Thursday, August 15, 2019

Changes with the new regime from 19 August 1942.

General Alexander had given Bernard Law Montgomery written orders that confirmed his previous verbal orders. The orders were simple: The first priority is to prepare to attack the German-Italian force and to destroy them. Second, while preparing to attack, they must hold their present positions and not allow the enemy to penetrate to the east. All troops in the army were to be notified of these orders. Also, under Montgomery, there was to be a change in terminology. The term "box" was no longer to be used for a defended area. They woiuld no longer talk about "battle groups". Outposts were now to be called "forward defended localities"A hot button for Montgomery was that units needed to be assembled close together so that their commander could address them. Montgomery also liked "concert performances "in forward areas" and that he wanted to see training in forward areas with live ammunition.

Units were starting to receive equipment that had long been out of supply. The exception to that was that they were still short of wire. The cavalry regiment expected to receive more Crusader tanks to bring them up to the establishment of 28 tanks. Infantry battalions were to receive four Vickers guns. They would also receive eight 2-pdr anti-tank guns. The 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment got 64-6pdr Anti-Tank Guns. They passed their 2pdr guns to the infantry units.

A welcome change was the provision of a medium machine-gun platoon for infantry battalions.

In some ways, the German-Italian army was defeated by naval action. Rommel was the master of maneuver warfare. The British forces fought better in static situations. Auchinleck's experiments with organization and formation were attempts to improve that situation. Rommel based his approach on his experience in the Alps during the Great War. He utilized infiltration tactics in every way he could. In his early operations in Cyrenaica in 1941, Rommel threw the British "back on their heels and ran over them. It is interesting to think that Montgomery was the master of static warfare and that he overcame Rommel's mastery of mobile tactics.

For Rommel to be able to attempt to break through to the Nile, he would need to be reinforced. By mid-August, they were starting to see results. From 30 percent strength on 21 July, the German "formations" were at 75 percent strength by 15 August. The biggest problem was the superiority of British air and naval strength. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

More patrolling in August 1942 near El Alamein

On the night of 16-17 August 1942, a 19-man patrol set out to the southwest. Most men were from the 2/43rd Battalion, but there was also Captain Bakewell from the 2/3rd Pioneers. The plan was to move out some four thousand yards. After only covering 2,600 yards, they could hear an enemy working party. After another 800 yards, they ran into a minefield. The Australians could hear Germans talking. At this point, the posted four Bren gunners. A little further on, they ran into a position with some fifty men. The Australians attacked with grenades, grabbed three prisoners, and shot and bayonetted twelve or more men. The prisoners proved to be Italian. The turned and started to head back when they came under fire by mortars and machine-guns. Getting past them took an hour or more. They had lost track of Captain Bakewell, the pioneer, and the four Bren gunners. Some men searched and found Captain Bakewell and the Bren bunners. The captain had been hurt by a booby-trap. The Bren gunners were able to take him some 200 yards, but he asked to be left due to the severity of his wounds. The found the missing men or in some cases, they had just gotten back independently.

Continued Australian patrolling found that small groups of Germans were being positioned to help the Italian units. The Australians continued to be actively patrolling at night, keeping their ascendancy. The enemy counter measures included wiring and booby-trapping the positions that were vulnerable to Australian aggressive patrolling. Patrolling had become more hazardous, so the only deep penetrations had to be done by strong and well-planned raids. On 22 August, the Australians got gifts from the enemy, in the form of six-to-eight inch leaflets. They had the division sign and a message: "Aussies! The Yankees are having a jolly good time in your country. And you?" Another message said "Diggers! You are defending Alamein Box. What about Port Darwin?" The Australians collected the two messages and some were sold as souvenirs.

The elites were still making noises, as they had a new army commander and still had a restless Churchill, anxious to attack the enemy. General Alexander had enough clout with the CIGS, Alan Brooke, that he was able to limit himself to telling General Montgomery to hold on in place and keep the enemy from penetrating to the east. In the meantime, they were to prepare for an offensive against the enemy in the El Alamein area. This is based on the account on Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Australians aggressively patrolling in August 1942

There was considerable patrolling by Australians in early to mid-August 1942. We saw the 2/15th Battalion to the west along the rail line and the coast. The 2/17th Battalion was also patrolling along the rail line and to the south, where the enemy positions were farther from the Australian defenses. Another battalion, the 2/13th Battalion was patrols to the southwest, moving through the 2/17th Battalion positions.

We saw on 13 August at 9pm, a patrol was sent out from the 2;17th Battalion to make a deep penetration into the enemy territory. They fought and action with enemy troops and then eventually withdrew with no losses. This was when on the 14th, was when the 2/17th Battalion had sent out two patrols. This is where they had found what they named "Thompson's Post". A second patrol had found that the enemy forces was working hard to improve their position. They closed a gap in their wire and were working with air hammers as well as picks and shovels. The purpose of this area was to attempt to control the coast road from below.

The 2/13th Battalion sent out a small patrol consisting of an officer and seven men. They advanced about 2,800 yards and then "went to ground". There were some enemy working parties, with one near the Australians. They started towards one working party, but were challenged by a sentry. They charged the enemy, but the officer was shot and his second was killed. They lost one man as a prisoner, but the others were able to guide themselves out by the constellation that the officer had told them about.

During the day, the 9th Australian Division cavalry patrolled. On 15 August, the 2/13th Battalion sent men with the cavalry to become familiar with the territory to the west and to the north from East Point 23.They would be better prepared by knowing the ground in daylight, rather than going out in the dark for the first time. Talking with a prisoner seemed to indicate that the Italians were on a feature called "Cloverleaf" and later "Suthers' Hill". They sent Major Suthers' company on a raid of the hill. If possible, he would leave men on the hill and send the other men to raid Cloverleaf. The company went forward, but some four hundred yards shot of Suther's Hill, they ran into an area filled with booby traps had ten men wounded. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Aggressive patrolling in early to mid-August 1942 at El Alamein

In the north at El Alamein, the 2/15th Battalion were patrolling behind the enemy lines between the railroad line and the coast. Their buddies in the 2/17th Battalion were patrolling the area from the railroad line and to the south. The enemy positions were farther away from the Australian positions in the south. A 2/17th Battalion patrol set out in the evening and returned by 3:30am the next morning. They made a deep penetration into enemy territory, some 5,500 yards. When the patrol was at 4,090 yards deep, a German Spandau machine-gun fired on the patrol, but the gun was aiming high. They went another 800 yards deep, and saw trip wires. Finally, at 5,478 yards, they found a "breast-high wire on long pickets". The wire rattled a warning when the scout hit the wire. A German sentry gave a challenge to the Australians. The Australians "went to ground" for some minutes. When they moved forward again, there was another challenge. The Australians then charged and were fired on by men in trenches. The Australians responded with grenades, sub-machine guns and rifle fire. After an exchange of fire lasting some two minutes, the Australians withdrew. The Australians were unscathed in this exchange.

On the evening of 14 August, "the 2/17th Battalion sent out two patrols". One patrol was to follow up the patrolling from the 13th-14th. The other was to check out an area south of the rail line. Some officers had been probing the area "without permission". The enemy was believed to be digging defenses. The second patrol that was following up the unofficial scouting was to move forward about 6,000 yards. After that, they would turn southwest, moving another 1,400 yards. Once they had done that, they would return to the starting point. That second patrol had 12 men. They traveled some 4,000 yards when they found two fences. Beyond the fences was a very well-developed defensive position. The area was empty, but had trenches and a pill-box. Suddenly, they saw some fifty enemy soldiers approaching them, but who had not seen the Australians. When the enemy were down to twenty yards away, the Australians opened fire and then moved north to the rail line. The leader, Lieutenant Thompson was wounded by "grenade splinters" and was "stunned". Corporal Monaghan took charge and was able to guide the patrol out of danger. They had found a very extensive enemy position some five hundred yards south of the rail line. The position was about 5,500 yards west of the Tel el Eisa station. They named the enemy position "Thompson's Post." This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Friday, August 02, 2019

The aftermath of the Australian patrol action in early August 1942

The Australians were ready with a plan to deal with the condition that the patrol lost the element of surprise. The plan was that when surprise was seen to have been lost, intensive fire would begin from "machine-guns, artillery, and mortars". The idea was that the enemy would think that a broad-front attack had been launched and they would likely be confused by the action. The plan caused the enemy to lay down their defensive fire plan. The result was that the enemy fire safely passed over the retreating patrol. Point 25 and Trig 33 were the recipients of the enemy fire. Captain Cobb believed that there were a continuous line of defenses from the coast to Point 25. The prisoner that had been taken was with the 125th Regiment that had just arrived from Crete.

The enemy appeared to be unaware that the Australians had abandoned El Makh Khad. On 7 August, an enemy reconnaissance gave them information about the withdrawal. General Morshead decided that the Australians needed to occupy posts around that area. The idea was that occupying posts would keep the enemy from getting too close a look at El Alamein and Tel el Eisa. To carry out Morshead's plan, one company of the 2/13th Battalion moved into Trig 22. The 2/13th Field Company immediately laid a protective minefield. A patrol was sent out about 1,800 yards forward. That had the effect of drawing enemy fire. Also on 7 August, the 2/43rd Battalion put a company "with anti-tank uns and machine-guns astride the Qattara Track". This was "east-southeast from Trig 22.

On 8 August, the 2/43rd Battalion replaced the company from the 2/13th Battalion. They took over a portion of the Makh Khad Ridge. They sent out patrols about half-way to the Ruin Ridge. They didn't see any minefields or enemy soldiers.

The 2/15th Battalion sent out a 17 man patrol towards a path that was often traveled by German working parties. After the patrol had traveled about 2,400 yards, they sighted a forty man working party. They Australians could see other working parties, but they were too far away to be easily attacked. The patrol sat for about thirty minutes. They could see a 25 man working party approaching. The patrol leader tossed a grenade as a signal for his men to start firing. The Australians had two Bren guns, four sub-machine guns, and six rifles. They killed or wounded every German in the working party. They carried out one wounded German. One of the Australians was wounded and one man was missing. Again, a pre-planned fire support was shot in support of the patrol. Once again, the enemy fired his defensive fire. The Australian patrol was able to pull back without any problems. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Early August 1942 at El Alamein

Early August 1942 saw the men of the 9th Australian Division improving their defenses in preparation for what was expected by mid-August. Rommel was predicted to launching an attack by mid-August. The infantry and engineers were busy laying mines and doing more digging for better defensive positions. At night, some men were always on watch. Others were able to sleep knowing that their turn to stand watch was coming. Other men were engaged in "deep patrolling" of the enemy area.

August was peak season for flies. The flies interfered with eating and sleeping. For example, the 9th Australian Divisional Cavalry had so many flies at midday, that they had to forego eating lunch, except for a small amount. Part of the problem was that there were still dead bodies in the area. 20th Brigade starting working on checking the area and burying bodies. In a few weeks, the fly situation had greatly improved.

The Australian 20th Brigade was positioned with two battalions forward with the third battalion in reserve. 20th Brigade had only been in place since 3 August 1942. The brigade commander had decreed that they would fire on any enemy soldiers that were seen They would also patrol into enemy territory and conduct raids on enemy positions. That would be very similar to their time at Tobruk. They would be engaged with the same enemy, just in a new spot. The first 20th Brigade patrol was sent out at 9pm on 4 August. The patrol was led by Captain Cobb with 12 other men. They traveled some 1,500 yards north, which put them in the middle of an enemy position. They were challenged and they "knew that surprise had been lost". They crawled some sixty yards forward when they heard the bolt of a Spandau machine gun. The captain tossed a grenade in the direction of the sound. The machine gun started firing and the captain and some other men were wounded. Despite being wounded, the captain and men moved forward towards the machine gun, which had stopped firing. One of the men had a Thompson sub-machine gun and was causing a large commotion. The captain then ordered the patrol to withdraw. They had lost one man killed and others wounded. They had a prisoner, but he was killed by another enemy soldier with a sub-machine gun. The captain "blacked out" and was carried back. They had reached the Bren guns. The men on the patrol had done well and had not hesitated to carry on even though they had lost the element of surprise. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Comparing general experience levels in August 1942

The Australian general Blamey "had been a regular from 1906 to 1925". We already knew that Bernard Law Montgomery was a "buffoon" although a very successful one. Montgomery flat out stated that Blamey's characterization of British commanders was correct: that the Dominion officers had not been produced by the British army training and experience system. The Australian historian thought that another issue that was not stated was that Generals Auchinleck and Ramsden had been "difficult" to deal with. The Australian historian then proceeded to examine officers. Freyberg was a former regular army officer. His wartime record was impressive. He was also more senior at Major-General than Alexander, Montgomery, Wilson, and Auchinleck. He was only nine months behind General Wavell. Despite that, Freyberg was still must a division commander in the campaign for Greece, Crete, and North Africa. Only in 1944 was Freyberg appointed to be a corps commander. During 1942 and beyond, major command appointments were decide by the CIGS, Alan Brooke.

There were Australian politics involved, as well. General Morshead wanted to see Brigadier Ramsey appointed as division commander is something happened to Morshead. There was the concern that Brigadier Tovell was senior to Ramsey. Morshead's solution was to have Tovell recalled to Australia and given a higher command. The problem with that solution was that General Blamey had other plans for men. Blamey also wanted to send a Major-General to North Africa to be Morshead's deputy. Morshead asked Blamey to let him approve of a deputy, because Morshead wanted to work with someone who would be compatible with him. Blamey named J.E.S. Stevens as his caondidate deputy to General Morshead. Morshead told Blamey what Stevens would be acceptable to him. We find that the discussion about Dominion officers being corps commanders had a positive effect on the British officers. Montgomery told MOrshead that if General Leese became a casuaty, MOrshead would succeed him as XXX Corps commander. This si based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

General Blamey reacts to the command changes in the Middle East in August 1942

Despite our concerns about General Blamey, he was a tireless advocate for the Australian Army. Blamey's partner in government in August 1942 was the Labour prime minister, Mr. Curtin. After seeing General Morshead perform well in 1941 and 1942, often under great duress, General Blamey took a special interest in promoting Morshead's cause. On 21 August 1942, General Blamey wrote Mr. Curtin, saying that some of the British generals promoted to corps commanders had less experience and success in battle than General Morshead had shown. General Blamey told Mr. Curtin that he felt that General Morshead was deserving of being appointed as a corp commander. Blamey even stated that Morshead being being passed over for corps commander was detrimental to the morale of Australian troops in the Middle East.

The British were apparently saying that only British officers were eligible for corps commander. Here, you had Bernard Law Montegomery asking for Brian Horrocks to be a corps commander. Brian Horrocks had apparently last commanded a machine gun battalion in France, but Montgomery was engaged in promoting Brian Horrocks cause. General Morshead replied back that he was busy commanding the 9th Australian Division to be concerned with having hurt feelings. We can only decide that it was General Blamey had the hurt feelings. Mr. Churchill said his piece, saying that he had great confidence in General Morshead and had asked that he be considered for corps command. General Brooke, the CIGS, had told MOntgomery that he should consider Morshead for corps commander. We suspect that perhaps Montgomery had some prejudice against using Dominion officers as corps commanders.

On 13 September 1941, General Morshead had spoken with General Alexander about corps command, and that corps command had been discussed with the Australian government and General Blamey. We get the sense that Montgomery did had prejudice about Dominion officers, particularly General Morshead for corp commander. Montgomery did allow that General Morshead could command the corps, if General Leese were a casualty. General Montgomery derided officers who were not professional British soldiers. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Once in command, Montgomery laid down the rules to be followed in August 1942

When General Montgomery appeared on the scene, he "stole" two days of command from General Auchinleck. Montgomery did not believe in "Jock columns or battle groups". At least on paper, he wanted to fight divisions as intact units and in a somewhat contradictory fashion, said he would fight brigades as brigades. In the desert, they were used to having brigades as the normal fighting unit. In the past, they had often treated battalions as if they were brigades, but Montgomery was opposed to doing such. He wanted the divisions to hold their ground with no plans to withdraw any further. Montgomery tried an Australian hat but he did not understand how they were worn. Montgomery eventually settled on wearing a beret as his signature headgear. It turns out that Montgomery had an Australian connection, because his father had been Bishop of Tasmania at some point.

He disliked some of what Auchinleck and Eric Dorman-Smith had thought was a good idea. There were not more mentions of "boxes". He also did not like the term "consolidate", which he thought should be referred to as reorganization. Montgomery also wanted to use a real Chief of Staff, unlike Auchinleck's system of using an assistant chief of staff in Eric Dorman-Smith. He also expected when he issued orders that they would be acted upon, they were not to be a topic for debate.

There had been an idea that men should not wear their division insignia ("flashes"). Montgomery disagreed and said that flashes should be worn. Another step was that anti-tank guns should be fired for training the gunners. There apparently had been a concern to conserve ammunition so that six-pounder gunners had never fired their guns.

Montgomery chose to have his headquarters close to the front. Alexander chose to locate a tactical headquarters near Montgomery's headquarters. The Desert Air Force headquarters was also near where Montgomery chose to locate his headquarters. Since Montgomery expected an attack by Rommel's forces quite soon, he got control of the 44th Division, which he put on Alam el Halfa Ridge. Montgomery asked Alexander if he could have General Horrocks in Egypt to command XIII Corps. General Lumsden eventually commanded X Corps. When Churchill returned to Egypt, he was happy with the way that his changes had affected the organization. This is based on the account in Vol. III Of the Australian Official History.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Auchinleck replaced in August 1942

I have long been an admirer of Churchill or at least his writings. After studying in detail, the events of 1941 and into 1942, I have become aware of his shortcomings. While we have been aware of Auchinleck's shortcomings in 1942, Churchill was pretty much unaware of the merits of Auchinleck. That resulted in his removal and replacement in August 1942. Churchill was unhappy with Auchinleck because of Auchinleck's refusal to act prematurely and attack the Germans and Italians almost immediately. Once Auchinleck was replaced, his successors waited much later to attack. Churchill was an armchair general, much in the manner of Hitler on the German side. In Churchill's case, he had military training as an officer and had commanded troops in the Great War.

We were interested to read General Morshead's take on Auchinleck in the Official History. Morshead wrote to Auchinleck saying "I am very sorry and very surprised that you are going away, and every single member of hte A.I.F. will be as regretful as I am, for we all hold you in the highest regard." Churchill had offered a position to Aucnhinleck, but he declined the offer, as he thought that the proposal was unsound. After being relieved, Auchinleck was off to India. Morshead had a high opinion of Auchinleck, after seeing him in action in late 1941 abd through 1942 up through August. Auchinleck had brought the Crusader battle to a successful conclusion and saved the day, really, although he was helped by the New Zealand division and the Australians. In 1942, when things had gone very badly, he stepped in and stopped the enemy forces at El Alamein, in the first battle there. He was aided by the strong showing by the Australians and the infantry tank units. The cruiser tank units under General Gott did not perform as well. Sadly, Gott's death when his plane was shot down was a blessing in the Bernard Law Montgomery was a much better general and he acquitted himself well for the rest of the war. Montgomery had personal traits that were easy to dislike, being rather vain and cautious. When he was able to fight a set-piece battle, he was very able. He did not show up so well in mobile, quickly-changing situations. Auchinleck and his assistant, Eric Dorman-Smith, had studied Rommel's methods and at least tried to find a formula that would work as well for the British. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Big plans made during July and August 1942

The situation at El Alamein in July 1942 had put Churchill into a panic. He wanted to immediately travel to the Middle East to try and influence events. The CIGS, General Brooke, was much more level-headed than Churchill and he persuaded Churchill to wait while the situation stabilized. Brooke did get Churchill's permission for General Brooke to travel to the Middle East by himself. The news about the American Sherman tanks and self-propelled guns being sent to North Africa was good news, but experienced observers knew that would goad Churchill into demands for an immediate offensive with the new tanks. American officials visited London and met with their British counterparts to discuss strategy for the next year. They agreed to invade North Africa soon and to wait to invade continental Europe.

General Auchinleck's recent communications just inflamed Churchill. Churchill did not want to wait for a new offensive to mid-September. You would have to imagine that made Churchill ready to fire Auchinleck and replace him with a man who would listen to his orders from Churchill to keep on the offensive. Churchill flew into Cairo on 3 August 1942. He had a meeting with General Brooke and General Auchinleck that evening. They wanted to replace Auchinleck as Eighth Army commander, when his actual appointment was as theater commander. Brooke was pretty sharp, he recommended Bernard Law Montgomery as army commander. Churchill wanted General Gott, but Brooke said that Churchill did not know anything about Gott. Churchill resisted Montgomery, since his arrival in the theater would delay Churchill's premature offensive.

A great question to decide was whether to defend the Persian oil fields or to hold Egypt. General Brooke's position was that if the southern Russian front broke, they had to defend the Persian oil fields, even if it meant losing Egypt. Churchill did not really agree with this policy, as he wanted to resolve the situation in North African as the first thing to do. Apparently on 5 August, Churchill and General Brooke visited the 9th Australian Division. Churchill was very complimentary to the Australians, They then visited Eighth Army headquarters and met with General Gott. Churchill was impressed by Gott while General Brooke had his misgivings confirmed. On 6 August, Churchill decided to replace Auchinleck. Churchill wanted General Brooke to take over as theater commander, but Brooke wanted to stay as CIGS. General Alexander would then be the new theater commander with Gott as Eighth Army commander. The Australian historian thought that Gott was responsible for the bad things that had happened. As soon as 7 August, General Gott was killed when his plane was shot down. CHurchill then agreed to Montgomery as Eighth Army commander. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The situations in the Middle East and in the Far East up to August 1942

In the light of events in the Far East, General Morshead's requests for reinforcements for the Middle East seem extravagant. The Japanese forces in New Guinea were now in position to threaten Port Moresby. General Blamey's position on the situation is interesting. He says that they need another corps of three divisions. The Ausralian Prime Minster, Mr. Curtin, made that request to Franklin Roosevelt. At the same time, Mr. Curtin approved sending the reinforcements that General Morsehead had requested. In the event, circumstances caused Mr. Curtin to change his mind.

In the Middle East, the Eighth Army Headquarters was making contingency plans for bad outcomes that were "dispiriting" to the men. They decided in early August to pull out of the Makh Khad ridge area that they had recently captured. The El Alamein Box would continue to be important fortifications. Auchinleck, at this point, was still commander, and he wanted to reduce the force needed to hold the front line. He wanted time to regroup and prepare for new attacks starting in the middle of September. The 9th Australian Division had different ideas, as they expected the enemy to create a force that might attack as soon as mid-August. You had XXX Corps, ready to hold its positions while increasing the depth of their defenses. The Australian plans were to move the 24th Brigade into the El Alamein Box. Over the course of two nights, they would swap the positions of the 20th and 26th Brigades. The 20th Brigade would occupy the area between Trig 33 and Pointy 26, being in place by August 3. They would be connected to the El Alamein Box and would add minefields to the defenses. The 9th Australian Division would defend the coast with support from the 50th RTR. On Ruweisat Ridge, they had the South African Division touching the 5th Indian Division. You had the New Zealand Division defending the right side of the XIII Corps. Part of the South Africans were in back of the 9th Australian Division.

The high level decision makers were deliberating what they should do next. The British had Mr. Churchill and Sir Alan Brooke as negotiators. The Americans had Franklin Roosevelt and the American Chiefs of Staff. The Americans made a move that would greatly help the British situation in the Middle East. They would send one hundred self-propelled guns and three hundred Sherman tanks. Churchill was to visit the Middle East and meet with Stalin in Russia. We believe that Churchill had lost confidence in Auchinleck and hoped to make a change. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Australian considerations due to events in the Far East in 1942

In May 1942, pulling the 9th Australian Division back home was discussed. The Australian government was eventually convinced to leave their division in the Middle East. The argument was that oil fields in the Middle East were in danger of German attack from the north. If those oilfields were lost, then there would be problems with supplying Australia with oil. We have difficulty in estimating how real the danger was to the oil fields. Certainly, Germany was desperate for oil supplies, so perhaps this was a reasonable argument. On 10 May 1942, there were some 32,700 Australians in the Middle East. That number was gradually reduced by July 1942. In Australia, the decided in July that they needed to send about 6,000 more men to the Middle East to replace losses.

Mr. Churchill's misjudgments in 1941 caused considerable political instability in Australia. The had gone through some quick changes of government following the Greek campaign. They ended up with John Curtin, head of the Australian Labour Party, as prime minister. He stayed in place until he died in 1945. The Japanese attacks starting in December 1941 threw the Far East into turmoil. What concerned the Australian government most was the Japanese invasion of New Guinea in March 1942. The Japanese landed forces on the north coast of New Guinea on 21 July. The Australians eventually realized that their base at Port Moresby, in Papua, was now very vulnerable to Japanese attack. Besides that, Papua is only 90 miles from Australia. The Australian government felt that Churchill and his advisers in Britain were disregarding the situation in the Far East and the dangers there.

By the end of July 1942, at the conclusion of the First Battle of El Alamein, the 9th Australian Division had 2,552 casualties from the fighting. Given that information, Mr. Curtin approved that 3,978 men be sent to the Middle East as reinforcements. Mr. Curtin made the point, though, that his position was still that all Australian forces should return to Australia to participate in the war in southwest Pacific area.The news of reinforcements prompted General Morshead to comment that the numbers sent were insufficient. Morshead wanted to see 6,113 men sent to the Middle East as reinforcements. This is based on account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Retrospective on failures in late July 1942

The extent of the disastrous attack on Ruin Ridge caused General Morshead great unhappiness. He blamed the cautiousness of British armored formations for the failure. They had run into a minefield that had not been found prior to the attack. The minefield was about 900 yards from Ruin Ridge. They also had considerable difficulties communicating. The unit on Ruin Ridge also had no flank protection, so it was very vulnerable to German attack. He especially blamed the 1st Armoured Division for not providing the promised support. The Australians now tended to expect British armor to fight German tanks, while at Tobruk, the Australians would fight infantry with the tanks and then let artillery fight the tanks. That had been a formula which had served them well at Tobruk. At Tobruk, the Australians would "lie low", hold their ground, fight the German and Italian infantry, and let the artillery in the rear fire on the tanks.

The 1st Army Tank Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Richards, has performed well. It was the cruiser tank units, like the 1st Armoured Division, which had confidence problems because they had no faith in the tanks or methods. In the First Battle of El Alamein, infantry won the successes. The German successes were with armor, as their infantry did not fare well fighting the Australians, particularly. Both the Italians and the 90th Light Division had a hard time in the battles such as the attack on Ruin Ridge. The Australian historian placed the blame on commanders, not on the men in the tanks. There had been lack of coordination between the infantry units and the armored units. The historian thought that the minefield issues should be dealt with by giving armored units their own specialist engineers and equipment for clearing paths through minefields.

The Eighth Army had finished July 1942 feeling uneasy, but they had not failed to hold the enemy forces. Fighting under General Auchinleck's command, they had stopped Rommel's army. They had taken Tel el Eisa from the enemy. Rommel no longer had the ability to push in to the British rear areas. The 9th Australian Division had regained their fighting form. They hd grown rusty since Tobruk, but they were now back at their peak. The situation in Australia since May 1942 were such that they were not able to send reinforcements to the Middle East. On 14 July 1942, they had decided in Australia that they could send about six thousand reinforcements to the Middle East. This was about the same time that General Morshead asked for reinforcements. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Changes made from 27July 1942

From 27 July 1942, we were near the end of General Auchinleck's tenure in the Middle East. This was the day that included the disaster to the 2/28th Battalion. On 27 July 1942, Auchinleck appointed Brigadier de Guingand as senior staff officer at Eighth Army Headquarters. de Guingand felt he was not qualified for the position. In fact, though, he was Auchinleck's best appointment in the Middle East during his time in command. At least the Australian historian considered de Guingand as "brilliant and successful".

Also on 27 July, Eric Dorman-Smith gave Auchinleck his paper about their situation and how hey might make changes to improve the Eighth Army. One main point was that the enemy were not strong enough to attempt a break through to the Delta and least with any chance of success. They would be making a big gamble if they attempted such an operation. He also presented a plan for what seems to be like what Bernard Law Montgomery eventually executed as the Battle of Alam el Halfa. de Guingand did offer criticism of the "Observation Post" idea, which he thought was ineffective and would cause the artillery to be moved around, causing confusion. de Guingand thought that there were too many "plans and schemes" being considered and thought that contingency plans for withdrawals to the east would cause the army to be unable to stand and fight in place. On 29 July, General Auchinleck met with General McCreary, his adviser on armor. Auchinleck told him that he had been considering assigning an armored brigade to each infantry division in hopes of getting better support. McCreary disagreed with Auchinleck, who told him that if he was so much in disagreement, that Auchinleck should replace him.

On 29 July, General Ramsden met with General Morshead. Morshead told him that he was not ready to make any more attacks without some assurance that "British armour would fight". It seems that the problem would not be solved until Bernard Law Montgomery arrived on the scene and the crisis situation at the Second Battle of El Alamein for the problem to be resolved. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The 2/28th Battalion surrendered on 27 July 1942 in the First Battle for El Alamein

The end for the 2/28th Battalion came when they were essentially overrun by the Germans. Up to 10am, they still were not pressed so hard as to consider surrender. The situation was that tanks "were closing in from three directions". The forward company on the left side was overrun by the enemy. A warrant officer from A Company responded by calling for his men to keep firing their weapons. Tanks were coming closer to the battalion headquarters. A Bren gunner ran out and commenced firing, but he was killed by fire from a tank. When the battalion commander witness this event, he called for his men to surrender. Many of the men of the battalion were very emotional as they were lined up to be marched into captivity. British artillery was still firing in support, and some of the men from the 2/28th Battalion were killed by friendly fire. One platoon quite forward was firing until they were overrun by German tanks.

The Australians were marched about five miles to the German rear areas, where they were loaded onto trucks and were driven to Daba. The Australians were prepared for such an event as what happened to the 2/28th Battalion. They "regrouped" the battalion. They had two echelons, one being the operational portion and an administration portion. There were 98 men in the operational portion and 105 men in the administration portion which had drivers and administrators.

The 2/28th Battalion had achieved some success by pushing into the German positions. They had pushed into two units from the 90th Light Division, the I/361st Battalion and the I/200th Battalion. The Australians had pushed in some five to seven kilometers. The units had taken losses, with part of the I/361st Battalion being destroyed. The advance of the 50th RTR was stopped by I/115th Battalion and 33rd Reconnaissance Unit, along with artillery fire. The German counter-attack came to the east and to the north. In part, anti-tank guns came into play to halt the British infantry tanks. The counter-attack was successful, since they "they took about 700 prisoners" (largely Australians) and knocked out "20 to 25 tanks". Rommel's assessment was that his forces would be able to hold their front, but that the "British" forces had stopped his advance. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

27 July 1942 "we are in trouble" from the 2/28th Battalion

The 2/28th Battalion sat on Ruin Ridge, hoping that men from the 2/43rd Battalion, the 69th Brigade, and the 2nd Armoured Brigade would arrive. There was constant anti-tank gun and machine-gun fire all night. At about 3am, the battalion sent out men to destroy a German 50mm anti-tank gun that was hitting vehicles in the minefield gap. They found that the gun was too well-protected by infantry. By 4:30am, they were concerned about not hearing anything about ammunition arriving. They sent out someone at about 4:30am to investigate. The man's vehicle was mined. The men got through on foot to the 2/43rd Battalion. They were able to speak with Brigadier Godfrey, commanding the 24th Brigade and told him of the ammunition situation and the need for anti-tank guns.

Some eighteen German trucks drove up just before dawn and unloaded infantry. They were on the right side. The 2/28th Battalion could not call in artillery support and were running out of ammunition. There was a fight with small arms. The 2/28th was doing pretty well in the fight. ONe company could see tanks and armored cars approaching. They first thought that they must be British, but they proved to be German. The company commander was killed in the fight. The battalion radio was just repaired and they communicated with the brigade headquarters. As the enemy attacked, the Australians sent message about artillery support, which they got. The Australians had anti-tank guns, and they had some success, knocking out eight German tanks and armored cars. A gun on the right was fought by a battery sergeant-major until the gun was knocked out and the man was killed.

They sent a message at 9:43am talking about being surrounded by tanks and asking for artillery fire.

The 50th RTR tried to help, but was hit hard, losing 22 tanks of which only ten were later recovered. The survivors so far from the 2/28th Battalion watched as the tanks were battered. They thought that the 2nd Armoured Brigade would get involved, but typically, they were afraid of fighting and would not venture through they minefield until they had some sort of guarantee from the infantry. By the time that the 2nd Armoured Brigade was ready to get involved, it was too late to help. At 10:30am, the 2/28th Battalion sent a message that they had to "give in". A few men fought on until the afternoon. One group did not hear of the surrender and fought until they were overrun by tanks. They were marched back as prisoners for about five miles and then were loaded onto trucks. Of the 2/28th Battalion, two officers and 63 men were killed or wounded. Another twenty officers and 469 men were missing. They may have well been prisoners. At this time, the 69th Brigade had lost about six hundred men. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The fighting on Ruin Ridge on 27 July 1942

The two front companies of Australians had arrived at Ruin Ridge by 1:10am. At the minefield, enough of a gap had been cleared that vehicles moved forward. The first vehicles were bringing six anti-tank guns, and also had two carriers and a truck with a machine-gun. The enemy hit vehicles following them and four were burning. That blocked further passage through the minefield and lit everything around. Other vehicles drove back to the "assembly area". Five out of ten carriers were left and they started transporting prisoners. They got some 115 Germans and 12 Italians out. The 2/28th Battalion asked for more ammunition. The 2/43rd Battalion got the message. Major Simpson, in charge of 2/28th's supply vehicles decided to try to run the ammunition forward to the battalion. Some seven or eight vehicles "followed the tape" and arrived successfully. Other trucks hit mines and burned. Wounded men were evacuated from those hit during the initial move forward. A medical officer went out to tend wounded men he had heard were lying in the minefield. He did that until Germans took him and 11 patients prisoner.

The artillery observer on the ridge with the 2/28th was unable to use his radio because of interference. He was sent back to the brigade headquarters to ask for ammunition and telephone cable. The observer was killed in a fight with enemy troops. The carrier was knocked out, but the driver got back to the brigade headquarters. The brigade commander ordered the 2/43rd to send its ammunition truck forward to the 2/28th Battalion. They also called in artillery to try and silence the enemy gun covering the minefield. They were unable to get the truck through with the ammunition.

The 24th Brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey could not get information about what was happening to the 2/28th Battalion. They expected that the 2/28th Battalion would be in trouble by dawn. The 69th Brigade moved forward at about 2am. They got hung up and became disorganized. After what progress was made, the enemy attacked and overran two battalions. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was supposed to move forward at 7am, but the commander decided that there was not a large enough gap in the minefield to pass through. At dawn on 27 July, the 24th Brigade was out of touch with the 2/28th Battalion, so they did not realize just how bad the situation was. When Brigadier Godfrey heard that the armor would not go forward, he ordered the 2/43rd Battalion to try and destroy the gun covering the minefield. The 50th RTR was at first asked to carry ammunition to the 2/28th Battalion, but then to go forward and rescue them. At 8:45am they heard the 2/28th's radio saying that they were in trouble. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The next Australian attack on Ruin Ridge on 26 to 27 July 1942

General Morshead wrote an instruction on 24 July 1942 to the 9th Australian Division. He seems to have been embarrassed by the last attempt to attack Ruin Ridge. The Australians had been at their peak efficiency while they were garrisoning Tobruk in 1941. His instruction addressed reconnaissance by officers, for one thing that they should not be so obvious about their reconnaissance to keep the enemy from being warned. He also told officers that they needed to inform their troops quickly about what they had learned. Another point was that tanks could not sit in support for an extended period, as they would expect to have too many losses. Tanks would, after a period on the objective, "rally" to a position behind the infantry. The purpose of tanks in support was to destroy machine-guns. The infantry's purpose was "to destroy anti-tank guns and artillery", the enemies of tanks.

For the second attempt on Ruin Ridge, the 2/28th Battalion had spent planning and reconnaissance time. The battalion stepped out at exactly midnight of 26 to 27 July. The moon was bright and they attacked with two companies in the front, with a width of some 800 yards. They were trying to move at 100 yards in two minutes. The 2/28th Battalion had a new commander, Lt-Col. McCarter. He told the officers to expect fire from the sides as they moved forward. He suggested that the men "fire from the hip" without changing direction or stopping.

After traveling some 800 yards from the start, the right front and rear companies took officer casualties, including company commanders. They were taking fire from machine-guns, mortars and field guns. There were vehicles in company carrying supporting weapons, but they took anti-tank gun fire and then ran onto a minefield. Five vehicles were knocked out and some were burning.

At least this time, the front companies had reached Ruin Ridge by 1:10am. On the left side, the rear company charged with bayonets and cleared the objective. The 2/28th Battalion commander had moved his headquarters forward to a point some 900 yards from the "ruin" (to the northwest). They were having communication problems because they could not get good wire laid through the minefield while they were receiving fire. To make matters worse, the battalion radio had been destroyed. ON the site, the men tried to dig in, but the ground was too hard to do much. They had three wounded company commanders, another factor. On Ruin Ridge, they were receiving heavy enemy fire. They had been unable to hit the enemy guns that fired across the minefield. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A new offensive at El Alamein to start on the night of 26-27 July 1942

Generals Ramsden and Morshead had decided that the offensive should start during the night of 26 to 27 July 1942. The objective for the offensive was to attack the enemy positions on Miteiriya Ridge and break through to the enemy's rear areas. The 9th Australian Division would use the 24th Brigade. The reliable 2/28th Battalion would capture Ruin Ridge. They would have artillery support for their attack. After taking Ruin Ridge, they would create a position on the left flank of the 24th Brigade and on the right side of the 69th Brigade. The 69th Brigade had their own objective to take. Once the 2/28th and the 69th Brigade had performed their roles, the 2/43rd Battalion would move forward and taken the next ridge to the west of Ruin Ridge. If they needed the help, they could use the 50th RTR. If they did not need the tank help, the 50th RTR should push westward and take ground between Trig 30 and Point 27. This was near someplace called El Wishka. If they caused the enemy to withdraw, the 20th Brigade (Australians) would follow the enemy withdrawal.

General Auchinleck published a "Special Order of the Day" to the men of the Eighth Army, praising their achievement in stopping the enemy advance on Egypt and thrown the enemy on the defensive. The enemy was attempting to resupply their army, but the navy and air force are attacking the ships with supplies. Auchinleck said that they needed to keep fighting, as they were close to breaking the enemy.

British intelligence had an assessment of the enemy strength as of 25 July in the evening. They believed that the Italian strength in the El Alamein area was low, with about 9,100 men, some 70 field and medium guns, 45 anti-tank guns, 15 armored cars, and about 12 tanks. For the Germans, they were thought to have "two battalions of the 382nd Regiment, the Kiehl Group and 33rd Reconnaissance Regiment, the 361st Regiemental Group (two battalions), the Briehl Group and the 200th Regiment. These totaled about 3,580 men and had from 106 to 120 guns in support including 26 to 29 88mm weapons."

The Germans were holding an area north and east of Ruin Ridge. They only had light forces, but were equipped with "machine-guns, anti-tank guns and a few field guns". There were stronger forces south and west of Ruin Ridge. They knew that the enemy (presumably Germans) had tanks available. The British were aware of the existence of a minefield on east side of the Qattara Track. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Sorting things out in the push to Ruin Ridge on 22 July 1942 at El Alamein

The authorities determined that, yes, the advance towards Ruin Ridge had stopped far short of the objective. The 50th RTR was new to battle and they had a hard time, having lost some 23 tanks in the fight. They infantry had told them that they had gone too far forward, which seems to have not to be true. The brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey went forward with Brigadier Richards to the 2/28th Battalion. He ordered them to spread out to the sides, put out patrols and make contact with the 2/32nd Battalion. They also were to advance as far as they could. They did manage to contact the 2/32nd Battalion by 9:23am. They may have been disappointed with their progress, but the enemy was forced to move the 90th Light Division and parts of three Italian divisions to hold their left flank. The Australians had apparently captured almost a entire company of the I/155th Battalion. Tanks from the 21st Armored Division were called upon to attack the Australians and their tank support. They accounted for 23 tanks with 12 of that number knocked out by the Briehl Group (a battle group). The Australian historian called Auchinleck's attack, "costly and abortive". Auchinleck was concerned that the enemy was being reinforced and would be tougher to fight if they waited longer. The Australians were the most effective unit available to Auchinleck. He wanted to attack some more as soon as an attack could be mounted.

The new attack would be by XXX Corps with the 1st Armoured Division, short of one armored brigade, the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and the 69th Infantry Brigade. The 1st South African Division would go after the enemy mine field south-east pf Miteiriyha Ridge. They would make a gap. The 24th Australian Brigade would attack the eastern end of the ridge and then push north. The 69th Brigade would also push through and move on Deir el Dhib. Two armored brigades would push into the enemy rear area. The Australian historian was again critical of the plan. Auchineleck watnted to attack on the night of 24-25 July, but General Ramsden thought that the South Africans were too tired. The 69th Brigade commander also wanted more rest for the brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 03, 2019

The attack on Ruin Ridge goes badly

Being in too much of a hurry to bother to do the right things, the attack intended to reach Ruin Ridge did not go well. An infantry platoon was to ride the second "wave of tanks" got on the the first "wave" by mistake. The tanks only had infantry on board, although they were supposed to carry sappers as well. Because of the lack of preparation, the tanks went the wrong way and ran onto a minefield, losing about 20 tanks. The other tanks, traveling with carriers, pushed out to a ridge that the tank commander thought was the right distance for Ruin Ridge, but probably was not. The tanks did manage to scatter some enemy soldiers and they sat and waited for the 2/28th Battalion to reach them. The rest of the 2/28th got a late start. They actually advanced in an "extended line formation." General Morshead was watching the 2/28th Battalion moving forward and he had the impression that they would succeed.

There was no news reporting the situation until 10:45pm. The 2/28th Battalion had lost their wireless van early in the advance. One thing that happened is that an unexpected fifty German prisoners arrived at the 2/13th Battalion. They finally were able to communicate and they got a report at 11:45pm from COlonel Cox that they had reached a ridge with a ruin at the end. The tanks had withdrawn and the infantry "were getting in position on the reverse slope". They could see some ten Italian tanks.

So far, the 2/28th Battalion had taken 59 German prisoners from the 90th Light Division. They also had five Italian prisoners from the Trento Division. They had losses, though, of two officers and 52 other men. Tanks returned in support, but were gathered back further than was wanted. At that point, Brigadier Richards of the 1st Army Tank Brigade went forward to investigate, because he thought that they were not on the intended objective. He returned from his reconnaissance and reported that they were actually about three thousand yards short of Ruin Ridge. A "Forward Observation Officer accompanying the 2/28th Battalion reported that he considered them about 2,500 yards to far from Ruin Ridge. The brigade commander decided that they were "deployed west of the road on a front of 400 yards between Kilos 8 and 9." Officers had been fooled by seeing some ruins into thinking that they were at Ruin Ridge when they were still short of the place. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian OFficial History.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

22 July 1942 at El Alamein, General Morshead is involved

During the day on 22 July 1942, General Morshead visited 24th Brigade headquarters a number of times. The general was waiting to hear that the brigade had achieved the first phase goals. "Just before 3:45pm" heard that the 2/32nd Battalion now had solid possession of its ground. General Morshead was thinking ahead to the exploitation phase. The situation was not quite so rosy, as Point 24 was still to be resolved. General Morshead consulted with General Ramsden and they decided not to continue with armor and infantry exploitation some 2,000 and 4,000 yards. They would still push to the south with the goal of reaching Ruin Ridge by dusk and setting up positions on the back side during the night.

They had planned to use the 2/28th Battalion for the westward move that was cancelled, so they decided to use the battalion for the push to the south. The 2/28th would take the place of the 2/43rd Battalion. The 50th RTR would be used for the attack on Ruin Ridge. Two squadrons would transport infantry and engineers. They were to cover six miles in just an hour. The tanks would have some six-pounders and machine-guns following them. Behind all that would be the rest of the 2/28th Battalion on foot, covering two miles in an hour. At the rear would follow the remainder of the 50th RTR. The 50th RTR, with 52 Valentine tanks would move into hull down spots on Ruin Ridge. They were to say there until the main group of the 2/28th Battalion arrived. They would be able to withdraw once the 2/28th Battalion was in place.

Ruin Ridge had been attacked four days earlier, so they hoped that the enemy would not expect another attack so soon. They optimistically expected that they could skimp on preparation, which was a bad idea. Major Cox, of the 2/28th Battalion had just received "oral orders" for an attack starting at 7pm. Here they were leaving the brigade headquarters at 5pm. The 24th Brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey heard between 6pm and 7pm that a reconnaissance aircraft had seen some five hundred vehicles dispersed on Miteiriya Ridge> They were infantry reported digging positions and the report mentioned twenty gun positions. Brigadier Godfrey reported the news to Colonel Wells as 9th Australian Division headquarters. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

22 and 23 July 1942 with the 24th Brigade at El Alamein

Operations on 22 July 1942 had been tough for the Australians in the north at El Alamein. The 2/32nd Battalion was to attack Trig 22. They knew that Trig 22 was well-defended and had anti-tank guns and machine-guns. The 2/32nd Battalion was reduced to three 90-man companies, short of NCO's. The commander got the loan of one 2/43rd Battalion company for the attack. The attack was made with three companies in front. They stepped out at 5:30am with 1,700 yards to travel. They had fifteen minutes of artillery support before the attack started. The 2/43rd Company took the first fire from the enemy. They were stopped by heavy fire and forced to dig in. The company commander was hit and died. The 2/32nd Battalion company in the middle also lost its company commander. The company reached its objective, but was then pinned down by enemy fire. The third company "captured three anti-tank guns". But the company was stopped short, below Trig 22 and had to dig in as well. An Australian commanding a machine-gun section, charged a German machine gun in a sanger. The Lieutenant had only a pistol, but he used it very effectively. One of his men shot the German machine-gunner. They then fired on the Germans with the Spandau which eventually jammed.

On the right, the 2/43rd Company was till pinned down by artillery fire from two field guns. The reserve company was sent out to attack the gun position. They were supported by artillery and mortars. They took the position and forced the Germans to retreat. Later, Australian engineers ventured out and damaged the German guns. Suddenly at 9:45pm, the Germans hit the Australians with artillery and then sent tanks and armored cars at the center company. The company commander was killed and 66 Australians were taken prisoner. Artillery fire finally forced the tanks to withdraw.

The tanks and armored cars, along with several self-propelled guns attacked next at Trig 22. There was a protracted fight where two of the armored cars and the two moblie guns were disabled. The Australians were finally able to position some anti-tank guns to protect Trig 22 from further attacks. They also dug positions "back from the crest". The 24th Brigade had taken 57 German prisoners in the fighting, all from the 1/155th Infantry Battalion. This is based on the account in VOl.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tough fighting by Australians on 22 to 23 July 1942 in the north at El Alamein

While the 2/248th Battalion, commanded by Lt-Col. Hammer, was in difficulty. D Company of the 2/48th Battalion was without a commander and the company "had lost coheision". Despite that, small groups of men were able to hold on in their positions. One remaining section was commanded by a private. They had been able to overrun some enemy "posts". Those men noticed a knocked out Valentine tank. Germans had taken the crew prisoner along with two Australians from the section. Private Ashby's aection was able to shoot up the Germans and free the prisoners.

B Company of the 2/48th Battalion was now commanded by a Sergeant. He was able to call Lt-Col.Hammer and told him that they still holding their ground, but he didn't have map, so he didn't know where he was. Lt-Col.Hammer picked men for a force to go help B Company. He got men from his headquarters, the Headquarters Company, and some fifty men who had just arrived as reinforcements. He also pulled A Company from its positions and sent them all, along with some machine-guns and an anti-tank gun troop. B Company called just as the group had moved out. B Company was surrounded but would fight their way out. Only 15 men were able to get out from their positions. Lt-Col.Hammer ordered A Company to re-take East Point 24. They did that and laid wire and mines.

Late in the day on 22 July 1942, the 2/23rd Battalion, commanded by Lt-Col.Evans, they had been involved in desperate fighting. A Company from the 2/23rd Battalion was preparing positions close to the railway. They had lost touch with two platoons and the company commander may have been killed. The 2/23rd Battalion had taken losses. They had some 1oo wounded and had about fifty missing. They had lost 43 NCO's.

The infantry of the two battalions were fine men. They had been pushed back from a great deal of the ground that they had taken. Just holding on as well as they had was all they had been asked to do. As the 23rd of July began, they realized that the had withdrawn from around "East and West Point 24". The 2/23rd Battalion was reorganized based on their surviving strength, so they now had two companies. One of the companies was at East Point 24. The second company was between Esst Point 24 and the 2/24th Battalion. The 2/48th Battalion was stretched along the rail line to the east. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Germans counter-attack the Australians on 22 July 1942 at El Alamein

The Germans attacked East Point 24 at about 8am on 22 July 1942. The position was occupied by companies of the 2/23rd Battalion. There was a company on the left and one on the right. The left company was threatened, but was able to hold on for three hours. At least one part of the right company was able to keep the enemy back. The battalion commander sent his second-in-command forward in a carrier. He was to inform the the Australians at East Point 24 to hold on, as he was sending his other company (A) forward to provide support. However, the situation changed when the 2/23rd commander learned that the 2/24th Battalion was "withdrawing from the Ring Contour". That left A Company of the 2/23rd Battalion in an exposed position. A Company had started forward at 8:30am. While the situation deteriorated greatly, a Corporal in control of a carrier did a commendable job (he was Corporal McCloskey). The Corporal was originally sent to carry "a mortar detachment forward". After he transported the mortar detachment, he went back to get ammunition. As he traveled, he "stopped to pick up wounded men". He then took the mortar bombs to the mortar detachment. He realized that communications were poor, so he traveled between the companies to contact company commanders. He carried wounded men back to the rear. His carrier was hit and damaged. He was knocked out but recovered consciousness and repaired his carrier and continued to do useful things.

A man from the company on the right was able to reach the battalion headquarters to inform Lt-Col. Evans that the men of the company were pinned down by enemy fire. The company commander had been killed and "the other officers and half the company were casualties". The battalion commander ordered a smoke screen laid down, and some 30 men were able to escape. The acting company commander had been wounded and couldn't walk. He was rescued by a patrol after dark.

The battalion had lost touch with the left 2/23rd Battalion company. They were able to hold their ground until 11am. The company was essentially eliminated, but A Company from the 2/23rd Battalion had arrived and was keeping the Germans back from East Point 24. Lt-Col. Evans of the 2/23rd got 80 men together to the "positions between Trig 33 and Tel el Eisa". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

22 and 23 July 1942 in the north at El Alamein

The 26th Brigade was to attack the enemy positions that blocked the coast road. The understanding by the 2/24th Battalion company was that the 2/23rd Battalion company would attack at the same time. They had some concerns about their ability to make contact. A signal was sent up "over Ring Contour 25" and that was the signal to attack. They tried to move forward, but took "terrible enemy fire".
The main operation for the 2/23rd Battalion had two companies forward with heavy artillery support. Once they reached "East Point 24", the dust churned up made visibility difficult. At that point they became involved in a "fierce fight". They felt able to signal success at 6:20am. They had captured and sent back some 24 German prisoners.

The 2/48th Battalion heard at 5:55am that the other battalions had reached their objectives. On hearing the news, they moved to the left of the 2/23rd Battalion, moving towards West Point 24. They started to take heavy enemy fire. The situation was that they were attacking prepared positions and took heavy losses, especially in leadership, such as officers. Men returning to the battalion headquarters reported that they had taken heavy losses. The battalion commander did not understand the extent of the losses, as he thought that there would have been men left needing support.

They had sent a section of carriers to provide support, but the carriers reported having many men wounded and supporting weapons sent forward on vehicles could not get through. The 2/48th Battalion commander requested help from tanks. From the Australian perspective, the tanks were extremely slow in moving forward. The tank commander had estimated 30 minutes would be enough for them to move up in support. The reality was that they took 4-1/2 hours, which was unacceptable. The tankers were extremely cautious. Then they saw signs of a minefield, they stopped and wanted talk before moving again. While they were moving forward, two tanks were knocked out by an enemy anti-tank gun. At that point, the tanks withdrew, leaving the Australians without support.

An Australian private had been left to guard German prisoners. They were close to their own lines and they were under heavy German fire. He managed to keep control of the prisoners and eventually was able to take them to the battalion headquarters. He had managed to keep the prisoners for some fourteen hours. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Operations at El Alamein from 19 to 23 July 1942

The Australians had become very proficient at executing raids during the night during their occupation of Tobruk. During the night of 19 to 20 July, 1942, the 2/28th Battalion sent a company of infantry with "20 sappers of the 2/7th Field Company". They raided enemy positions near Trig 22. They left their unit at 12:25am and were gone over an hour. They returned to their unit at about 3:40am. They found a tank which a sapper destroyed with a "No.73 grenade". They thought that some three or four enemy were killed "in or around the tank".
Despite the planned attack (besides the raid), the 26th Brigade were left to hold "the salient in the north". That meant that the 2/24th and 2/48th Battalions had to continue defending their lines. That meant for an offensive operation, they only had two companies each. They had to hope for the best, as they were left without any reserves. Three companies from two battalions would push forward along the coast road. That left the rest of the battalions to take East Point 24 and West Point 24.
What the 26th Brigade was to do was to attack the enemy positions blocking the coast road and be ready to push into the headquarters area and (wishful thinking, we suppose) to push on to Mersa Matruh, Tobruk, and Tripoli. The Australian historian notes that they were attacking the enemy's strongest postions, not their weakest. The historian thought that they should have used a larger force to push along the coast road.
The situation was such that when Major Weir arrived from Alexandria to take command of the 2/24th Battalion, he was surprised to find that his battalion was ordered to make an attack the next morning. The accidental firing of a Very light "probably alerted the enemy". When the attack commenced, enemy artillerty fire hit right away. They men were forced to attack while traveling through "heavy machine-gun fire". The men who took their objectives were then forced to endure heavy enemy fire. Most officers were wounded and a new lieutenant had to find a way to take command.

Major Weir, the new commander of the 2/24th Battalion withdrew two companies that were in danger and he got the brigade commander's permission when he was able to communicate. Some men did not get the word to withdraw and were eventually overrun. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

The lead-in to the 9th Australian Division operation, where General Morshead was very unhappy

General Morshead, the 9th Australian Division commander disliked General Ramsden, the XXX Corp commander. They had a two hour meeting where Morshead told General Ramsden that he disagreed with the plan for the attack on 22 July 1942. After hearing about the conference, General Auchinleck sent for General Morshead for another meeting at XXX Corps headquarters. The meeting attendees were General Morshead, General Auchinleck, General Ramsden, and Eric Dorman-Smith, DCGS. The DCGS took notes for the meeting. Auchinleck laid out the plan for the XIII Corps attack. If you read The Desert Generals, you learn that Eric Dorman-Smith was sort of "co-conspirator" during this period with Auchinleck. They were intent on making radical changes to how operations were conducted with the aim of becoming more competitive with Rommel's forces. Eric Dorman-Smith was disliked by the.
In the meeting, General Morshead objected that his division would be too dispersed to give the necessary support. Morshead told Auchinleck that the Australian objectives were much more difficult than Auchinleck and Ramsden realized. General Auchinleck apparently did not like how Morshead had responded, although he did not let Morshead know that. General Auchinleck told General Morshead that he wanted a willing commander for the operation. General Morshead told Auchinleck that he just wanted tasks that he could reasonably be sure of accomplishing with the goal of minimizing casualties  while performing the needed operation.The Desert Generals book has the time of the meeting wrong, in that the meeting was prior to the attack on 22 July, not for an operation on 24 July.
In the time leading up to the attack on 22 July, the men of the 9th Australian Division, at least those in the battalions facing the enemy, were given no rest. They were involved in active patrolling. The 2/48th Battalion diary noted that the "heat and flies" made  sleep during the day impossible. At night, they were too busy "digging and patrolling". They took to sending one man each day to the beach to be able to sleep. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 06, 2019

The XXX Corps battle at El Alamein from 22 July 1942 onwards

The XXX Corps operations on 22 July 1942 involved the South African Division and the 9th Australian Division. Almost typically, General Morshead was unhappy with what General Auchinleck had assigned for his division to accomplish. The South African role in the battle was to capture a depression "to the north of Deir el Shein." The 9th Australian Division was to attack with two brigades. That would then be succeeded by tank and infantry push to the west and then turn to the south. The Australians were to push onto the Meteiriya Ridge in their "turn to the south". The Australians were to have the 1st Army Tank Brigade and the 5th RTR in support. They would also have the South African artillery firing in their support.
The Australian attack would occur in three "phases". After the first phase of the attack, there was a two hour pause planned to allow time for the artillery to more forward. During the first phase, the 26th Brigade would make two attacks. One was straight out to take "Ring Contour 25". The other attack was planned to cross the road and railway to take the high ground associated with Point 24 (which had two high points). The 24th Brigade role was to attack from "the Tel Makh Khad Ridge." They were to take the high ground that dominated Point 24. Once the two Australian brigades had taken their objectives, the 9th Australian Divisiional Cavalry would control the area between the brigades to obstruct any enemy movements.
The second phase of the plan was for the 50th RTR to Point 21 west of the 24th Brigade. The 2/28th Battalion was to come forward to hold Point 21. The third phase would see the 50th RTR would capture "Trig 30 on Ruin Ridge". Another Australian battalion, the 2/43rd, would move forward to hold Trig 30. To make the 2/28th Battalion available for the operation, the 2/13th Battalion was assigned to the 24th Btigade. They were to take over the 2/28th responsibilities prior to the attack. The 20th Australian Brigade was to push forward to exploit the expected successes. They would move towards Daba following the night of 22 to 23 July. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The attack on 21 July 1942 in the El Alamein area

The Australian historian is quick to criticize General Auchinleck's plans. XIII Corps would attack with the new 161st Indian Motor Brigade to push along the Ruweisat Ridge toward Trig 63. The 2nd New Zealand Division would push north to the El Mreir depression. They would take the eastern portion. After that the 23rd Armoured Brigade, with infantry tanks mounting 2pdr guns would drive forward into the enemy "headquarters and administrative area". They would go between the two German armored divisions and towards the German Africa Corps. The tanks of the mobile British formations would be saved for the push to the west after having broken through.
The attack stepped off on 21 July. The South African division took a depression on the Indian motor brigade's right. The Indian motor brigade attack failed to achieve its objective. The 6th New Zealand Brigade was successful, but they were left without the tank support that they had believed they had been promised. The brigade took 700 casualties and Brigadier Clifton was captured. He was able to escape "later in the day".
The reserve Indian battalion attacked at 8am and was able to "reach" Point 23. The 23rd Armoured Brigade set off to the west, but took heavy tank losses. Still, their move "threw the enemy into confusion". They did not withdraw, howoever. XIII Corps had executed all their plans and had not intention of doing more. The 2nd Armoured Brigade came up to support the 23rd Armoured Brigade to allow them to withdraw. The 23rd Armoured Brigade was reduced to 7 running tanks of the 87 they had started with. At least half of the tank losses were recovered so that they could be repaired.
The Australian historian rated the efforts of 21 July as a disaster. General Inglis, now commanding the 2nd New Zealand Division stated that he refused to take part in another operation like they had just executed. They were supposed to have tank support which was actually absent. He wanted to have his own tanks under his own command. The New Zealand Division lost 904 men, of which 69 were officers. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Auchinleck makes plans and then changes them from 17 and 18 July 1942 and beyond

The evening of 17 July 1942 started with a carrier raid near the Tel el Eisa. The raid was conducted by three carrier sections from the 2/48th Battalion. The raid had artillery, machine-gun, and mortar support. The carriers ended up firing some 3,400 rounds from their guns during the raid. They had crossed the rail line near the station and then drove to the two points of point 24 (East and West). After doing that, they returned to their starting point. On the return there was a mishap where the carriers ran onto their own minefield and took six casualties and had  three damaged carriers.
Far to the south from the 9th Australian Division, the 7th Armoured Division staged several successful attacks on the enemy. Their impression was that the enemy had thinned out their forces in the south.
Auchinleck's first idea, expressed later on 17 July was to attack the enemy flanks at the end of July. Before that, the "British" forces at El Alamein would keep pressure on the enemy. The XXX Corps role was to destroy the Italian forces they faced. On 18 July, Auchinleck changed his mind and issued a new set of orders. Instead, right away, they would attack (by 21 July) the center, near Ruweisat Ridge. The forces in the south would move against the enemy left and rear. XIII Corps would attack near Deir el Shein, Deir el  Abyad, and Buweibat el Raml. They hoped to break through and chase the enemy to "Daba and Fuka". Meanwhile, XXX Corps would attack in the north. Auchinleck's staff made plans for what to do while pursuing the enemy.
The British were reading Rommel's communications for one thing. They also had received two new brigades: the 161st Indian Motor Brigade and the 23rd Armoured Brigade Group. The reality was that the British had a much greater strength than the enemy. The British thought that the Germans had 31 tanks when they actually had 38 (not many). The Italians were thought to have 70 tanks when they actually had 59. The 1st Armoured Division now had 61 Grant tanks, 81 Crusaders and 31 Stuart light tanks. The 23rd Armoired Brigade had 150 Valentine and a few Matilda tanks. The 1st Army Tank Brigade also had infantry tanks. The 23rd Armoured Brigade waws essentially and Army Tank Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

17 to 19 July 1942 at El Alamein

Rommel was very concerned about the situation near El Alamein. He wrote his wife on 17 July 1942, remarking that the "enemy" (the Australians) were using their infantry strength to attack and destroy Italian "formations". There were not enough Germans to fight without Italian support. The 9th Australian Division's attacks caused enough damage to make the enemy decide to not attack at the "center".
Tanks (probably German) attacked the two Australian battalions where they touched. In the attack on the 2/32nd Battalion, a gunner was able to knock out six tanks. Still, the 2/32nd Battalion lost 22 men as prisoners where the front platoons had been overrun. The situation was tense, but they were able to pull back to a firm line some 1500 yards behind the previous position at "the telegraph line". The Qattara track cut across where the two battalions touched each other.
The 24th Brigade "brigade major" went forward to see the situation. He told Brigadier Godfrey that they front was solid. Godfrey then ordered the 2/28th Battalion to attack during the night and take the ground that they had just lost. They moved forward after midnight and pushed forward to the objective, which they reached by 1:30am. The attackers had seen very few enemy infantry and had destroyed one enemy tank. Their only casualties were two men wounded.Australian sappers got busy after that and initially laid 2500 mines. The next night, they laid more mines to the field.
The new situation found the 24th Brigade in a triangle by battalions. The 2/28th was at the forward point with the other two spread behind at the telegraph line. The 2/32nd Battalion was to the northwest and the 2/43rd Battalion was to the southeast. The 2/28th Battalion sent out a carrier patrol at sunrise. They found a German machine gun ("Spandau") firing occasionally. The gun was protected by a mine field. The gun was manned by one man. The carrier patrol also noticed German tanks and armored cars scouting around the Makh Khad Ridge. Soon, enemy artillery was firing "air bursts" over the 2/28th Battalion. The firing was apparently from 88mm AA guns which caused heavy casualties in the 2/28th Battalion.
The enemy held off attacking on 18 July 1942. The German situation was very difficult. The two German armored divisions had very few running tanks. the 15th  Armored Division had 9 tanks while the 21st Armored Division had 19 tanks. The 90th Light Division was sent north to take the place of four Italian divisions that had "collapsed". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Australians in action on 17 July 1942 at El Alamein

The 2/43rd Battalion was now under attack by tanks and infantry where they were at Ruin Ridge, but they were without anti-tank support and were also low on ammunition. To make matters worse, they no longer could communicate with the field artillery. The battalion commander wanted to move farther foward some eight hundred yards, but he was informed by the 44th RTR squadron commander that he could not help with such a move. The alternative plan was to withdraw and permission was granted for the move. They ended up on Makh Khad Ridge. They were then located to the left of the 2/32nd Battalion. The 2/43rd had some accomplishments. In their fight, they "had destroyed 13 guns and 12 machine-guns and three heavy mortars".
The fighting at Trig 22 was becoming increasingly tough. They were now taking heavy shelling. The enemy had started to fire "air bursts", which were very damaging due to the positions being very shallow with no cover. The enemy launched an attack with tanks and armored cars at 10am. 2-pdr fire and fire from a captured Italian Breda 20mm forced the attackers to withdraw. The Breda was damaged but the gunner, a corporal, was able to repair the gun. He used the gun to fire at soft vehicles "and low-flying aircraft".
The enemy continued to apply pressure against the two battalions. One issue was that the enemy had been able to put a post on Trig 22. At least, the two Australian battalions were in contact. The 24th Brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey gave permission for a reorganization of the 2/32nd Battalion positions to form a line "that followed the telegraph poles and linking with the 2/43rd's positions astride the Qattara track".
The 24th Brigade had accomplished enough to draw attention (however unwanted). They had overrun Italian units from the Trieste Division and from the 7th Bersaglieri Regiment and had penetrated the Trento Division front. Rommel had ordered German units to the area. He also ordered General Nehring to change to a defensive posture. Rommel wanted a regiment from the 90th Light Division, but all he got was a battalion. In the north, the enemy forces at near Tel el Eisa were "not happy". That was with the 26th Australian Brigade not pressing them. German armor and infantry pulled back to where they had been on 16 July. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Tough fighting early on 17 July 1942 near Trig 22

The 2/32nd Battalion moved out at 2:30am. In what was just 15 minutes or so, they came under fire from the enemy with "artillery, mortars, and machine-guns". By 5:15am, the right company had gone some 1,500 yards past Trig 22. The other two companies took their objectives. The 2/32nd took about 160 prisoners. The three companies that had attacked were spread wide over a 2,500 yard front. They had left gaps between the companies. Some Australian anti-tank guns and machine-guns were in place on Trig 22. An enemy counter-attack had taken the crest of Trig 22. The 2/32nd Battalion commander sent his fourth company against the crest which it took again by 7:45am. They had taken their objectives by 8:45am. The 9th Australian Division cavalry had seven tanks and 15 carriers. This was their first fight while equipped with tanks. Previously, they had carriers, although they may have had some British light tanks. They were able to knock out "some anti-tank guns and machine-gun posts".
Starting at 6am, the 2/43rd Battalion attacked onto the Qattara track. They had two companies forward with a third following. They experienced heavy enemy fire. They arrived at Ruin Ridge at about 7am. The left company had a fight to break through enemy positions. The ground was "broken", which must have made progress difficult. Everyone man but one in the left section was wounded. The un-wounded man carried a Bren gun and eventually rejoined his platoon after moving another thousand yards. One company captured some four hundred enemy soldiers. They arrived at Ruin Ridge by 7:30am. They could see that there were 19 enemy guns firing from 300 yards away. The company commander led an attack with a scratch group, including men from his headquarters. They added 150 more prisoners to their bag. They were short of anti-tank grenades and wanted to preserve what they could for use against tanks, so they only destroyed three of the guns.
The other foward company from the 2/43rd moved across 2,500 yards under artillery fire until they were fired on from a position. The men attacked while "firing from the hip" which allowed them to overrun the enemy, who surrendered in the face of the attack. They kept going another thousand yards where they reached machine-guns and an anti-tank gun, probably Italian. The Australians attacked from the side and caused the enemy to stand and surrender. After the anti-tank gun fired two more rounds, the gunner was killed. Once they had occupied Ruin Ridge, they could see 7 tanks and some four hundred vehicles in the distance. A corporal moved forward and observed the enemy to "direct his platoon's fire". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Australians dominate and are again used for more attacks in July 1942

The 2/23rd Battalion had "overran" the last existent battalion of  the Italian Sabratha Division. They had also hit a German battalion, the I/382nd Infantry Regiment. The situation was desperate enough to cause Rommel to send help from the south that he had planned to use to follow-up on successes at Ruweisat Ridge. So the 33rd Reconnaissance Battalion, the Briehl Group of the 90th Light Division, and a 104th Regiment battalion. By ten to ten, the 21st Armored Division reported that heavy fire from the right made any advance impossible. By 1:40pm, 5th Armored Regiment had to change to a defensive posture. A strong infantry force had moved into position to attack the two Australian infantry companies at Tel el Eisa.
In the fighting leading up to this situation, just one Australian brigade had managed to capture and hold "high ground west of the El Alamein fortress and nogth of the railway." They had hit the enemy so that they had lost some 2,000 killed, wounded and took 3,708 prisoners. They Germans and Italians suffered from Australian artillery fire and machine guns. For once, Australian artillery and machine gun units had been used to support Australian infantry. The Austalians also had "direct air support" for the first time,
Brigadier Ramsey was now the 9th Australian Division artillery commander. Had previously commanded the artillery at Mersa Matruh. He had served as an enlisted artilleryman in the Great War and received a commission after the end of the war. At the start of the second war, Ramsey had been a division artillery commander. He stepped back down and formed the 2/2nd Field Regiment. After that, he had been the corps medium artillery commander. "He wasa schoolmaster and university lecturer and destined to fill the most senior posts has branch of the teaching profession offered."
By 17 July, General Auchinleck planned to attack the enemy forces "in the center" at Ruweisat Ridge. The 24th Australian Brigade would attack from the north. They would try to take Makh Khad Ridge and then push some five thousand yards "towards Ruin Ridge". The 2/32nd Battalion would take Trig 22 without artillery preparation during the night. By dawn, the 2/43rd Battalion "would pass through" with a 44th RTR Valentine squadron to take Ruin Ridge to the south. Most of the 44th RTR with the 9th Australian Divisional Cavalry, equipped with Crusader tanks would guard the flank, and if needed, help with Trig 22. There was heavy artillery support provided. They had the 9th Australian DIvision artillery, the 1st South African Division artillery, along with two British field regiments. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Action on 15 July 1942 "in the north" at El Alamein

As early as 4:15am on 15 July, the Germans ordered tanks from the 5th Armored Regiment as well as infantry to stage an attack on the Australians. The infantry that was immediately involved were men from the II;104th Battalion. They pushed ahead and crossed the railroad "north-west of the cutting at 5:50am. By 8am, 12 tanks belonging to the 5th Armored Regiment pushed to the east, running along to the north of the rail line. At 2pm, the unit reported that they had moved back into positions that they had previously held. They were not able to bring up heavy weapons due to the heavy artillery fire.
By later in the afternoon, the Germans were unable to continue forward and in fact had to move against an attack coming from "south-east of the El Alamein Box". The one infantry battalion from the 104th Regiment was left on their own to hold "the northern sector". New orders for the 5th Armored Regiment were to attack starting at 4:30am on 16 July. They were to attack "in the south-east".
On the opposing side, the Australians planned to retake "Point 24", which had two hills connected, as we remember. Half of the 2/23rd Battalion with five tanks were allocated for the attack. The attack was launched in the morning. One company of the 2/23rd Battalion with two  troops from the 8th RTR moved out at 5:20am. The enemy had a position "at the railway cutting". They fired on the leading Australians. A successful attack with grenades and sub-machine-guns took the enemy position (a "post"). The active Australian company was able to take the eastern portion of Point 24 by 6:30am.
The second company from the 2/23rd Battalion moved through the first. They were supported by tanks from the 44th RTR. They were able to take the western part of Point 24 by 7:45am. The company commander had gone to help a wounded man and while returning, he "was killed by a shell". The Australians took 601 prisoners, including 41 Germans. They also took three colonels prisoner, one of which was a German. Of the attacking Australians, they lost some 90 men killed or wounded. That was 90 out of about 200 men who attacked. At 11:30am, Lt-Col. Evans came forward to inspect the situation. The enemy was able to fire on the positions so he ordered the men to withdraw from what he considered to be a valueless area. They had no machine guns, ant-tank guns. They continued to take losses, so they withdrew with no further losses. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

New plan for 15 July 1942 at El Alamein

The Australian 20th Brigade was organized as a brigade group. During the afternoon of 15 July 1942, they had moved into positions near Auchinleck's "tactical headquarters". The brigade had orders to be executed at 5:30am on 16 July. They were to break into three battalion battle groups "in mobile box formation" and travel to the Mubarik tomb which was "behind the 5th Indian Division".  The British had intelligence that indicated that Rommel was planning to attack the 5th Indian Division. The 20th Brigade Group (as it was) set up a defensive line that was quite hastily constructed. All this happened without General Morshead being informed. When Morshead learned of developments, he immediately phoned General Auchinleck and told him that what had been done was contrary to their agreement and also to Morshead's "charter". At first, General Auchinleck agreed to return 20th Brigade to the 9th Austraslian Division. However, Auchinleck called Morshead back to tell him that Auchinleck was being "heavily attacked". Morshead relented in those circumstances and let Auchinleck continue to use the 20th Brigade. Auchinleck was not able to return the 20th Brigade until 17 July.
Meanwhile, on 15 July, Rommel attacked 26th Brigade. Rommel was handicapped by having sent reinforcements to General Nehring of the German Africa Corps. During the night before the attack, men from 2/48th Battalion could hear vehicles in the area near the Tel el Eisa railroad station. The battalion fired on the force that was close by. By morning, they noticed some 15 German vehicles "near the wire" and that there two machine guns and two anti-tank guns setup close to the rail station. The Australians attacked and took 32 prisoners and captured the vehicles (initially). The vehicles were stripped of "ammunition and equipment" and were then destroyed. During the night of 15-16 July, men from the 2/48th Battalion attacked German engineers engaged in removing the minefield. They took seven of hte engineers prisoner.
Back at dawn on 15 July, the men of the 2/24th Battalion saw ten German tanks and as many as 70 vehicles carrying infantry. They were driving in the direction of Trig 33. The enemy fired a heavy artillery barrage starting at about 7:30am. A significant attack was sent with 35 tanks and "seven companies of infantry". The tanks reached the foot of Trig 33 with 14 tanks having scaled the Trig. The accompanying infantry was beaten back while the tanks eventually pulled back. Another attack was sent forward at 8:15am. They had 25 tanks but they were again repulsed. The 44th Tank Regiment attacked with "light tanks" (presumably Stuarts). The enemy again sent an attack (the third). They did not have any tank support and they were beaten back after about a half-hour fight. Another attack with tanks and infantry "at midday" was stopped by artillerty and machine guns. That day, they destroyed ten German tanks and they took 63 prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

14-15 July 1942 a success "up to a point"

The New Zealand Divsion was "hung out to dry" by the 1st Armoured Division. To a degree, the New Zealand Division created their own problem by bypassing significant German units. In one case, eight German tanks were bypassed. As day broke, the German tanks attacked the 22nd New Zealand Battalion. The New Zealanders had expected to see tanks, but British ones not German. The New Zealand anti-tank guns engaged the tanks, but after a "fierce fight", the New Zealanders surrendered with some 350 taken prisoner, as we previously had mentioned.
On the morning of 15 July, the Africa Corps commander reported the attack at Deir el Shein to Rommel. Rommel ordered German forces to head for the British "penetration". He sent the 3rd Reconaissance Unit and a battle group of 100 infantry with other arms heading south. The Baade Group with 200 infantry and some artillery, along with the 33rd Reconnaisance Unit driving north. An attack started at 5pm from the north that included the available tanks from the 15th Armored Division. One issue was the Baade Group did not reach the battle area. Still, the 4th New Zealand Brigade was overrun due to the non-support by the 1st Armoured Division. Still, a few tanks from the 2nd Armoured Brigade came up to the battle to support the New Zealanders. General Gott told the New Zealanders that they could withdraw to "a line from Trig 63 to to a position south-west of Alam el Dihmaniya". The British armor created some very great anger over their failure to support the New Zealand Division.  They particularly were angry with the Briitsh commanders involved in the bad situation.
Auchinleck's plan for the battle was good enough that "some 2,000 men of the Brescia and Pavia had surrendered, and in Rommel's words, the 'line south-east of Deir el Shein collapsed'". The problem was that the British armor's failure to support the 2nd New Zealand Division caused the loss  of 1,405 "killed, wounded or missing".
The great New Zealand officer at this time a brigadier, Howard Kippenberger not only blamed the British armor but said that the New Zealanders could have done more to get better cooridate support from the armor. Still, this was another example where the British armor seemed afraid to fight the Germans. This is based on the accoiunt in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 01, 2019

14 to 15 July 1942 at El Alamein

Some of the tanks that had been engaged at Point 24 cut across the front of the 2/48th Battalion near the Tel el Eisa rail station. When no one fired on the tanks, they continued on towards Point 26. Field guns opened fire on the tanks and turned west where Australian anti-tank guns fired on the tanks. Nearby infantry also fired on the tanks. Some of the tanks exploded and burnt. The survivors withdrew under fire. The Australians of 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment claimed seven tanks knocked out, four by one gun and three by the other. In the morning, the 1st Army Tank Brigade sent tanks forward to support the Australians. In the light, they counted ten German tanks knocked out!
Rommel had planned an attack on 15 July, but Auchinleck's attack on Ruweisat Ridge caused Rommel to have to reduce what he would do at Tel el Eisa. Auchinleck had planned to break through the enemy forces in the center and wipe out the enemy north of Ruweisat Ridge. He also wanted to destroy the enemy forces that lay to the east from the track from El Alamein-to-Ab Dweis. XXX Corps would capture the eastern portion of Ruweisat Ridge and then attack south and capture Miteiriya Ridge. XIII Corps was also in the plan and was to push to Trig 63 in the west of Ruweisat Ridge and then move to the northwest. Auchinleck decided on 14 July to attack that night. The corps were to achieve their objectives by 4:30am on 15 July. The orders to "XIII Corps and 1st Armoured Division" show that Auchinleck had actually decided on a more limited set of objectives. They realized later that the conferences that were held did not successfully communicate how the cooperation between units was to occur. For example, the New Zealand Division had expected to have close armor support. General Lumsden understood that his armor only needed to come forward when requested. The lack of support by two armored brigades had unfortunate consequences.
The XXX Corps attack was launched by the 5th Indian Brigade. One battalion was held up by fire, while another was pushed back.
2nd New Zealand Division attacked from the XIII Corps area. They had two brigades engaged, the 4th and 5th, They moved forward starting at 11pm. They moved until they encountered minefield. They bypassed enemy positions and kept moving forward. The New Zealand brigades had reached their objectives, but were not in good condition. They expected to have two armored brigades ready to support them and the Indian brigade, but they were instead sitting stopped, in the rear, waiting for orders. Some German tanks had been bypassed, and these attacked the New Zealanders. New Zealand anti-tank guns engaged the tanks, but the New Zaaland Division lost 350 prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Offiicial History.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fight in the north of the El Alamein position from 12 July 1942

On 12 July 1942, the 9th Australian Division had been in a holding posture until late afternoon. The enemy prepared for an attack on Australians on Hill 33 with increasingly heavy artillery fire. The Germans sent their infantry forward in waves starting at 6pm. This was directed at the 2/24th Battalion positions. The German infantry faced fire from the 2/8th Field Regiment and some British howitzers, possibly the 6in BL 26cwt used by medium regiments. A company from the 2/23rd Battalion, reinforcing the 2/24th Battalion, was heavily attacked. A Bren gunner and a machine-gun platoon inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans. The company commander, however, was killed "when his trench was hit".
The German infantry attack had ended by about 9pm. The Germans had lost some 600 casualties in the attack, perhaps most to the machine-guns. The Australian infantry company had also taken many casualties. Captain Harding was now the company commander for the men from the 2/23rd Battalion. He commanded the company over the next five days while defending their position.
Early on 13 July, the men of the 26th Brigade received word that the 21st Armored Division was planning an attack. Rommel apparently hoped to push into the Australians rear and isolate them. East Point 24 was attacked twice, but was protected by artillery fire from five artillery regiments. Rommel's attack hit the South African Division, which was holding positions south of the El Alamein Box. The South Africans were able to beat off the attack.
General Auchinleck was already planning for an attack on Ruweisat Ridge. At first, he considered moving the whole 9th Australian Division to a new position "south-east of Jevel Bein Gabir." This original plan would leave the 26th Brigade with the South African Division. After some preliminary moves and some reconnaissance, Auchinleck decided to only send the 20th Brigade. They would be in a box just behind Auchinleck's headquarters, which was so close to the front as to be very vulnerable. Because of that, the position of Auchinleck's headquarters was kept secret. No one was allowed to mark the position on a map.
Rommel's latest plan was to hit the Australians on 14 July. During the night before, the Australians could see infantry and artillery movements. That drew Briitsh/Australian artillery fire. By "mid-morning" they could see enemy infantry moving close, while three tanks drove up near a company of the 2/24th Battalion to provide cover for engineers who were lifting mines. The Australians were not able to fire on the tanks with anti-tank guns and infantry weapons were ineffective. The Australians finally were able to call in artillery fire, which slowed the enemy progress. By mid-afternoon, German infantry supported by tanks attacked two Australian companies at East Point 24. The tanks looked for weapons pits and drove over them to crumble them when they were found. The defenders kept the tanks under heavy fire with infantry weapons, forcing the tanks to keep closed up. The Australians beat off a second attack, killing time until dark, when the tanks couldn't see well enough. The Australians were in desperate straits, so they eventually walked out to keep from being taken. The anti-tank gunners took their breach blocks, but were able to bring in vehicles later and towed the guns out of harms way. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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