Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Zealand Division attacks

The New Zealand Division attack to close minefield gaps started with raids by the 6th New Zealand Brigade, starting at about 11pm on 3 September 1942. The raids, however, put the enemy on notice that something was happening. The 132nd Brigade was slow to reach the starting line, and when they did, the enemy was waiting for them. The 132nd Brigade commander, Brigadier Robertson, was severely wounded. The 6th New Zealand Brigade commander, Brigadier Clifton, was captured when he drove into an enemy position. The only bright spot was the 5th New Zealand Brigade, which not only reached its objective but penetrated beyond, thanks to the 28th Maori Battalion. In the early afternoon of 4 September, the enemy launched a counter attack, which was repelled. Another attempted attack was broken up by the New Zealand Division artillery, with bomber help. With the pitiful results of the attack, General Freyberg proposed a withdrawal, which happened in the night of 4th/5th September, with more losses. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The battle after the Battle of Alam el Halfa

General Montgomery realized at the end of the Battle of Alam el Halfa that the Eighth Army was not ready for an attack with the aim of busting open the front. He still wanted time to prepare for the big attack. After the end of the last battle, he wanted to only harass the enemy, although he would proceed with General Freyberg's planned attack to close the minefield gaps.

That attack would begin late on 3 September 1942. The 132nd Infantry Brigade had been replaced in the line by the 5th Indian Brigade, so it became available for the planned attack. The attack would consist of two three mile advances. The second would have the 151st Infantry Brigade by 4 September. The 7th Armoured Brigade would attack to the west in support of the operation.
The attackers on 3 September consisted of the 132nd Infantry Brigade and the 5th New Zealand Brigade with supporting Valentine tank squadrons. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The attacks on 3 September 1942 went badly

The plan on 3 September 1942 was to attack at 10:30am with two brigades, the 132nd Brigade and the 5th New Zealand Brigade. The 6th New Zealand Brigade would attack at 11pm in support of the 132nd Brigade. Each brigade had a supporting Valentine squadron. The 132nd Brigade was new to the Desert and was slow to reach the starting line. The enemy was waiting for the attack and created confusion in the new troops. The 132nd Brigade commander was wounded and the brigade lost 697 killed, wounded, and missing. The 5th New Zealand Brigade achieved success, penetrating the enemy lines and doing much damage behind the front. After the attack stalled, General Freyberg, the New Zealand Division commander, ordered a withdrawal, which happened after the sun went down. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Australians attack on 1 September 1942

A battalion of the 9th Australian Division staged a raid early on 1 September 1942. They were supported by the 40th RTR, equipped with Valentine tanks. The raid was to the west of the Tel el Eisa. They were supported by day bombers in their attack. The Australian raiders were opposed by the German 164th Division. The gap for the attack could not be held, although they succeeded in capturing 140 German prisoners. The raiders had casualties of 135. The supporting 40th RTR lost seven Valentines in the fight. This was pretty much the end of fighting on the ground in the Battle of Alam el Halfa. The Desert Air Force continued operations through the day and into the night. This is based on the account in VOl.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On 1 September 1942

While the 21st Panzer Division was not able to travel, the 15th Panzer Division was still able to operate. They started a flanking move around the 22nd Armoured Brigade, to the right. As we said, the 8th Armoured Brigade had been ordered up in support, but was held by the German anti-tank screen. Still, by noon, Rommel realized that there was little prospect of bringing fuel forward and decided to go into a defensive posture. General Montgomery's response was order the 30th Corps to form a reserve and ordered the 2nd South African Division to move to the north of Alam el Halfa. He also pulled a 50th Division brigade forward. They were replaced on airfield protection by a 51st Division brigade. We happen to know that for this operation, the 8th Armoured Brigade had 12 Crusader and 72 Grant tanks. They also had two Field Regiments and an Anti-tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The end of the first day, 31 August 1942

General Montgomery was pleased with how the first day of battle had gone. This was 31 August 1942. Once the two German panzer divisions were known, Montgomery placed the 23rd Armoured Brigade, with 100 Valentine tanks, under 10th Armoured Division command. They were positioned between the New Zealand Division and the 22nd Armoured Brigade. The dust storm during the day had kept the Desert Air Force from intervening in the battle. The dust storm died down at dusk, and this allowed the air force to operate. Night bombers hit the Axis transport, doing great damage. The action resumed on the ground early on 1 September. The 15th Panzer Division tried to bypass the 22nd Armoured Brigade to the right. The British responded by sending the 8th Armoured Brigade against them, but they were stopped by the German anti-tank screen. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The first tank fight of Alam el Halfa

On the German side, the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions were advancing. They ignored the decoy Crusaders of the 22nd Armoured Brigade and were going to move post. When that happened, the 22nd Armoured Brigade moved some of its Grants into view. This drew the 21st Panzer Division into a gun battle. They moved towards the 3/4 County of London Yeomanry, the center regiment. The Royal Scots Greys and 1st and 104th RHA, along with some of the 44th Division artillery. The 15th Panzer Division started to go around the right flank, when the current DAK commander, General von Vaerst, stopped the attack. In other actions, the 7th Light Armoured Brigade had fallen back when the German reconnaissance group advanced. The Italian mobile corps had come forward on the left flank of the DAK. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Early on 31 August 1942

The Battle of Alam el Halfa had started right before and right after midnight between 30 August and 31 August 1942. The Axis forces had reached a minefield by 2am. They were facing the 7th Motor Brigade and the 7th Light Armoured Brigade. After General Nehring was wounded, Colonel Bayerlein commanded the DAK. Rommel arrived at the DAK headquarters at 9am. Rommel was ready to give up the fight, but Colonel Bayerlein argued that they should still try and capture Alam el Halfa. The attack was rescheduled to noon. The DAK would attack the western end of Alam el Halfa, which was an unfortunate choice. The situation deteriorated further due to a dust storm. The attack was delayed further. At the point of attack there were two Crusader squadrons positioned as decoys, while the Grant tanks and 6pdr anti-tank guns were all dug in. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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