could provide a measure of cover against positions on the summit of the mountain as the men moved up below its crest. The Battalion Commander, with the Transvaal farmer's instinctive appreciation of ground, agreed with the choice.

Nearer 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters, 8th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.)--still unable to locate any definite targets--opened fire at about 7 a.m. when Major Berry 'searched' the poort south of Mega. Later, the 18-pounders sent over round after round of harrassing fire as the only means of offering support to the two Field Force Battalions attempting to approach the redoubt from the south. As soon as the South African artillery ceased fire, the Italians opened up again on the 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group's area, this time using guns of smaller calibre in addition to their heavy artillery. One shell cut the telephone line between 8th Field Battery's armoured observation post and the battery, and splinters fell very near the armoured car, but heavy cloud and gathering mist fortunately robbed the enemy of good observation.

At about 10.50 a.m. 'A' Company of 2nd Field Force Battalion, supported by one Vickers and one mortar detachment, reached the spur selected by Lieutenant-Colonel Engelbrecht and began the arduous 1,500-2,000 foot climb. One platoon of'B' Company followed them to afford them some protection if they were forced to retrace their steps, and the balance of 'B' Company took up a defensive position at the foot of the mountain to provide a human chain passing reserve


Map of Mega & environs


ammunition and water up the slopes and, if possible, to bring up an additional mortar. All members of the Vickers and mortar sections assisted in carrying up one Vickers and one mortar with ammunition.16

As the men struggled up the steep, rocky south-eastern slopes through the morning of 18 February, 'A' Company of 1st Field Force Battalion, accompanied by a Forward Observation Officer from 8th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.), repeated its previous day's move on the western side of the defile, trying to work its way forward over the series of hills south of the positions occupied by 3rd Transvaal Scottish, whilst the enemy resumed their shelling, with little effect. The white discs specially planted by the Italian gunners to indicate ranges had been moved to different positions by the South Africans during the night.

Meanwhile, to the north, 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group, launched its own attack.

The weather had begun to improve and at 7.30 a.m. welcome air support arrived over Mega. Ten minutes later came the cheering news from 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group that its assault had also begun and that its artillery was in action. In support of 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade, one section of 9th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) had advanced up the main road towards Mega the previous evening but had not got far before guns and portees were stuck in the mud. Shells from the Italian big guns had soon fallen among them, but 'duds' saved the South Africans from otherwise good shooting while they unhooked and manhandled their 4-5-inch howitzers to drier ground before hooking in again. By nightfall they were within range of Mega and halted at the roadside under cover of darkness to wait for the other section and allow the ground to dry out. It was 2.30 on the morning of the 18th before all four of Major Greenwood's howitzers were together, and by 4 a.m. they were moving into action.

At 8 a.m. 9th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) opened fire on Mega, beginning a day of firing from a position which the enemy could not locate. The 3rd Transvaal Scottish on the right and the S.A. Irish on the left now pushed forward with great determination, working from feature to feature and alternately supporting one another with crossfire, while 40 Army Co-operation Squadron, S.A.A.F., though severely handicapped by low cloud, bombed and machine-gunned all enemy posts they could spot.

The section of South African armoured cars under Lieutenant E. J. W. Rees supporting the Transvaal Scottish had managed to get up to Kirby Ridge on the first day of the attack and, avoiding the enemy artillery fire on the road next day, they had worked down to Two (or Big) Tree Hill, where rains had turned the black cotton soil into a squelching mess through which the armoured cars could drive only with the utmost difficulty. Two armoured cars, in fact, got completely bogged down in mud after returning from a short reconnaissance ahead, but nevertheless by 9 a.m. on 18 February the cars were again ahead of the Transvaal Scottish and helping to clear features west of Mega. The rough, muddy terrain prevented Rees getting nearer the fort, but by working into good positions on the ridges he continued to lend valuable support to the infantry.17

Lieutenant A. W. Thompson's armoured cars in the S.A. Irish sector


struck even worse conditions, but also rendered assistance whenever they could work into suitable fire positions.18

South African Engineers, in long lines, peering at the ground before them and, prodding for landmines, risked being blown to pieces to help clear the way ahead, and the Transvaal Scottish, as a preliminary to an assault on the keypoint of Mega Hill, pushed their forward company ahead and bloodlessly secured the second and nearer feature on the plateau south of Kirby Ridge, thus placing the company in a position to support the attack. With the S.A. Irish advancing only with great difficulty and the armoured cars struggling to get into position over the extremely rough going, co-ordination of 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group plans imposed some delay on further moves by 3rd Transvaal Scottish.19 Meanwhile, to add to the existing, tangible problems there came the disquieting report from 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade that two enemy armoured cars and three lorries had attacked and overrun El Sod, but that they were unable to say whether this was the whole of the enemy force or how far they had penetrated.

This rather vague reference to Lieutenant Brail's unhappy experiences was shortly followed by the news that Colonel Engelbrecht was advancing 'up low slopes' of the eastern spur to the main feature south of the S.A. Irish. He had a stiff climb ahead, the 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade message added, and they urged that 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade's left flank should support him, which ignored the fact that he was supposed to be supporting them.

Air reports that both the Mega-Neghelli and Mega-Yavello roads were clear must have helped to put Brigadier Armstrong's mind at rest about the enemy reported to be at El Sod, but any complacency he enjoyed on this account was soon disturbed again by a signal from Brigadier Buchanan's Headquarters to say that his eastern force was faced by strong opposition and that it was essential for 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade to contact 2nd Field Force Battalion on the left of S.A. Irish; otherwise the position would be precarious. That the whole object of the Field Force Battalion exercise was to support the S.A. Irish appears to have been lost sight of in what amounted to a plea to reverse their roles.

Pressing on and covered by its own battalion support weapons and the fire of Lieutenant Rees's armoured cars, a company of 3rd Transvaal Scottish meanwhile went straight for Mega Hill with the bayonet and captured it at about 12.20 p.m. after meeting only token opposition. They brought in twelve Italian prisoners and two machine-guns.20 Consolidating at once, the attacking company took up position to support others attacking the adjacent sector of the Italian perimeter defences and to provide supporting mortar and Vickers gun fire to the S.A. Irish who were advancing with the bayonet on to the high feature east of Mega fort, with mists swirling around them.

The Transvaal Scottish company which had carried out the wide flanking movement the previous afternoon had lent supporting fire to their fellows attacking Mega Hill, which was now firmly held, slightly to their left front and with a long line of enemy-occupied posts stretching southward from it directly ahead of them. A donga so deep as to form a miniature ravine separated the Transvaal Scottish from these posts,


Enjoying a mug of tea after capturing Hobok are (l. to r.) Lieut.-Colonel W. Kirby, Commanding Officer of 3rd Transvaal Scottish (who was later killed in action at Sidi Rezeg), Brigadier B. F. Armstrong, and Major Harry Klein, Commanding Officer of No. 1 S.A. Armoured Car Company.
Enjoying a mug of tea after capturing Hobok are (l. to r.) Lieut.-Colonel W. Kirby, Commanding Officer of 3rd Transvaal Scottish (who was later killed in action at Sidi Rezeg), Brigadier B. F. Armstrong, and Major Harry Klein, Commanding Officer of No. 1 S.A. Armoured Car Company.

Jubilant at their success, South African infantrymen and armoured car crews walk through the gate of the compound at Hobok.
Jubilant at their success, South African infantrymen and armoured car crews walk through the gate of the compound at Hobok.

Approach to Mega, showing <i>(on left)</i> the heights taken by 1st S.A. Irish in capturing an Italian observation post.
Approach to Mega, showing (on left) the heights taken by 1st S.A. Irish in capturing an Italian observation post.

Lieut.-Colonel H. P. van Noorden, Commanding Officer of the 1st Field Force Battalion.
Lieut.-Colonel H. P. van Noorden, Commanding Officer of the 1st Field Force Battalion.

South African Engineers, advancing on Mega, search for mines in the rain.
South African Engineers, advancing on Mega, search for mines in the rain.

before which the Italians had cleared the bush and wired the lines of approach while mining the lower ground between spurs, so as to channel any attacks into the open. The plan of attack decided upon by the Transvaal Scottish was for the assaulting company to descend the wooded slopes of the ravine, reorganize at the bottom and then scale the exposed slopes on the opposite side while fighting their way into the defences.21

The 9th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) again moved forward to support the final assault, while S.A. Irish struggled on over boulders and through bush along the high ground east of the fort to gain favourable positions to join in the attack. Enemy artillery fire, rain and mist once more added to the hardships being endured by the men and made it almost impossible for the armoured cars to move any further over the sodden ground. Nevertheless, 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group was in position to attack shortly before 4.30 p.m., when rifle fire was unexpectedly heard among the hills south and south-east of Mega. The rattle of small-arms continued for some time, audible between the deeper booming of artillery. Then the Italian guns suddenly ceased fire.

The explanation of this quite unexpected turn of events lay in the activities of the two Field Force Battalions and in those of Colonel Engelbrecht's mountaineering force in particular.

Before first light on 18 February, Major Jack Bester's Company of 1st Field Force Battalion, previously recalled from west of the defile,22 had set out once more to work its way up towards 3rd Transvaal Scottish. The men moved directly on to a saddle joining Hill One and Hill Two, coming under fire from a Banda post on Hill Two as they climbed. Plastering this post with mortar and Vickers gun fire from the front, Major Bester sent a platoon to outflank it, which forced the Banda to withdraw and left the way clear for him to move his company across Hill Two towards Hill Three. Here they were again fired on and held up, while mortars and Vickers guns were brought up to support the rifle platoons against heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from both sides of the defile.

To the east of the defile, Colonel Engelbrecht and 'A' Company of 2nd Field Force Battalion had begun their 1,500-foot climb up the mountains, on top of which were the 120 mm guns of an Italian heavy battery under Tenente Franco Mule, who had been putting down fire on both the north and south access roads to Mega for the past three days. The Italian Battery Commander felt little real concern for his own position except with regard to three steep paths approaching the battery from the east, which needed to be properly defended if his guns were to fulfil their artillery role.23

When the lighter 77 mm guns of the Italian 3rd Battery engaged the patrol of South African armoured cars and S.A. Irish driving down the road from Medaccio on 15 February, Mule's heavier guns had sent over a few rounds to speed the armoured cars on their way back, and during the 16th he had put down fire not only on the northern road but had also established an observation post to the south-east to engage 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group. On 17 February he had continued his harassing activities in spite of the somewhat erratic behaviour of his obsolete weapons, which would not have looked out of place at the Siege


of Kimberley or Ladysmith. His men also had some unpleasant moments under bombs and machine-gunning from the South African Air Force.

Early on 18 February, as Colonel van Noorden's men were pushing up west of the defile, Tenente Mule once again opened fire on 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group vehicles. Aircraft from 40 Army Co-operation Squadron, S.A.A.F., now that the rain had temporarily stopped, were upon him almost immediately, a direct hit damaging his battery telephone exchange and wrecking the tent containing all his range tables and similar records. Unbeknown to him, Colonel Engelbrecht's force was already on its way to scale the precipitous slopes below his gun positions.

In the midst of all this, the Italian gunner officer became uneasy about the undefended paths leading to his battery. Then he received a report of Colonel Engelbrecht's men beginning to climb the slopes offering access to his position from the east. Ordering two machine-guns to be brought to cover his rear and to block the pathways, Tenente Mule hurriedly sent off sixteen Banda to defend another pathway further to the south.24

'A' Company of 2nd Field Force Battalion, manhandling its heavy support weapons, was already halfway up the steep slopes when it came under fire from the Banda detailed to block its advance. Small-arms fire and grenades forced the enemy to withdraw,25 and the South Africans pushed on determinedly. By 3 p.m. the leading section was at the base of an almost perpendicular krantz just below the flat summit, to which the only approach was through a slit in the rocks so narrow that only one man at a time could clamber through it.

Lieutenant J. R. Janse van Rensburg, leading the spearhead of the assaulting company, unhesitatingly climbed up through this narrow cleft in the rocks and came out alone on to the plateau above. After a rapid personal reconnaissance he called up his leading section and quickly organized fire positions before bringing up the rest of his platoon. Deploying his men, he moved with them across the high plateau, at the far side of which his platoon came under heavy machine-gun fire from the left and from the Italian battery position to his right.

In complete command of the situation and with remarkable coolness, Janse van Rensburg kept the enemies' heads down with well-directed rifle and Bren gun fire while mortars were being brought up to support him.

This was the small-arms fire so unexpectedly heard from the south by 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade as it moved into position for its own assault. Lieutenant Janse van Rensburg was awarded the Military Cross for his outstanding and audacious leadership, and it was while he was pushing on that Major Hugh Bester and the rest of his company from 2nd Field Force Battalion reached the summit, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Engelbrecht and some of his Battalion Headquarters. Sergeant J. A. Opperman, a World War I veteran of a good 50 years, who had given his age as 43 to enlist once again, led the Vickers gun section which scaled the heights.

It was not long before the worst fears of the Italian Battery Commander were realized as the Field Force men engaged his Banda


protectors with Brens, mortars and Vickers, forcing them to abandon their posts and withdraw in confusion back along the ridges towards the village and fort of Mega. The whole of 'A' company of 2nd Field Force Battalion was now pushing forward on top of the main feature near the Italian heavy guns, and as Lieutenant-Colonel Engelbrecht tried to make contact with S.A. Irish to the north, on the other side of the defile Lieutenant-Colonel van Noorden's Battalion was pressing its attack from the south and meeting heavy machine-gun and rifle fire.

From the north, at 4.25 p.m. 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group launched its assault.26 Heavily supported by fire from Mega Hill and by a section of armoured cars in its rear, the assaulting company of 3rd Transvaal Scottish got down rapidly into the depths of the ravine below Mega's main defences. Enemy small-arms and machine-gun fire from left, right and centre was once again mainly too high, and without hesitation the Transvaal Scottish began their ascent to breach the wire and get into the enemy positions.27 At this crucial moment, the rain came down in torrents, but both the Transvaal Scottish and the S.A. Irish pushed on towards the substantial stone walls of the large fort squatting solidly on the level of the grassy plateau which formed the bottom of a wide basin beyond the crests of the surrounding hills. Through gaps in the mist and clouds they intermittently caught glimpses of the objective well ahead of them.

Over to the left of the Transvaal Scottish as they forced the wire, the S.A. Irish had broken through and were streaming down the spurs east of the fort and the Residency, where all resistance was collapsing. South of them, virtually the whole of 'A' Company of 2nd Field Force Battalion was now on top of the mountain and attacking the Italian heavy battery. The Sapper field companies, clearing mines and roadblocks, were ahead of the armoured cars advancing along the road. Cross-fire from both flanks drove them to take cover in a hollow.28 From the south, in answer to a call from Major Jack Bester to create a diversion, 8th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) was again raking the poort through which ran the road from Moyale. Then fog descended over the battlefield once again, and blocked out visibility.

Some of the 2nd Field Force Battalion men facing the heavy battery thought they saw white flags ahead, but they were not sure whether they were artillery aiming posts or not. Captain Grobbelaar was sent forward with an escort of two other ranks to investigate and was fired on more than once, but when they entered the battery position they found the Italian gunner officers and about fifty men lined up to surrender. The guns had already ceased fire, but out in the murk among the ridges further north the sound of battle continued.

The Italian Battery Commander, whom the South Africans found to be 'a pleasant and courteous officer',29 admitted that though a possible attack had been foreseen up some of the gulleys along the eastern side of the defences, no approach over the highest point of the range had been thought feasible. This point dominated the whole valley and the attack from such an unexpected quarter had precipitated his surrender, through which his four old 120 mm. Creusot guns fell into the hands of 2nd Field Force Battalion. At the same time the three lighter field guns on a hill some distance to the north also ceased fire.


With the mist precluding any use of helio and with the pack wireless set laboriously carried up the mountain unable to establish contact with battalion or brigade headquarters, Major Hugh Bester's company did not know what was happening elsewhere.30 In fact, so well had No. 1 Brigade Signals Company, S.A.C.S. done their work of cable-laying that at 4.20 p.m. Brigadier Armstrong was able to speak to both battalion headquarters and order a final assault five minutes later. The 3rd Transvaal Scottish and S.A. Irish were closing in for a bayonet charge to overwhelm the last of the strongpoints, when a junior officer of the Transvaal Scottish reported to Colonel Kirby that he could see a white flag flying from the enemy position ahead.31

Then the mist descended again and the attack continued.

'The mist came up dark', one of the S.A. Irish later wrote.32 'You couldn't see a thing. In the end it started clearing and, as it cleared towards the Italians, we advanced.... Then suddenly the mist cleared and we saw the fort and the flag come down off the fort and all the enemy coming out surrendering. They came with great big white flags, and they came without arms or anything, but we got down and lay ready with our rifles in case of monkey tricks.'

At about 5 o'clock, in front of 3rd Transvaal Scottish the mist lifted for a few moments, and they clearly spotted the white flag of surrender fluttering over the Residency. The forward Transvaal Scottish company paused to reorganize and then pushed on, rounding up unresisting enemy groups as they went. A section was detached to occupy the fort at 5.45 p.m. and at the Residency, close to which the Transvaal Scottish came momentarily under fire from the S.A. Irish in the general confusion, the Garrison Commander, Major Steni, the Provincial Governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Valiardi di Sandigliano and numerous Italian officers with European and Native other ranks were found already paraded and unarmed.

Major R.J. Sou they, commanding the company of the 3rd Transvaal Scottish in the final assault, formally accepted the surrender of Mega on behalf of his Battalion Commander.

White flags fluttered from the straggling collection of hutments and shacks that was Mega, and the scene in the courtyard of the big stone fort made an indelible impression on the victors--weary, mud-bespattered but very confident South Africans, dejected prisoners by the score beneath battlements reminiscent of a bygone age, with the whole lit up eerily by the headlamps of a few trucks.

News of the surrender of the fortress reached 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters within a quarter of an hour and, thanks to No. 1 Brigade Signals Company's excellent lines, Divisional Headquarters 80 miles away at Kunchurro were by that time already celebrating the successful conclusion of the battle. Another half hour passed before a runner reached the 2nd Field Force Battalion men at Tenente Mule's battery position to tell them that the fighting was over. Exhausted, wet through, short of rations, and plagued by ticks, they welcomed blankets, warm coats and food provided of their own volition by their prisoners. Lieutenant-Colonel C. L. Engelbrecht was awarded the D.S.O. for his part in the remarkable feat of 2nd Field Force Battalion and Sergeant A. E. Shelver of the mortar section won the Military Medal. Private


J. S. Clark of 3rd Transvaal Scottish also received an immediate award of the Military Medal for gallantry in forcing his way through the wire defences to attack an enemy position with grenades and capture four Italians with heavy and light machine-guns.33 Major E. O'C. Maggs was mentioned in dispatches for his work on 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters.

The roads into Mega were still almost impassable to motor transport, and the weary but successful 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade battalions had to face yet another dreary and bitterly cold night, soaked to the skin and, for the most part, with only the little food they carried or could raise from their captives. Nevertheless, the men had few grouses. Officers and other ranks--whom General Wavell's staff had pictured not many months before as needing camp-stretchers and comforts--had been through one of the most severe physical ordeals of the East African Campaign, but were quite cheerful. The Italians, deceived by the wireless traffic of an ingenious deception plan, were at first firmly convinced that they had been attacked by the phantom 4th Australian Division.

General Brink immediately issued orders for 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Group to be responsible for the northern entrance to Mega, including the Mega-Kunchurro, Mega-Yavello and Mega-Neghelli road junctions and for patrolling actively along all three roads. The Natal Mounted Rifles detachment under Major Harris was to return to Kunchurro as soon as possible, and 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group was made responsible for the southern approach to the captured fortress and for patrolling towards Moyale, El Sod and Mogado.

Next morning, 9th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.) moved into Mega, as also did 'A' and 'B' Companies of 11th Field Ambulance, S.A.M.C., who were soon very busy with enemy wounded and sick. The main dressing station worked all through the night on operations, comfortings and dressings and remained in one spot for two days, before all its patients were fit enough to travel the 5 bumpy miles into Mega. There the detachment from Banno rejoined them, together with Captain Simpson's party from Regiment Botha. Soon they were treating over 100 patients of one sort or another and settling down to routine medicine among the miserable insanitary buildings which constituted the so-called town of Mega. The medical men preferred to live in tents.

While South African Engineers cleared the minefields, the infantry battalions of the two brigades rounded up prisoners and collected captured weapons and equipment, a task which took four days and was rendered extremely difficult owing to the density of the bush and the wide area over which weapons had been thrown or concealed.

Major Venter's Engineer company developed water supplies at Mega and Mogado and cleared a landing ground about 3 miles from Mega. Major Newby's company disarmed all mines lifted, constructed a timber bridge over the tank trap and also found a spring, partly developed by the Italians and yielding 2,000 gallons a day.

Armed Banda and deserters continued to come in for days and it was difficult to arrive at an exact figure of enemy losses. Twenty-six


Italian officers, including the Fortress Commander and Second-in-Command, 593 European other ranks and 374 Native other ranks were made prisoner.

The South Africans had lost one officer, six European other ranks and one Cape Corps other rank killed, two officers and seven European other ranks wounded and ten European and one Cape Corps other rank missing ... all the missing being from the company involved in the Crossroads action. Corporal C. W. Coetzee of 2nd Field Force Battalion died while a prisoner of war, on 19 February, and Private D. C. Roodt of 3rd Transvaal Scottish died of wounds on 22 February.

Large quantities of enemy arms and material were collected, including the 4 old 120 mm. Creusot guns, 3 field guns, 26 heavy machine-guns, 27 light machine-guns, 580 rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition, plus a number of motor vehicles in poor condition, including the two armoured cars which Italian dispatches admitted as being immobilized by mines, with one killed and three wounded. On the other side of the scale, the Crossroads engagement had cost 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade four troop-carriers and a one-tonner--the Italians claimed seven lorries--one Vickers gun and a Bren, and the collection of booty resulted in four men being wounded by a grenade, Private J. G. Myburgh of the Field Force Battalion dying shortly afterwards from his wounds.

Interrogation of the captured Italian Colonel brought forth the somewhat discouraging view that more rain could be expected in eight to ten days and that after another ten days the 'heavy rains' would start. He had thought that three brigades were attacking Mega. What he did not divulge--and probably did not know--was that current rumours that Moyale had been evacuated by the Italians were correct. Comando Superiore in Addis Ababa had already reported the evacuation to Rome as an accomplished fact on the night 18/19 February--two days after the date on which General Brink had hoped to capture Mega. The 54th Colonial Battalion had fallen back from there on to the Dawa Parma River and thence to Neghelli, by forced marches, harassed by hostile Boran tribesmen.34 That this was not known to East Africa Force is a serious reflection on the Intelligence branch of the Staff.

Unaware of the Italian evacuation of Moyale and eager to push on at once, General Brink had to pause to allow the men of 2nd and 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Groups some respite and to improve his water and supply position, which was still seriously complicated by the atrocious condition of the roads. Boots and clothing were in a very dilapidated state after the hardships of the last few days.

The prompt arrival of mail from home--only ten to fourteen days from date of posting in South Africa--did much to keep up the spirits of the troops.35 A most refreshing change was a full 'live' show put on for the troops by the 1st S.A. Entertainment Unit only a few hours after the capture of Mega. This unusual unit had originated as a result of concerts given spontaneously by talented members of the Divisional Ammunition Company during the long, monotonous weeks of waiting for action in the second half of 1940. From July, 'Private Billy Jubb' and


his entertainers were being borrowed by various units to such an extent that their activities as entertainers began to interfere with their normal duties.

Colonel J. J. C. Venter, the Assistant Adjutant-General, S.A. Forces, had then been approached with the original idea of forming a Brigade Concert Party, and a trial tour with concerts at Nanyuki, Archer's Post, Garba Tula and Habaswein from 7 to 12 October proved such a success that for the first time in South African military history an official Entertainment Unit was formed, the establishment being approved on 19 December 1940, and artists from widely scattered units being concentrated at Nairobi.

Mega was the new unit's first official show on tour, with Billy Jubb (comedian and producer), Edgar Adeler (musical director), Jose Ressel (guitar), Bob Tullis (drummer), Alwyn van Heerden (female impersonator and singer), Mick Marcovich (stage carpenter) and six others who helped with a special sketch in Afrikaans.

While the men thus rested and reorganized round Mega, Regiment Botha continued to operate in the area Marsabit-Turbi Hills, in ignorance of the fact that the enemy had withdrawn, which its own patrols never discovered. It was not till 20 February that Irregulars and agents were carried forward by 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade to within 27 miles of Moyale to gather information from friendly Natives. In the absence of any reports to the contrary from Intelligence, 1st S.A. Division was still under the impression that enemy troops in Moyale numbered anything up to two Colonial Infantry Battalions with a maximum of five guns, and plans were accordingly made for 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group--less the Natal Mounted Rifles and attached troops--to move from Mega at first light on Sunday, 23 February, to get into a favourable position from which to launch an attack on Moyale next day.

The arrival of the Brigade Group's 'B' Echelon vehicles, carrying the men's kitbags and extra rations, on 21 February had put everyone in good heart for the projected assault, and with friendly local tribesmen bringing in sheep and poultry, the men of 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group had quickly put out of their minds the rigours of climbing the mountains round Mega. A patrol recovered Lieutenant Brail's abandoned transport by pulling the vehicles out with a tractor, and a company of Irregulars under a British officer, Lieutenant Brook-banks, was dropped 50 miles down the Moyale road, to proceed on foot.

With 'A' Company, 2 S.A. Division M.T. already carrying supplies up as far as Dukana--where Captain G. H. Oldring took ill and died suddenly a few days later--and with momentous operations already in progress along the Juba River front in Italian Somaliland, on 22 February, Brigadier Buchanan received a personal signal from General Brink stressing the urgency of clearing Moyale. The signal also passed on the information that there were indications that it was being evacuated. General Brink himself arrived later at 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters and another patrol was sent out, taking Captain E. Sherbrooke- Walker, Forward Intelligence Officer of the South Africa Division, up the Moyale road and dropping him to collect information


on foot. It was some time later that 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Headquarters was surprised to receive a message written on the lid of a small cardboard box and delivered by a Native tribesman. Moyale, stated the message, had been occupied by the British at 5 p.m. the previous day. Captain Sherbrooke-Walker had promised a Somali with a mule five shillings to deliver the message that day--and a Borji youth three shillings each for 16 mines he said he could show 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade on the road. So far two British officers, one British Non-Commissioned officer and thirty-nine Abyssinian Irregulars were in Moyale, and the South Africans were expected during the day, the message concluded.

In fact, Lieutenant Brookbanks and his Irregulars had occupied both Italian and British Moyale unopposed at 5 p.m. on 22 February, four days after its evacuation. The records offer no explanation of how it came about that the Italians were able to withdraw completely unmolested. At dawn on 23 February, 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group moved down from Mega, with 8th Field Battery, and one section of 7th Field Battery, S.A.A. (T.H.A.), the advance guard meeting the Irregulars at 12.30 p.m. and the former Italian positions being occupied that same afternoon. Large quantities of abandoned enemy material, including five guns, were found.36 In their haste to abandon the mud fort with its square tower flanked by a few tall trees, the enemy had even left behind some 2,000 rounds of ammunition for the guns, which were of World War I vintage like the South Africans' own, and serviceable.37

The 12th Field Ambulance, S.A.M.C.--whose 'B' Company was only to rejoin at Marsabit ten days later--soon had their hands full. No civilian medical services were available in Moyale, and the South African medical officers had to cope with both military and civil cases, including a number wounded by Banda. As so often in areas evacuated by the enemy's Colonial troops, hygiene was in a deplorable state and Lieutenant-Colonel Fouché, assisted by the 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Hygiene Officer, Captain Robertson, had to supervise cleaning up of the town.

Regiment Botha, having been relieved at Marsabit by 1/3 King's African Rifles, moved to the Turbi Hills as 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group headed for Moyale from Mega, and it was only at Turbi that it also learnt that Moyale had been evacuated. Before dawn on 24 February it moved forward to Moyale, with South African Engineers removing 120 landmines to clear the way.

After enthusiastic greetings from their companions of 2nd S.A. Infantry Brigade Group at British Moyale, the battalion bivouacked just outside Italian Moyale before pushing on next day to rejoin 5th S.A. Infantry Brigade Croup at Mega, from which a patrol in early March left for Alghe, 50 miles to the north-east, under Captain E. W. B. Ryan, Support Company Commander, and returned with twenty-five Colonial infantry prisoners and a quantity of material, plus the information that their Italian officers had apparently left for Yavello.

In fact, 12th African Division was already fully occupied in operations along the Juba, where events were unfolding in such a manner as to affect radically the future of 1st S.A. Division, which General


Cunningham was now particularly keen to withdraw from the Mega-Moyale escarpment, where it had unlocked the gateway to southern Abyssinia. He wished to concentrate it in Italian Somaliland under General Brink's command for operations which promised to have a decisive effect on the whole East African campaign.


Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (12) ** Next Chapter (14)

Transcribed and formatted by Larry Jewell & Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation