Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Plans at the collapse on 2 to 3 November 1942

Rommel made plans for a withdrawal to the west. Over night on 2-3 November 1942, he "proposed" to withdraw X Corps, the Ramcke parachute brigade, and XXI Corps "to a line El Taqa-Qaret el Abd-Deir el Harra-Qatani." Farther north, he would have the German armored divisions hold a line. By 3 November, he would have "mobile forces" pull back "halfway from Rahman to Daba". After that, the whole army would pull back to Fuka. They would drive the infantry in trucks to that position. The "mobile forces would form a rearguard". They found that there were not enough trucks to carry the infantry.
Overnight on 2-3 November and early on 3 November, As Rommel was preparing to withdraw, he got a message from Hitler telling him to stand his ground and not pull back. He replied and then sent a "staff officer" to speak with Hitler. The nasty truth is that if they followed Hitler's orders, they would be wiped out.
Montgomery responded to the situation by not trying to attack directly in the north, but changing to "an enveloping movement to the south". They would attack with infantry to "take the main defended localities". They would use the 7th Armoured Division to break through to the enemy's rear. Montgomery didn't know about Hitler's message. He expected Rommel to withdraw to Fuka. He was going to have the armor "drive northwards towards the coast road". The New Zealand Division would follow the 7th Armoured Division to the west. The infantry attack began at 5:45pm on 3 November. What is rather funny is the statement "the chronic inability of armored formations to read the map".
The moves on 4 November began at 1:30am. The 5th Indian Brigade avoided the enemy strength in the north and pushed to the Rahman track. At dawn, an infantry attack was successful. That was sufficient to cause the enemy front to collapse. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Early on 2 November 1942

One positive side effect of the Supercharge Operation was that it helped the Australian 24th Brigade in their positions in the Saucer. About thirty tanks drove up to the right of the 2/15th Battalion. They were mostly out of range of the Australian anti-tank guns, but one tank got too close and was knocked out. They seemed to be threatening the "Supercharge corridor". The 8th Armoured Brigade moved towards the enemy tanks and they moved away. A little later, General Morshead visited the saucer. He decided not to ask any more right then from the "tired battalions".
2 November 1942 was uneventful for the Australians. They had some incoming artillery fire, and noticed more movement near the coast. When General Morshead got news about Supercharge successes, he ordered the brigades to operate with the goal of keeping the enemy on the coast from withdrawing. The Australians had patrols out but they took losses. One patrol attacked some German positions and inflicted casualties. The Australians could hear vehicles moving. This was during the night of 2 to 3 November. 3 November saw the Australians patroling "both in carriers and on foot". They found that the enemy had pulled back "towards Abd el Rahman". The Australians could see that the enemy had started to withdraw. The pressure on the Australians had subsided. They sent out carriers to "tow in enemy guns".

The Desert Air Force was flying missions to hit vehicles and positions. British fighters mistakenly strafed Australians. The Australians were not harmed, fortunately.
They found that the enemy had pulled most of the "heavy weapons and anti-tank guns" from the 125th Regiment. They expected that "the rest would be withdrawn the next night." Rommel had already decided to pull back to Fuka. Fuka seemed to be a good spot for a delaying battle. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

From the evening of 2 November 1942 at El Alamein

The 2nd Armoured Brigade had arrived late, too late to help the 9th Armooured Brigade. Their orders seemed to require them to attack on the same path as before. Instead, General Briggs and Brigadier Fisher decided to get into position to protect against and enemy attack "between the bridgehead and the Rahman track". Events proved them to have taken the right action. They were not yet across the enemy supply lines, but they were "close enough". The enemy did in fact attack late in the morning. They continued the fight until "nightfall" and believed that they had knocked out 66 "enemy tanks". They in fact did better than that, and had gotten 77 German and 40 Italian tanks. They had not "broken open the enemy front" yet.
Early on 2 November, Montgomery had ordered that an "infantry reserve" of four brigades be formed. They would use infantry to widen the "corridor". In the evening, the 51st Highland Division launched two attacks to the south. At the "Snipe" area, they took 160 prisoners from the Trieste Division.
General Lumsden decided to use the 7th Motor Brigade to break the enemy's gun line. They would create a gap for the 1st Armoured Division to move forward. On the morning of 3 November, then the 7th Armoured Division would be able to "pass through". The 7th Motor Brigade attack did not succeed. At daylight, a South African armored car unit tried to break through, but were unsuccessful. The 8th Armoured Brigade attacked to the southwest. They ended up fighting with the Ariete Division. They were eventually stopped by 88mm guns. By the end of 3 November, the 1st Armoured Division had lost more tanks. The enemy seemed to be in bad shape, but the British were almost out of energy ("at the end of their tether"). This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Supercharge underway from 1 November 1942

Operation Supercharge opened with large British superiority in strength. The attack happened on the night of 1 to 2 November 1942. An air attack started the "bombardment". One casualty was the Africa Corps "signals system". The 151st and 152nd Brigades attacked early on 2 November. They were followed by the 8th Armoured Brigade (apparently) and the 50th RTR.
Some 192 guns fired a barrage while another 168 guns fired "in front and on the flanks". The 152nd Brigade had an easier time and reached their objectives "by 3:44am". The 151st Brigade had a harder time and did not reach their objectives until 5:53am on 2 November. In the case of the Maori Battalion, they took a strong point "west of Trig 29". "On the left flank, 2/Sussex and 5/Sussex took "Woodcock" on "Kidney Ridge".
The 9th Armoured Brigade took losses while advancing. They were reduced to 94 tanks from the 132 tanks they started with. The next move was delayed until 6:15am. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was to follow up behind.
The fighting on 2 November by the armor did not produce any obvious victories, but they were sure to break the enemy by the time they were finished. They would need another two days to break the enemy front. The 9th Armoured Brigade suffered as they fought. The Wiltshire Yeomanry was equipped with mostly 2pdr Crusaders. The 9th Armoured Brigade took heavy losses in the process of their fight. Still, the armored cars of the Royal Dragoons were able to breach the enemy front and were running amock in the enemy's rear. That had been the hope for the armored cars, and they were able to what was expected of them. Heavy fighting on 2 November had yielded results. "77 German tanks and 40 Italian tanks" had been knocked out. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Operation Supercharge steps off on 1-2 November 1942

The initial attack on 1 November 1942 was supported by 87 bomber aircraft. The British observed fires and explosions. They later learned that Africa Corps headquarters, the signals operation had been disabled.
The two brigades from the 51st Highland Division started their attack at 1:50am. Two tank regiments, the 8th and 50th RTR were right behind the infantry. The supporting barrage was fired by a large number of guns. Other guns fired on the flanks and "in front". The 152nd Brigade had captured its objective by 3:44am. The 151st Brigade faced harder fighting and only reached the objective by 5:53am. The Maori Battalion had taken its objective as had the 2/Sussex and 5/Sussex, the objective being the strongpoint "Woodcock on Kidney Ridge".
By the time the 9th Armoured Brigade had arrived at the "infantry objective", they were reduced to 94 tanks. The brigade had to wait later than planned, to 6:15am. The 1st Armoured Division brigade, the 2nd Armoured Brigade was to follow behind the 9th Armoured Brigade.
The tank battles that were fought as part of Supercharge were not "great victories", but the sealed the fate of the enemy forces. The enemy were able to hold out for another two days. The men fighting the battles were not sure of the ultimate outcome, but they were actually doing well.
The 9th Armoured Brigade paid back the New Zealand infantry by a valiant fight. They did not feel like they were winning, but the brigade started out by doing very well ("carrying all before them"). The Wiltshire Yeomanry ended up being shot to pieces by German anti-tank guns. The brigade knocked out some 35 guns, but lost 75 of their 94 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Operation Supercharge

Montgomery's plan for Operation Supercharge was to have  XXX Corps attack with infantry. The infantry were under the command of General Freyberg. The infantry attack would be on a "front" of some 4,000 yards. The aim was to penetrate the enemy defenses to some 6,000 yards. They would use patrols to push to the west. They would "cover" the armor "breakout". Armored cars would push to the west, "destroying" whatever they could. X Corps armor would push to "Point 46-Tel el Aqqaqir". If the XXX Corps attack did not succeed, then the X Corps would fight their way to the first "objective". The 2nd New Zealand Division would be ready to take over the area captured and free up X Corps to attack some more.
The plan was to "break into the enemy positions near the "Rahman Track". The 1st Armoured Division with two armored brigades and the 7th Motor Brigade would "cross the Rahman Track" and "defeat the enemy's armor." The task for the 51st Highland Division was to taken Point 32. They would be supported by 13 Field Regiments and 3 Medium Regiments. Prior to the start of Supercharge, the 1st Armoured Division had 271 tanks. The 9th Armoured Brigade had 132 tanks. The 23rd Armoured Brigade had 111 tanks. The reduced 7th Armoured Division had 84 tanks. The 7th Armoured Division was not involved in the main push. The 4th Light Armoured Brigade had 74 tanks, of which 53 were Stuart light tanks.
They thought that they knew the enemy force numbers. The 15th Armored Division had some six thousand men and 25 tanks. The 21st Armored Division was stronger with some eight thousand men and 125 tanks. The 164th Division had 6,800 men. The 90th Light Division had 7,800 men. The Italian 101st Trieste Division had 4,600 men and 30 tanks. The 102nd Trento Division had but 2,400 men. The Italian armored division Ariete had 4,300 men and 140 tanks. The Littorio Division had 4,200 men and about 60 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The Australians on 1 to 2 November 1942 as Operation Supercharge starts

Later on 1 November 1942, the 24th Brigade was hit hard. The brigade commander was killed and others were killed or wounded. Col. Evans was appointed as the new brigade commander and he went to the headquarters area. At sunset, the Germans attacked. Attacks came from the west and northeast. Defensive fire was effective in stopping the attacks. The 20th Brigade also took fire during the 1st. The fighting in the Saucer continued to about 2:30am. About that time, they could hear a large bombardment starting to the south. This was the start of Montgomery's Operation Supercharge.

The 20th Brigade was under fire for much of 1 November. The composite force was told to send "machine guns, anti-tank guns, and pioneers forward to help the 2/43rd Battalion to the area between the rail line and the road. When the machiner-gunners reached the area, they were told that there was not room for them. They then moved into an area to support both battalions (2/43rd and 2/28th). They were in "position by 3:30am".
"For the rest of the night the 24th Brigade battalions were reorganized". The goal was to "give each battalion more room" and to have a reserve battalion in postion. The Desert Air Force had provided good support throughout 1 November. The enemy had dispersed to reduce their vulnerability to air attack. Fourteen attacks by 19 bombers (a "football team") were made on 1 November.
The 24th Brigade took 487 casualties from 30 October to 2 November. They were mostly taken before Operation Supercharge started. The 9th Australian Division had been asked to draw as much of the enemy strength to the north prior to Operation Supercharge.
Rommel ordered some 21st Armored Division and 90th Light Division units to attack to "reestablish contact with the 125th Regiment and the X Bersaglieri in the coastal area". The attack succeeded in that the Australians were pushed back across the rail line. That left 90th Light Division infantry along the rail line "facing south". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Fight in front of the 2/28th Battalion on 1 November 1942

German tanks attacked the 2/28th Battalion position. The tanks moved forward and then got into hull-down positions. The tanks concentrated their fire on anti-tank guns with some success. The guns were those of the 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment. Relatively  quickly, twelve 6-pdr Anti-tank guns and two two-pounders were disabled. The men of the 2/28th Battalion did not like having the tanks so close, so they opened up with all their weapons at the tanks. By 2:30pm, the German tanks pulled back, because they apparently realized that their infantry could not get through. The Rhodesian anti-tank gunners got special attention from the Germans and lost eight of their guns. While the fighting had died down, a troop of anti-tank guns was sent across the rail line and got into action.
At about 3:25pm, the enemy sent more tanks and infantry to attack the 2/43rd and 2/28th Battalions. The attack came from the north and hit the northwest "company of the 2/43rd Battalion." They managed to overrun a platoon "on Barrell Hill". The some of the men of the platoon were made prisoners. A sergeant regrouped his men and counter-attacked. He was able to retake the positions that had been overrun, except for one. Eventually, the enemy decided to withdraw. The 2/28th Battalion was also attacked, but they managed to hold on.
Some of the tanks pushed on "towards Thompson's Post". They also were going to try to attack with infantry, but they were shelled by British guns and stopped. German infantry on tanks and self-propelled guns moved forward. Austraslian fire was able to stop the attack. They succeeded in knocking out two self-propelled guns. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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