Tuesday, July 07, 2020

What the "Dominion Office" told Mr. Fadden, in Australia, is that they decided on the Greek operation as their only chance at forming a "Balkan Front". They still had hopes of persuading Turkey and Yugoslavia to join the Allies. The same message was sent to the government of New Zealand, as well. In the following week, events in the Middle East were causing unease in "London". The situation with the Greek government and their unwillingness to follow the British plan were one thing. Another event was that enemy aircraft dropped mines in the Suez Canal, necessitating its closure. A British attack on the Dodecanese island of Castellorizo failed. They also received an report that indicated that the Germans had transported armored forces to Tripoli. On 4 March, Mr. Menzies requested that the Greek operation be reconsidered. An Australian component of the force for Greece were planned to sail on 6 March. Churchill sent Anthony Eden a message on 6 March that was pessimistic about their chances of success in Greece. Churchill was concerned that they were asking Australia and New Zealand to send troops on what was likely to fail. They only reason that Churchill might think that there was any chance of success was if Generals Dill and Wavell thought that there was. Churchill mentioned that he was thinking that they should be planning on an attack on Tripoli. Anthony Eden responded that "they were all agreed that they should continue with the move into Greece. General Wavell felt that there were problems with any attempt to cancel the move into Greece, if only because of the troop convoys at sea. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Consultations prior to the operation in Greece in February to March 1941

A Greek politician wrote "an open letter to Hitler" in which he wrote that he understood that Greece would be invaded. He asked why the Axis powers would want to invade Greece? Of course, the British hoped to pull Yugoslavia and Turkey into the war on the Allied side. He says that the Italian attack was what brought the British into the war in Greece. He says that the Greek army will stand and fight in Thrace.
One question was what the British government was doing to consult and inform the goverments of Australia and New Zealand? As we mentioned, this was a period of political turmoil in Australian. Back in February 1941, Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Fadden was going to be Prime Minster later in 1941, and he was involved, as he was in the War Cabinet. Churchill was arguing that losses would be "mostly material", not men. He told them that the men could be evacuated back to Egypt, if they were forced to withdraw. Generals Wavell and Dill were quoted as saying that "able and cautious". There was concern that if this was a "forlorn hope" that the operation would not be executed. The problem was that with convoys of men and equipment heading for Greece, the British were committed to the operation in Greece, regardless of the wisdom of doing so. Churchill told the Australians that if the Japanese attacked, they would send "naval reinforcements", which Mr. Menzies thought "must be a little discounted". This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Events in Greece in early March 1941

"Anthony Eden sent the Yugoslav regent a message asking him to join the Allies. They also told the Yugoslavs that defending Salonika depended on what Yugoslavia did. The British were so committed to going into Greece that they had no choice but to proceed." The large troop convoys that were at sea pretty much forced their hand.
The British were planning on trying to defend the "Vermion-Olympus" line. The accepted that they might be forced to withdraw, and saw that there was a good possibility of successfully "staging a fighting withdrawal." 7 March was when British cruisers had disembarked several thousand troops "at the Pireaus".
You might well ask "what had been done to inform the Australian and New Zealand governments? In February, the British had met with Mr. Menzies who hd been Prime Minister at the time. Already, there was concern about a Japanese threat in the Far East, although that only turned into an attack in December. This was a time of political turmoil in Australia, where they changed governments multiple times in a short period of time.
The New Zealand government, lacking much information, had agreed in principle to the Greek campaign. They wanted to see the 2nd New Zealand Division "fully equipped with an armored brigade". New Zealand was happy to take part along with the Australians. The new Australian government was only "conditionally agreed to participate". They wanted to know that there was a plan in place to evacuate if the situation turned out badly. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The lead up to the Greek campaign in early March 1941

The British were discussing possibilities with the Government of Turkey. Turkey was afraid of both Germany and Russia, probably more so of Russia. The British had hopes of bringing Turkey into the war on the side of the Allies, but Turkey was pretty sure that they should stay neutral. Germany was known to have moved into Bulgaria, which was thought to be a preparatory more to attacking Greece. Greece was also waiting to hear from Yugoslavia prior to withdrawing its troops from "eastern Macedonia". The British had thought that the withdrawal was already happening. General Dill, the CIGS, and Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, were talking with the Greek government, trying to influence what they did. The Greek leader Papagos wanted the British to land at Salonika and help defend it. General Dill and Mr. Eden then called General Wavell to Greece. General Wavell "arrived at Athens on 3 March". The British decided that they needed to add the Greek King to their meetings. The Greeks were waiting to hear about the Yugoslav plans. If Yugoslavia fought, then the Greeks would move troops into the "Metaxas Line". "If Yugoslavia was neutral", then some troops would hold the Metaxas Line for a time and then pull back into the rear line". There was some thought to cancelling the British move into Greece, but they thought that was not possible, as the troops were already underway for Greece. The British decided that General Wilson should command the force on the "Vermion-Olympus Line". The plan was put in writing, to prevent any misunderstandings. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Events in early 1941 regarding Greece

General Wavell communicated with Churchill about Churchill's scheme to send troops to Greece. Wavell was concerned about how little force they could send and the possibility that they could not arrive in time to do anything useful. General Wavell was also concerned that the Greeks would not fight if attacked by the Germans. Wavell thought that they might be able to help the Greeks "
hold a line on the Aliakmon River". There was also a concern about the air force shrinking as they were taking greater losses than they were receiving replacements. They had not been receiving any "fighting formations since the fall of France in 1940. The only possibility was the possibility of the 50th Division arriving from Britain. In February 1941, the CIGS was still General Dill. He had not yet been switched to being in the United States as a diplomat. On 7 March, General Wavell received a message saying that the cabinet had decided that the Greek operation should proceed and that the Cabinet had taken "full responsibility for the results. What seems to have been a lie, was that Churchill had said that the Greek campaign was not being conducted because of Anthony Eden making commitments in Athens, but because the CIGS General Dill, Wavell, and others had thought that there was a "fighting chance" that the operation could succeed. The Australian prime minister, Mr. Menzies was told that General Blamey and the New Zealand commander, General Freyberg were said to have agreed. Why all this was a lie was that neither General Blamey or General Freyberg were asked for an opinion. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Planning in relation to Greece in 1940-1941

In Germany, Hitler ordered planning to "occupy Northern Greece" as early as 12 November 1940. He would use ten German divisions for the operation. By late November, Hitler decided to occupy all of Greece. He would conduct the operation in March, he decided in December. After seeing the British successes in Cyrenaica and the Greek successes in Albania, he decided that the invasion army needed to be larger. He was thinking about the invasion of Russia when he planned the Greek invasion. One thing he wanted was to protect Rumanian oil fields from British bombers in Greece.
You saw the British fighting in east Africa against the Italians. The British advance to Tripoli would be stopped, so free up resources for Greece. The New Zealand Division was planned to be part of the Greek operation. The latest thinking was to send the British 6th Division to Greece and replace it in North Africa with the 9th Australian Division, which was untrained and new. He hoped to also send the Polish Carpathian Brigade to Greece. The Australian General Blamey insisted on sending the 6th Australian Division to Greece and keeping the raw 7th Australian Division in Cyrenaica. They would reorganize the Australian divisions and change which brigades were assigned to each division. The prestige of General Freyberg meant that the New Zealand division was treated as being one of the best divisions. The New Zealand Division arrived in Greece on 7 March when they were treated to cheering from the Greek people. The Greek leader assured the British that whatever happened, the Greek army would fight the expected German invasion. This is based on the account in "Greece Crete and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

New Zealand forces to Greece

New Zealand forces were among the units sent to Greece in 7 March 1941. The New Zealand Division was included in convoys sent to Greece. There were six convoys sent to Greece that included the New Zealand Division. The convoys traveled in the period of 7 March to 3 April 1941. They formed part of "W Force". All this happened very suddenly, so much so that the first convoy included commanders that did not know their destination. The New Zealand Division and their companions traveled to the north to the "Aliakmon Line". There was not really any "line", but it was a natural defensive position between Yugoslavia and Salonika. They troops had not long to wait, because the Germans invaded Yugoslavia and Greece on 6 April. The German move eventually  "outflanked" the Aliakmon line, and forced the New Zealand Division and their companions to retreat south to suitable positions on the shore where they could be withdrawn by destroyers and cruisers, mainly. There were also several British transports that were included. On 11 April, men from the New Zealand 27th Machine Gun Battalion were captured at Klidhi Pass. They were the first New Zealand soldiers taken prisoner in the war. The Germans breakthrough on 12 April was what actually forced the New Zealand Division, the Australians, and some British troops to have to head south. The evacuation continued to the end of April. Some 50,000 soldiers had been evacuated. Many of them had been transported to the island of Crete. General Freyberg, the New Zealand Division commander, was appointed to command the defense by Churchill, although the troops on Crete were disorganized and General Freyberg was exhausted by the Greek campaign and was not in a position to organize a defense of the island. This is based on the New Zealand history and information from Gavin Long's book, "Greece Crete and Syria".

Monday, June 15, 2020

Churchill and Greece in 1940 and 1941

In 1940 and 1941, Churchill tended to appoint commanders who were his friends and who he respected. Two examples were General Henry Maitland Wilson and General Bernard Freyberg. Italy attacked Greece on 28 October 1940. The Greek ruler, General Metaxas, had originally counciled against Britain getting involved. Churchill's foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, insisted that the British were required to intervene if Greece were attacked without any provocation. Italy hoped to make a lightning advance into Greece, taking control of "the southern Balkans and the Aegean Sea". We would say that Churchill had not authority to appoint commanders, although he did fairly regularly. Once General Alan Brooke became the CIGS, that changed, although Brooke had to persuade Churchill of what he believed were the right men to appoint.
The immediate reaction was to fly squadrons into Greece. Fairly soon, four squadrons were operating from Greek air fields against Italian forces in Albania. By November 1940, a "weak" infantry brigade "group" was flown into Crete. Also, anti-air craft gunners and "air force ground staff and depot troops" were transported to Athens.
In late 1940, the British were mounting an defense of the island against a German invasion. This was what they called "the Battle of Britain" where the main combatants were British and Commonwealth fighter pilots and bombers operating against Germany. They were also fighting in North Africa against Italy. The Greeks successfully fought the Italian army based in Albania. There were some 14 Greek Divisions fighting Italian divisions in the Albanian border area. This is based on the account in "Greek, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long, where we are writing from the New Zealand perspective.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

New Zealand and the Greek campaign

On the one hand, New Zealand sent the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary force to the middle east, although part ended up in Scotland. The 2nd New Zealand Division trained in Egypt on arrival. The Australian Official History often just referred to the Division as the "New Zealand Division", although that is not actually correct. The Division deployed to Greece, along with British and Australian forces, all under the command of General Henry Maitland Wilson. The forces sent to Greece were called "Force W". Force W had about 40,000 men. German armored forces moved into Greece on 6 April. The German moved outflanked Force W and they were forced to retreat. Greece collapsed very quickly and surrendered on 9 April. Force W moved south on the roads to the places where they could be withdrawn by ship. Much of the withdrawal was done using destroyers and some cruisers. For what it was worth, the retreating force was cheered by Greeks along the road. If nothing else, they had given Greeks a sign that they were supported. All New Zealand troops had been withdrawn by 29 April 1941. "The New Zealanders lost 291 men killed, 1,826 captured and 387 seriously wounded". Two New Zealand brigades were taken to the island of Crete. The division headquarters and the third brigade ended up in Alexandria, Egypt. There were some 34,000 "British and Commonwealth troops" defending Crete. About 25,000 of these had been withdrawn from Greece, and were probably mostly with weapons and equipment. This is based on  the "Military history of New Zealand during World War II". This seems like a better source than what we had been using.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Events of 1940 that affect New Zealand

On 5 January 1940, the first New Zealanders arrive in the Middle East. They are the "First Echelon", as they are called. Shortly after that, in Britain, they start "rationing". On 28 January, the 28th (Maori) Battalion is formed. The main body of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force arrives in Egypt on 12 February. On 19 March, the British bomb the Frisian island of Sylt. On 27 March, New Zealand airmen are involved with a leaflet raid on Hamburg. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Michael Savage died on 27 March 1940. 9 April is the start of the Norway campaign, when Germany invaded Norway and Denmark. New Zealand is involved in the campaign with the Royal Navy and RAF. 30 April saw the British evacuate from Norway. The "Second Echelon" sailed from Wellington on 2 May 1940. On 10 May, Germany invaded the European countries. That day also saw Winston Churchill take over as the British Prime Minister. That day also saw the RAF launching bombing raids on Germany. 12 to 14 May saw the Germans break through the French front. On 15 May, the Netherlands surrendered. 17 May was the start of training for a "Third Echelon" of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. 25 May saw the Germans surround the Belgian, French, and most of the British Expeditionary Force. The next day saw the beginning of the withdrawal from Dunkirk. By 28 May, Belgium surrendered to Germany. On 3 June, the Germans bombed Paris. On 5 June, New Zealand started "raising an infantry brigade for Fiji". A New Zealand ace was killed in an accident on 7 June. On 10 June, Italy declared war on the British. Canada declared war on Italy. The war in the Mediterranean and Africa takes off and the air war over Britain intensifies. This is based on the account in the New Zealand Official History.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

New Zealand declared war on Germany, following the lead of Great Britain in 1939

New Zealand was very loyal to the British and not only declared war with the British, but expected New Zealand men to serve under British command. New Zealand declared war on Germany at the same time the British did, on the expiration of their ultimatum. In 1940, in North Africa, the Long Range Desert Group was formed with New Zealand and Rhodesian soldiers. Actually, both New Zealand men and women served in the war. They fought in both the European theater and the far east.
In 1939, New Zealand seems to have had a very conservative outlook. They took a strong stand opposing the Fascist dictators. That seems very unlike the present, where New Zealand has a very progressive government.
New Zealand sent an expeditionary force to Europe to help the British. When Italy entered the war, the New Zealand government formed a War Cabinet of both the Government and the Opposition. They also opened diplomatic relations with the United States, and then in 1944, with the Soviet Union. Late in the War, New Zealand decided to become involved with the United Nations.
Oddly enough, the government at the start of the war was Labour, but they instituted all sorts of strict measures. They started censorship, they jailed "enemy aliens" and New Zealand Pacifists. A methodist minister was jailed for 2-1/2 years for publishing a "Christian pacifist bulliten". This is based on the New Zealand Official History.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The parade after the address, and then Christmas celebrations in late 1942

After the address, the men were called to "present arms". The bands played "Advance Australia Fair". The men then marched past the "saluting base". The men marched in groups "of 40 men abreast". Afterwards, the focus was "on preparing to celebrate Christmas". There was a church service and then the men enjoyed a big dinner. In some cases, officers worked on the meal "in men's messes". By 16 January 1943, the division moved to Egypt to be ready to embark on transports. The men were loaded on transports from 24 January to 31 January 1943. The ships anchored in the Maldives and took on fuel. The ships sailed unescorted through the Indian Ocean towards Australia. They had the best transports, including the Queen Mary.
On 28 September 1959, a funeral was held in Sydney for General Morshead, as he had died. General Morshead had taken a group of men and had organized them into a division and had trained them. He led them in battle, where they had fought the best of the enemy and had defended the fortress Tobruk. He had also led the division in the battles in the narrows at El Alamein, where they had played a large part in defeatin the Axis forces and breaking the enemy line and putting them into retreat.
The 9th Australian Division had lost 7,116 officers and men taken prisoner by the enemy. They had also lost men in Greece and Crete. In the desert, Rommel often interviewed Australian prisoners and treated the men well.  Rommel followed the rules of wars and did not commit atrocities or other violations. This is the end of our blogging about the 9th Australian Division. We will start next on blogging about the New Zealand Division based on their official history.

Monday, May 25, 2020

High-level consultations about the 9th Australian Division from October 1942 and later

The highest authorities in the UK and the United States were determined to not have to send the 9th Australian Division back to Australia. Mr. Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister was just as committed to returning the division to Australia. Running against him were the concerns about shipping resources. There was also a nasty push to keep the Australians in the Middle East until the campaign against Rommel was ended. There was also the issue about the division not being able to take equipment back to Australia from the Middle East. That impacted the shipping issue. Prime Minster Curtin was going to get General Macarthur and General Blamey involved in the conversation. It turns out that Generals Macarthur and Blamey mainly wanted the division back in Australia and they would handle equipment as they could.
The next event was that on 17 December 1942, the 9th Australian Division got a new Division Patch. The new patch had a "T" on it, and General Morshead said that it had to do with Tobruk and the division's role in defense of Tobruk.
The next major event was the opening of the railroad from Haifa to Beirut on 20 December. The railroad was built by Australians from their special railroad group. Two days later, there was a ceremony at Gaza where the division "took the salute". For the ceremony, the new division patch was a part of the display. After the speakers finished, General Morshead "took command of the parade". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Australian move to Palestine in November to December 1942

Very quickly, the Australians sent "advance parties" to Palestine. Prior to leaving they took care of some details like "Requium Masses" and "Memorial Services" at the cemetary at El Alamein. They actually started the move to Palestine on 30 November 1942. Every day, two convoys were sent off to Palestine until they had twelve convoys on the road. They would stop at night "bivouacking". They traveled until they arrived at Gaza after traveling for four days. The convoys traveled through Cairo on the way. Some Australians stole Egyptian headware from Egyptians they met. Despite the rowdy Australians, a message was published praising the Australians for good behaviour. After General Morshead arrived in Palestine, he took time to visit the Australian hospital "at Gaza".
The British and American leadership was opposed to sending the 9th Australian Division back to the far east. It was on 29 October 1942 that the Australian prime minister, Mr. Curtin, sent a message to Winston Churchill expressing his desire to have the 9th Australian Division returned to Australia. He wanted the division returned in good shape, and not having been affected by use in the Middle East. President Roosevelt sent Mr. Curtin and message saying that he believed that the overall cause would benefit the most by keeping the 9th Australian Division in the Middle East. Roosevelt promised to send an American division from Hawaii to Australia and expected that would remove the need to send the 9th Australian Division back to Australia. The Australian Prime Minister finally heard on 21 November that General Alexander had made a "firm committment" to send the 9th Australian Division back to Australia. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The pursuit and the absence of the 9th Australian Division

Yes, the Australian government had requested that the 9th Australian Division be returned to Australia. That request had been kept secret. Early on 6 November 1942, the division headquarters was moved to the position near El Alamein. The fighting units were moved to an area "between Sidi Abd Al Rahman and Tel el Eisa." The first job was to bury the dead and to clear away any remaining mines. That night a rainstorm filled lowspots with water and the wind blew down tents. The men were in good spirits bespite the storm, because they were happy to be removed from the battle. The rest of the week was spent salvaging equipment found in the former battlefield.
After General Morshead met with General Leese on 6 November, he returned and called a meeting. He informed his commanders that as of 9 November, they would need to be ready to move to Mersa Matruh "and possibly to Tobruk". In fact, nothing happened. They were first warned about the need to move to Sidi Haneish, but things changed as they were no longer in XXX Corps. With the division out of any current operations, General Morshead immediately started thinking about restarting training.  The local high command was thinking about sending the 9th Australian Division back to Syria. After meeting with General Alexander, he agreed that they division could "return to Palestine" and that they could consider giving men leave. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The cost of victory as of 8 November 1942

It was on 8 November 1942 that British tanks rolled into Mersa Matruh. The British had lost 13,560 killed, wounded, or missing. The fact that they had captured something like twice as many German and Italian prisoners. They had found "more than a thousand guns" and almost all of the enemy tanks (except perhaps a dozen). The British had found "about 450 enemy tanks at El Alamein.". The 9th Australian Division seems to have lost 620 killed, 1944 wounded, and 130 prisoners in the fight from 23 October to 5 November. To get some idea of the action involved, the enemy attacked Trig 29 some 25 times. Artillery fire was very important in the fighting. British counter-battery fire meant that the enemy was unable to do much shooting at night. They also found that the 6pdr anti-tank gun was extremely effective anti-tank weapon.
General von Thoma commented on Montgomery's cautious approach, but said that it had paid off for Montgomery in winning battles.One of the differences between Auchinleck's attack and Montgomery's was that the British had air superiority during the 2nd El Alamein battle. After the victory, the 9th Australian Division was recognized for their contribution. General Leese wrote a letter to General Morshead. General Leese asked Morshead to explain to his men the value of their contribution to the victory. General Leese credited the Australians with the success of their crumbling operations. It seems that the commanders were considering sending the Australians back to Syria. General Morshead was thinking about training his men. You have to think that there was probably going to be pressure to send the division back to Australia.  This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The enemy withdrawal on 4 to 5 November 1942

Prisoners taken by the Australians were from the Toscana Division that had just been brought in from Greece. Rommel had "sharp words" with Field Marshal Kesselring. He had arrived early on 4 November. Rommel blamed the air force for giving Hitler bad information about the situation. Up until Hitler's order, Rommel had "always had complete freedom of action". At the beginning, they had been able to stop the British armor. However, the British had "broken into XXI Corps. The British tanks "turned north" and hit the Ariete Division in their "open flank". By 2pm, the Africa Corps had been penetrated in multiple places. By 5:30pm, Rommel ordered a retreat to Fuka. Mussolini agreed to a retreat to Fuka, but asked that the units without vehicles be "extricated". Hitler sent a message that also approved the withdrawal to Fuka.
Rommel and his had a wild night drive to the west towards Mersa Matruh. They were under heavy air attack by the RAF. Most Italian units had been lost. As for German, there were mainly remnants. The Italian divisions Pavia, Brescia, and Folgore had forced to surrender. Five other Italian divisions managed to get some men to the west. Of the Germans, there were mainly remnants left to withdraw. The British were in such disarray that they were unable to take much of the German forces that were retreating. Montgomery did not have the expertise needed to conduct a successful move to capture retreating Germans. The British would keep changing orders. The British were not able to conduct a successful chase of the Germans. The lack of British "resolve" let the Germans escape. British tanks had arrived at Mersa Matruh by 8 November. This was the day that the Allied landings in French Africa had occurred. They celebrated in Britain, because there seemed to be good reason. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

4 November 1942 after the collapse

By early morning on 4 November 1942, the Australians found that there were no enemy units in the coastal area. There were only remnants left there. The enemy was holding a line to the west, about a mile away. During the night, the 24th Brigade was patroling and was cooperating with the divisional cavalry. The 24th Brigade was now occupying three posts "from Barrel Hill to the sea". They had found that the enemy had left the original front line. By 12:30pm, the 26th Brigade had "occupied Cloverleaf". This had been an inportant component of the enemy defense on the coast. A patrol had searched north from the Saucer and had only two Germans. In the afternoon, a patrol had pushed into the enemy area and had finally drawn some fire.
The decision was made to move forward in the evening and night to near the "new enemy line". The "new Australian line" would go to the northeast to the coast. A 2/43rd Battalion meeting was shelled and had killed "3 officers and wounded 4".
In the night of 4 to 5 November, patrols from one battalion had not found any enemy troops. They found by dawn on 5 November that the enemy had gone from the 9th Australian Division area. A patrol of carriers went out and captured 143 Germans at Sidi Abd el Rahman. They had been waiting for transport to pick them up. A company from the 2/15th Battalion was to "occupy the high ground round Sidi Abd el Rahman. The divisional cavalry was sent on to Ghazal. The divisional cavalry was equipped with a mix of Crusaders and Stuart light tanks. They were then ordered to push west to Daba. They were then ordered "to hold Landing Ground 105". They were to wait for the 151st Brigade to arrive. The 2/3rd and 2/13th Field Companies were sent to clear the landing grounds "between Rahman and Daba" of mines. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, May 04, 2020

4 November 1942 fighting at El Alamein

An attack started at 1:30am when the 5th Indian Brigade broke the enemy screen in the south, missing the enemy strength in the north. The 5th Indian Brigade was able to reach the Rahman track "on a four mile front". At dawn, the attack by a battalion, the7/Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was successful. They captured an enemy headquarters. As a result, the enemy defenses were described as "collapsing".
The 1st Armoured Division moved to the northwest to fight "the last engagement with German armor at El Alamein." The 8th Armoured Brigade pushed west, but was stopped at Tel el Aqqaqir. The 7th Armoured Division  crossed the Rahman track, hit the Italian XX Corps and defeated them. The Ariete Division was part of XX Corps.
The 4th Light Armoured Brigade pushed through at Tel el Aqqaqir. The units designated to participate in chasing the enemy traveled through minefield tracks "into the open". They included the New Zealand Division and the Highland Division and other smaller units. It was about midday that General von Thoma walked into the British lines and surrendered. He was the German Africa Corps commander. He had essentially given up, which was why he had surrendered. We know that from other sources.
The 8th Armoured Brigade had been ordered to move forward to Daba during the night. They wanted them to be there by dawn. During the night, the Royal Dragoons and 4th/6th South Africans (armored cars) had reached Fuka and were causing the enemy a lot of trouble by taking prisoners and doing damage.
By 5:30pm, Rommel had ordered a "general" retreat. That ended the battle at El Alamein. The 90th Light Division and 164th Division survivors, along with what was left of the German armored divisions, had escaped in the north. Because of Hitler's order, Rommel's plan to pull out the Italians, was circumvented and they were left behind to surrender. The Australians in the north found that enemy forces were holding a position about a mile to the west. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Plans at the collapse on 2 to 3 November 1942

Rommel made plans for a withdrawal to the west. Over night on 2-3 November 1942, he "proposed" to withdraw X Corps, the Ramcke parachute brigade, and XXI Corps "to a line El Taqa-Qaret el Abd-Deir el Harra-Qatani." Farther north, he would have the German armored divisions hold a line. By 3 November, he would have "mobile forces" pull back "halfway from Rahman to Daba". After that, the whole army would pull back to Fuka. They would drive the infantry in trucks to that position. The "mobile forces would form a rearguard". They found that there were not enough trucks to carry the infantry.
Overnight on 2-3 November and early on 3 November, As Rommel was preparing to withdraw, he got a message from Hitler telling him to stand his ground and not pull back. He replied and then sent a "staff officer" to speak with Hitler. The nasty truth is that if they followed Hitler's orders, they would be wiped out.
Montgomery responded to the situation by not trying to attack directly in the north, but changing to "an enveloping movement to the south". They would attack with infantry to "take the main defended localities". They would use the 7th Armoured Division to break through to the enemy's rear. Montgomery didn't know about Hitler's message. He expected Rommel to withdraw to Fuka. He was going to have the armor "drive northwards towards the coast road". The New Zealand Division would follow the 7th Armoured Division to the west. The infantry attack began at 5:45pm on 3 November. What is rather funny is the statement "the chronic inability of armored formations to read the map".
The moves on 4 November began at 1:30am. The 5th Indian Brigade avoided the enemy strength in the north and pushed to the Rahman track. At dawn, an infantry attack was successful. That was sufficient to cause the enemy front to collapse. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Early on 2 November 1942

One positive side effect of the Supercharge Operation was that it helped the Australian 24th Brigade in their positions in the Saucer. About thirty tanks drove up to the right of the 2/15th Battalion. They were mostly out of range of the Australian anti-tank guns, but one tank got too close and was knocked out. They seemed to be threatening the "Supercharge corridor". The 8th Armoured Brigade moved towards the enemy tanks and they moved away. A little later, General Morshead visited the saucer. He decided not to ask any more right then from the "tired battalions".
2 November 1942 was uneventful for the Australians. They had some incoming artillery fire, and noticed more movement near the coast. When General Morshead got news about Supercharge successes, he ordered the brigades to operate with the goal of keeping the enemy on the coast from withdrawing. The Australians had patrols out but they took losses. One patrol attacked some German positions and inflicted casualties. The Australians could hear vehicles moving. This was during the night of 2 to 3 November. 3 November saw the Australians patroling "both in carriers and on foot". They found that the enemy had pulled back "towards Abd el Rahman". The Australians could see that the enemy had started to withdraw. The pressure on the Australians had subsided. They sent out carriers to "tow in enemy guns".

The Desert Air Force was flying missions to hit vehicles and positions. British fighters mistakenly strafed Australians. The Australians were not harmed, fortunately.
They found that the enemy had pulled most of the "heavy weapons and anti-tank guns" from the 125th Regiment. They expected that "the rest would be withdrawn the next night." Rommel had already decided to pull back to Fuka. Fuka seemed to be a good spot for a delaying battle. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

From the evening of 2 November 1942 at El Alamein

The 2nd Armoured Brigade had arrived late, too late to help the 9th Armooured Brigade. Their orders seemed to require them to attack on the same path as before. Instead, General Briggs and Brigadier Fisher decided to get into position to protect against and enemy attack "between the bridgehead and the Rahman track". Events proved them to have taken the right action. They were not yet across the enemy supply lines, but they were "close enough". The enemy did in fact attack late in the morning. They continued the fight until "nightfall" and believed that they had knocked out 66 "enemy tanks". They in fact did better than that, and had gotten 77 German and 40 Italian tanks. They had not "broken open the enemy front" yet.
Early on 2 November, Montgomery had ordered that an "infantry reserve" of four brigades be formed. They would use infantry to widen the "corridor". In the evening, the 51st Highland Division launched two attacks to the south. At the "Snipe" area, they took 160 prisoners from the Trieste Division.
General Lumsden decided to use the 7th Motor Brigade to break the enemy's gun line. They would create a gap for the 1st Armoured Division to move forward. On the morning of 3 November, then the 7th Armoured Division would be able to "pass through". The 7th Motor Brigade attack did not succeed. At daylight, a South African armored car unit tried to break through, but were unsuccessful. The 8th Armoured Brigade attacked to the southwest. They ended up fighting with the Ariete Division. They were eventually stopped by 88mm guns. By the end of 3 November, the 1st Armoured Division had lost more tanks. The enemy seemed to be in bad shape, but the British were almost out of energy ("at the end of their tether"). This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Supercharge underway from 1 November 1942

Operation Supercharge opened with large British superiority in strength. The attack happened on the night of 1 to 2 November 1942. An air attack started the "bombardment". One casualty was the Africa Corps "signals system". The 151st and 152nd Brigades attacked early on 2 November. They were followed by the 8th Armoured Brigade (apparently) and the 50th RTR.
Some 192 guns fired a barrage while another 168 guns fired "in front and on the flanks". The 152nd Brigade had an easier time and reached their objectives "by 3:44am". The 151st Brigade had a harder time and did not reach their objectives until 5:53am on 2 November. In the case of the Maori Battalion, they took a strong point "west of Trig 29". "On the left flank, 2/Sussex and 5/Sussex took "Woodcock" on "Kidney Ridge".
The 9th Armoured Brigade took losses while advancing. They were reduced to 94 tanks from the 132 tanks they started with. The next move was delayed until 6:15am. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was to follow up behind.
The fighting on 2 November by the armor did not produce any obvious victories, but they were sure to break the enemy by the time they were finished. They would need another two days to break the enemy front. The 9th Armoured Brigade suffered as they fought. The Wiltshire Yeomanry was equipped with mostly 2pdr Crusaders. The 9th Armoured Brigade took heavy losses in the process of their fight. Still, the armored cars of the Royal Dragoons were able to breach the enemy front and were running amock in the enemy's rear. That had been the hope for the armored cars, and they were able to what was expected of them. Heavy fighting on 2 November had yielded results. "77 German tanks and 40 Italian tanks" had been knocked out. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Operation Supercharge steps off on 1-2 November 1942

The initial attack on 1 November 1942 was supported by 87 bomber aircraft. The British observed fires and explosions. They later learned that Africa Corps headquarters, the signals operation had been disabled.
The two brigades from the 51st Highland Division started their attack at 1:50am. Two tank regiments, the 8th and 50th RTR were right behind the infantry. The supporting barrage was fired by a large number of guns. Other guns fired on the flanks and "in front". The 152nd Brigade had captured its objective by 3:44am. The 151st Brigade faced harder fighting and only reached the objective by 5:53am. The Maori Battalion had taken its objective as had the 2/Sussex and 5/Sussex, the objective being the strongpoint "Woodcock on Kidney Ridge".
By the time the 9th Armoured Brigade had arrived at the "infantry objective", they were reduced to 94 tanks. The brigade had to wait later than planned, to 6:15am. The 1st Armoured Division brigade, the 2nd Armoured Brigade was to follow behind the 9th Armoured Brigade.
The tank battles that were fought as part of Supercharge were not "great victories", but the sealed the fate of the enemy forces. The enemy were able to hold out for another two days. The men fighting the battles were not sure of the ultimate outcome, but they were actually doing well.
The 9th Armoured Brigade paid back the New Zealand infantry by a valiant fight. They did not feel like they were winning, but the brigade started out by doing very well ("carrying all before them"). The Wiltshire Yeomanry ended up being shot to pieces by German anti-tank guns. The brigade knocked out some 35 guns, but lost 75 of their 94 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Operation Supercharge

Montgomery's plan for Operation Supercharge was to have  XXX Corps attack with infantry. The infantry were under the command of General Freyberg. The infantry attack would be on a "front" of some 4,000 yards. The aim was to penetrate the enemy defenses to some 6,000 yards. They would use patrols to push to the west. They would "cover" the armor "breakout". Armored cars would push to the west, "destroying" whatever they could. X Corps armor would push to "Point 46-Tel el Aqqaqir". If the XXX Corps attack did not succeed, then the X Corps would fight their way to the first "objective". The 2nd New Zealand Division would be ready to take over the area captured and free up X Corps to attack some more.
The plan was to "break into the enemy positions near the "Rahman Track". The 1st Armoured Division with two armored brigades and the 7th Motor Brigade would "cross the Rahman Track" and "defeat the enemy's armor." The task for the 51st Highland Division was to taken Point 32. They would be supported by 13 Field Regiments and 3 Medium Regiments. Prior to the start of Supercharge, the 1st Armoured Division had 271 tanks. The 9th Armoured Brigade had 132 tanks. The 23rd Armoured Brigade had 111 tanks. The reduced 7th Armoured Division had 84 tanks. The 7th Armoured Division was not involved in the main push. The 4th Light Armoured Brigade had 74 tanks, of which 53 were Stuart light tanks.
They thought that they knew the enemy force numbers. The 15th Armored Division had some six thousand men and 25 tanks. The 21st Armored Division was stronger with some eight thousand men and 125 tanks. The 164th Division had 6,800 men. The 90th Light Division had 7,800 men. The Italian 101st Trieste Division had 4,600 men and 30 tanks. The 102nd Trento Division had but 2,400 men. The Italian armored division Ariete had 4,300 men and 140 tanks. The Littorio Division had 4,200 men and about 60 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Australians on 1 to 2 November 1942 as Operation Supercharge starts

Later on 1 November 1942, the 24th Brigade was hit hard. The brigade commander was killed and others were killed or wounded. Col. Evans was appointed as the new brigade commander and he went to the headquarters area. At sunset, the Germans attacked. Attacks came from the west and northeast. Defensive fire was effective in stopping the attacks. The 20th Brigade also took fire during the 1st. The fighting in the Saucer continued to about 2:30am. About that time, they could hear a large bombardment starting to the south. This was the start of Montgomery's Operation Supercharge.

The 20th Brigade was under fire for much of 1 November. The composite force was told to send "machine guns, anti-tank guns, and pioneers forward to help the 2/43rd Battalion to the area between the rail line and the road. When the machiner-gunners reached the area, they were told that there was not room for them. They then moved into an area to support both battalions (2/43rd and 2/28th). They were in "position by 3:30am".
"For the rest of the night the 24th Brigade battalions were reorganized". The goal was to "give each battalion more room" and to have a reserve battalion in postion. The Desert Air Force had provided good support throughout 1 November. The enemy had dispersed to reduce their vulnerability to air attack. Fourteen attacks by 19 bombers (a "football team") were made on 1 November.
The 24th Brigade took 487 casualties from 30 October to 2 November. They were mostly taken before Operation Supercharge started. The 9th Australian Division had been asked to draw as much of the enemy strength to the north prior to Operation Supercharge.
Rommel ordered some 21st Armored Division and 90th Light Division units to attack to "reestablish contact with the 125th Regiment and the X Bersaglieri in the coastal area". The attack succeeded in that the Australians were pushed back across the rail line. That left 90th Light Division infantry along the rail line "facing south". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Fight in front of the 2/28th Battalion on 1 November 1942

German tanks attacked the 2/28th Battalion position. The tanks moved forward and then got into hull-down positions. The tanks concentrated their fire on anti-tank guns with some success. The guns were those of the 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment. Relatively  quickly, twelve 6-pdr Anti-tank guns and two two-pounders were disabled. The men of the 2/28th Battalion did not like having the tanks so close, so they opened up with all their weapons at the tanks. By 2:30pm, the German tanks pulled back, because they apparently realized that their infantry could not get through. The Rhodesian anti-tank gunners got special attention from the Germans and lost eight of their guns. While the fighting had died down, a troop of anti-tank guns was sent across the rail line and got into action.
At about 3:25pm, the enemy sent more tanks and infantry to attack the 2/43rd and 2/28th Battalions. The attack came from the north and hit the northwest "company of the 2/43rd Battalion." They managed to overrun a platoon "on Barrell Hill". The some of the men of the platoon were made prisoners. A sergeant regrouped his men and counter-attacked. He was able to retake the positions that had been overrun, except for one. Eventually, the enemy decided to withdraw. The 2/28th Battalion was also attacked, but they managed to hold on.
Some of the tanks pushed on "towards Thompson's Post". They also were going to try to attack with infantry, but they were shelled by British guns and stopped. German infantry on tanks and self-propelled guns moved forward. Austraslian fire was able to stop the attack. They succeeded in knocking out two self-propelled guns. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

1 November 1942 at El Alamein in the north

What was left of the 2/24th and the 2/48th Battalion were moved back to the
coast "sector". They were still next to the enemy forces where they were placed. 1 November
1942 was a Sunday. At the "Saucer", they were in close to the enemy in all directions. That was
only obvious when there was light. The enemy started firing on the Saucer
with a variety of weapons, including 88mm guns firing "air bursts". Most guns were firing
from the west and northwest. There were still some firing from the northeast and southeast.
The enemy was both short of guns and ammunition, so the British were able to hurt them
with greater firepower. As we mentioned, it was at 8:30am that the enemy launched an
unsuccessful airraid. They were met by British and American fighter aircraft and took losses.

The British intercepted a message from Rommel that ordered the 90th Light Division and the 21st Armored Division to attack "Barrell Hill". Barrell Hill lay between the road and rail line.
They thought that Rommel did not understand how strong the area was defended. General Morshead drove to the Saucer to meet with his brigade commander. The enemy repeatedly attacked three Australian battalions. They were hitting the area between the road and rail line. The Australians were successful in fighting with their mortars against the Germans.
Infantry and tanks were used in the first attack. As many was eight or more 88mm guns were firing air burst shells over the Australians. Bombers were called in on the first attack. At 12:45pm, some six tanks attacked the 2/43rd Battalion. The enemy was able to push back on platoon from Barrel Hill, but they were able to retake the position. Anti-tank guns knocked out three tanks and an 88mm gun. This happened to to the north of the Australian battalion. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, March 30, 2020

31 October to 1 November 1942 at El Alamein

Fighting during the day on 31 October had pushed the Australians off the coast road. At dark, the Pioneers regrouped and dug in to the south of the railway, using the embankment. At the saucer, the defenders managed to hold on. The Germans had attacked with tanks and infantry. Each attack had been stopped by defensive gunfire. Rommel decided to use the Africa Corps to attack to release the 125th Regiment. Battle Group Pfeiffer was formed with 15 tanks along with some self-propelled guns. It would move to the mosque by 11am and move along the railway. Rommel decided to have the battle group attack to the north of the rail line.
An attack by 361st Regiment infantry was stopped by tanks and infantry. The attack by Group Pfeiffer and the 361st Regiment had initial success. They were eventually stopped by tanks and infantry. By 5:35pm, they had contacted the 125th Regiment. They had difficulty in moving forward along the rail line and were eventually stopped. This was when General Morshead decided to replace the 26th Brigade by the 24th Brigade. The replacement worked out and was finished by 3:30am. The enemy was very tired, which helped.
A rebuilt 2/28th Battalion replaced the 2/24th. The 2/43rd replaced the 2/48th. The 2/32nd Battalion stayed in position as did the 2/3rd Pioneeers. Brigadier Godfrey commanded from the Saucer. The Saucer was in disarray, Dispositions were made by commanders on the spot. Anti-tank guns and machine guns were brought in. An artillery duel started on 1 November. The Germans were low on guns and ammunition, so they had a hard time. At 8:40am, a divebomber raid was intercepted by British and American fighters. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.</p>

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The British commanders had a very unrealistic expectation about what the planned attack might accomplish. That is, the coast road was not open and the defenses on either side of the road had not been taken. In retrospect, we cannot understand why that the forces available for the attack might have accomplished any of that. The responsibility for what happened was General Morshead and his staff's. There were four "weak battalions" in the north soon to face trouble. There was the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion, and the 2/32nd Battalion on a line that crossed the rail line. There was a gap on the left before you would see the 2/15th Battalion. The remnants of the 2/48th Battalion sat behind the 2/32nd Battalion. There was also the remaining men from the 2/24th Battalion. The first unit to receive enemy fire was the Pioneers. The Germans asked for the Pioneers to surrender, but they refused. The Pioneer company was then "encircled". The 2/48th Battalion had most of the 40th RTR arrive to support them. There were two squadrons of tanks that moved into hull-down positions. They were located north of the railway. At about 11:30am, some fifteen German medium tanks drove to the north of the road. The Germans drew enough fire that they eventually pulled back. Accompanying infantry was pushed back by artillery fire.
One company of Pioneers was being pressed and was without ammunition. They were eventually overrun and most were taken prisoner. It seems that something like three officers and 43 men may have been captured by the Germans. The Germans eventually staged an attack on the saucer by early afternoon. The German pressure had eventually forced the British to pull off the road.
Rommel had a Africa Corps battlegroup that had some 15 tanks and some self-propelled guns. They were to move to the mosque and then move across the railroad. They were to help the 125th Regiment. At first, the battle group attack seemed to be succeeding. Eventually, the British were able to stop the attack with tanks and infantry in the defense. They had stopped the attack by 7pm.
Morshead considered the situation and decided to go ahead with the plan to relieve the 26th Brigade by the 24th Brigade. He sent orders at about 7:30pm and the relief had happened by 3:30am. The enemy was too tired to interfere. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Amazon Ad