Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Battle of Alam el Halfa in late August 1942

The German plan asked the German Africa Corps to drive some seven miles, starting from 11pm on 30 August and 6am the next morning. The presence of minefields, the position and size being unknown, were a complication. The recipients of the attack were the now weak 7th Armoured Division, consisting of the 7th Motor Brigade and the 4th Light Armoured Brigade. It the enemy units succeeded in breaking through the British line, they could be expected to have to fight one or more of the 10th Armoured Division brigades, of which there were three. There was also the 5th New Zealand Brigade on the left flank. There was also the familiar 22nd Armoured Brigade with two brigades of the 44th Division sitting on Alam el Halfa, the ridge. Forward of the ridge lay the 8th Armoured Brigade.

The German armored divisions were late in starting. The 15th Armored Division began to advance at 1pm. The 21st Armored Division started forward at about 2pm. The 21st Armored Division lost its commander during operations on the day. The British tanks and guns hit the German armor quite hard. They stopped advancing at dusk given how tough the fighting was. Montgomery's staff was following events and the German Africa Corps position. They ordered the 23rd Armoured Brigade to move into the space between the New Zealand Division and the 10th Armoured Division. During the night, the air force was dropping flares to provide light and attacked enemy vehicles with bombs with some success. There were fires burning from fuel and vehicles.

On 1 September, the German Africa Corps stopped moving forward. British day bombers hit them hard. The 21st Armored Division was stopped. They may have been out of fuel, but the 15th Armored Division tried to move past the British armor. The German armor was hard-pressed by air attacks and British artillery. Montgomery was involved with the operations and at one point ordered the 2nd South African Brigade to move to a position that was south of Alam el Halfa. He told the New Zealand Division to prepare to attack to the south, to hit the enemy "line of communication". The 15th Armored Division was still a potent force that was a "threat" to Point 132. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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