Tunisia 1942 - 1943:
British Armoured Divisions
Three British Armoured Divisions participated in the Tunisian campaign. The first to be deployed in Tunisia was the 6 Armoured Division, which landed in North Africa in November 1943 as part of 1 Army. The 1 Armoured Division and 7 Armoured Division were both under command of 8 Army and entered Tunisia from Libya.
The 6 Armoured Division had been formed in the United Kingdom on 12 September 1940. The division came under command of V Corps on 15 July 1942, in preparation for the invasion of North Africa. It left the U.K. on 8 November 1942 to sail for North Africa. Elements of the division landed with the 78 Infantry Division on 12 November 1943 and formed ‘Blade Force’ during the initial rush to secure Tunisia. The divisional headquarters landed on 22 November 1942, remaining under command of V Corps. ‘Blade’ Force disbanded on 6 December 1942, with the units absorbed back into the division. The 6 Armoured Division fought its first battle between 18 and 25 January 1943 at Bou Arada. It transferred to IX Corps on 12 March 1943, and fought in the battle of Fondouk between 7 and 11 April, and El Kourzia between 22 April and 26 April. It then took part on the final battle for Tunis between 5 and 12 May, outflanking the final German defence line to secure the Cape Bon peninsula. Following the surrender of the German forces in North Africa, the division returned to V Corps on 26 May 1943, remaining in Tunisia until transferring to Italy on 18 March 1944.
The 1 Armoured Division was a pre-war Regular Army formation, formed in 1938 as ‘The Mobile Division’. The division entered Tunisia under the command of X Corps, 8 Army on 13 March 1943. Between 21 March and 30 March, it took part in the battle of Tebaga Gap. Then, on 6 and 7 April, it participated in the battle of Wadi Akarit. On 15 April 1943, it transferred to IX Corps in 1 Army and then took part in the battle for El Kourzia between 22 and 26 April. On 1 May 1943, it moved to 1 Army Reserve, rejoining IX Corps on the 8 May (after the final breakthrough had been achieved) until the surrender of the German forces on 13 May 1943. Following the end of the Tunisian campaign, the division left IX Corps on 22 May 1943 to transfer back to 8 Army command and moved to Libya for a period before returning to Tunisia. It did not take part in the invasion of Sicily or the early stages of the Italian campaign. moving to Italy on 27 May 1944 prior to the assault on the Gothic Line.
The 7 Armoured Division was also a pre-war Regular Army division based in Egypt. It came under XXX Corps for the advance across Libya and into Tunisia. On 6 March 1943, the division took part in the battle of Medenine, and then between 16 and 23 March, it was involved in the battle of the Mareth Line. It commenced the battle under command of XXX Corps, but transferred to X Corps on 18 March 1943 in order to outflank the main Axis positions. It returned to XXX Corps on 22 March. It also participated in the battle of Wadi Akarit on 6 and 7 April 1943. On 13 April, it transferred to X Corps, and took part in the battle for Enfidaville between 19 and 29 April. On 30 April, the division transferred from the 8 Army to the 1 Army, where it came under command of IX Corps. With IX Corps, it participated in the final battle for Tunis between 5 and 12 May 1943. Following the surrender of the German forces in North Africa, it transferred to V Corps on 18 May, and then returned to Libya on 25 May to join X Corps and prepare for the invasion at Salerno. It landed at Salerno on 15 September 1943, and fought it Italy until leaving for the United Kingdom on 20 December 1943.