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Battle of Sidi Nsir

In an effort to extend the Tunis bridgehead, the Germans launched Operation Ochsenkopf in February 1943. Kampfgruppe Lang, containing sPzAbt. 501 and elements of 10th Panzer Division, struck at British forces at Sidi Nsir. After a hard battle, the German forces overran the British infantry and artillery and captured Sidi Nsir. The British resistance gained time to establish defenses at Hunt’s Gap which halted Kampfgruppe Lang’s advance toward Beja.

The Bundesarchiv archive contains several photos of the aftermath of the Battle of Sidi Nsir.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-05A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-05A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-05A
German soldiers and wounded British soldiers at the northeast end of the Sidi Nsir station.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-18A, Appe.  (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-18A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-18A
Another view of the British wounded and German soldiers at the northeast end of the station. A Kubelwagen ambulance has arrived and one stretcher has been loaded. The name of the station, Sidi Nsir, is visible on the station sign.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-20A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-20A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-20A
A German halftrack tows an antitank gun through a gap in the British wire. The halftrack has just passed through the intersection and is moving toward the Sidi Nsir station. The road to the left goes to Tebourba while the road to Beja is barely visible in the background behind the halftrack.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-26A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-26A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-26A
Another view of the group of German soldiers shown beside the halftrack. The rocky hills behind the soldiers are also shown in photograph 05A.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-27A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-27A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-27A
A photograph showing the southwest end of the train station along with motorcycles, halftrack, Kubelwagen, and a captured U.S. halftack in German service. In the background are the sheds and boxcar visible in other photographs.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-33A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1020-33A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-557-1020-33A
A column of German troops and British prisoners leaves Sidi Nsir heading along the railroad tracks in the direction of Mateur. The Sidi Nsir station is visible in the background.
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1023-27A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-557-1023-27A, Appe. (Creative Commons License.)

101I-557-1023-27A
German light flak setup in the road intersection. On the left, behind the 20-mm flak, is the road to Tebourba. The road and railroad to Beja is visible in the background with traffic moving in both directions.

101I-557-1023-26A is a nearly identical photograph of the same scene.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-788-0032-19, Dullin. (Creative Commons License.)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-788-0032-19, Dullin. (Creative Commons License.)

 
101I-788-0032-19: A photograph from a second photographer showing a PzKpfw. III Ausf. N belonging to sPzAbt. 501 parked at the southwest end of the Sidi Nsir station.

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27 comments to Battle of Sidi Nsir

  • John Paul Gray

    I believe you are referring to February 1943, not 1944, for the battle of Sid Nsir.

  • Lone_Sentry_Admin

    Yes, thank you. Fixed.

  • Hello,

    Very interested to find this page on Sidi Nsir. My father-in-law Jonathan Wilkinson of the 5th Hampshires was captured in an advanced position during this battle. The first photograph shows a number of prisoners and the soldier 1st left on the floor looks very much like Jon. I have tried to enlarge the photo but the quality does not allow this. Is there any way that I can obtain a higher quality copy of this photo. It would be amazing if it is Jon. I have put his wartime story on the BBC2 People’s War website.
    Look forward to hearing from you.

  • HI, MY FATHER WAS IN THE 5TH HAMPSHIRE REGIMENT AT SIDI NSIR AND WAS CAPTURED. IS THERE ANY CHANCE I COULD PURCHASE A COPY OF THE PHOTOS ON THIS WEBSITE. REGARDS ALAN.

  • wow! amazing!It’s really very interesting to find rare pictures on such a small however nice place in Tunisia! My grandparents witnessed the war and they fortunately survived and were not harmed… Anyway, it’s enjoyable!

  • SanDiego

    I couldn’t resist commenting. :)

  • MD

    Excellent site

  • Ian Hammond

    My great Uncle was in the 155th field battery Royal Artillary and was one of only 9 survivors taken prisoner at Sidi Nsir. He spent the rest of the war in various p.o.w camps.

  • GVR

    Wonderful to read!

  • Hester

    Brilliant blog posting. I found your post very interesting, I think you are a brilliant writer. I added your blog to my bookmarks and will return in the future.

  • Mike

    One of the greatest battles of the Royal Artillery.

  • My Grandfather was in 155 Battery at Sidi Nsir.

    There may be some more useful information here:
    http://fattie.freehostia.com/Family/RobertSHitchin/

    Equally if anyone has any info I might find interesting feel free to get in touch: mark_hitchin.yahoo.co.uk.

  • VV

    Great post. Thanks. I just added your site to my myspace page.

  • Wilbert

    Thanks for sharing.

  • John Dean

    My farther,gunner/driver mech with R.E. with 155th battery 172 field regiment, sailed from liverpool in early 1943 on board the ‘Jean Jadot’ which was torpedoed and sank in the med’-20/01/43, he survived and landed in Algiers. First action was at Sidi Nsir were 25 pounders were eventually over run. he was able to retreat safely from the area, he finished this campaign at Cap Bon Tunisia.He thenwent on to Salerno, Monte Casino, and eventually through to Austria.

    I note in the book ‘The Plain Cook and the Great Showman’ the account of the Sidi Nsir battle and the recommendation of Lt-Col Newman of the 5th Hampshires that the 155th battalion receive the highest award for valor,the award was not however made.

    I have been trying to find out the names of the survivers of Sidi Nsir, particularly the Gunners/Drivers, has anyone got this information or can guide me in the right direction

  • Lyndon Harper

    John,

    Sadly despite the fact the action was reported in London Illustrated News (23rd June 1943) under the heading the “The VC Battery”, accompanied also by a drawing by war artist Bryan de Grineau of 155 last stand, this award was never made. One reason given was “too many prisoners”

    I do have a list of awards made to 155 battery, if you are interested?

  • Malcolm Humphrey

    My father, eventually Sergeant leonard “Len” Humphrey served in 155 Battery after Sidi Nsir. Can anybody give me any more information about actions etc. of that unit.

  • Stuart OSullivan

    My wife’s late grandfather was Major John Smith Raworth M.C., the commander of 155 battery. He never really talked about the battle or his PoW experience so we’re finding out quite a lot now. What an epic battle and truly gallant stand. I must admit the poem ’155′ brought a tear to the eye. I’d like to know if it’s possible to get a print of the oil painting commissioned by the R.A. Institute in 1964 of the battle. I’m also trying to find the Illustrated London News image of The VC Battery, again very difficult. This and any other info’ on 155 battery would be much appreciated.

  • [...] the whole of Brigadier Graham’s account at Milsom pages. English photograph captions courtesy Lone Sentry. A German halftrack tows an antitank gun through a gap in the British wire. The halftrack has just [...]

  • I’m listing all the photos that I can positively identify from this battle. Thanks to Google Earth, and the unique terrain of Northern Tunisia, we can draw new conclusions;

    http://tiger1.info/event/To-Sidi-Nsir
    http://tiger1.info/event/Sidi-Nsir-battle

    David

  • John Gelly

    My late father John Philip Gelly was a Lieutenant and GPO for “E” Troop. He was in the CP behind E Troops guns directing fire. I have just completed his memoirs of the battle and his escape from an Italian prison camp (camp 49), together with 500 others, at Fontanellato nr Parma, N. Italy. After some 450 miles and 35 days he and two others (Ken Heck & Dennis Brett) made it to Roccamorice, south of Piscara. Eventually they crossed the German front line and the British lines some hours later. I have a copy of the painting of the battle by Marcus Phillips in A4 format as a pdf if anyone is interested.

  • Jane Whittaker

    My late father, Frank Whittaker, was torpedoed off the
    Algerian coast during January 1943.
    After being rescued from the water he fought at Sidi Nsir in Tunisia, and was one of the nine ( Dad always spoke of 7 survivors ) Royal Artillery 155 battery that survived. He was taken prisoner and spent time in Italy , close to Mount Vesuvius, and then to Staleg 4C near Dresden.

    I accompanied him to the Memorial Service, held in a War Graves Cemetry, in Tunisia in May 1993. It was very moving.
    He was asked to read the lesson. The graveyard gardeners, who were older gentlemen, watched proceedings over the wall whilst standing outside the Cemetry. I am not sure whether or not they understood English, but they must have realised what he had done fifty years previously and at the end of the proceedings the three of them walked up to him, shook his hand and just said ” thank you”

    While in Tunisia we visited Sidi Nsir. I have photographs.

    Although Dad never spoke about his experiences while he was working after he retired he provided detailed information about his War time experience, including experiences in the prisoner of war camp. He spoke fondly of a soldier called Jimmy Gorse.

    Please feel free to contact me if you feel I may have information which would be useful to you.

    Dad passed away aged 86 in August 2009

  • CHARLES GORDON CLARK

    My uncle, Captain Roger Lawrence, commanded F Troop, 155 Battery, at Sidi Nsir. He escaped from Fontanellato PG 49 in September with others from 155 Battery, but was killed by fascists when with Lt. P G King in Goriano Valli, in Abruzzo. John Gelly (August 21 above) read what I had put on the Monte San Martino website (www.msmtrust.org.uk, “Finding Roger”), and contacted me with many valuable details.
    I should really like to be in touch with Jane Whittaker.

  • Jane Whittaker

    Thank you for your comment, Charles.

    I am looking forward to reading more about your uncle.

  • In May 2014 I am taking a group of vets from the Hampshire regiment back to Sidi Nsir. Anyone is welcome to join us.

    See our website http://www.western-desert.de

    See the tour entitled Tigers in Tunisia.

    Steve

  • Colin Penley

    Hello, my father served with the 5th Hampshires and was captured at Sidi Nasir. He was taken to Italy and then when the Germans took over the camp was transported to Stalag IVB near Dresden. My father’s name and rank was Sgt Bertram Horatio Penley I can obtain his service no. if required. It has only been in recent time that I’ve taken up the search for more info on the battle and the camps they were held in after they were captured. My father passed away 20 yrs ago this Aug. I now live in Canada as we immigrated here in 1957. I have just recently obtained the book, “Servival at Stalag IVB to learn more about his experiences there.

  • I have been identifying more photos, in the Bundesarchiv and elsewhere, that show the events of this battle.

    Many of these photos are not labelled, and it is only the unique landscapes of Tunisia that allow us to deduce where they were taken. Therefore I would ask anybody who takes a battlefield tour, to take many photos – especially at the spots where wartime photos were taken – and share them with us. This will help to verify the research.

    This, for example, is Col. Lang in his staff car passing one of the Tigers heading for Sidi N’sir;

    http://www.bild.bundesarchiv.de/archives/barchpic/search/_1402155232/?searchview=detail&searchfocus=1

    David Byrden

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