Monday, January 28, 2019

On to Alexandria from 1 July 1942

You have to think that at the end of June and early July 1942, the British were in a panic. Plans kept changing every few days (it seemed). General Morshead left Cairo early in the morning of 1 July and drove from there to Amiriya. He initially was going to have his headquarters at El Mex, but that was such a bad place that he decided to try camping at Sidi Bishr (which was "an awful place"). General Morshead put the 24th Brigade on the coast and the 26th Brigade to their left. 24th Brigade inherited a "motley force" that had been cobbled together to provide some defense to Alexandria near the sea. That included the 150th Brigade Headquarters, the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers machine gun battalion, and a group of about six hundred men from odd units, such as Czech and sailors. They had some naval guns that they believed might be useful against tanks. The 24th Brigade was to occupy a line built by the Polish brigade in 1940 and 1941. The 24th Brigade was in place on 1 July while the 26th Brigade moved into position on 2 July. Both btigades immediately began digging positions. The men were thought to be working in shifts, allowing some to sleep while others were digging.
General Morshead spent 2 July looking over the land with his brigade commanders and chief of staff. They had too much territory to defend for the men that they had. General Morshead ordered that all Egyptian civilians be removed from the area. They would take steps that would interfere with civilian concerns. He wanted to flood areas that would conflict with the civilian salt industry, as on example. They would also cut dfown palm and fig triees to clear fields of fire.
General Auchinleck had his priorities. He wanted to stop Rommel's advan ce to the east at El Alamein, but a higher priority was to keep his force from being destroyed. If they were forced out of El Alamein, they would fight further ot the east. They would try to fight on the approach to the Nile Delta. It that fell, they would fight on the Suez Canal, and prepare to fight on the Nile. With men knowing about contingency plans, that had negative affects on morale. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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