Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The attack on 28-29 October 1942 goes awry

The attack with tanks and infantry came to a stop when tanks reported seeing mines. This was during the night of 28-29 October 1942 in the north. The engineers checked for mines but "failed to discover any". Only at right before 1am did the tanks move forward. Six German 50mm anti-tank guns stopped the advance. The tanks then scattered with their infantry riders. They were starting to have casualties increasing.

The operation had descended into chaos (or "muddle"). Col. Evans, of the 2/23rd Battalion, pulled together sixty or seventy men and took the gun position with the six anti-tank guns. They captured about 160 prisoners in the process. To the east, another 2/23rd group which was out of touch independently and had some fifteen tanks moved forward in the direction of the "railway". After they had moved some 800 yards, they were stopped by an 88mm gun that knocked out 9 tanks. They lost many infantry in the process. At the same time, Col. Evans "reported" that he was going to dig in where he was, since he had so few men left. He was also not able to reach anyone from the 46th RTR. The 2/23rd Battalion had "lost 29 killed, 172 wounded and 6 missing. The casualties included 2 majors, 4 captains and 10 lieutenants."

Almost operating without information, the 26th Brigade commander came up with a new plan. He wanted to attack with two battalions from the area held by the 2/15th Battalion. He was given the 40th RTR by General Morshead. The unfortunate detail was that the 23rd Armoured Brigade would not commit to a time when the 40th RTR would be available to use. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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