Monday, September 09, 2019

Assessment of the attack on 1 September 1942

The Germans and their Italian allies now occupied a heavily defended line near El Alamein. The Australian attack on 1 September 1942 was not as successful as they had hoped it would be. Major Gehrmann was the 2/13th Field Company commander during the raid. The Major thought, prior to the attack, that the attack would fail for a number of reasons. His six reasons were:

"1. The force was too small. 2. The front was too narrow. 3. The flanks were insecure. 4. The proposed penetration was too narrow. 5. The information was too scanty. 6. The operation was unsuitable for tanks."

The operation was not a total loss, because they had learned some things that they could apply in the next attack. One thing that stood out was that there were still problems with infantry trying to cooperate with armored units. The tanks did not like being sent into anti-tank gun fire from guns that were beyond the range of tank guns. Despite a new commander, some of the same old issues were at work.

At Alam el Halfa, Montgomery did not spread out the army, but kept the armor and infantry close together. Armor had the benefit of support from the infantry division artillery.

During late summer 1942, the 9th Australian Division battalions were actively patrolling in front of their positions. One objective was to build an order of battle describing the enemy units in their area. The enemy were also actively engaged in patrolling. They also relished the opportunity to fight the Australian patrols that they encountered.

The enemy were busy at night building defensive positions. Their working parties were active and had units covering them. The Australians also noticed that the enemy were making noises to attract their attention. These were described as "tapping of tools on stones, coughing, lighting cigarettes and so on". One night, they had an encounter with another patrol. It turned out that they had fought a South African patrol and wounded some of them. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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