Tuesday, April 09, 2019

New plan for 15 July 1942 at El Alamein

The Australian 20th Brigade was organized as a brigade group. During the afternoon of 15 July 1942, they had moved into positions near Auchinleck's "tactical headquarters". The brigade had orders to be executed at 5:30am on 16 July. They were to break into three battalion battle groups "in mobile box formation" and travel to the Mubarik tomb which was "behind the 5th Indian Division".  The British had intelligence that indicated that Rommel was planning to attack the 5th Indian Division. The 20th Brigade Group (as it was) set up a defensive line that was quite hastily constructed. All this happened without General Morshead being informed. When Morshead learned of developments, he immediately phoned General Auchinleck and told him that what had been done was contrary to their agreement and also to Morshead's "charter". At first, General Auchinleck agreed to return 20th Brigade to the 9th Austraslian Division. However, Auchinleck called Morshead back to tell him that Auchinleck was being "heavily attacked". Morshead relented in those circumstances and let Auchinleck continue to use the 20th Brigade. Auchinleck was not able to return the 20th Brigade until 17 July.
Meanwhile, on 15 July, Rommel attacked 26th Brigade. Rommel was handicapped by having sent reinforcements to General Nehring of the German Africa Corps. During the night before the attack, men from 2/48th Battalion could hear vehicles in the area near the Tel el Eisa railroad station. The battalion fired on the force that was close by. By morning, they noticed some 15 German vehicles "near the wire" and that there two machine guns and two anti-tank guns setup close to the rail station. The Australians attacked and took 32 prisoners and captured the vehicles (initially). The vehicles were stripped of "ammunition and equipment" and were then destroyed. During the night of 15-16 July, men from the 2/48th Battalion attacked German engineers engaged in removing the minefield. They took seven of hte engineers prisoner.
Back at dawn on 15 July, the men of the 2/24th Battalion saw ten German tanks and as many as 70 vehicles carrying infantry. They were driving in the direction of Trig 33. The enemy fired a heavy artillery barrage starting at about 7:30am. A significant attack was sent with 35 tanks and "seven companies of infantry". The tanks reached the foot of Trig 33 with 14 tanks having scaled the Trig. The accompanying infantry was beaten back while the tanks eventually pulled back. Another attack was sent forward at 8:15am. They had 25 tanks but they were again repulsed. The 44th Tank Regiment attacked with "light tanks" (presumably Stuarts). The enemy again sent an attack (the third). They did not have any tank support and they were beaten back after about a half-hour fight. Another attack with tanks and infantry "at midday" was stopped by artillerty and machine guns. That day, they destroyed ten German tanks and they took 63 prisoners. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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