Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The enemy situation in early 24 October 1942

Even though the British offensive on 23 October 1942 had failed to achieve its goals, the enemy was unaware of the actual situation. The "British bombardment" at the start of the offensive had the effect of cutting all enemy communications. The enemy saw the British attack on 23 October as being along a front of about five miles. They believed that they had succeeded in stopping the attack between the coast road and the railway. In fact, this was simply a diversionary operation. The units involved were Australian 24th Brigade units. They had been "stopped" by the 115th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. By 2am, the British attack had breached minefields and were approaching the main defense line. Two regiments took the brunt of the attack. They were "the German 382nd Regiment and the Italian 62nd Regiment". They faced "the 9th Australian Division, the 51st Highland Division, and the 2nd New Zealand Division".

As the attack advanced, "the 382nd Regiment was overrun" on the front facing the Australian and New Zealand divisions. Amazingly, the divisions only faced about one battalion each. The attack was only stopped by the 115th Regiment from the 15th Armored Division. They "were located in the second line of defense". At dawn on 24 October, the 62nd Regiment "was virtually destroyed". German battalions on the Australian front and the New Zealand front "had been overrun".

In the morning, General Stumme set out to see what the situation was. Unfortunately for him, they were too close to the action and were fired upon. General Stumme was trying to hold onto the vehicle when he had a heart attack and died. Without a commander, the enemy forces were not able to respond to the current situation. The 90th Light Division then was still sitting in reserve near the coast. The 21st Armored Division was sitting in the south, behind protecting minefields. The 15th Armored Division and the Italian Littorio Armored Division were in the north, facing XXX Corps. The armor in the north turned and attacked the XXX Corps "bridgehead".

At the end of the first day, the British had not succeeded in what Montgomery had planned. Only one of the "bridgeheads" had been taken and cleared of mines, and that happened later than planned. None of the British armored divisions had gotten into the enemy rear area. One had attempted to do so unsuccessfully. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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