Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The next Australian attack on Ruin Ridge on 26 to 27 July 1942

General Morshead wrote an instruction on 24 July 1942 to the 9th Australian Division. He seems to have been embarrassed by the last attempt to attack Ruin Ridge. The Australians had been at their peak efficiency while they were garrisoning Tobruk in 1941. His instruction addressed reconnaissance by officers, for one thing that they should not be so obvious about their reconnaissance to keep the enemy from being warned. He also told officers that they needed to inform their troops quickly about what they had learned. Another point was that tanks could not sit in support for an extended period, as they would expect to have too many losses. Tanks would, after a period on the objective, "rally" to a position behind the infantry. The purpose of tanks in support was to destroy machine-guns. The infantry's purpose was "to destroy anti-tank guns and artillery", the enemies of tanks.

For the second attempt on Ruin Ridge, the 2/28th Battalion had spent planning and reconnaissance time. The battalion stepped out at exactly midnight of 26 to 27 July. The moon was bright and they attacked with two companies in the front, with a width of some 800 yards. They were trying to move at 100 yards in two minutes. The 2/28th Battalion had a new commander, Lt-Col. McCarter. He told the officers to expect fire from the sides as they moved forward. He suggested that the men "fire from the hip" without changing direction or stopping.

After traveling some 800 yards from the start, the right front and rear companies took officer casualties, including company commanders. They were taking fire from machine-guns, mortars and field guns. There were vehicles in company carrying supporting weapons, but they took anti-tank gun fire and then ran onto a minefield. Five vehicles were knocked out and some were burning.

At least this time, the front companies had reached Ruin Ridge by 1:10am. On the left side, the rear company charged with bayonets and cleared the objective. The 2/28th Battalion commander had moved his headquarters forward to a point some 900 yards from the "ruin" (to the northwest). They were having communication problems because they could not get good wire laid through the minefield while they were receiving fire. To make matters worse, the battalion radio had been destroyed. ON the site, the men tried to dig in, but the ground was too hard to do much. They had three wounded company commanders, another factor. On Ruin Ridge, they were receiving heavy enemy fire. They had been unable to hit the enemy guns that fired across the minefield. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A new offensive at El Alamein to start on the night of 26-27 July 1942

Generals Ramsden and Morshead had decided that the offensive should start during the night of 26 to 27 July 1942. The objective for the offensive was to attack the enemy positions on Miteiriya Ridge and break through to the enemy's rear areas. The 9th Australian Division would use the 24th Brigade. The reliable 2/28th Battalion would capture Ruin Ridge. They would have artillery support for their attack. After taking Ruin Ridge, they would create a position on the left flank of the 24th Brigade and on the right side of the 69th Brigade. The 69th Brigade had their own objective to take. Once the 2/28th and the 69th Brigade had performed their roles, the 2/43rd Battalion would move forward and taken the next ridge to the west of Ruin Ridge. If they needed the help, they could use the 50th RTR. If they did not need the tank help, the 50th RTR should push westward and take ground between Trig 30 and Point 27. This was near someplace called El Wishka. If they caused the enemy to withdraw, the 20th Brigade (Australians) would follow the enemy withdrawal.

General Auchinleck published a "Special Order of the Day" to the men of the Eighth Army, praising their achievement in stopping the enemy advance on Egypt and thrown the enemy on the defensive. The enemy was attempting to resupply their army, but the navy and air force are attacking the ships with supplies. Auchinleck said that they needed to keep fighting, as they were close to breaking the enemy.

British intelligence had an assessment of the enemy strength as of 25 July in the evening. They believed that the Italian strength in the El Alamein area was low, with about 9,100 men, some 70 field and medium guns, 45 anti-tank guns, 15 armored cars, and about 12 tanks. For the Germans, they were thought to have "two battalions of the 382nd Regiment, the Kiehl Group and 33rd Reconnaissance Regiment, the 361st Regiemental Group (two battalions), the Briehl Group and the 200th Regiment. These totaled about 3,580 men and had from 106 to 120 guns in support including 26 to 29 88mm weapons."

The Germans were holding an area north and east of Ruin Ridge. They only had light forces, but were equipped with "machine-guns, anti-tank guns and a few field guns". There were stronger forces south and west of Ruin Ridge. They knew that the enemy (presumably Germans) had tanks available. The British were aware of the existence of a minefield on east side of the Qattara Track. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Sorting things out in the push to Ruin Ridge on 22 July 1942 at El Alamein

The authorities determined that, yes, the advance towards Ruin Ridge had stopped far short of the objective. The 50th RTR was new to battle and they had a hard time, having lost some 23 tanks in the fight. They infantry had told them that they had gone too far forward, which seems to have not to be true. The brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey went forward with Brigadier Richards to the 2/28th Battalion. He ordered them to spread out to the sides, put out patrols and make contact with the 2/32nd Battalion. They also were to advance as far as they could. They did manage to contact the 2/32nd Battalion by 9:23am. They may have been disappointed with their progress, but the enemy was forced to move the 90th Light Division and parts of three Italian divisions to hold their left flank. The Australians had apparently captured almost a entire company of the I/155th Battalion. Tanks from the 21st Armored Division were called upon to attack the Australians and their tank support. They accounted for 23 tanks with 12 of that number knocked out by the Briehl Group (a battle group). The Australian historian called Auchinleck's attack, "costly and abortive". Auchinleck was concerned that the enemy was being reinforced and would be tougher to fight if they waited longer. The Australians were the most effective unit available to Auchinleck. He wanted to attack some more as soon as an attack could be mounted.

The new attack would be by XXX Corps with the 1st Armoured Division, short of one armored brigade, the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and the 69th Infantry Brigade. The 1st South African Division would go after the enemy mine field south-east pf Miteiriyha Ridge. They would make a gap. The 24th Australian Brigade would attack the eastern end of the ridge and then push north. The 69th Brigade would also push through and move on Deir el Dhib. Two armored brigades would push into the enemy rear area. The Australian historian was again critical of the plan. Auchineleck watnted to attack on the night of 24-25 July, but General Ramsden thought that the South Africans were too tired. The 69th Brigade commander also wanted more rest for the brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, June 03, 2019

The attack on Ruin Ridge goes badly

Being in too much of a hurry to bother to do the right things, the attack intended to reach Ruin Ridge did not go well. An infantry platoon was to ride the second "wave of tanks" got on the the first "wave" by mistake. The tanks only had infantry on board, although they were supposed to carry sappers as well. Because of the lack of preparation, the tanks went the wrong way and ran onto a minefield, losing about 20 tanks. The other tanks, traveling with carriers, pushed out to a ridge that the tank commander thought was the right distance for Ruin Ridge, but probably was not. The tanks did manage to scatter some enemy soldiers and they sat and waited for the 2/28th Battalion to reach them. The rest of the 2/28th got a late start. They actually advanced in an "extended line formation." General Morshead was watching the 2/28th Battalion moving forward and he had the impression that they would succeed.

There was no news reporting the situation until 10:45pm. The 2/28th Battalion had lost their wireless van early in the advance. One thing that happened is that an unexpected fifty German prisoners arrived at the 2/13th Battalion. They finally were able to communicate and they got a report at 11:45pm from COlonel Cox that they had reached a ridge with a ruin at the end. The tanks had withdrawn and the infantry "were getting in position on the reverse slope". They could see some ten Italian tanks.

So far, the 2/28th Battalion had taken 59 German prisoners from the 90th Light Division. They also had five Italian prisoners from the Trento Division. They had losses, though, of two officers and 52 other men. Tanks returned in support, but were gathered back further than was wanted. At that point, Brigadier Richards of the 1st Army Tank Brigade went forward to investigate, because he thought that they were not on the intended objective. He returned from his reconnaissance and reported that they were actually about three thousand yards short of Ruin Ridge. A "Forward Observation Officer accompanying the 2/28th Battalion reported that he considered them about 2,500 yards to far from Ruin Ridge. The brigade commander decided that they were "deployed west of the road on a front of 400 yards between Kilos 8 and 9." Officers had been fooled by seeing some ruins into thinking that they were at Ruin Ridge when they were still short of the place. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian OFficial History.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

22 July 1942 at El Alamein, General Morshead is involved

During the day on 22 July 1942, General Morshead visited 24th Brigade headquarters a number of times. The general was waiting to hear that the brigade had achieved the first phase goals. "Just before 3:45pm" heard that the 2/32nd Battalion now had solid possession of its ground. General Morshead was thinking ahead to the exploitation phase. The situation was not quite so rosy, as Point 24 was still to be resolved. General Morshead consulted with General Ramsden and they decided not to continue with armor and infantry exploitation some 2,000 and 4,000 yards. They would still push to the south with the goal of reaching Ruin Ridge by dusk and setting up positions on the back side during the night.

They had planned to use the 2/28th Battalion for the westward move that was cancelled, so they decided to use the battalion for the push to the south. The 2/28th would take the place of the 2/43rd Battalion. The 50th RTR would be used for the attack on Ruin Ridge. Two squadrons would transport infantry and engineers. They were to cover six miles in just an hour. The tanks would have some six-pounders and machine-guns following them. Behind all that would be the rest of the 2/28th Battalion on foot, covering two miles in an hour. At the rear would follow the remainder of the 50th RTR. The 50th RTR, with 52 Valentine tanks would move into hull down spots on Ruin Ridge. They were to say there until the main group of the 2/28th Battalion arrived. They would be able to withdraw once the 2/28th Battalion was in place.

Ruin Ridge had been attacked four days earlier, so they hoped that the enemy would not expect another attack so soon. They optimistically expected that they could skimp on preparation, which was a bad idea. Major Cox, of the 2/28th Battalion had just received "oral orders" for an attack starting at 7pm. Here they were leaving the brigade headquarters at 5pm. The 24th Brigade commander, Brigadier Godfrey heard between 6pm and 7pm that a reconnaissance aircraft had seen some five hundred vehicles dispersed on Miteiriya Ridge> They were infantry reported digging positions and the report mentioned twenty gun positions. Brigadier Godfrey reported the news to Colonel Wells as 9th Australian Division headquarters. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

22 and 23 July 1942 with the 24th Brigade at El Alamein

Operations on 22 July 1942 had been tough for the Australians in the north at El Alamein. The 2/32nd Battalion was to attack Trig 22. They knew that Trig 22 was well-defended and had anti-tank guns and machine-guns. The 2/32nd Battalion was reduced to three 90-man companies, short of NCO's. The commander got the loan of one 2/43rd Battalion company for the attack. The attack was made with three companies in front. They stepped out at 5:30am with 1,700 yards to travel. They had fifteen minutes of artillery support before the attack started. The 2/43rd Company took the first fire from the enemy. They were stopped by heavy fire and forced to dig in. The company commander was hit and died. The 2/32nd Battalion company in the middle also lost its company commander. The company reached its objective, but was then pinned down by enemy fire. The third company "captured three anti-tank guns". But the company was stopped short, below Trig 22 and had to dig in as well. An Australian commanding a machine-gun section, charged a German machine gun in a sanger. The Lieutenant had only a pistol, but he used it very effectively. One of his men shot the German machine-gunner. They then fired on the Germans with the Spandau which eventually jammed.

On the right, the 2/43rd Company was till pinned down by artillery fire from two field guns. The reserve company was sent out to attack the gun position. They were supported by artillery and mortars. They took the position and forced the Germans to retreat. Later, Australian engineers ventured out and damaged the German guns. Suddenly at 9:45pm, the Germans hit the Australians with artillery and then sent tanks and armored cars at the center company. The company commander was killed and 66 Australians were taken prisoner. Artillery fire finally forced the tanks to withdraw.

The tanks and armored cars, along with several self-propelled guns attacked next at Trig 22. There was a protracted fight where two of the armored cars and the two moblie guns were disabled. The Australians were finally able to position some anti-tank guns to protect Trig 22 from further attacks. They also dug positions "back from the crest". The 24th Brigade had taken 57 German prisoners in the fighting, all from the 1/155th Infantry Battalion. This is based on the account in VOl.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tough fighting by Australians on 22 to 23 July 1942 in the north at El Alamein

While the 2/248th Battalion, commanded by Lt-Col. Hammer, was in difficulty. D Company of the 2/48th Battalion was without a commander and the company "had lost coheision". Despite that, small groups of men were able to hold on in their positions. One remaining section was commanded by a private. They had been able to overrun some enemy "posts". Those men noticed a knocked out Valentine tank. Germans had taken the crew prisoner along with two Australians from the section. Private Ashby's aection was able to shoot up the Germans and free the prisoners.

B Company of the 2/48th Battalion was now commanded by a Sergeant. He was able to call Lt-Col.Hammer and told him that they still holding their ground, but he didn't have map, so he didn't know where he was. Lt-Col.Hammer picked men for a force to go help B Company. He got men from his headquarters, the Headquarters Company, and some fifty men who had just arrived as reinforcements. He also pulled A Company from its positions and sent them all, along with some machine-guns and an anti-tank gun troop. B Company called just as the group had moved out. B Company was surrounded but would fight their way out. Only 15 men were able to get out from their positions. Lt-Col.Hammer ordered A Company to re-take East Point 24. They did that and laid wire and mines.

Late in the day on 22 July 1942, the 2/23rd Battalion, commanded by Lt-Col.Evans, they had been involved in desperate fighting. A Company from the 2/23rd Battalion was preparing positions close to the railway. They had lost touch with two platoons and the company commander may have been killed. The 2/23rd Battalion had taken losses. They had some 1oo wounded and had about fifty missing. They had lost 43 NCO's.

The infantry of the two battalions were fine men. They had been pushed back from a great deal of the ground that they had taken. Just holding on as well as they had was all they had been asked to do. As the 23rd of July began, they realized that the had withdrawn from around "East and West Point 24". The 2/23rd Battalion was reorganized based on their surviving strength, so they now had two companies. One of the companies was at East Point 24. The second company was between Esst Point 24 and the 2/24th Battalion. The 2/48th Battalion was stretched along the rail line to the east. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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