for iKe Blue
The magnitude of the tasks facing the Brit
ish people now that the Prime Minister has
returned from concerting this year's plan
of action is widely discussed in the news
papers at home. The “Manchester Guard
ian” says : “Again we are on the edge of
the action of new offensives. W e need not
speculate where, but we can trust Roose
velt and Churchill to be as alive as the
keenest of u s ^ to the strategic necessity of
complementing on the west Russia's magnifi
cent efforts on the east. Churchill comes
back to meet a Government ungrudging in
its appreciation of his work... but concerned
about the weaknesses that still reveal them
selves. Among these is the submarine dan
London newspapers also stress the urg
ency of grappling with the u-boat problem.
The general opinion expressed is that only
when this most dangerous of Hitler's wea
pons has been smashed will he lose the hope
of peace or compromise. Admiral Stark,
commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in
Europe, on his return to Britain from
U.S.A., said he hoped that by the end of
1943, the British and U.S. Navies would
have the u-boats where they wanted them.
After capturing an area of Russia greater
than that of Great Britain, the Red Army,
at the time “Crusader” went to press, was
threatening Rostov, eight miles away ;
Kharkov, 38 miles away ; and Kursk, 14
miles away. A 100-miles Russian outflank
ing movement along the Donetz threatened
not only Rostov, but the entire German
Donetz defence system.
For three days last week every radio sta-
tio in Greater Germany played what the
announcers called “heroic music." This
ranged from the classic funeral marches to
“Ich hatte einen Kameraden.” “And thus ’
said Radio Roma "the dead of Stalingrad
were laid to rest in their tombs by the en
tire German people.” In “Das Reich” Gob-
bels, inaugurating a reign of gloom, wrote:
“Our soldiers had won victory after victory
and thus spoiled public opinion... Now be
fore us we suddenly see the darker side of
Even more frank was Lt.-Gen. Dittmar,
Berlin Radio's Liddell Hart . “For the first
time we Germans feel the full tragedy of
a setback ; for the first time we experience
what we so often have inflicted on others.
A German army has ceased to exist.’ “It
is music for a funeral” said a Pole on the
B.B.C. “The funeral of Germany's eastern
(Continued on Page 8)
In the past few weeks most of us have read or heard about the “Ma
reth Line” as the stiffest hurdle facing Eighth Army since Alamein.
And most of us have only the vaguest idea what or where the Mareth
Line is. Now in this article experts tell you about it.
T he Mareth position now stands between Eighth Army and the Allied Forces
in Northern Tunisia. It was built by the French as a stop to the Italians. It is
a strange irony that, by being themselves defeated, the Italians are now tak
ing it over nearly three years after
No. 42 Vol. 4 February 15th 1943
they made faces at it from afar before
turning East to march on Egypt.
The first defences to be built in Southern
Tunisia were on the Southern perimeter of
the Gabes oasis. At the same time work was
started on the Mareth Line, intended to bar
the routes from Libya towards Gabes bet
ween the sea and the very difficult Mat-
mata hills at the point where the Wadi Zig-
zaou provides a natural obstacle.
THREE MAIN STASES
By 1939 the Mareth line was complete.
It had been built in three main stages. First,
localities covering the ways across the
Wadi Zigzaou ; second, localities in the
gaps between these, making the line con
tinuous ; third, support localities’ one to
two kilometres in rear of the line, covering
the forward localities.
The forward localities contained concrete
pillboxes and emplacements for small arms
• and anti-tank guns up to 75 mm. The sup
port localities were not concreted, although
they contained certain concreted battalion
and brigade headquarters, and in rear of
them were unconcreted artillery positions.
.From Sidi Touati, south to the Medenine
— Halluf road the defences are on a diffe
rent system, with no continuous line.
Self-supporting localities of about company
strength were built into commanding hills,
the difficult country acting as an obstacle.
From Bir Sultane to Ksar El Halluf a series
of positions, largely unconcreted, was cons
tructed to prevent movement along the
Between the Mareth Line and the fron
tier strong outposts were built to block the
foot of the hills. The first is Ben Gardane,
a defended village with four concreted com
pany strongpoints on the main roads north,
south, east and south-east ; the second,
Foum Tatahouine, where the roads are cov
ered b y three strong
points of about com
pany strength built into
Medenine. an important
road centre, is similarly
defended, but was in
tended mainly to be the
base for mobile coun-
The French propos
ed to hold the Mareth
Line from the sea to Si
di Touati, where the
Wadi Zigzaou peters
out and the hills begin,
with two infantry divi
sions. These manned
the pillboxes with post
weapons. In the hills
there was to be another
infantry division, the
greater part of which
had a counter-attack
role, the remainder
manning the hill strong-
points. The two out
posts at Ben Gardane and Foum Tata
houine were each to hold a battalion group.
A cavalry division, two-thirds of which
would have been operating forward, was
to be based on Medenine. In 1939 a battal
ion was based on El Hamma, presumably
to hold the defences in the Gebel Tebaga.
In addition to the normal troops des
ert garrisons guarded the flank. These were
irregular formations known as Goums, each
of some 220 Arabs under French officers.
When they were wanted the local Sheikh
was informed, a fire was lighted on the
hills and the volunteers poured in. Each
man was issued with a little food and
eighty cartridges, and they became a tough
and easily maintained force.
The Mareth Line was based on certain
assumptions. First, that the British and
French would have command of the sea
and that no landings behind the line would
be possible. Second, that it would not be
possible to outflank it. Third, that the local
population would co-operate.
HIDDEN IWINE !
Time and the Italian Armistice Commis
sion have combined with the Italian short
age of metal to alter the line considerably.
In the summer of 1940 all post weapons
were .removed. The anti-tank obstacle was
flattened, the wire cut, the champ de rails
removed, and the dragon’s teeth demolished.
The metal was taken away from the prepar
ed defences and the armour was removed
from the pillboxes.
The line today, as taken over by the
enemy, consists of a series of well-sited but
empty pillboxes and emplacements. They
may have available the French weapons
removed from them and possibly the reserve
ammunition from the main dumps. And they
will possibly discover, too, the wine which
at least one French battalion hid there.