An Italian view of the battle for Takrouna

The following account of the battle for Takrouna pinnacle was broadcast on Italian radio on 30 April 1943:

A previous report has revealed the heroic conduct of our garrison of the Rock of Takrouna which was organised by the Command of the First Army as a defensive stronghold. One battalion of the 66th Infantry Regiment (Trieste Division), a section of the 202nd Gruppe and one German antitank platoon of twenty men were sent to garrison the Rock of Takrouna. These heroes were presented with an Italian and a German flag so that the symbols of the fatherland should be present.

In the early hours of the night, British artillery laid down its barrage. After a concentrated barrage the New Zealand and Maori troops advanced flanked by tanks which acted as mobile artillery in order violently to pave the way for the assault formations. The New Zealanders, despite the gaps caused in their ranks by our accurate fire, went into the attack on the slopes of the hill. But our infantry sprang upon them and stopped them with hand grenades. They were seen to be rushing amidst the smoke with drawn knives. The defence of the hill of Takrouna gave rise to countless incidents of heroism.

The struggle continued without respite, without breathing space for the whole night. By the morning the enemy had succeeded in penetrating the streets of the village. This enemy thrust threatened our garrison and a company of Grenadiers was sent in support. The enemy attackers were clinging to the hillside but the Grenadiers succeeded in joining the garrison.

In the early hours of the afternoon two companies of a battalion of the Folgore Division also succeeded in reaching the position and in lending their help in a new counter attack which completely restored the situation. But the British Command did not spare its forces in order to break through the Rock of Takrouna where the battle was raging most furiously. Detachments of the 50th English Division were sent to reinforce the New Zealand Division but these attacks were in vain. Our artillery laid down a concentrated fire, and broke up every offensive attempt, dispersing the enemy masses which were attacking in waves. One of the most terrible artillery duels ever registered in North Africa then flared up. The enemy intended literally to submerge under an avalanche of steel and fire the garrison of Takrouna. The struggle reached the pitch of unprecedented violence. The next day the BBC said that the hill had been defended foot by foot.

The enemy impressed by the reaction of our artillery, hesitated, but the British artillery did not cease for a minute. At 1700 hrs. the communications to the garrison were broken when the radio operator collapsed over his machine, struck by splinters. Right until the second night the battle was continued by our men who, barricaded among the smoking remains of the village and entrenched behind natural cover, continued strenuously to defend the flags as they had promised.

When the day of the 23rd broke and the enemy was able to set foot in the position, he found nothing but dead and wounded. The victor, exhausted by the bitterness of the battle and by the terrible losses inflicted by vastly inferior forces, was obliged to call a halt, to take refuge in trenches and to cover himself with camouflage netting for fear of further attacks from troops who were fighting until the last breath of life.

The truly lion-hearted courage of our infantry made a deep impression on others besides the New Zealanders, the Maoris and the British of the 50th Division. Even the BBC commentators noted for their blindness to Italian heroism had to recognise the indomitable valour of our soldiers. The Germans of the anti-tank detachment fought in this battle for life and death, firing until the last cartridge and performing deeds of great valour.

From the heroic defenders of Takrouna a chaplain, Don Giuseppe Maccariella, a sergeant and a few soldiers managed to return to our lines. The behaviour of all these valorous men was sublime. This is evident from the story of the priest who ran from spot to spot administering the last rites to the dying and from the statements of the soldiers. Takrouna will constitute an indelible page of the exceptional valour of our soldiers in the immense battle of Africa and the heroes of this epic resistance will forever remain engraved in the hearts of the Italians, from Capt. Politi, the commander of the battalion who with his senior assistant, Capt. Lirer, personally led the remaining soldiers in the counter-attack, to Capt. Giacomini, to Diletti, 2 Lieut of the grenadiers, that soldier who found the strength to joke about his wound by saying, ‘If I lose this leg I shall save in shoe leather’, to Cpl. Sessa who alone faced four New Zealand soldiers with his rifle killing one and putting the others to flight, to Sgt. Bressaniniche who, although wounded wrote with his own blood upon a scrap of paper, ‘Long live the King! Long live Italy! God save Italy!’ and then died clutching his rifle. This is the temper of which the defenders of Takrouna were made. It is the temper shown by the soldiers of Italy every day in the violence of the battle of Tunisia.

From J.F. Cody's official history, 28 (Maori) Battalion (Wellington, 1956), pp. 309-11.

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