First Battle of El Alamein: Wikis

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First Battle of El Alamein
Part of Western Desert Campaign
1stAlameinBritDefense.jpg
British infantry manning a sandbagged defensive position near El Alamein, 17 July 1942.
Date 1 – 27 July 1942
Location El Alamein, Egypt
Result Tactically inconclusive
Strategic Allied victory
Belligerents
Australia Australia
India India
New Zealand New Zealand
South Africa South Africa
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Germany Germany

Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Italy

Commanders
United Kingdom Claude Auchinleck
United Kingdom Dorman Smith
Germany Erwin Rommel
Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Enea Navarrini
Strength
150,000 troops
1,114 tanks
1,000+ artillery pieces
1,500+ planes
96,000 troops
585 tanks
~500 planes
Casualties and losses
13,250 casualties[1] 17,000 casualties[nb 1]
Area of Western Desert Campaign 1941/2 (Click to enlarge)

The First Battle of El Alamein 1–27 July 1942 was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) commanded by Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces (Britain, India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) commanded by Claude Auchinleck. The battle halted the second (and final) advance by the Axis forces into Egypt, El Alamein being only 66 miles from Alexandria.

Contents

Prelude

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Retreat from Gazala

Following the defeat at the Battle of Gazala in June 1942, the Eighth Army had retreated from the Gazala line to Mersa Matruh, roughly 100 miles inside the Egyptian border. General Neil Ritchie had decided not to hold the defenses on the Egyptian border because the defensive plan here relied on infantry holding defended localities while a strong armoured force was held back in reserve to strike any attempts to penetrate or outflank the fixed defenses. Since Ritchie had virtually no armoured units left fit to fight, the infantry positions would be defeated in detail. The Mersa defense plan also included an armoured reserve but in its absence Ritchie believed he could organise his infantry to cover the minefields between the defended localities to prevent Axis engineers from having undisturbed access.[3]

To defend the Matruh line Ritchie placed 10th Indian Infantry Division (in Matruh itself) and 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (some 15 miles (24 km) down the coast at Gerawla) under X Corps HQ, newly arrived from Syria.[4] Inland from X Corps would be XIII Corps with 5th Indian Infantry Division (with only one infantry brigade, 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, and two artillery regiments) around Sidi Hamza (about 20 miles (32 km) inland, the newly arrived 2nd New Zealand Division (short one brigade because of lack of transport) at Minqar Qaim (on the escarpment 30 miles (48 km) inland) and 1st Armoured Division in the open desert to the south.[5] 1st Armoured had taken over 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades from 7th Armoured Division which by this time had only three tank regiments between them.[6]

On 25 June General Claude Auchinleck, C-in-C Middle East Command relieved Neil Ritchie and assumed direct command of Eighth Army himself.[7] He decided not to seek a decisive confrontation at the Mersa Matruh position: it had an open left flank to the south of the sort well exploited by Rommel at Gazala. He decided instead to employ delaying tactics while withdrawing a further 100 miles (160 km) or more east to near El Alamein on the Mediterranean coast. Only 40 miles (60 km) to the south of El Alamein the steep slopes of the Qattara Depression ruled out the possibility of armour moving round the southern flank of his defenses and limited the width of the front he had to defend.

Battle of Mersa Matruh

While preparing the Alamein positions Auchinleck fought strong delaying actions, first at Mersa Matruh on 26 and 27 June and then Fuka on 28 June. The late change of orders resulted in some confusion in the forward formations (X Corps and XIII Corps) between the desire to inflict damage on the enemy and the intention not to get trapped in the Matruh position but retreat in good order. The result was poor coordination between the two forward Corps and units within them.

Late on 26 June the 90th Light Division and 21st Panzer managed to find their way through the minefields in the centre of the front. Early on 27 June, resuming its advance, 90th Light was checked by 50th Division's artillery. Meanwhile the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions advanced east above and below the escarpment. 15th Panzer were blocked by 4th Armoured and 7th Motor Brigades but 21st Panzer were ordered on to attack Minqar Qaim. Rommel ordered 90th Light to resume its advance, requiring it to cut the coast road behind 50th Division by the evening.[8]

As 21st Panzer moved on Minqar Qaim, the 2nd New Zealand Division found itself surrounded. It succeeded in breaking out on the night of 27 June without serious losses[9] and withdraw east. Auchinleck had planned a second delaying position at Fuka, some 30 miles (48 km) east of Matruh, and at 7.20pm he issued the orders for a withdrawal to Fuka. Confusion in communication led the division withdrawing immediately to the El Alamein position.[10]

X Corps meanwhile, having made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a position on the escarpment, were out of touch with Eighth Army from 7.30pm until 4.30am the next morning. Only then did they discover that the withdrawal order had been given. The withdrawal of XIII Corps had left the southern flank of X Corps on the coast at Matruh exposed and their line of retreat compromised by the cutting of the coastal road 17 miles (27 km) east of Matruh. They were ordered to break out southwards into the desert and then make their way east. Auchinleck ordered XIII Corps to provide support but they were in no position to do so. At 9pm on 28 June X Corps, organised into brigade groups, headed south. In the darkness there was considerable confusion as they came across enemy units leaguered for the night. In the process 5th Indian Division in particular sustained heavy casualties, including the destruction of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade at Fuka.[11] Axis forces captured more than 6,000 prisoners, in addition to 40 tanks and an enormous quantity of supplies.[12]

Defences at El Alamein

The Western Desert Battle Area July 1942

Alamein itself was an insignificant railway station on the coast. Some ten miles to the south lay the Ruweisat Ridge, a low stony ridge that nonetheless gave excellent observation for many miles over the surrounding desert. Twenty miles to the south of that lay the Qattara Depression. The line the British chose to defend stretched between the sea and the Qattara Depression, which meant that Rommel could only outflank it by taking a significant detour to the south and crossing the Sahara Desert. The British Army in Egypt recognized this before the war [13] and had the Eighth Army begin construction of several "boxes" (localities with dug-outs and surrounded by minefields and barbed wire), the most developed being around the railway station at Alamein. Most of the "line", however, was just open, empty desert.[14] Lt.-Gen. C. W. M. Norrie (GOC XXX Corps), organize the position and started to construct three defended "boxes". The first and strongest, at El Alamein on the coast, had been partly wired and mined by 1st South African Division. The Bab el Qattara box, some 20 miles (32 km) from the coast and 8 miles (13 km) southwest of the Ruweisat Ridge, had been dug but had not been wired or mined, while at the Naq Abu Dweis box (on the edge of the Qattara Depression), 34 miles (55 km) from the coast, very little work had been done.[14]

The British position in Egypt was in a critical state. The rout from Mersa Matruh had created a panic in the British headquarters at Cairo, something later called "the Flap". On what came to be referred to as "Ash Wednesday", at British headquarters, rear echelon units, and the British Embassy, the British frantically burned confidential papers in anticipation of the entry of Axis troops into the city. Auchinleck, although believing he could stop Rommel at Alamein, felt he could not ignore the possibility that he might once more be outmanoeuvered or outfought. In order to maintain his army in being he therefore believed that must plan for the possibility of a further retreat whilst maintaining morale and retaining the support and co-operation of the Egyptians. Defensive positions were constructed west of Alexandria and on the approaches to Cairo while considerable areas in the Nile delta were flooded.[15]

The Axis too believed that the capture of Egypt was imminent - Italian leader Benito Mussolini, sensing an historic moment, flew to Libya to prepare for his triumphal entry to Cairo.[16]

The scattering of X Corps at Mersa Matruh disrupted Auchinleck's plan for occupying the Alamein defences. On 29 June he ordered XXX Corps (1st South African, 50th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions) to take the coastal sector on the right of the front and XIII Corps (New Zealand and 5th Indian Divisions) to be on the left. The remains of 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions were to be held as a mobile army reserve.[17] His intention was the fixed defensive positions should canalize and disorganize the enemy's advance while mobile units would attack their flanks and rear.[18]

On 30 June Rommel's Panzer Army Africa approached the Alamein position. The Axis forces were exhausted and understrength. Rommel had driven them forward ruthlessly, being confident that, provided he struck quickly before Eighth Army had time to settle, his momentum would take him through the Alamein position and he could then advance to the Nile with little further opposition. Supplies remained a problem because the Axis staff had originally expected a pause of six weeks after the capture of Tobruk. While captured supplies proved useful, water and ammunition were constantly in short supply while shortage of transport impeded the distribution of the supplies that they did have.[19]

Axis plan of attack

Rommel's plan was for the 90th Light Division and the two Afrika Korps armoured divisions to penetrate the Eighth Army lines between the Alamein box and Deir el Abyad (which he believed was defended). 90th Light was then to veer north to cut the coastal road and trap the Alamein box defenders (which he thought was occupied by the remains of 50th Infantry Division) and the Afrika Korps would veer right to attack the rear of XIII Corps. An Italian division was to attack the Alamein box from the west and another was to follow 90th Light. Italian XX Corps was to follow the Afrika Korps and deal with the Qattara box while the Italian Littoro Armoured Division and German reconnaissance units would protect the right flank[20]

Battle

Panzer Army Africa attacks

At 0300 hours on 1 July 90th Light Infantry Division advanced east but strayed too far north and ran into the 1st South African Division's defences and became pinned down.[20][21] The 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions were delayed by a sandstorm and then a heavy air attack. It was broad daylight by the time they circled round the back of Deir el Abyad where they found the feature to the east of it occupied by Indian 18th Infantry Brigade which, after a hasty journey from Iraq, had occupied the exposed position just west of Ruweisat Ridge and east of Deir el Abyad at Deir el Shein late on 28 June to create one of Norrie's additional defensive boxes.[22]

At about 1000 hours on 1 July 21st Panzer Division attacked Deir el Shein. 18th Indian Infantry Brigade, supported by 23 25-pdr guns, 16 of the new 6-pdr anti-tank guns and 9 Matilda tanks held out the whole day in desperate fighting, but by evening the Germans succeeded in overrunning them.[23] The time they bought allowed Auchinleck to organise the defence of the western end of Ruweisat Ridge.[24] Meanwhile, 1st Armoured Division had been sent to intervene at Deir el Shein. They ran into 15th Panzer Division just south of Deir el Shein and drove it west. By the end of the day's fighting the Afrika Korps had 37 tanks left out of its initial compliment of 55.[25]

During the early afternoon 90th Light had extricated itself from the El Alamein box defences and resumed its move eastward. It came under artillery fire from the 3 South African brigade groups and was forced to dig in.[25]

On 2 July Rommel ordered the resumption of the offensive. Once again 90th Light failed to make progress so Rommel called the Afrika Korps to abandon its planned sweep southward and instead join the effort to break through to the coast road by attacking east towards Ruweisat Ridge. The British defence of Ruweisat Ridge relied on an improvised formation called Robcol, comprising a regiment each of Field artillery and light anti-aircraft artillery and a company of infantry. Robcol, in line with normal British army practice for ad hoc formations, was named after its commander, Brigadier Robert Waller, the artillery commander of 10th Indian Infantry Division.[26] Robcol was able to buy time, and by late afternoon the two British armoured brigades joined the battle with 4th Armoured Brigade engaging 15th Panzer and 22nd Armoured Brigade 21st Panzer.[27] They drove back repeated attacks by the Axis armour, who then withdrew before dusk. The British reinforced Ruweisat on the night of 2 July. The now enlarged Robcol became Walgroup.[26] The Royal Air Force meanwhile made heavy air attacks on the Axis units.[28]

The next day, 3 July, Rommel resumed the attack on the Ruweisat ridge. This time the Italian XX Motorised Corps led, an indication of the exhaustion and reduced strength of Afrika Korps, now down to 26 tanks.[29] The Italian Ariete Armoured Division made good progress along Ruweisat ridge until they met the more numerous and better armed British tanks of 4 Armoured Brigade.[citation needed] During the morning the combination of British artillery fire and constant air attacks halted the Axis advance - on 3 July the Royal Air Force flew 780 sorties.[nb 2]

To relieve the pressure on the right and centre of the Eighth Army line, XIII Corps on the left advanced from the Qattara box (known to the New Zealanders as the Kaponga box). The plan was that the 2nd New Zealand Division, with the remains of 5th Indian Division and 7th Motor Brigade under its command, would swing north to threaten the Axis flank and rear.[26] This force encountered the Ariete Armoured Division's artillery, which was driving on the southern flank of the division as it attacked Ruweisat. The Italian commander ordered his battalions to fight their way out independently but the Ariete lost 531 men (about 350 were prisoners), 36 pieces of artillery, 6 (or 8?) tanks, and 55 trucks.[32] By the end of the day the Ariete Division had only 5 tanks.[33] The day ended once again with the Afrika Korps and Ariete coming off second best to the superior numbers of the British 22nd Armoured and 4th Armoured Brigades,[nb 3] frustrating Rommel's attempts to resume his advance.[34] The RAF once again played its part, flying 900 sorties during the day.[29]

To the south, on 5 July the New Zealand group resumed its advance northwards towards El Mreir intending to cut the rear of the Ariete Division. Heavy fire from the "Brescia" Division at El Mreir, however, 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the Qattara box, checked their progress and led XIII Corps to call off its attack.[32]

Rommel digs in

At this point Rommel decided his exhausted forces could make no further headway without resting and regrouping. Afrika Korps had just 36 Panzers, his 3 German Divisions numbered just 1200-1500 men each, and his men were exhausted and operating at the end of their supply lines. On 4 July Rommel ordered the Axis forces to go on the defensive.[citation needed]

Rommel was by this time suffering from the extended length of his supply lines. The Allied Desert Air Force was concentrating fiercely on his fragile and elongated supply routes while British mobile columns moving west and striking from the south were causing havoc in the Axis rear echelons.[35] Rommel could afford these losses even less since shipments from Italy had been substantially reduced (during June he received 5,000 tons of supplies compared with 34,000 in May and 400 vehicles compared with 2,000 in May)[36] Meanwhile, the Eighth Army was reorganising and rebuilding, benefiting from its short lines of communication. By 4 July the 9th Australian Division had entered the line in the north, and on 9 July 5th Indian Infantry Brigade also returned taking over the Ruweisat position. At the same time the fresh Indian 161st Infantry Brigade reinforced the depleted 5th Indian Infantry Division.[37]

Tel el Eisa

On 8 July Auchinleck ordered the new XXX Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Ramsden, to capture the low ridges at Tel el Eisa and Tel el Makh Khad and then to push mobile battle groups south towards Deir el Shein and raiding parties west towards the airfields at El Daba. Meanwhile XIII Corps would prevent the Axis from moving troops north to reinforce the coastal sector.[38] Ramsden tasked the 9th Australian Division with 44th Royal Tank Regiment under command with the Tel el Eisa objective and the 1st South African Division with eight supporting tanks, Tel el Makh Khad. The raiding parties were to be provided by 1st Armoured Division.[39]

Following a bombardment which started at 3.30 AM on 10 July the 26th Australian Brigade launched an attack against the ridge north of Tel el Eisa station along the coast (Trig 33). The bombardment was the heaviest barrage yet experienced in North Africa, which created panic in the inexperienced soldiers of the 60 Infantry Division Sabratha who had only just occupied sketchy defences in the sector.[40][41][42][43] The Australian attack took more than 1,500 prisoners, routed an Italian Division and overran the German Signals Intercept Company 621.[44] Meanwhile the South Africans had by late morning taken Tel el Makh Khad and were in covering positions.[39]

Elements of the German 164th Light Division and 101 Motorised Division Trieste arrived to plug the gap torn in the Axis defences.[39][45][46] That afternoon and evening tanks from the 15th Panzer Division and the Italian “Trieste” Division launched counter-attacks against the Australian positions, the counter-attacks failing in the face of overwhelming Allied artillery and the Australian anti-tank guns.[47][48]

At first light on 11 July the 2/24th Australian Battalion supported by tanks from 44th Royal Tank Regiment attacked the western end of Tel el Eisa hill (Point 24).[39][49] By early afternoon the feature was captured and was then held against a series of Axis counter-attacks throughout the day. A small column of armour, motorized infantry, and guns then set off to raid Deir el Abyad and caused a battalion of Italian infantry to surrender. Its progress was checked at the Miteirya ridge and it was forced to withdraw that evening to the El Alamein box.[50] During the day more than a 1000 Italian prisoners were taken.[51][52][53].

On 12 July the 21st Panzer Division launched a counter-attack against Trig 33 and Point 24, which was beaten off after a two and a half hour fight, with more than 600 German dead and wounded left strewn in front of the Australian positions.[53][54]. The next day 21st Panzer Division launched an attack against Point 33 and South African positions in the El Alamein box.[55] The attack was halted by intense artillery fire from the defenders. Rommel was still determined to drive the British forces from the northern salient. Although the Australian defenders had been forced back from Point 24, heavy casualties had been inflicted on 21st Panzer Division.[56][57][58] Another attack was mounted on 15 July but made no ground against tenacious resistance. On 16 July the Australians, supported by British tanks, launched an attack to try to take Point 24 but were forced back by German counter-attacks,[59] suffering nearly fifty percent casualties.[60]

After 7 days of fierce fighting the battle in the north for Tel el Eisa salient petered out. 9th Australian Division estimated at least 2,000 Axis troops had been killed and more than 3,700 prisoners of war taken in the battle.[61] Possibly the most important feature of the battle, however, was that the Australians had captured Signals Intercept Company 621. This unit had provided Rommel with priceless intelligence, gleaned from intercepting British radio communications. That source of intelligence was now lost to Rommel.[62][63]

First Battle of Ruweisat Ridge

As the Axis forces dug in, Auchinleck, having drawn a number of German units to the coastal sector during the Tel el Eisa fighting, developed a plan, codenamed Operation Bacon, to attack the Italian Pavia and Brescia Divisions in the centre of the front at the Ruweisat ridge.[64]

The intention was for the 4th New Zealand Brigade and 5th New Zealand Brigade (on 4th Brigade's right) to attack northwest to seize the western part of the ridge and on their right the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade to capture the eastern part of the ridge in a night attack. Then 2nd Armoured Brigade would pass through the centre of the infantry objectives to exploit towards Deir el Shein and the Miteirya Ridge. The 22nd Armoured Brigade, on the left, would be ready to move forward to protect the infantry as they consolidated on the ridge.[65]

The attack commenced at 2300 hours on 14 July. The two New Zealand brigades shortly before dawn on 15 July took their objectives, but minefields and pockets of resistance created disarray among the attackers. A number of pockets of resistance were left behind the forward troops' advance which impeded the move forward of reserves, artillery, and support arms. As a result the New Zealand brigades occupied exposed positions on the ridge without support weapons except for a few anti-tank guns.[66] More significantly, communications with the two British armoured brigades failed, and the British armour did not move forwards to protect the infantry. At first light a detachment from 15th Panzer Division's 8th Panzer Regiment launched a counter-attack against 4th New Zealand Brigade's 22nd New Zealand Battalion. A sharp exchange knocked out their anti-tank guns and the infantry found themselves exposed in the open with no alternative but to surrender. About 350 New Zealanders were taken prisoner.[66]

While the 2nd New Zealand Division attacked the western slopes of Ruweisat ridge, the 5th Indian Brigade made small gains on Ruweisat ridge to the east. By 0700 hours word was finally got to 2nd Armoured Brigade which started to move north west. Two regiments became embroiled in a minefield but the third was able to join Indian 5th Infantry Brigade as it renewed its attack. With the help of the armour and artillery, the Indians were able to take their objectives by early afternoon.[66] Meanwhile the 22nd Armoured Brigade had been engaged at Alam Nayil by 90th Light Division and the Ariete Armoured Division, advancing from the south. While, with help from mobile infantry and artillery columns from 7th Armoured Division, they pushed back the Axis probe with ease, they were prevented from advancing north to protect the New Zealand flank.[67]

Seeing the Brescia and Pavia under pressure, Rommel rushed German troops to Ruweisat. By 1500 hours the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment and part of 21st Panzer Division from the north and 33rd Reconnaissance Regiment and the Baade Group of 15th Panzer Division from the south were in place under General Nehring.[68] At 1700 hours Nehring launched his counter attack. 4th New Zealand Brigade were still short of support weapons and also, by this time, ammunition. Once again the anti-tank defenses were overwhelmed and about 380 New Zealanders were taken prisoner including Captain Charles Upham[68] who gained a second Victoria Cross for his actions including destroying a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades despite being shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and having his arm broken. At about 1800 hours the brigade HQ was overrun. At about 1815 hours 2nd Armoured Brigade engaged the German armour and halted the Axis eastward advance. At dusk Nehring broke off the action.[68]

Early on 16 July Nehring renewed his attack. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade pushed them back but it was clear from intercepted radio traffic that a further attempt would be made. Accordingly, strenuous preparations to dig in anti-tank guns were made, artillery fire plans organized and a regiment from 22nd Armoured Brigade was sent to reinforce 2nd Armoured Brigade.[67] When Nehring's renewed attack came late in the afternoon it was repulsed. After the battle the Indians counted 24 destroyed tanks, as well as armoured cars and numerous anti-tank guns left on the battlefield.[69][70]

In three day's fighting the Allies captured more than 2000 Axis prisoners of war, mostly from the "Brescia" and "Pavia" Divisions; the New Zealand division suffered 1405 casualties.[71][72]

Miteirya Ridge (Ruin Ridge)

To relieve pressure on Ruweisat ridge Auchinleck ordered the 9th Australian Division to make another attack from the north. In the early hours of 17 July the 24th Australian Brigade, supported by 44th RTR and strong fighter cover from the air, assaulted Miteirya ridge[67] (known as ‘Ruin ridge’ to the Australians). The initial night attack went well, with 736 prisoners taken, mostly from the “Trento” and “Trieste” divisions. Once again, however, a critical situation for the Axis forces was retrieved by vigorous counter-attacks from hastily assembled German and Italian forces, which forced the Australians to withdraw back to their start line with 300 casualties.[67][73][74][75] Although the Australian Official History of 24th Brigade's 2/32 battalion describes the counterattack force as "German",[76] the Australian historian Mark Johnston reports that German records indicate that it was the Trento Division that overran the Australian battalion.[77] Barton Maughan, Australia's official historian has written that "two forward platoons of the 2/32nd's left company were overrun, 22 men were taken prisoner"[78] but fails to shed more light on this attack.

Second Battle of Ruweisat Ridge (El Mreir)

Eighth Army now enjoyed a massive superiority in material over the Axis forces – 1st Armoured Division had 173 tanks and more in reserve or transit,[79] while Rommel possessed only 38 German tanks and 51 Italian tanks[80][81] although his Panzer divisions had some 100 tanks awaiting repair.[79]

Auchinleck’s plan was for 161st Indian Infantry Brigade to attack along Ruweisat ridge to take Deir el Shein, while the 6th New Zealand Brigade attacked from south of the ridge to the El Mreir depression. At daylight 2 British armoured brigades – 2nd Armoured Brigade and the fresh 23rd Armoured Brigade - would sweep through the gap created by the infantry. The plan was complicated and ambitious.[82]

The infantry night attack began at 1630 hours on 21 July. The New Zealand attack took their objectives in the El Mreir depression[83] but, once again, many vehicles failed to arrive and they were short of support arms in an exposed position. At daybreak on the 22 July the British armoured brigades again failed to advance. At daybreak on 22 July Nehring's 5th and 8th Panzer Regiments responded with a rapid counter-attack which quickly overran the New Zealand infantry in the open, inflicting more than 900 casualties on the New Zealanders.[84] 2nd Armoured Brigade sent forward two regiments to help but they were halted by mines and anti-tank fire.[85]

The attack by 161st Indian Brigade had mixed fortunes. On the left the initial attempt to clear the western end of Ruweisat failed but at 0800 hours a renewed attack by the reserve battalion succeeded. On the right the attacking battalion broke into the Deir el Shein position but was driven back in hand-to-hand fighting.[85]

Compounding the disaster at El Mreir, at 0800 hours the commander of 23rd Armoured Brigade ordered his brigade forwards, intent on following his orders to the letter. Major-General Gatehouse, commanding 1st Armoured Division, had been unconvinced that a path had been adequately cleared in the minefields and had suggested the advance be cancelled.[86] XIII Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Gott, however, rejected this and ordered the attack but on a centre line a mile south of the original plan which he incorrectly believed was mine-free. These orders failed to get through and the attack went ahead as originally planned. The brigade found itself mired in mine fields and under heavy fire. They were then counter-attacked by 21st Panzer at 1100 hours and forced to withdraw.[86] The 23rd Armoured Brigade was destroyed, with the loss of 40 tanks destroyed and 47 badly damaged.[86]

At 1700 hours General Gott ordered 5th Indian Infantry Division to execute a night attack to capture the western half of Ruweisat ridge and Deir el Shein. 3/14th Punjab Regiment from 9th Indian Infantry Brigade attacked at 0200 hours on 23 July but failed as they lost their direction. A further attempt in daylight succeeded in breaking into the position but intense fire from three sides resulted in control being lost as the commanding officer was killed, and four of his senior officers were wounded or went missing.[87]

Attack on Tel el Eisa resumed

To the north, 9th Australian Division continued its attacks. At 0600 hours on 22 July 26th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Eisa and 24th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Makh Khad towards Mieirya (Ruin Ridge).[87] It was during this fighting that Arthur Stanley Gurney performed the actions for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The fighting for Tel el Eisa was costly, but by the afternoon the Australians controlled the feature.[87][88][89] That evening 24th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Makh Khad with the tanks of 50th RTR in support. The tank unit had not been trained in close infantry support and failed to coordinate with the Australian infantry. The result was that the infantry and armour advanced independently and having reached the objective 50th RTR lost 23 tanks because they lacked infantry support.[87][90][91]

Once more, the Eighth Army had failed to destroy Rommel’s forces, despite its overwhelming superiority in men and equipment. On the other hand, for Rommel the situation continued to be grave as, despite successful defensive operations, his infantry had suffered heavy losses and he reported that “the situation is critical in the extreme”.[92]

Eighth Army's final attacks fail

On 26/27 July, Auchinleck launched Operation Manhood in the northern sector in a final attempt to break the Axis forces. XXX Corps was reinforced with 1st Armoured Division (less 22nd Armoured Brigade), 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and 69th Infantry Brigade. The plan was to break the enemy line south of Miteirya ridge and exploit north-west. The South Africans were to make and mark a gap in the minefields to the south-east of Miteirya by midnight of 26/27 July.[87] By 0100 hours on 27 July 24th Australian Infantry Brigade was to have captured the eastern end of the Miteirya ridge and would exploit towards the north-west. 69th Infantry Brigade would pass through the minefield gap created by the South Africans to Deir el Dhib and clear and mark gaps in further minefields. 2nd Armoured Brigade would then pass through to El Wishka and would be followed by 4th Light Armoured Brigade which would attack the Axis lines of communication.[93]

This was the third attempt to break through in the northern sector, and the Axis defenders were expecting the attack.[94] Like the previous attacks, it was hurriedly and therefore poorly planned.[95] The 24th Australian Brigade managed to take their objectives on Miteirya Ridge by 0200[nb 4] hours of 27 July.[96] To the south, the British 69th Brigade set off at 0130 hours and managed to take their objectives by about 0800. However, the supporting anti-tank units became lost in the darkness or delayed by minefields, leaving the attackers isolated and exposed when daylight came. There followed a period during which reports from the battlefront regarding the minefield gaps were confused and conflicting. As a consequence the advance of 2nd Armoured Brigade was delayed.[93][97] Rommel launched an immediate counterattack and the German armoured battlegroups overran the two forward battalions of 69th Brigade.[93][98] Meanwhile 50th RTR supporting the Australians was having difficulty locating the minefield gaps made by 2/24th Australian Battalion. They failed to find a route through and in the process were caught by heavy fire and lost thirteen tanks. The unsupported 2/28th Australian battalion on the ridge was overrun. 69th Brigade suffered 600 casualties and the Australians 400 for no gain.[93]

The Eighth Army was exhausted, and on 31 July Auchinleck ordered an end to offensive operations and the strengthening of the defences to meet a major counter-offensive.

Memorial on the road from Alexandria to El Alamein at the high-water mark for the Italian advance

Rommel was later to blame the failure to breakthrough to the Nile on how the sources of supply to his army had dried up and how :

then the power of resistance of many Italian formations collapsed. The duties of comradeship, for me particularly as their Commander-in-Chief, compel me to state unequivocally that the defeats which the Italian formations suffered at Alamein in early July were not the fault of the Italian soldier. The Italian was willing, unselfish and a good, and, considering the conditions under which he served, had always given better than average. There is no doubt that the achievement of every Italian unit, especially of the motorised forces, far surpassed anything that the Italian Army had done for a hundred years. Many Italian generals and officers won our admiration both as men and as soldiers. The cause of the Italian defeat had its roots in the whole Italian military state and system, in their poor armament and in the general lack of interest in the war by many Italians, both officers and statesmen. This Italian failure frequently prevented the realisation of my plans.[99]

Rommel complained bitterly about the failure of important Italian convoys to get through to him desperately needed tanks and supplies-always blaming the Italian Supreme Command, never suspecting British codebreaking.[100]

Aftermath

The battle was a stalemate, but it had halted the Axis advance on Alexandria (and then Cairo and ultimately the Suez Canal). Eighth Army had suffered over 13,000 casualties in July (including 4,000 in the New Zealand Division, 3,000 in the 5th Indian Infantry Division and 2,552 battle casualties in the 9th Australian Division[60]) but had taken 7,000 prisoners and inflicted heavy damage on Axis men and machines.[1]

In early August Winston Churchill and General Alan Brooke, the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff visited Cairo on their way to meet Joseph Stalin in Moscow. They decided to replace Auchinleck, appointing XIII Corps commander Lieutenant-General William Gott to the Eighth Army command and General Sir Harold Alexander as C-in-C Middle East Command. Persia and Iraq were to be split from Middle East Command as a separate Persia and Iraq Command and Auchinleck offered the post of C-in-C (which he refused).[101] However, Gott died on the way to take up his command when a Messerschmitt intercepted his air transport and its fire shot Gott through the heart.[102] Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was appointed in his place.[1][nb 5]

A second attempt by Rommel to bypass or break the Commonwealth position was repulsed in the Battle of Alam Halfa in August, and in October the Eighth Army decisively defeated the Axis forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein.

See also

Notes

Footnotes
  1. ^ 10,000 of whom were killed or wounded.[2]
  2. ^ During the period 1 to 27 June the Desert Air Force flew nearly 15,400 sorties.[30] Auchinleck later wrote in his official despatches "...Our air forces could not have done more than they did to help and sustain the Eighth Army in its struggle. Their effort was continuous by day and night, and the effect on the enemy was tremendous. I am certain that, had it not been for their devoted and exceptional efforts, we should not have been able to stop the enemy on the El Alamein position."[31]
  3. ^ The two British armoured brigades started 3 July with a total strength of 119 tanks[29]
  4. ^ Playfair states that the "...timing soon fell behind, but by 3 a.m. the Australians had taken their objective"[93]
  5. ^ Brooke and Auchinleck had both thought Montgomery a better candidate than Gott but Churchill had favoured the appointment of Gott[103]
Citations
  1. ^ a b c Mackenzie (1951), p. 589
  2. ^ Watson (2007), p. 6
  3. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 279
  4. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 281n and 283
  5. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 284–285
  6. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 281
  7. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 285
  8. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 290
  9. ^ Scoullar (1955), Chapters 10, 11 and 12
  10. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 292–293
  11. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 294–295
  12. ^ Panzer Army Africa Battle Report dated 29 June 1942 K.T.B. 812 page 1 and page 2
  13. ^ Latimer (2002), p. 58
  14. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 332
  15. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 333–334
  16. ^ Barr (2005), p. 69
  17. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 295
  18. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 332–333
  19. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 331
  20. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 340
  21. ^ Barr (2005), p. 81
  22. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p.580
  23. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 340–341
  24. ^ Mackenzie (1951), pp.581–582
  25. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 341
  26. ^ a b c Mackenzie (1951), p. 582
  27. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 342–343
  28. ^ Barr (2005), p. 88
  29. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 343
  30. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 335
  31. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38177, p. 367, 1948-01-13. Retrieved on 2009-03-13.
  32. ^ a b Mitcham (2007), p. 113
  33. ^ Walker.I, (2003), p.141
  34. ^ Barr (2005), p. 92
  35. ^ Clifford (1943), p.285
  36. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 79
  37. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p. 583
  38. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 345
  39. ^ a b c d Playfair Vol. III, p. 346
  40. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p.58
  41. ^ Caccio-Dominioni (1966), pp. 70-71
  42. ^ Bates (1992), pp.139-141
  43. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 205
  44. ^ Stewart (2002), p. 125
  45. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 65
  46. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 220
  47. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 141-142
  48. ^ Caccio-Dominioni (1966), p. 74.
  49. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 67
  50. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 346–347
  51. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 68
  52. ^ Bates (1992), p. 143
  53. ^ a b Barr (2005), p. 114
  54. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 70
  55. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 72
  56. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 73-76
  57. ^ Bates (1992), p. 145
  58. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 565-566
  59. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 78-80
  60. ^ a b Johnston (2003), p. 86
  61. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 81
  62. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 66
  63. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 112-114
  64. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 347
  65. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 348
  66. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 349
  67. ^ a b c d Playfair Vol. III, p. 351
  68. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 350
  69. ^ Bharucha and Prasad (1956), p. 422
  70. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 143-146
  71. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 118-142
  72. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 232-298
  73. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 83-85
  74. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 572-574
  75. ^ Stewart (2002), p. 130
  76. ^ "Australians at War: 2/32 Battalion". Australian War Memorial website. Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11283.asp. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  77. ^ Johnston (2000), p. 13
  78. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 575
  79. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 353
  80. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 577
  81. ^ Scoullar (1955), p.328 and p.337
  82. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 319-337
  83. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 338-351
  84. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 352-363
  85. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 355
  86. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 356
  87. ^ a b c d e Playfair Vol. III, p. 357
  88. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 88-93 and p. 97
  89. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 208-211.
  90. ^ Johnston and Stanley(2002), pp. 93-96
  91. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 212-214.
  92. ^ Panzer Army Africa Battle Report dated 22 July 1942 K.T.B. 1220
  93. ^ a b c d e Playfair Vol. III, p. 358
  94. ^ Barr.N, p.176; Bates.P, p.216.
  95. ^ Bates.P, p.217.
  96. ^ Johnston.M and Stanley.P, pp.102-106; Bates.P, p.219.
  97. ^ Barr.N, pp.178-179 and 181-182
  98. ^ Barr.N, pp.179-181; Johnston.M and Stanley.P, pp.107-112; Bates.P, pp.224-225.
  99. ^ Liddell Hart (ed), 'The Rommel Papers' (London 1953), pp.261-262.
  100. ^ Gannon (2002), p. 81
  101. ^ Alanbrooke (2002), p.294
  102. ^ Clifford (1943), p.296
  103. ^ Alanbrooke Diaries, 4 August 1942 entry

References

  • Alanbrooke, Field Marshal Lord; Danchev, Alex and Todman, Daniel (editors) (2002) [1957]. War Diaries 1939-1945 (Re-edited ed.). London: Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-84212-526-5. 
  • Barr, Niall (2005). Pendulum of war : the three battles of El Alamein. London: Pimlico. ISBN 0712668276. 
  • Bates, Peter (1992). Dance of war : the story of the Battle of Egypt. London: L. Cooper. ISBN 0850524539. 
  • Bharucha, P.C.; Prasad, Bisheshwar (1956). The North African campaign, 1940-43. Official history of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, 1939-45. Delhi: Combined Inter-Services Historical Section, India & Pakistan. OCLC 563270. 
  • Caccia-Dominioni, Paolo (1966). Alamein 1933-1962: An Italian Story. Allen & Unwin. 
  • Clifford, Alexander (1943). Three Against Rommel: The Campaigns of Wavell, Auchinleck and Alexander. London: George G. Harrap & Co.. 
  • Gannon, James (2002) [2001]. Stealing Secrets, Telling Lies: How Spies and Codebreakers Helped Shape the Twentieth Century. Washington DC: Brassey. ISBN 1574884735. 
  • Johnston, Mark (2000). Fighting the Enemy: Australian soldiers and their adversaries in World War II. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521782228. 
  • Johnston, Mark; Stanley, Peter (2002). Alamein: The Australian Story. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195516303. 
  • Johnston, Mark (2003). That Magnificent 9th: An Illustrated History of the 9th Australian Division. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1865086541. 
  • Lanza, Colonel Conrad H.. "Perimeters in Paragraphs: The Axis Invades Egypt". The Field Artillery Journal (September 1942). http://sill-www.army.mil/famag/1942/SEP_1942/SEP_1942_PAGES_685_692.pdf. 
  • Latimer, Jon (2002). Alamein. London: John Murray. ISBN 0719562031. 
  • Lewin, Ronald (1977). The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps: A Biography. Batsford. 
  • Mackenzie, Compton (1951). Eastern Epic. London: Chatto & Windus. 
  • Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). Rommel's Desert War: The Life and Death of the Afrika Korps. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. ISBN 9780811734134. 
  • Maughan, Barton (1966). Official History of Australia in the Second World War Volume III - Tobruk and El Alamein. Canberra: Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/histories/chapter.asp?volume=19. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C. & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1960]. Butler, J.R.M. ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume III: British Fortunes reach their Lowest Ebb (September 1941 to September 1942). History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-845740-67-X. 
  • Rommel, Erwin; Pimlott, John (1994). Rommel : in his own words. London: Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1853671852. 
  • Scoullar, Lt.-Col. J.L.; Kippenberger, Maj.-Gen. Howard (editor) (1955). "The Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–1945; The Battle for Egypt: The Summer of 1942". Historical Publications Branch, Wellington. http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Egyp.html. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  • Stewart, Adrian (2002). The Early Battles of Eighth Army: 'Crusader' to the Alamein Line 1941-1942. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Leo Cooper. ISBN 0850528518. 
  • Watson, Bruce Allen (2007). Exit Rommel. Mechanicsburg PA: StackpoleBooks. ISBN 978-0-8117-3381-6. 

External links

Coordinates: 30°50′N 28°57′E / 30.833°N 28.95°E / 30.833; 28.95


First Battle of El Alamein
Part of Western Desert Campaign
[[File:|250px]]
British infantry manning a sandbagged defensive position near El Alamein, 17 July 1942.
Date 1 – 27 July 1942
Location El Alamein, Egypt
Result Tactically inconclusive
Strategic Allied victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom
Australia
British India
New Zealand
Union of South Africa
File:Flag of Nazi Germany (1933-1945).svg Nazi Germany

File:Flag of Italy (1861-1946) Italy

Commanders and leaders
Claude Auchinleck
Dorman Smith
File:Flag of Nazi Germany (1933-1945).svg Erwin Rommel
File:Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Enea Navarrini
Strength
150,000 troops
1,114 tanks
1,000+ artillery pieces
1,500+ planes
96,000 troops
585 tanks
~500 planes
Casualties and losses
13,250 casualties[1] 17,000 casualties[nb 1]
File:WesternDesertBattle Area1941
Area of Western Desert Campaign 1941/2 (Click to enlarge)

The First Battle of El Alamein (1-–27 July 1942 was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) commanded by Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces (Britain, British India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) commanded by Claude Auchinleck. The battle halted the second (and final) advance by the Axis forces into Egypt, El Alamein being only 66 mi (106 km) from Alexandria.

Contents

Prelude

Retreat from Gazala

Following the defeat at the Battle of Gazala in June 1942, the Eighth Army had retreated from the Gazala line to Mersa Matruh, roughly 100 mi (160 km) inside the Egyptian border. General Neil Ritchie had decided not to hold the defenses on the Egyptian border because the defensive plan here relied on infantry holding defended localities while a strong armoured force was held back in reserve to strike any attempts to penetrate or outflank the fixed defenses. Since Ritchie had virtually no armoured units left fit to fight, the infantry positions would be defeated in detail. The Mersa defense plan also included an armoured reserve but in its absence Ritchie believed he could organise his infantry to cover the minefields between the defended localities to prevent Axis engineers from having undisturbed access.[3]

To defend the Matruh line Ritchie placed 10th Indian Infantry Division (in Matruh itself) and 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division (some 15 mi (24 km) down the coast at Gerawla) under X Corps HQ, newly arrived from Syria.[4] Inland from X Corps would be XIII Corps with 5th Indian Infantry Division (with only one infantry brigade, 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, and two artillery regiments) around Sidi Hamza (about 20 mi (32 km) inland, the newly arrived 2nd New Zealand Division (short one brigade because of lack of transport) at Minqar Qaim (on the escarpment 30 mi (48 km) inland) and 1st Armoured Division in the open desert to the south.[5] 1st Armoured had taken over 4th and 22nd Armoured Brigades from 7th Armoured Division which by this time had only three tank regiments between them.[6]

On 25 June, General Claude Auchinleck, C-in-C Middle East Command relieved Neil Ritchie and assumed direct command of Eighth Army himself.[7] He decided not to seek a decisive confrontation at the Mersa Matruh position: it had an open left flank to the south of the sort well exploited by Rommel at Gazala. He decided instead to employ delaying tactics while withdrawing a further 100 miles (160 km) or more east to near El Alamein on the Mediterranean coast. Only 40 mi (64 km) to the south of El Alamein the steep slopes of the Qattara Depression ruled out the possibility of armour moving round the southern flank of his defenses and limited the width of the front he had to defend.

Battle of Mersa Matruh

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-783-0110-12, Nordafrika, Panzer II,
German light tank with 20 mm gun and machine-gun in rotating turret.

While preparing the Alamein positions, Auchinleck fought strong delaying actions, first at Mersa Matruh on 26-27 June and then Fuka on 28 June. The late change of orders resulted in some confusion in the forward formations (X Corps and XIII Corps) between the desire to inflict damage on the enemy and the intention not to get trapped in the Matruh position but retreat in good order. The result was poor coordination between the two forward Corps and units within them.

Late on 26 June, the 90th Light Division and 21st Panzer managed to find their way through the minefields in the centre of the front. Early on 27 June, resuming its advance, 90th Light was checked by 50th Division's artillery. Meanwhile, the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions advanced east above and below the escarpment. 15th Panzer were blocked by 4th Armoured and 7th Motor Brigades but 21st Panzer were ordered on to attack Minqar Qaim. Rommel ordered 90th Light to resume its advance, requiring it to cut the coast road behind 50th Division by the evening.[8]

As 21st Panzer moved on Minqar Qaim, the 2nd New Zealand Division found itself surrounded. It succeeded in breaking out on the night of 27 June without serious losses[9] and withdraw east. Auchinleck had planned a second delaying position at Fuka, some 30 mi (48 km) east of Matruh, and at 21:20 he issued the orders for a withdrawal to Fuka. Confusion in communication led the division withdrawing immediately to the El Alamein position.[10]

X Corps meanwhile, having made an unsuccessful attempt to secure a position on the escarpment, were out of touch with Eighth Army from 19:30 until 04:30 the next morning. Only then did they discover that the withdrawal order had been given. The withdrawal of XIII Corps had left the southern flank of X Corps on the coast at Matruh exposed and their line of retreat compromised by the cutting of the coastal road 17 mi (27 km) east of Matruh. They were ordered to break out southwards into the desert and then make their way east. Auchinleck ordered XIII Corps to provide support but they were in no position to do so. At 21:00 on 28 June — X Corps, organised into brigade groups — headed south. In the darkness, there was considerable confusion as they came across enemy units leaguered for the night. In the process, 5th Indian Division in particular sustained heavy casualties, including the destruction of the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade at Fuka.[11] Axis forces captured more than 6,000 prisoners, in addition to 40 tanks and an enormous quantity of supplies.[12]

Defences at El Alamein

File:Alamein1st1942
The Western Desert Battle Area July 1942

Alamein itself was an insignificant railway station on the coast. Some ten miles to the south lay the Ruweisat Ridge, a low stony ridge that nonetheless gave excellent observation for many miles over the surrounding desert. 20 mi (32 km) to the south of that lay the Qattara Depression. The line the British chose to defend stretched between the sea and the Qattara Depression, which meant that Rommel could outflank it only by taking a significant detour to the south and crossing the Sahara Desert. The British Army in Egypt recognized this before the war [13] and had the Eighth Army begin construction of several "boxes" (localities with dug-outs and surrounded by minefields and barbed wire), the most developed being around the railway station at Alamein. Most of the "line", however, was just open, empty desert.[14] Lt.-Gen. C. W. M. Norrie (GOC XXX Corps), organize the position and started to construct three defended "boxes". The first and strongest, at El Alamein on the coast, had been partly wired and mined by 1st South African Division. The Bab el Qattara box, some 20 mi (32 km) from the coast and 8 mi (13 km) southwest of the Ruweisat Ridge, had been dug but had not been wired or mined, while at the Naq Abu Dweis box (on the edge of the Qattara Depression), 34 mi (55 km) from the coast, very little work had been done.[14]

The British position in Egypt was in a critical state. The rout from Mersa Matruh had created a panic in the British headquarters at Cairo, something later called "the Flap". On what came to be referred to as "Ash Wednesday", at British headquarters, rear echelon units, and the British Embassy, the British frantically burned confidential papers in anticipation of the entry of Axis troops into the city. Auchinleck, although believing he could stop Rommel at Alamein, felt he could not ignore the possibility that he might once more be outmanoeuvered or outfought. In order to maintain his army, he therefore believed that must plan for the possibility of a further retreat whilst maintaining morale and retaining the support and co-operation of the Egyptians. Defensive positions were constructed west of Alexandria and on the approaches to Cairo while considerable areas in the Nile delta were flooded.[15]

The Axis too believed that the capture of Egypt was imminent — Italian leader Benito Mussolini, sensing an historic moment, flew to Libya to prepare for his triumphal entry to Cairo.[16]

The scattering of X Corps at Mersa Matruh disrupted Auchinleck's plan for occupying the Alamein defences. On 29 June, he ordered XXX Corps (1st South African, 50th and 10th Indian Infantry Divisions) to take the coastal sector on the right of the front and XIII Corps (New Zealand and 5th Indian Divisions) to be on the left. The remains of 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions were to be held as a mobile army reserve.[17] His intention was the fixed defensive positions should canalize and disorganize the enemy's advance while mobile units would attack their flanks and rear.[18]

On 30 June, Rommel's Panzer Army Africa approached the Alamein position. The Axis forces were exhausted and understrength. Rommel had driven them forward ruthlessly, being confident that, provided he struck quickly before Eighth Army had time to settle, his momentum would take him through the Alamein position and he could then advance to the Nile with little further opposition. Supplies remained a problem because the Axis staff had originally expected a pause of six weeks after the capture of Tobruk. While captured supplies proved useful, water and ammunition were constantly in short supply while shortage of transport impeded the distribution of the supplies that they did have.[19]

Axis plan of attack

Rommel's plan was for the 90th Light Division and the two Afrika Korps armoured divisions to penetrate the Eighth Army lines between the Alamein box and Deir el Abyad (which he believed was defended). 90th Light was then to veer north to cut the coastal road and trap the Alamein box defenders (which he thought was occupied by the remains of 50th Infantry Division) and the Afrika Korps would veer right to attack the rear of XIII Corps. An Italian division was to attack the Alamein box from the west and another was to follow 90th Light. Italian XX Corps was to follow the Afrika Korps and deal with the Qattara box while the Italian Littoro Armoured Division and German reconnaissance units would protect the right flank[20]

Battle

Panzer Army Africa attacks

At 03:00 on 1 July, 90th Light Infantry Division advanced east but strayed too far north and ran into the 1st South African Division's defences and became pinned down.[20][21] The 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions were delayed by a sandstorm and then a heavy air attack. It was broad daylight by the time they circled round the back of Deir el Abyad where they found the feature to the east of it occupied by Indian 18th Infantry Brigade which, after a hasty journey from Iraq, had occupied the exposed position just west of Ruweisat Ridge and east of Deir el Abyad at Deir el Shein late on 28 June to create one of Norrie's additional defensive boxes.[22]

At about 10:00 on 1 July, 21st Panzer Division attacked Deir el Shein. 18th Indian Infantry Brigade, supported by 23 25-pdr guns, 16 of the new 6-pdr anti-tank guns and 9 Matilda tanks held out the whole day in desperate fighting, but by evening the Germans succeeded in overrunning them.[23] The time they bought allowed Auchinleck to organise the defence of the western end of Ruweisat Ridge.[24] Meanwhile, 1st Armoured Division had been sent to intervene at Deir el Shein. They ran into 15th Panzer Division just south of Deir el Shein and drove it west. By the end of the day's fighting the Afrika Korps had 37 tanks left out of its initial compliment of 55.[25]

During the early afternoon, 90th Light had extricated itself from the El Alamein box defences and resumed its move eastward. It came under artillery fire from the three South African brigade groups and was forced to dig in.[25]

On 2 July, Rommel ordered the resumption of the offensive. Once again, 90th Light failed to make progress so Rommel called the Afrika Korps to abandon its planned sweep southward and instead join the effort to break through to the coast road by attacking east towards Ruweisat Ridge. The British defence of Ruweisat Ridge relied on an improvised formation called Robcol, comprising a regiment each of Field artillery and light anti-aircraft artillery and a company of infantry. Robcol, in line with normal British army practice for ad hoc formations, was named after its commander, Brigadier Robert Waller, the artillery commander of 10th Indian Infantry Division.[26] Robcol was able to buy time, and by late afternoon the two British armoured brigades joined the battle with 4th Armoured Brigade engaging 15th Panzer and 22nd Armoured Brigade 21st Panzer.[27] They drove back repeated attacks by the Axis armour, who then withdrew before dusk. The British reinforced Ruweisat on the night of 2 July. The now enlarged Robcol became Walgroup.[26] The Royal Air Force meanwhile made heavy air attacks on the Axis units.[28]

The next day, 3 July, Rommel resumed the attack on the Ruweisat ridge. This time the Italian XX Motorised Corps led, an indication of the exhaustion and reduced strength of Afrika Korps, now down to 26 tanks.[29] The Italian Ariete Armoured Division made good progress along Ruweisat ridge until they met the more numerous and better armed British tanks of 4 Armoured Brigade.[citation needed] During the morning, the combination of British artillery fire and constant air attacks halted the Axis advance — on 3 July the Royal Air Force flew 780 sorties.[nb 2]

To relieve the pressure on the right and centre of the Eighth Army line, XIII Corps on the left advanced from the Qattara box (known to the New Zealanders as the Kaponga box). The plan was that the 2nd New Zealand Division, with the remains of 5th Indian Division and 7th Motor Brigade under its command, would swing north to threaten the Axis flank and rear.[26] This force encountered the Ariete Armoured Division's artillery, which was driving on the southern flank of the division as it attacked Ruweisat. The Italian commander ordered his battalions to fight their way out independently but the Ariete lost 531 men (about 350 were prisoners), 36 pieces of artillery, 6 (or 8?) tanks, and 55 trucks.[32] By the end of the day, the Ariete Division had only five tanks.[33] The day ended once again with the Afrika Korps and Ariete coming off second best to the superior numbers of the British 22nd Armoured and 4th Armoured Brigades,[nb 3] frustrating Rommel's attempts to resume his advance.[34] The RAF once again played its part, flying 900 sorties during the day.[29]

To the south, on 5 July the New Zealand group resumed its advance northwards towards El Mreir intending to cut the rear of the Ariete Division. Heavy fire from the Brescia Division at El Mreir, however, 5 mi (8.0 km) north of the Qattara box, checked their progress and led XIII Corps to call off its attack.[32]

Rommel digs in

At this point, Rommel decided his exhausted forces could make no further headway without resting and regrouping. Afrika Korps had just 36 Panzers, his 3 German Divisions numbered just 1200-1500 men each, and his men were exhausted and operating at the end of their supply lines. On 4 July, Rommel ordered the Axis forces to go on the defensive.[citation needed]

Rommel was by this time suffering from the extended length of his supply lines. The Allied Desert Air Force was concentrating fiercely on his fragile and elongated supply routes while British mobile columns moving west and striking from the south were causing havoc in the Axis rear echelons.[35] Rommel could afford these losses even less since shipments from Italy had been substantially reduced (in June, he received 5,000 short tons (4,500 t) of supplies compared with 34,000 short tons (31,000 t) in May and 400 vehicles compared with 2,000 in May)[36] Meanwhile, the Eighth Army was reorganising and rebuilding, benefiting from its short lines of communication. By 4 July, the 9th Australian Division had entered the line in the north, and on 9 July 5th Indian Infantry Brigade also returned taking over the Ruweisat position. At the same time, the fresh Indian 161st Infantry Brigade reinforced the depleted 5th Indian Infantry Division.[37]

Tel el Eisa

On 8 July, Auchinleck ordered the new XXX Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Ramsden, to capture the low ridges at Tel el Eisa and Tel el Makh Khad and then to push mobile battle groups south towards Deir el Shein and raiding parties west towards the airfields at El Daba. Meanwhile XIII Corps would prevent the Axis from moving troops north to reinforce the coastal sector.[38] Ramsden tasked the 9th Australian Division with 44th Royal Tank Regiment under command with the Tel el Eisa objective and the 1st South African Division with eight supporting tanks, Tel el Makh Khad. The raiding parties were to be provided by 1st Armoured Division.[39]

Following a bombardment which started at 03:30 on 10 July, the 26th Australian Brigade launched an attack against the ridge north of Tel el Eisa station along the coast (Trig 33). The bombardment was the heaviest barrage yet experienced in North Africa, which created panic in the inexperienced soldiers of the 60 Infantry Division Sabratha who had only just occupied sketchy defences in the sector.[40][41][42][43] The Australian attack took more than 1,500 prisoners, routed an Italian Division and overran the German Signals Intercept Company 621.[44] Meanwhile the South Africans had by late morning taken Tel el Makh Khad and were in covering positions.[39]

Elements of the German 164th Light Division and 101 Motorised Division Trieste arrived to plug the gap torn in the Axis defences.[39][45][46] That afternoon and evening tanks from the 15th Panzer Division and the Italian “Trieste” Division launched counter-attacks against the Australian positions, the counter-attacks failing in the face of overwhelming Allied artillery and the Australian anti-tank guns.[47][48]

At first light on 11 July, the 2/24th Australian Battalion supported by tanks from 44th Royal Tank Regiment attacked the western end of Tel el Eisa hill (Point 24).[39][49] By early afternoon the feature was captured and was then held against a series of Axis counter-attacks throughout the day. A small column of armour, motorized infantry, and guns then set off to raid Deir el Abyad and caused a battalion of Italian infantry to surrender. Its progress was checked at the Miteirya ridge and it was forced to withdraw that evening to the El Alamein box.[50] During the day more than a 1000 Italian prisoners were taken.[51][52][53].

On 12 July, the 21st Panzer Division launched a counter-attack against Trig 33 and Point 24, which was beaten off after a two and a half hour fight, with more than 600 German dead and wounded left strewn in front of the Australian positions.[53][54]. The next day, 21st Panzer Division launched an attack against Point 33 and South African positions in the El Alamein box.[55] The attack was halted by intense artillery fire from the defenders. Rommel was still determined to drive the British forces from the northern salient. Although the Australian defenders had been forced back from Point 24, heavy casualties had been inflicted on 21st Panzer Division.[56][57][58] Another attack was mounted on 15 July but made no ground against tenacious resistance. On 16 July, the Australians, supported by British tanks, launched an attack to try to take Point 24 but were forced back by German counter-attacks,[59] suffering nearly fifty percent casualties.[60]

After seven days of fierce fighting, the battle in the north for Tel el Eisa salient petered out. 9th Australian Division estimated at least 2,000 Axis troops had been killed and more than 3,700 prisoners of war taken in the battle.[61] Possibly the most important feature of the battle, however, was that the Australians had captured Signals Intercept Company 621. This unit had provided Rommel with priceless intelligence, gleaned from intercepting British radio communications. That source of intelligence was now lost to Rommel.[62][63]

First Battle of Ruweisat Ridge

As the Axis forces dug in, Auchinleck, having drawn a number of German units to the coastal sector during the Tel el Eisa fighting, developed a plan, codenamed Operation Bacon, to attack the Italian Pavia and Brescia Divisions in the centre of the front at the Ruweisat ridge.[64]

The intention was for the 4th New Zealand Brigade and 5th New Zealand Brigade (on 4th Brigade's right) to attack northwest to seize the western part of the ridge and on their right the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade to capture the eastern part of the ridge in a night attack. Then 2nd Armoured Brigade would pass through the centre of the infantry objectives to exploit towards Deir el Shein and the Miteirya Ridge. The 22nd Armoured Brigade, on the left, would be ready to move forward to protect the infantry as they consolidated on the ridge.[65]

The attack commenced at 23:00 on 14 July. The two New Zealand brigades shortly before dawn on 15 July took their objectives, but minefields and pockets of resistance created disarray among the attackers. A number of pockets of resistance were left behind the forward troops' advance which impeded the move forward of reserves, artillery, and support arms. As a result the New Zealand brigades occupied exposed positions on the ridge without support weapons except for a few anti-tank guns.[66] More significantly, communications with the two British armoured brigades failed, and the British armour did not move forwards to protect the infantry. At first, light a detachment from 15th Panzer Division's 8th Panzer Regiment launched a counter-attack against 4th New Zealand Brigade's 22nd New Zealand Battalion. A sharp exchange knocked out their anti-tank guns and the infantry found themselves exposed in the open with no alternative but to surrender. About 350 New Zealanders were taken prisoner.[66]

While the 2nd New Zealand Division attacked the western slopes of Ruweisat ridge, the 5th Indian Brigade made small gains on Ruweisat ridge to the east. By 07:00, word was finally got to 2nd Armoured Brigade which started to move north west. Two regiments became embroiled in a minefield but the third was able to join Indian 5th Infantry Brigade as it renewed its attack. With the help of the armour and artillery, the Indians were able to take their objectives by early afternoon.[66] Meanwhile the 22nd Armoured Brigade had been engaged at Alam Nayil by 90th Light Division and the Ariete Armoured Division, advancing from the south. While, with help from mobile infantry and artillery columns from 7th Armoured Division, they pushed back the Axis probe with ease, they were prevented from advancing north to protect the New Zealand flank.[67]

Seeing the Brescia and Pavia under pressure, Rommel rushed German troops to Ruweisat. By 15:00, the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment and part of 21st Panzer Division from the north and 33rd Reconnaissance Regiment and the Baade Group of 15th Panzer Division from the south were in place under General Nehring.[68] At 17:00, Nehring launched his counter attack. 4th New Zealand Brigade were still short of support weapons and also, by this time, ammunition. Once again, the anti-tank defenses were overwhelmed and about 380 New Zealanders were taken prisoner including Captain Charles Upham[68] who gained a second Victoria Cross for his actions including destroying a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades despite being shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet and having his arm broken. At about 18:00, the brigade HQ was overrun. At about 18:15, 2nd Armoured Brigade engaged the German armour and halted the Axis eastward advance. At dusk, Nehring broke off the action.[68]

Early on 16 July, Nehring renewed his attack. 5th Indian Infantry Brigade pushed them back but it was clear from intercepted radio traffic that a further attempt would be made. Accordingly, strenuous preparations to dig in anti-tank guns were made, artillery fire plans organized and a regiment from 22nd Armoured Brigade was sent to reinforce 2nd Armoured Brigade.[67] When Nehring's renewed attack came late in the afternoon it was repulsed. After the battle the Indians counted 24 destroyed tanks, as well as armoured cars and numerous anti-tank guns left on the battlefield.[69][70]

In three day's fighting, the Allies captured more than 2000 Axis prisoners of war, mostly from the "Brescia" and "Pavia" Divisions; the New Zealand division suffered 1405 casualties.[71][72]

Miteirya Ridge (Ruin Ridge)

To relieve pressure on Ruweisat ridge, Auchinleck ordered the 9th Australian Division to make another attack from the north. In the early hours of 17 July, the 24th Australian Brigade, supported by 44th RTR and strong fighter cover from the air, assaulted Miteirya ridge[67] (known as ‘Ruin ridge’ to the Australians). The initial night attack went well, with 736 prisoners taken, mostly from the Trento and Trieste divisions. Once again, however, a critical situation for the Axis forces was retrieved by vigorous counter-attacks from hastily assembled German and Italian forces, which forced the Australians to withdraw back to their start line with 300 casualties.[67][73][74][75] Although the Australian Official History of 24th Brigade's 2/32 battalion describes the counterattack force as "German",[76] the Australian historian Mark Johnston reports that German records indicate that it was the Trento Division that overran the Australian battalion.[77] Barton Maughan, Australia's official historian has written that "two forward platoons of the 2/32nd's left company were overrun, 22 men were taken prisoner"[78] but fails to shed more light on this attack.

Second Battle of Ruweisat Ridge (El Mreir)

Eighth Army now enjoyed a massive superiority in material over the Axis forces — 1st Armoured Division had 173 tanks and more in reserve or transit,[79] while Rommel possessed only 38 German tanks and 51 Italian tanks[80][81] although his Panzer divisions had some 100 tanks awaiting repair.[79]

Auchinleck’s plan was for 161st Indian Infantry Brigade to attack along Ruweisat ridge to take Deir el Shein, while the 6th New Zealand Brigade attacked from south of the ridge to the El Mreir depression. At daylight, two British armoured brigades — 2nd Armoured Brigade and the fresh 23rd Armoured Brigade — would sweep through the gap created by the infantry. The plan was complicated and ambitious.[82]

The infantry night attack began at 16:30 on 21 July. The New Zealand attack took their objectives in the El Mreir depression[83] but, once again, many vehicles failed to arrive and they were short of support arms in an exposed position. At daybreak on the 22 July, the British armoured brigades again failed to advance. At daybreak on 22 July, Nehring's 5th and 8th Panzer Regiments responded with a rapid counter-attack which quickly overran the New Zealand infantry in the open, inflicting more than 900 casualties on the New Zealanders.[84] 2nd Armoured Brigade sent forward two regiments to help but they were halted by mines and anti-tank fire.[85]

The attack by 161st Indian Brigade had mixed fortunes. On the left, the initial attempt to clear the western end of Ruweisat failed but at 08:00 a renewed attack by the reserve battalion succeeded. On the right the attacking battalion broke into the Deir el Shein position but was driven back in hand-to-hand fighting.[85]

Compounding the disaster at El Mreir, at 08:00 the commander of 23rd Armoured Brigade ordered his brigade forwards, intent on following his orders to the letter. Major-General Gatehouse, commanding 1st Armoured Division, had been unconvinced that a path had been adequately cleared in the minefields and had suggested the advance be cancelled.[86] XIII Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Gott, however, rejected this and ordered the attack but on a centre line a mile south of the original plan which he incorrectly believed was mine-free. These orders failed to get through and the attack went ahead as originally planned. The brigade found itself mired in mine fields and under heavy fire. They were then counter-attacked by 21st Panzer at 11:00 and forced to withdraw.[86] The 23rd Armoured Brigade was destroyed, with the loss of 40 tanks destroyed and 47 badly damaged.[86]

At 17:00, General Gott ordered 5th Indian Infantry Division to execute a night attack to capture the western half of Ruweisat ridge and Deir el Shein. 3/14th Punjab Regiment from 9th Indian Infantry Brigade attacked at 02:00 on 23 July but failed as they lost their direction. A further attempt in daylight succeeded in breaking into the position but intense fire from three sides resulted in control being lost as the commanding officer was killed, and four of his senior officers were wounded or went missing.[87]

Attack on Tel el Eisa resumed

To the north, 9th Australian Division continued its attacks. At 06:00 on 22 July, 26th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Eisa and 24th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Makh Khad towards Mieirya (Ruin Ridge).[87] It was during this fighting that Arthur Stanley Gurney performed the actions for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. The fighting for Tel el Eisa was costly, but by the afternoon the Australians controlled the feature.[87][88][89] That evening 24th Australian Brigade attacked Tel el Makh Khad with the tanks of 50th RTR in support. The tank unit had not been trained in close infantry support and failed to coordinate with the Australian infantry. The result was that the infantry and armour advanced independently and having reached the objective 50th RTR lost 23 tanks because they lacked infantry support.[87][90][91]

Once more, the Eighth Army had failed to destroy Rommel’s forces, despite its overwhelming superiority in men and equipment. On the other hand, for Rommel the situation continued to be grave as, despite successful defensive operations, his infantry had suffered heavy losses and he reported that “the situation is critical in the extreme”.[92]

Eighth Army's final attacks fail

On 26/27 July, Auchinleck launched Operation Manhood in the northern sector in a final attempt to break the Axis forces. XXX Corps was reinforced with 1st Armoured Division (less 22nd Armoured Brigade), 4th Light Armoured Brigade, and 69th Infantry Brigade. The plan was to break the enemy line south of Miteirya ridge and exploit north-west. The South Africans were to make and mark a gap in the minefields to the south-east of Miteirya by midnight of 26/27 July.[87] By 01:00 on 27 July, 24th Australian Infantry Brigade was to have captured the eastern end of the Miteirya ridge and would exploit towards the north-west. 69th Infantry Brigade would pass through the minefield gap created by the South Africans to Deir el Dhib and clear and mark gaps in further minefields. 2nd Armoured Brigade would then pass through to El Wishka and would be followed by 4th Light Armoured Brigade which would attack the Axis lines of communication.[93]

This was the third attempt to break through in the northern sector, and the Axis defenders were expecting the attack.[94] Like the previous attacks, it was hurriedly and therefore poorly planned.[95] The 24th Australian Brigade managed to take their objectives on Miteirya Ridge by 02:00[nb 4] of 27 July.[96] To the south, the British 69th Brigade set off at 01:30 and managed to take their objectives by about 08:00. However, the supporting anti-tank units became lost in the darkness or delayed by minefields, leaving the attackers isolated and exposed when daylight came. There followed a period during which reports from the battlefront regarding the minefield gaps were confused and conflicting. As a consequence the advance of 2nd Armoured Brigade was delayed.[93][97] Rommel launched an immediate counterattack and the German armoured battlegroups overran the two forward battalions of 69th Brigade.[93][98] Meanwhile 50th RTR supporting the Australians was having difficulty locating the minefield gaps made by 2/24th Australian Battalion. They failed to find a route through and in the process were caught by heavy fire and lost thirteen tanks. The unsupported 2/28th Australian battalion on the ridge was overrun. 69th Brigade suffered 600 casualties and the Australians 400 for no gain.[93]

The Eighth Army was exhausted, and on 31 July Auchinleck ordered an end to offensive operations and the strengthening of the defences to meet a major counter-offensive.

Rommel was later to blame the failure to breakthrough to the Nile on how the sources of supply to his army had dried up and how :
then the power of resistance of many Italian formations collapsed. The duties of comradeship, for me particularly as their Commander-in-Chief, compel me to state unequivocally that the defeats which the Italian formations suffered at Alamein in early July were not the fault of the Italian soldier. The Italian was willing, unselfish and a good, and, considering the conditions under which he served, had always given better than average. There is no doubt that the achievement of every Italian unit, especially of the motorised forces, far surpassed anything that the Italian Army had done for a hundred years. Many Italian generals and officers won our admiration both as men and as soldiers. The cause of the Italian defeat had its roots in the whole Italian military state and system, in their poor armament and in the general lack of interest in the war by many Italians, both officers and statesmen. This Italian failure frequently prevented the realisation of my plans.[99]

Rommel complained bitterly about the failure of important Italian convoys to get through to him desperately needed tanks and supplies-always blaming the Italian Supreme Command, never suspecting British codebreaking.[100]

Aftermath

The battle was a stalemate, but it had halted the Axis advance on Alexandria (and then Cairo and ultimately the Suez Canal). Eighth Army had suffered over 13,000 casualties in July (including 4,000 in the New Zealand Division, 3,000 in the 5th Indian Infantry Division and 2,552 battle casualties in the 9th Australian Division[60]) but had taken 7,000 prisoners and inflicted heavy damage on Axis men and machines.[1]

In early August, Winston Churchill and General Alan Brooke, the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff visited Cairo on their way to meet Joseph Stalin in Moscow. They decided to replace Auchinleck, appointing XIII Corps commander Lieutenant-General William Gott to the Eighth Army command and General Sir Harold Alexander as C-in-C Middle East Command. Persia and Iraq were to be split from Middle East Command as a separate Persia and Iraq Command and Auchinleck offered the post of C-in-C (which he refused).[101] However, Gott died on the way to take up his command when a Messerschmitt intercepted his air transport and its fire shot Gott through the heart.[102] Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery was appointed in his place.[1][nb 5]

A second attempt by Rommel to bypass or break the Commonwealth position was repulsed in the Battle of Alam Halfa in August, and in October the Eighth Army decisively defeated the Axis forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein.

See also

Notes

Footnotes

  1. ^ 10,000 of whom were killed or wounded.[2]
  2. ^ During the period 1 to 27 June the Desert Air Force flew nearly 15,400 sorties.[30] Auchinleck later wrote in his official despatches "...Our air forces could not have done more than they did to help and sustain the Eighth Army in its struggle. Their effort was continuous by day and night, and the effect on the enemy was tremendous. I am certain that, had it not been for their devoted and exceptional efforts, we should not have been able to stop the enemy on the El Alamein position."[31]
  3. ^ The two British armoured brigades started 3 July with a total strength of 119 tanks[29]
  4. ^ Playfair states that the "...timing soon fell behind, but by 3 a.m. the Australians had taken their objective"[93]
  5. ^ Brooke and Auchinleck had both thought Montgomery a better candidate than Gott but Churchill had favoured the appointment of Gott[103]

Citations

  1. ^ a b c Mackenzie (1951), p. 589
  2. ^ Watson (2007), p. 6
  3. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 279
  4. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 281n and 283
  5. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 284–285
  6. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 281
  7. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 285
  8. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 290
  9. ^ Scoullar (1955), Chapters 10, 11 and 12
  10. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 292–293
  11. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 294–295
  12. ^ Panzer Army Africa Battle Report dated 29 June 1942 K.T.B. 812 page 1 and page 2
  13. ^ Latimer (2002), p. 58
  14. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 332
  15. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 333–334
  16. ^ Barr (2005), p. 69
  17. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 295
  18. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 332–333
  19. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 331
  20. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 340
  21. ^ Barr (2005), p. 81
  22. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p.580
  23. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 340–341
  24. ^ Mackenzie (1951), pp.581–582
  25. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 341
  26. ^ a b c Mackenzie (1951), p. 582
  27. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 342–343
  28. ^ Barr (2005), p. 88
  29. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 343
  30. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 335
  31. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38177, p. 367, 1948-01-13. Retrieved 2009-03-13.
  32. ^ a b Mitcham (2007), p. 113
  33. ^ Walker.I, (2003), p.141
  34. ^ Barr (2005), p. 92
  35. ^ Clifford (1943), p.285
  36. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 79
  37. ^ Mackenzie (1951), p. 583
  38. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 345
  39. ^ a b c d Playfair Vol. III, p. 346
  40. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p.58
  41. ^ Caccio-Dominioni (1966), pp. 70-71
  42. ^ Bates (1992), pp.139-141
  43. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 205
  44. ^ Stewart (2002), p. 125
  45. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 65
  46. ^ Scoullar (1955), p. 220
  47. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 141-142
  48. ^ Caccio-Dominioni (1966), p. 74.
  49. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 67
  50. ^ Playfair Vol. III, pp. 346–347
  51. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 68
  52. ^ Bates (1992), p. 143
  53. ^ a b Barr (2005), p. 114
  54. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 70
  55. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 72
  56. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 73-76
  57. ^ Bates (1992), p. 145
  58. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 565-566
  59. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 78-80
  60. ^ a b Johnston (2003), p. 86
  61. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 81
  62. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), p. 66
  63. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 112-114
  64. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 347
  65. ^ Playfair Vol. III, p. 348
  66. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 349
  67. ^ a b c d Playfair Vol. III, p. 351
  68. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 350
  69. ^ Bharucha and Prasad (1956), p. 422
  70. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 143-146
  71. ^ Barr (2005), pp. 118-142
  72. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 232-298
  73. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 83-85
  74. ^ Maughan (1966), pp. 572-574
  75. ^ Stewart (2002), p. 130
  76. ^ "Australians at War: 2/32 Battalion". Australian War Memorial website. Australian War Memorial. http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11283.asp. Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  77. ^ Johnston (2000), p. 13
  78. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 575
  79. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 353
  80. ^ Maughan (1966), p. 577
  81. ^ Scoullar (1955), p.328 and p.337
  82. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 319-337
  83. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 338-351
  84. ^ Scoullar (1955), pp. 352-363
  85. ^ a b Playfair Vol. III, p. 355
  86. ^ a b c Playfair Vol. III, p. 356
  87. ^ a b c d e Playfair Vol. III, p. 357
  88. ^ Johnston and Stanley (2002), pp. 88-93 and p. 97
  89. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 208-211.
  90. ^ Johnston and Stanley(2002), pp. 93-96
  91. ^ Bates (1992), pp. 212-214.
  92. ^ Panzer Army Africa Battle Report dated 22 July 1942 K.T.B. 1220
  93. ^ a b c d e Playfair Vol. III, p. 358
  94. ^ Barr.N, p.176; Bates.P, p.216.
  95. ^ Bates.P, p.217.
  96. ^ Johnston.M and Stanley.P, pp.102-106; Bates.P, p.219.
  97. ^ Barr.N, pp.178-179 and 181-182
  98. ^ Barr.N, pp.179-181; Johnston.M and Stanley.P, pp.107-112; Bates.P, pp.224-225.
  99. ^ Liddell Hart (ed), 'The Rommel Papers' (London 1953), pp.261-262.
  100. ^ Gannon (2002), p. 81
  101. ^ Alanbrooke (2002), p.294
  102. ^ Clifford (1943), p.296
  103. ^ Alanbrooke Diaries, 4 August 1942 entry

References

External links

Coordinates: 30°50′N 28°57′E / 30.833°N 28.95°E / 30.833; 28.95


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