Battle of Longstop Hill

Battle of Longstop Hill is a part of the Tunisia Campaign. In this battle, the Allies broke through the defense line of the Axis forces and ultimately in less than a month completely eliminated the Axis forces in Tunisia, ending the war lasting nearly three years in North Africa.

In November 1942, the Allies launched Operation Torch. A large number of U.S. and British forces landed in French North Africa. After a brief battle, the French army surrendered and joined the Allies. But the Axis forces arrived before the Allied and occupied the Tunisia area of French North Africa. The Allied initially sent to Tunisia for occupation of the land failed to complete the task. Since then the two sides continued fighting in Tunisia region for more than six months. In the first Allied offensives, the Axis forces relied on Djebel el Ahmera and Djebel Rhar highlands to repel the Allied attack. Therefore, the Allies failed to make rapid occupation of Tunisia. Since the two sides battled for a long time in the region, the area had the name of Longstop Hill. The Allies’ first offensive against Longstop Hill was in December 1942. In April 1943 when this battle began, the Allies still had not crossed the Axis defense in the area.

The war entered into April 1943 when the Axis forces in Tunisia region was compressed within a more narrow area. This was mainly because the British 8th Army in southern Tunisia had achieved a series of victories and broke through the defense line of the Axis forces for several times and rushed the Axis forces to northern Tunisia. Successive defeats severely weakened the Axis forces’ combat capability. Among the troops deployed in Tunisia, the most elite troops fought with the 8th Army suffered the huge losses. Therefore, the British 1st Army in the west of Tunisia at this time had the opportunity to break through Axis’s defense in Longstop Hill. The British 78th Infantry Division was responsible for the attack while the German defense force was the 999 Light Afrika Division. The two forces were set up not long ago, especially the German troop was temporarily formed.

The operation started in the evening of April 22. The British first conducted continuous shelling against the German positions. After continuous shelling overnight, the British began to attack the following day. The British forces first attacked Djebel Ahmera. A battalion subordinated the 36th Infantry Brigade was responsible for the attack. Because of the terrain, the attacking forces suffered heavy casualties. Soon even the battalion commander was killed by the Germans. But Maj. John Anderson took over the command of the battalion and launched offensive again. After that, the British gradually captured the positions by fierce fighting and captured 200 prisoners of war. The assaulting troops, however, suffered huge casualties and once left only dozens of people in occupying the high ground. Later that day, the reinforcements arrived and the British consolidated the positions newly occupied. On 24th, the British troops occupied the German position at Sidi Ahmed, which was located in the north of Longstop Hill. Meanwhile, attacks against another highland of Djebel Rhar continued. After several days of continuous offensive frustration, the British with Churchill MKIII tank support broke through the German defense and finally on the 26th occupied Djebel Rhar. At this point, the entire Longstop Hill were falling into the hands of the British.

Longstop Hill was the last natural barrier in the peripheral Tunisia. Losing control of this land meant that the Allies could launch a final offensive against Tunisia at any time. In fact, in less than 20 days after this battle ended, the Allies entered Tunisia and more than 250,000 Axis forces were all captured.

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