Monday, December 02, 2019

The sticky situation on 25 October 1942

General Gatehouse's concerns were described as concern about the situation at dawn was likely to be that his "regiments" would be "exposed and vulnerable". He expected that enemy anti-tank guns would do great damage. The corps commander, General Lumsden did not have the authority to call off the attack. De Guingand woke Montgomery and called a corps commander meeting to be held at 3:30am.

The situation was that three of the four armored brigades that were to move forward to the Pierson line were not having any particular problems. Given that, we can understand why Montgomery was in favor of proceeding with the operation. He could expect some 400 tanks to move forward, ready to "debouch". The 8th Armoured Brigade had only one of the three planned paths that was mine-free. One regiment would move out to connect with the 9th Armoured Brigade. The others would sit on Miteiriya Ridge. They would work at clearing more mines and improving the gaps in the minefields.

After the corps commander conference, Montgomery talked with Lumsden and told him that if the 10th Armoured Division commander was not ready to proceed, he would be replaced with someone who was ready to execute the operation.

Things were arranged so that Montgomery could speak by phone with Gatehouse. The problem was with the tanks commanders, who until now had been able to hedge their bets and not go all out, regardless of the cost. The tank commanders sat in the forward infantry positions, drawing more attention to the positions than the infantry liked. Montgomery wanted them to push forward, regardless of the losses they might incur and push up to the Pierson bound. It was at 6am that the 7/Rifle Brigade vehicles arrived immediately behind the 2/13th Battalion. This was only a portion of the 7/Rifle Brigade. The rest went farther south, to Point 29, not to Trig 33, which was the intent. In the south, the tanks had moved forward near to the Pierson bound. For example, the 24th Armoured Brigade believed it had two regiments on their objective. They might not have actually been that close, but they were near where they were supposed to be. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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