Thursday, May 20, 2010

The heroes of the 18th Indian Infantry Brigade

As we said, the 18th Indian Infantry Brigade had just arrived in the desert from Iraq. The brigade had a temporary commander, Lt-Col Gray, of the 2/3 Gurkha Rifles. The brigade operated under the overall command of the 1st South African Division. The brigade, with three battalions, had arrived without artillery, but on the night of 30 June 1942, they received 23-25pdr guns. They also had 16-6pdr ATG's. The South African engineers helped the brigade carve out defences from the rocky soil. Nine Matilda's were sent to reinforce the brigade. The idea was that the brigade would be organized as a column. By the morning of 1 July, the enemy artillery was registering their guns on the brigade's position and they knew an attack was imminent. The Axis forces had forced a hole in the minefield by 1pm. About a dozen German tanks passed through the gap. Another eight tanks arrived by 4pm and that doomed the brigade. At 5pm, all of the Matildas were knocked out. The attack was only against two of the three battalions: the 2/5 Essex Regiment and the 4/11 Sikhs. The 2/3 Gurkhas were unengaged. The position fell by 7pm, but only after a spirited defence by the brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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