38 (Irish) Brigade assembles in North Africa.

Event
Monday, 21 December, 1942

38 Irish Bde FlashOn 8 November 1942, Operation TORCH landed Allied forces in Algeria (at Oran and Algiers) and Morocco (at Casablanca) to secure the Vichy territories of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The intention was to advance to Tunis some 800 km to the east and then advance to attack the rear of the Axis forces fighting Montgomery's Eighth Army in the Western Desert. The overall strategic aim of the North Africa war theatre was to gain safe Mediterranean passage for Allied shipping and permit transit via the Suez canal instead of having to negotiate the longer passage via South Africa.

In early November 1942, most of the 38 (Irish) Brigade units had sailed from Greenock, Scotland arriving off Algiers by 22 November. The following week, the Brigade moved to Bougie and then by road into Tunisia. The Irish Brigade was then deployed into the battle area some 100 miles south-west of Tunis.

When the 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Fusiliers had sailed from the UK to North Africa, the troopship had collided with another on 4 December. There was then a delay when it steamed eight miles to Gibraltar for repairs. The Faughs* had to sort out their baggage and equipment, much of it having been stored in the flooded forward hold.

The Faughs departed Gibraltar on 9 December and arrived at the port of Bougie in Algeria on 11 December. They spent the next few days unloading their equipment and acclimatising before moving to Tunisia on the 18 December. Three days later on 21 December, the Battalion was reunited with 38 (Irish) Brigade, which included the 6th Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion The London Irish Rifles.

The Brigade commander was Brigadier Nelson Russell MC, a Royal Irish Fusilier and veteran of the Battle of the Somme where he had been awarded his MC. In January he would lead the Irish Brigade into its first major battles in North Africa north of Bou Arada.

*
Faughs is the regimental sobriquet for The Royal Irish Fusiliers used either collectively to describe a unit or individually, the latter for example, in describing a Royal Irish Fusilier soldier, - 'he is a Faugh'. The origins are in the Regimental Motto.

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