Operation Perpetual, 11-12 November 1942

Operation Perpetual (11-12 November 1942) saw British troops capture a number of ports on the coast east of Algiers in the aftermath of Operation Torch.

When Operation Torch was first being planed Admiral Andrew Cunningham, the commander of the Naval Forces had recommended adding a landing at Bizerta in Tunisia. This was rejected because of a lack of resources, and the eastern task force landed at Algiers instead.

Part of the plan was for a quick advance east from Algiers to Tunis. Operation Perpetual was conceived as a preliminary operation, to capture the port of Bougie, 100 miles to the east of Algiers. The original plan was to land at Bougie on 9 November, the day after the Algiers landing.

Bad weather delayed the landings until 11 November. Four landing ships were allocated to the task, carrying the British 36th Infantry Brigade. This expedition was covered by a strong Royal Navy force.

The first three landings ships landed at Bougie early on 11 November, and encountered no resistance.

The fourth landing ship  attempted to land Djidjelli, thirty miles to the east of Bougie, on 12 November, but heavy surf prevented the landing. The airfield was unoccupied, so early on 12 November the RAF flew No.154 Squadron into the airfield. They only had enough fuel for one Spitfire patrol, and were then grounded until new supplies arrived on the following day. The new base was exposed to heavy axis air attacks until some air defences were in place. During these raids the ship carrying the 36th Brigades heavy equipment, baggage and letters from home was sunk. A party  of sappers and RASC drove cross-country to Djidjelli, arriving early on 13 November.

The easy success at Bougie encouraged the British to attempt to occupy Bone, close to the Tunisia border. At 0300 on 12 November a small force of commandos and two companies from the 3rd Royal West Kents were landed from the sea, while two companies of the 3rd Parachute Battalion dropped onto the airfield. The British paratroops arrived a few minutes ahead of a similar German force coming from Tunisia, which turned back after seeing the British parachutes in the distance. A third force ('Hart Force', named after its commander Major Hart of the 5th Northamptons) from the 36th Infantry Brigade left Algiers on the overland route to Bone. The British were able to move further east, taking Constantine and then Tabarak. By now they were within sixty miles of Bizerta. Despite heavy rain the advance continued until the British were within twenty miles of Tunis, but this was too far and the leading forces were soon forced to retreat.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 May 2017), Operation Perpetual, 11-12 November 1942 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/operation_perpetual.html

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