|A trench of the Mareth Line.|
The British, of course, planned on obliging their enemy. Monty's original plan seemed (and would turn out to be) foolish in the extreme: the flanking movement by the New Zealand Corps would take backseat to the assualt of XXX Corps, which would pound the Mareth Line head on until it punched a hole that X Corps would exploit. Montgomery thought his enemy, outnumbered in everything from manpower to tanks, could not withstand the might of his army; hence, such an emphasis on outflanking his opponent was considered unnecessary.
Some preliminary operations on March 16, 1943, was a sign of things to come. Ten miles from the coast, 6th Grenadier Guards and 3rd Coldstreams assailed an enemy sailent on a grouping of hills called the Horseshoe, which, according to intelligence, was supposedly "lightly held." That peice of information was dead wrong; the German 90th Light Division had 6,500 men in that salient, soldiers of the Fatherland whose fierce resistance finally compelled the Guardsmen to retreat. In the words of an Eighth Army officer, that night attack was "the most damnable thing."
|Zero Hour: The Mareth Offensive, 1943 by Jack Chaddock.|
British infantrymen show how they used the ladders to scale Wadi Zigzaou,
March 27, 1943.
|A Royal Artillery peice bombards the Mareth Line.|
A wounded Tommy shares a cigarette with a German prisoner during the Battle
of Mareth, March 1943.
The battle could perhaps best be described as a qualified Allied victory, a victory that could have been more successful but was a success nonetheless. Eight Army suffered 4,000 casualties; the Axis, 7,000 prisoners, 75 percent of whom were German. "It was the most enjoyable battle I have ever fought," Monty would remember. Maybe so, but it could have been even more enjoyable.