Tuesday, August 31, 2010

British forces after the three day battle (circa 18 July 1942)

The British had considerable strength left on 18 July 1942, after three days of fighting where they took losses. They had two infantry divisions at nearly full strength: the 1st South African and the 9th Australian Divisions. The New Zealand Division and the 5th Indian Division had both been reduced to two brigades. The 7th Armoured Division was being reconstituted as a mechanized division, with the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, the 7th Motor Brigade, and the 69th Infantry Brigade. The 1st Armoured Division still had a strong tank force: 61 Grants, 81 Crusaders, and 31 Stuarts. There were also two independent brigade groups available: the 161st Indian Motor Brigade and the 23rd Armoured Brigade. The latter brigade was equipped primarily with Valentine tanks, along with Matilda close support tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The situation on 18 July 1942

General Auchinleck believed that after the previous three days of battle, the Axis forces were in a greatly reduced state by 18 July 1942. He believed that by striking the Italians again, they would collapse. Certainly, by 21 July 1942, the Germans had only 42 tanks as runners with another 100 to repair. Their operational tanks included 6 Pzkw IIs, 27 Pzkw IIIs (probably 5cm L42), 6 Pzkw IIIs (5cm L60), 1 Pzkw IV (75mm L24), and 1 Pzkw IV (probably 75mm L46). The British greatly outnumbered the German tanks, as they had in excess of 172 tanks, including 61 Grant tanks with the 75mm medium velocity, dual-purpose gun in a sponson. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Air activity from 14 to 17 July 1942

During the battle from 14 to 17 July 1942, the Desert Air Force had made a great effort to aid the Army. Altogether, some 1,900 sorties were flown during this period in direct support of the Army. On 17 July, eight Allied Liberators made a daylight raid on Tobruk. They flew over Tobruk, approaching from over the sea. The bombing raid was made without loss. The 1,900 sorties was equivalent to every available aircraft flying at least two sorties. The Official History gives a lot of credit to the aircraft maintenance infrastructure in supporting this operation. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Unhappy New Zealanders after taking heavy casualties

During the period of 14 to 17 July, 1942, the New Zealanders had been committed to battle and had heavy casualties that they blamed on lack of support. This period had cost the New Zealand Division as much as 1,405 officers and men. These were either killed or wounded or taken prisoner by the Axis forces. The New Zealand forces had been initially successful in their operations. What had gone wrong is that they had moved forward and then were left vulnerable to attacking German armour. General Auchinleck felt that they needed to take some risks in order to make an attack that might cause the enemy to retreat from El Alamein. The New Zealand Division commander had been told that the 1st Armoured Division would support his division's operations. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Australians on 17 July 1942

The Australians attacked with infantry tank support on 17 July 1942. The forces engaged consisted of the 24th Australian Brigade supported by one squadron from the 44th RTR. They attacked towards Miteirya Ridge and at least produced some 800 prisoners from the Italian Trieste Motorized Division. In return, the Axis forces responded with bombing and a counter-attack that included the German reconnaissance units. The Australian brigade had over 300 casualties from the attack. The Australian brigade consolidated a bit north of Tell el Makh Khad. This is based on the account in Vol.III in the Official History.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Action on 16 July 1942 at El Alamein

The Axis forces were concerned that the British might break open their position with an attack by armour. They decided to preempt such a move with their own attack. Early on 16 July 1942, they attacked the 5th Indian Brigade "near Pt 64". The Axis forces were repulsed, but communications traffic indicated that another attack was likely. In preparation for such an attack, the 2nd Armoured Brigade was augmented by a regiment from the 22nd Armoured Brigade. They were well-supported by artillery. The expected attack started at 7:30pm and was defeated. The Australians had tried to retake ground near Tell el Eisa, but the artillery fire was too heavy to hold the captured territory. The operations on 16 July were well-supported by the air force, as there were 641 sorties by both fighters and fighter-bombers on that day. This was a record number. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, August 09, 2010

From later on 15 July 1942

By late on 15 July 1942, General Gott directed the NZ division commander to reduce the front he was holding. This was after General Gott had received word of the fate of the 4th NZ Brigade. The other parts of the front were less eventful. The 90th Light Division and the Italian Ariete Armoured Division tried to attack to the north, but were repulsed by the 22nd Armoured Brigade and by what was left of the 7th Armoured Division. The once-strong division had been reduced to the 7th Motor Brigade with 8 Stuarts and three armoured car regiments. The German air force had launched attacks with Ju-87 and Ju-88 bombers without effect. The British air force accomplished more with as many as 150 fighter-bomber sorties. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Thr 4th NZ Brigade in dire straits

Once Rommel had realized that the two Italian divisions, the Pavia and the Brescia Divisions, had disintegrated, he decided to push German troops into the breach. General Nehring would command a scratch group: the two reconnaissance units, a part of the 21st Panzer Division, and part of the 15th Panzer Division (Baade Gruppe). The attack started at 5pm on 15 July 1942. The 4th NZ Brigade took the brunt of the attack, and they were unsupported. They had minimal anti-tank capability, which was soon overwhelmed, and the infantry was unable to resist. 380 were quickly put into the bag, including Captain Upham, who was awarded a bar to his Victoria Cross for his actions. By 6pm, the attack reached the brigade headquarters and captured them and the brigade commander, Brigadier Burrows. Brigadier Burrows later escaped. By 6:15pm, the 2nd Armoured Brigade appeared and stopped the German advance. By dusk, the Germans withdrew, leaving the British in possession of the ground. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The New Zealanders regroup

During the first part of 15 July 1942, the New Zealanders became scattered and had pockets of enemy troops in their rear. After the 22nd NZ Battalion had been overrun by German tanks, Sergeant Elliot and some men from his battalion, as well as the 21st and 23rd Battalions moved north, only to find themselves within an Italian position. Sergeant Elliot organized and led the attack that took 200 Italians prisoner before they New Zealanders withdrew. Sergeant Elliot had been wounded three times in the battle. He received the Victoria Cross for his efforts and bravery. The isolated pockets of Axis troops in the rear continued to be a problem. They prevented forward movement of vehicles and tied down the British forces with their fire. Artillery fire was what finally weakened resistance to the point where positions could be taken. Only by 4pm were vehicles able to move forward to Ruweisat Ridge. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official history.

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