French defence of Saint-Cloud, Algeria, 1942

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Wolf
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French defence of Saint-Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 14 Jan 2017 07:05

What French units defended St Cloud against the US 18th RCT, nov 1942?

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by OHara » 14 Jan 2017 21:01

Initially the 1/18 encountered elements of the 1/16 RTA (Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens). They were reinforced by two batteries of the 66 RAA (Régiment d'Artillerie d'Afrique) and one battery of the 68 RAA was on a hill nearby.

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Loïc » 14 Jan 2017 21:27

the 16e is a RTT - Tunisian Tirailleurs Regiment

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by OHara » 14 Jan 2017 21:48

Yes. You're right. It was the 16 RTT

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 14 Jan 2017 23:55

Thank you!

I assume 1/16e RTT refers to the 1st Battalion of that regiment, not the 1st company. Is it known what type of weapons the artillery batteries used. IIRC the French were limited to 75mm calibre pieces in North Africa...?

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by OHara » 15 Jan 2017 01:37

According to Les débarquements alliés en afrique du nord by CV Caroff (1960) French forces in the Oran area were deployed as follows:
Arzew: 1st Company 16 RTT, HQ of the 1/68 RAA + one battery of the 1/68
Saint Leu: 4th company 16 RTT + one battery of 1/68 RAA
Saint Cloud: one battery 1/68 RAA
Oran: 2nd Zouave; HQ 1/16 RTT, regimental assests, 3rd company RTT; 66 RAA, 2nd RCA (armored car squadron), Garde (one
squadron)
La Senia: 2nd Company 16 RTT + a base defense unit
Misserghin: a squadron of the 2nd RCA
Lartique: a base defense company
Mers el-Kébir: 6th Company of 2nd Zouaves
Bouisseville: 2nd Company 2 RTA
Ain el-Turk: 10th Company 2 RTA

The artillery units had 75-mm guns. There some artillery units in Morocco with 155-mm guns, but not here

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 15 Jan 2017 02:55

Atkinson in An Army at Dawn claims that St Cloud had been reinforced with the 16th Tunisian Infantry Regiment (sic), the 1st Bn, Foreign Legion, an artillery battalion along with an unspecified number of militia troops belonging to the Service d'Ordre Légionnaire... (this being by the time of fighting...)

Is this an exaggeration?

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by OHara » 15 Jan 2017 03:46

Atkinson doesn't give a reference for his source. He used a lot of US Army and contemporary media sources in his research but there's not a single French language book in his bibliography. In this matter, I'd say yes and put my money on Caroff.

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 15 Jan 2017 06:32

So to sum up;

at St Cloud opposing the American 18th Infantry there were elements of the 1st Battalion, 16e RTT - who I assume must have withdrawn from the coastal areas. Along with three artillery batteries (Two batteries 66 RAA and one battery 68 RAA).

No Foreign Legion, no militia. No other units of the 16th Regiment as suggested by Atkinson.

Did the parts of the 1st Bn/16e RTT stationed in Oran (Bn HQ, 3rd Company) move to St Cloud before the clashes with the US forces, i.e. was the French battalion at near full strength...?

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 15 Jan 2017 13:11

The defenders at St Cloud as described in Operation Torch: The Allied Gamble to invade North Africa (1985) by William B. Breuer.
At daybreak that morning of November 9, about five miles east of Oran,
Colonel Frank Greer, leader of the Big Red One's 18th Infantry Regiment, was making last-minute preparations for an attack on the pretty
little village of St. Cloud. The innocent-looking town of 4,000 residentswas lethal and blocked the coastal road leading from Arzew to Oran. Inside St. Cloud's thick-walled houses—each a ready-made bunker were a large number of Algerian mercenaries, young fighting men who
were anxious to demonstrate their battlefield tenacity, even if it meantkilling their friends the Americans.
No mention of strength or additional forces - Foreign Legion or militia etc. (French use of artillery is described however).

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 15 Jan 2017 13:23

The book Rangers in World War II (1992) by Robert W. Black, p58 mentions the fighting at St Cloud:
"A Battalion of the French Foreign Legion and the 16th Tunisian Regiment were in the town, using machine guns, mortars and artillery on the Americans trying to advance over open ground."
No French language sources seem to have been used when writing this book...

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by OHara » 15 Jan 2017 19:22

I don't have any good French sources regarding the ground fighting around Oran. Here is what Ies derniers jours de Darlan by Jacques Moreau (1985) says:

A Saint-Cloud, les 16e RTT et 2e RCA tiennent toujours le village tandis que l'ennemi occupe une crete au nord-ouest. La pression s'intensifie dans la journee et les 32e et 31e batteries tirent sur les engins ennemis jusqu'a 1645, moment ou la 32 batterie est prise. El fin de journee, les automitrailleuses ennemies s'avancent dans la direction d'Arcole et de Sidi Chami

The reference to the French legion comes from the US Army history Northwest Africa, Seizing the Initiative in the West by G. F. Howe (1991). On page 208 it says: "The advance guard was met just before noon by a heavy volume of rifle and machine gun fire from the 16th Tunisian Infantry Regiment, and from a battalion of the Foreign Legion concealed among the houses. The first American attack was quickly repulsed by this fire, augmented by the 75-mm and 155-mm shellfire of a battalion of the 68th African Artillery Regiment along a line northwest of the town." His source is the After Action Report of the 18th Regiment. In other words, the American commander's explanation of why he did not take the town.

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Re: French defence of St Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Wolf » 15 Jan 2017 21:55

OHara wrote:2e RCA
The Spearhead overview of the US 1st Infantry Division (Ian Westwell, 2002) mentions French use of armoured cars (unknown type). Haven't seen that bit of information anywehre else. There is also the term "heavy artillery".
The 1st Battalion made initially good progress along the Arzew-Oran road. After advancing through the village of Renan, it beat off an attack by five Vichy armoured cars and moved forward to St Cloud a farther two miles down the road. Here, it was halted by afirmly entrenched enemy garrison supported by heavy artillery. Reinforcements were brought up, including the 2nd Battalion and self-propelled artillery, but an attack on the village was beaten off during the afternoon. A second wave of reinforcements, chiefly all of the 3rd Battalion bar one company left at Arzew, arrived shortly before nightfall and plans were laid to assault St Cloud on the following day.
The same book also contain this little confusing passage that I guess can be interpreted as if elements of the US 16th Infantry also participated in the attack on St Cloud. Something I have not seen confirmed in any other source.
To the east of Oran, the 16th and 18th RCTs launched an attack on St Cloud. Advancing from three sides early in the morning, they fought their way into the village but were halted by stiff resistance by noon.

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Re: French defence of Saint-Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by davidedwardmawer » 03 Oct 2018 15:11


Carl Schwamberger
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Re: French defence of Saint-Cloud, Algeria, 1942

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 31 Dec 2018 07:50

I'd have to ask, where do the French sources place any Legion battalions at this time and date?

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