Uncle Hugh enters Tunis

This article appeared in the

Bristol Evening World.  Tuesday May 25, 1943

It describes Hugh Lyon entering Tunis.

Sergeant Hugh Playfair Lyon, 22-years-old member of the well-known Bristol family of golfers, doesn’t deliberately try to be first in the various towns occupied by the British Army. It just happens that way.

He was first into Tripoli in January. Now I learn that he was also first into Tunis   — by  50 clear minutes.

His parents, who are now living in Cornwall, have received from his brother, C.Q.M.S Alan Lyon, aged 30, who is also in Tunisia, a letter describing Hugh’s entry into the town.

It confirms all we have heard of how the speed of our advance completely surprised the Germans and Italians.

Here are the relevant extracts from Alan’s letter which has been passed to me. “Yesterday who should come riding into our location in a jeep but Brother Hugh. Not content with being the first into Tripoli he was first into Tunis as well. He never was very talkative but as far as I was able to extract from him the details were as follow:

“His troop which consists of three armoured cars more or less accidentally found a gap through the anti-tank defences and sailed slap into the town. Once in the town no one took a great deal of notice them and as they followed the traffic Jerries were unconcernedly walking along the pavements, some even having their girl-friends on their arms.

Eventually they came to a square with several crossroads with a gendarme on point duty. He put up his hand to stop them while he let some traffic through from other directions, but they decided this was the spot for a showdown. They drove straight on and stopped in the middle blocking all the traffic.

The gendarme came up and asked them who they thought they were, so they told him: then the party really started. 

And what a party it was because, unknown to them, the remainder had got held up outside the town, and for 50 minutes they had no support whatever.

Hugh grabbed a Tommy gun and hopped out of the car to try and sort things out. The Jerries were just as bewildered as they were and many, thinking that the other streets must be much the same and that they were surrounded, gave themselves up.

Others started throwing stick grenades and sniping. Hugh said the difficulty was to find a gap between the civilians to fire at them.

Some French soldiers and civilians offered to help, and armed with rifles and revolvers that they had taken off prisoners, helped to keep things under control until the rest got through.

Hugh said the population were overjoyed and when he came out three hours later, when the infantry had taken over, his car was full of bottles of wine, rum etc. that the excited population had given them.

All the damage that he got was a scratch on the head from the splinter of a shell which burst by the side of the road on their way out.

He has many amusing tales to tell. Before they got to Tunis they stopped by the roadside talking to a French girl to find out if there were any Jerries about when a German motorcyclist pulled up, taking no notice of them, and asked her if she knew where the English were. They winked at one another and when they placed a Tommy gun against his head the poor Hun nearly died of shock.”

Hugh won the Military Medal in Libya for a remarkable piece of daring. In the retreat to El Alamein last summer he saved a collection of generals and other high-ranking officers stranded without petrol at the corps head-quarters by going off into enemy territory, capturing 500 gallons of petrol and using it to conduct the party back to their lines.

He has been in dozens of tight spots but – as brother Alan suggests – it’s hard work getting him to talk about them.

There are six brothers, all in the services.

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