Tuesday, September 28, 2010

British special operations in support of the attack

An effort was made with British special forces (the SAS and the LRDG) against Axis airfields in the night of 26/27 July 1942. They estimated that they destroyed 30 aircraft in this raid. In addition, tank fire destroyed three German aircraft. It is unclear what Italian losses were. On 27 July, the British air force made a special effort to support the army. The operational tempo was starting reduce the available air strength, but the 27th was the biggest day in the last ten days (since 17 July). The effort was wasted in a sense, since the infantry was left unsupported by armour and decimated in the attack. The problem was that the widespread use of anti-tank mines that had not previously been a factor. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The 69th Brigade comes to a bad end

Since the 69th Brigade had moved forward, starting at 1:30am, they were able to reach their objective with two battalions. As we know, they were lacking their planned anti-tank gun support. In the confused situation on the morning of 27 July 1942, the 2nd Armoured Brigade was not able to come forward in support. The Germans realized the exposed position of the 69th Brigade and attacked. The 6th Durham Light Infantry and the 5th East Yorks were overrun. The 2/28 Australian Battalion was supposed to be clearing mines, but they received heavy fire, so that they were not able to clear the way for the 50th RTR. The 50th RTR lost heavily and then the Australians were overrun as well. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The operation starts to go wrong

A feature of Auchinleck-planned operations is that the timelines tended to be over-optimistic. The attack early on 27 July 1942 was no exception. The Australians had taken their objective by 3am. The 69th Brigade moved forward when they learned that progress had been made in clearing gaps in the minefields. Two of the brigade's battalions got through the gaps and reached their objective by 8am. Their anti-tank support did not come forward as was needed. Only a small detachment was near the forward infantry. After that, the situation deteriorated. Confusion reigned among the infantry that was supposed to clear gaps for tanks. That meant that the 2nd Armoured Brigade was not able to advance on the planned schedule. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, September 20, 2010

One last attempt to break the Axis front

General Auchinleck planned one last attack to attempt to break the Axis front at El Alamein. The attack was planned for 26 July 1942 and would be mounted in the north. 30th Corps was augmented by the 1st Armoured Division (without the 22nd Armoured Brigade), the 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and the 69th Infantry Brigade. The 13th Corps would hold and make a feint on tbeir front. The attack would start on the night of 26/27 July 1942. The South Africans would lift mines and mark a path through the minefield. At 1am, the 24th Australian Brigade would advance and take one end of the Miteirya Ridge. At that point, the 69th Infantry Brigade would move forward through the minefield gap. They would be followed by the 2nd Armoured Brigade and the 4th Light Armoured Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30th Corps, now an infantry corps

The odd situation in the British army in the desert included the fact that the 13th Corps and 30th Corps had switched roles. The 30th Corps had contained the armoured divisions, while the 13th Corps had the infantry divisions. Now, it was the 30th Corps that had the infantry. The 9th Australian Division, now in 30th Corps, attacked early on 22 July 1942. The division consisted of the 24th and 26th Brigades. The Australians were successful in the first phase of the attack, taking the ridge at Tell el Makh Khad. The second phase of the attack started at 7pm, when the 24th Australian Brigade. The 50th RTR was intended to act in support, but ended up operating independently, as they were not trained in infantry support. As darkness fell, they had lost 23 tanks and withdrew as planned. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The 2nd Armoured Brigade tries to intervene

An effort was made to bring the 2nd Armoured Brigade into action in support of the 23rd Armoured Brigade and the New Zealanders. This meant clearing a path through minefields so that the tanks could more forward. Finally, at 5pm, the 9th Lancers and 6th RTR were able to roll. They almost immediately came under artillery fire and anti-tank gun fire. They lost five tanks that burnt and others were hit. General Gatehouse had already been wounded, so the acting commander, Brigadier Fisher called off the attack. By the time the regiments had backed out, the brigade had lost 21 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The 161st Indian Motor Brigade attacks

On the night of 20/21 July 1942, the attacking 161st Indian Motor Brigade also ran into problems, much as the New Zealanders had. Their northern flank was protected by the 2nd Regiment Botha. The brigade had somewhat mixed results, but the 1/1st Punjab regiment took 190 prisoners. In fact, the enemy defenders were shaken by this attack. By 8am, the two regiments of the 23rd Armoured Brigade had arrived in support. The 40th RTR quickly lost 17 tanks to mines and anti-tank guns. 15 tanks succeeded in reaching the objective, but without support, they were rapidly knocked out. The 15 was reduced to five effective tanks. The 46th RTR had a similar experience. All together, the brigade had 40 tanks knocked out and 47 others damaged. After the 21st Panzer Division attacked at 11am, the brigade was ordered to withdraw. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Another disaster for the New Zealanders

In the attack on 21 July 1942, the 6th New Zealand Brigade captured their objective, although some vehicles and troops got lost in the dark. General Inglis was chagrined to hear that his troops were in danger from German tanks. In the event, the brigade was overrun, Brigadier Clifton was captured, and almost 700 men were lost. Brigadier Clifton succeeded in escaping, after pretending to be a private. Again, the New Zealanders were not properly supported by British armour. In this battle, two 2nd Armoured Brigade regiments had tried to come to the New Zealanders' assistance, but one ran afoul of a minefield while the other was held up by the usual aggressive use of anti-tank guns by the Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Trouble for the 1st Armoured Division on 18 July 1942

Harassing air attacks would trouble both sides involved in the battles at El Alamein in July 1942. An air attack on 18 July wounded the 1st Armoured Division commander, General Lumsden, and Brigadier Raymond Briggs, one of his armoured brigade commanders. A desert veteran, Major-General Gatehouse, was called forward to command the 1st Armoured Division. General Gatehouse only arrived at the front in the evening of 20 July, when plans had already formulated for his division's role in the coming attack. Sadly, the 1st Armoured Division would again be too late coming to the aid of New Zealanders left exposed to German attack. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The planned attack on 21 July 1942

Grand plans were made on 19 July 1942 to attack on 21 July. Very elaborate instructions were given to 13th Corps to break through and to push to the west. The main attack would come at Deir el Shein and Deir el Abyad with a secondary attack in the south. General Auchinleck fully expected to bust the Axis front open and to be able to exploit to the west. The 13th and 30th Corps had reversed their previous roles, as 30th Corps was given a static task with the 13th Corps being in the mobile role. The air attack would being with Wellingtons and Albacores during the night of 21st to 22nd July. In the morning, a there would be a very large attack with light bombers and fighter-bombers. The fatal flaw was to give important assignments to inexperienced units and that insufficient time was allowed for the initial operations. There was also an over-optimistic assessment of British ability to overcome Axis minefields. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Amazon Ad