In Memoriam  - Gordon George ELDERTON                                                                            Home

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Arthur Ernest Abbott

William John Berrill

Peter (F.C.) Causebrook

Harold Cheaseman

Gordon Roy Coe

Jack Dunkley

Gordon George Elderton Peter Gifford Felce

Frederick Furr

Harold Philip Gardiner

Anthony Robert Gillitt

Ronald Douglas Hales

Norman Leonard Hornsey

Robert Howard

Edwin Hudson John Arthur Paul Loake
Richard Saxby Mutimer Raymond Reginald Norman Raymond George Osborne Brian Terence Peck
Colin Roderick Penness Douglas Arthur Prigmore John Harry Sharp Norman Perkins Sharpe
Robert Troath Died after Korean War: Raymond-Kimber Leslie Walters

 

GORDON GEORGE ELDERTON, born 11.8.1921, entered the School in September 1933.  In July 1935, he left School and went to Wellingborough Gas Light Co. 

In January 1942, he joined the Hampshire Regiment.  He served in North Africa.  On 22nd April 1943, he died of wounds and is buried in Medjez El Bab War Cemetery, Tunisia. 

He was the son of Mr.  and Mrs.  J.  Elderton, 143 Knox Road, Wellingborough.  'In Memoriam' book

 

The Common Wealth War Graves Commission adds that George was in the 1/4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.  Crucial information for most regiments, since usually the Battalions served in very different theatres of War.  In the case of the Hampshires,  three battalions were members of the same (128th) Infantry Brigade

which like Berrill's 5th Northamptonshire's took part in "Operation Torch" – the American and British invasion of N.Africa. 

 

Tunisia is a country of strange contrasts.  There are many miles of fertile plainlands, such as the Merjerda, the Goubellat, and the Bou Arada Plains, which were interspersed by vineyards and olive-groves, and in places thick with cork trees.  The plains were separated by roed belowcky and precipitous hills, either bare rock or covered with thorny brushwood.    www.geocities.com/rurmuseum/star.rtf))

 

On 11th  November 1942 the 2nd  Battalion sailed for Africa, taking part in “Operation Torch”. They disembarked at Algiers on 21st  November.  In the first days of December 1942 the 2nd  battalion of the Hampshires suffered 75% casualties, when the Axis forces counterattacked from the north towards Tebourba.  In this battle one of its company commanders, Major H.W. Le Patourel, was awarded the Victoria Cross.

 

Three other Hampshire Battalions, including Gordon Elderton's landed in N.Africa soon after.  As is described below, they too were soon badly mauled.

The 128th  Infantry Brigade – The Hampshire Battalions in Tunisia.

       128th Infantry Brigade

             1st/4th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment

             2nd/4th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment

             5th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment

(After the fall of Tunis on 13th May 1943, the 2nd Battalion joined the 128th Brigade (“The Hampshire Brigade”).)

 

Source:   http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/2378251  (this continues longer account than that below)

Original details from "The Royal Hampshire Regiment 1918 - 1954" David Scott Daniell.

 

On the 6th January 1943 the rest of the 128th Infantry Brigade left Britain as part of 46th  Infantry Division, for North Africa, in “Operation Torch”. The Brigade disembarked at Algiers on 17th January, moving to Bone where it remained until the end of January, when the Brigade moved on to Hunts Gap.

On the 26th February the 5th  Battalion at Sidi Nsir (between Mateur and Beja - see map on the right) was attacked in overwhelming strength as the Germans began Operation “Ox Head”, a Corps level assault by German Paratroopers, elements of 10th Panzer Division and 501st Heavy Tank brigade  - See Map below, drawn by a Lance Corporal  in the 5th Hampshires (see 'My Position' on the map and his description below right.). The 5th Battalion was supported by 155th Battery Royal Artillery, and during the day the unrelenting German assault knocked out all the guns, whose crew had stood and died serving their guns, firing over open sights at the German tanks.

Only 9 gunners survived.  At 5pm ‘B’ Company of the 5th Battalion, reduced to 30 men, was over-run. At dusk the Battalion considered its position untenable, and it withdrew to a feature known as “Hampshire Farm”. Of the 4 Rifle Companies, only ‘C’ Company less 1 platoon, and 30 men of ‘D’ company, remained.

 

Battle of Sidi Nsir described by a 5th Hampshire L/Cpl Jonathan Wilkinson    http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/34/a4789434.shtml

 

A powerful Kampfgruppe (battlegroup) under Oberst Lang was moving swiftly southwards as part of Operation 'Oxhead', and included 14 Tigers and 60 Panzers. The group formed part of the crack German 2nd Div of Rommel's Afrika Corps.

There was growing concern that these powerful tanks would break through our limited defences, which were awaiting reinforcements. The 5th Battalion dug in at Hunts Farm under Lieutenant-Colonel Newnham. Most of our officers and men were fresh out of England with no battle experience. Our A and B Companies were then sent some twelve miles ahead up a narrow valley to relieve the 1st East Surreys at the isolated outpost of Sidi Nsir. The small railway station became our

HQ.  We were then given the dangerous job of occupying craggy hilltop positions, listening/monitoring German movements, and holding any advance of tanks down the narrow valley below. We were supported by 8 25-pounder guns of 155th Field Battery RA, but were well out of range of our heavy artillery positioned at Hunts Farm.

German patrols of experienced Barenthin paratroopers approached our positions for the first time on 20th February, and we began to take fire and casualties — Bill Morgan was killed, shot in the head. German Messerschmitts began to strafe the valley. On the night of the 25th we received heavy mortar and machinegun fire. The dawn of the 26th brought the German attack as a long line of Tigers, Panzers and infantry began to advance down the narrow valley towards us. Our positions suffered heavy mortar fire. The tanks were held up by minefields and our artillery fire.

My unit B Company bore the brunt of this first advance and eventually after fierce resistance we were overwhelmed losing all but two of my mates. I was captured and taken behind German lines, a POW after less than six months in the army. Overnight we were left out in the pouring rain, a mate and I tried to escape back to our lines under cover of dark — but soon ran into a patrol. That night we slept on a bed of rocks.

Note Hampshire Battalion Actions, took place North of this map (see first map)

After the war, I learnt that the resistance at Sidi Nsir where all were ordered to hold positions, helped to delay this crack German Corps for some 48 hours, giving time for extra mining of the road and the reinforcement of Hunts Farm. The German attack was successfully repulsed. I am really proud of my Hampshire mates who 'fought like the Tigers on our regimental badge', and the brave RA lads whose guns were knocked out one by one. Later Newnham wrote to our colonel 'these lads were tougher than anything I have ever served with, or hope to serve with. There was no suggestion of a waiver — every man stuck to his rifle, his bren, his mortar to the end'.

Only 9 of 130 RA men survived the action, which is well described in 'Last Stand! Famous Battles Against The Odds' by Bryan Perrett 1991.

On the 27th February the Hampshire Brigade was attacked at Hunts Gap. 2/4th was the main Battalion engaged, with 1/4th Battalion in support. The 2/5th Leicester Battalion was attached to the Brigade as well. The situation was so precarious that the Hampshire 2nd  Battalion, still training its new recruits, was put into the line alongside 1/4th  Battalion. The Brigade was supported by plenty of artillery and the Churchill tanks of the North Irish Horse. Extensive minefields and heavy dive bombing kept the German tanks at bay. On 28th February a pre-dawn attack penetrated the 2/4th  Battalion’s ‘B’ company positions, but heroic resistance and the tanks of the North Irish Horse kept the Germans at bay until dusk, when ‘B’ company was over-run. ‘C’ company was over-run by German infantry. On 1st March the German attacked again, and ‘D’ company was over-run, but 2/4th Battalion hung on to their remaining positions. On 2nd March the Germans withdrew, and on 5th March the 2/4th Battalion was relieved by the Argylls. The 2/4th Battalion had suffered 243 men killed or missing.

 

During March the Brigade was engaged on defensive patrolling, under heavy shelling. 1/4th Battalion lost 100 casualties during March, but 5th Battalion received 5 Officers and 150 men as replacements. On 5th April the Brigade handed over their positions and moved 100 miles south to El Ala.  The Brigade subsequently captured the Fondouk Gap, allowing the British 6th Armoured Division to pass through onto the Kairouan Plain.

On 22nd April 1943 (the day George Elderton died) the 128th  Infantry Brigade attacked Bou Arada. The 16th Durham Light Infantry Battalion was added to the Brigade for the attack. Five Field Regiments and two Medium Regiments of the Royal Artillery supported the Brigade.  Early progress was good, but when the mist cleared all four battalions were caught in the open under heavy fire, and losses mounted. The rifle companies of 1/4th Battalion only had 3 Officers and 80 men left between them. The 2/4th Battalion had to reorganise onto a three-company basis.

 

On the 13th May 1943 Tunis fell and the North African campaign was over. 128th Infantry Brigade was reconstituted to consist of 2nd Battalion, 1/4th Battalion and 5th Battalion. The 2/4th Battalion was split into two to form two Defence Units of two Beach Groups. Their role was to protect the maintenance area of a Beach Group when it made a landing where no port was available.  Its probably not surprising that the 2nd Battalion now joined the 128th  Brigade (“The Hampshire Brigade”).

 

Further details of the battles can be found on http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/2378251

 

More information on Operation Torch is given in William Berrill’s file, because the Northamptonshire Battalion that was also involved in N.Africa and the subsequent invasions.

 

CWGC

Name: 

ELDERTON, GORDON GEORGE

Initials:

G G

Nationality:

United Kingdom

Rank:

Private

Regiment/Service:

Hampshire Regiment

Unit Text:

1/4th Bn.

Age:

21

Date of Death:

22/04/1943

Service No:

6411212

Casualty Type:

Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference:

2. G. 17.

Cemetery:

MEDJEZ-EL-BAB WAR CEMETERY

Medjez-El-Bab War Cemetery

In May 1943, the war in North Africa came to an end in Tunisia with the defeat of the Axis powers by a combined Allied force. The campaign began on 8 November 1942, when Commonwealth and American troops made a series of landings in Algeria and Morocco. The Germans responded immediately by sending a force from Sicily to northern Tunisia, which checked the Allied advance east in early December. In the south, the Axis forces defeated at El Alamein withdrew into Tunisia along the coast through Libya, pursued by the Allied Eighth Army. By mid April 1943, the combined Axis force was hemmed into a small corner of north-eastern Tunisia and the Allies were grouped for their final offensive. Medjez-el-Bab was at the limit of the Allied advance in December 1942 and remained on the front line until the decisive Allied advances of April and May 1943. There are 2,903 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in MEDJEZ-EL-BAB WAR CEMETERY.