In August 1942, General … It was from here to the northern slope of the Ruweisat Ridge that the 1st South African
This was the victory of the British Eighth Army under command of General Bernard Montgomery. WD 358, File A6/ME 49: War Diary 1 st South African Brigade Headquarters. Auchinleck's one advantage was that Rommel's men were almost as exhausted by the fighting of the last few weeks, and were now at the far end of their supply line. The British position was soon untenable, and a retreat towards the next defensive position, at Fuka, was planned. Auchinleck realised that it was crucial to slow down the tempo of operations to win time and to allow the Eighth Army to build up strength for a counter-offensive (Playfair, 1960, p 333). In this capacity he lectures in military history to different courses in the SANDF, such as the Army Officers' Formative Courses, Junior Command and Staff Courses and the Senior Command and Staff Programme at the South African National War College. Thus, he could use forces from Iraq and Persia to enable the Eighth Army to conduct offensive operations. Prasad, B (ed), Official History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War, 1939-1945. An attempt to hold onto Tobruk failed. Furthermore, concentrated artillery fire improved the fire power of the defending British forces, while making the attackers' task more difficult. Also, if they could not hold on to their positions, the rest of the division would be enveloped from the south. However, the British were hampered by poor strategy and communications. Rommel's only chance of defeating the Eighth Army and capturing Alexandria and Cairo was to break through this thin defensive line and to destroy the British Armoured formations before they could recuperate. Campaigns in the Western Theatre (Bharucha, P C, The North African Campaign, 1940-1943 (London and Culcutta, 1956)). It was then Montgomery's turn to prepare for an offensive, but unlike his predeciessors he was able to convince Churchill of the need to wait until the Eighth Army was fully prepared, and the Second battle of El Alamein didn’t begin until 23 October 1942, a full month after the date Auchinleck had been removed for insisting on. The 7th Armoured Division was posted further to the east, around Qaret el Himeimat, near the start of the 'Barrel Track', one possible route for an advance on Cairo. British Army Weapons and Theories of War, 1904-1945 (London, 1982). On the British side Auchinleck decided to attack the Italians on the coast. Also, the guns of the 7th Field Regiment were damaged to the extent that, by last light, they could not participate further in the battle (WD 403, File A15/ME 63: War Diary, 1st Field Regiment, SA Artillery, 2 July 1942). This was of vital importance to the Allied war effort, as it enabled the British forces, in cooperation with their American allies, to drive the Axis forces from North Africa. On their right the 5th Indian Division (XXX Corps) was to attack the central part of the ridge, and aim at Point 64, close to a track that crossed the ridge. (Essame, 1976, p 36). When South African ex-servicemen annually commemorate the last named event, they refer to the battle conducted during October and November 1942. Both commanders ordered an offensive for 2 July. The 1st South African Brigade was posted on the northern slopes of the Ruweisat Ridge, due south of El Alamein. Armoured support came from the 22nd Armoured Brigade (1st Armoured Division), which was posted just to the south of Ruwesiat Ridge, and by the 4th Armoured Brigade (7th Armoured Division), which arrived just to the north of the 2nd South African Brigade on 1 July, just ahead of the Germans, after fighting a series of delaying actions further to the west. Having been driven east by Axis forces in 1942, the British had established a strong defensive line at El Alamein, Egypt. By this time, the sandstorm had cleared, making it easy for the South African and British artillery observers to direct fire onto them (WD 358, File A7/ME 52: War Diary, 3rd SA Brigade HQ, 1 July 1942). However, Auchinleck's attack pre-empted this action, forcing Rommel to rush his German forces to the north, where they launched several counterattacks against the Australians, preventing them from cutting his lines of communication, but failing to dislodge them from Tell el Eisa (Playfair, 1960, p 341). Rommel now finally admitted to himself that he wouldn't be able to conduct any more major offensives with the army currently at his disposal. No South Africans were killed on 1 July (Div Docs 105, File 1 SAD/A2/2: Battle Casualties, June-July 1942). (Playfair, 1960, p 341). By 1000 the South Africans, with eight Matilda IIs had captured Tell el Makh Khad, a height point just west of El Alamein, and the Australians with 32 Valentine tanks, had taken the east part of Tell el Eisa, a few miles further to the north-west. Quote Reply Topic: First, second and third Battle OF El Alamein Posted: 26 Jun 2013 at 15:48: First battle 1-27 July 1942-After victory at Battle of Gazala ,Rommel advance toward Egypt was checked by General Auchinleck. Hence the El Alamein Box would become a thorn in the side of Rommel as the South Africans constantly harassed them with patrols and artillery fire until the end of the battle (Agar-Hamilton and Turner, 1952, p 271). Unfortunately the 22nd Armoured Brigade didn’t set off when it was meant too, and when it did finally get going didn’t cooperate with the New Zealanders. Auchinleck reciprocated by focussing his attacks on these Italian units, knowing that they were not of the same calibre as their allies. The 'Desert Fox', Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. At about 1700 the 22nd Armoured Brigade did attack west, and managed to force 15 Panzer to retreat, but one hour later 21 Panzer overcame the last resistance at Deir el Shein. In the Box, the Royal Durban Light Infantry bore the brunt of the fighting. After the battle of Gazala, the British Eighth Army retreated to El Alamein line. Thirty miles inland was the Qattara Depression, a low lying area that is below sea level, and that is bordered by a steep escarpment. The main fighting occurred in the vicinity of the Ruweisat Ridge, involving the 1st British Armoured Division, but the South Africans did not escape unscathed. Thus, in total, the division had only between 3 000 and 4 000 men available. He prepared orders for a full scale attack on the southern front, to be carried out on the following day. Rommel, however, knew that he had by this point lost the chance for a quick dash to the Delta, and the high rates of attrition meant that he was reluctant to pursue further attacks. Three officers and fourteen other ranks were wounded, including the brigade commander, Brigadier J P A Furstenburg (Div Docs. II, 1 st SA Division, Tobruk to El Alamein. The reasons for this were that, only on 13 July did the German panzers attack them specifically, and Pienaar did everything in his power to prevent a repetition of Tobruk and Deir el Shein. Rommels attack started badly and it seemed as if his Afrika Korps would be wiped out. At first this gamble appeared to be failing, as Rommel's advance ran out of steam and he ended up apparently trapped on the wrong side of the Gazala Line, but the British failed to take advantage of a good chance to defeat him. Auchinleck's concentrated artillery fire was proving to be very effective. They had just arrived from Iraq and were placed in hastily prepared defensive positions. These attacks cost Rommel 24 tanks, six armoured cars, six 88mms and ten anti-tank guns. Having been badly defeated by Axis forces at Gazala in June 1942, the British Eighth Army retreated east into Egypt and assumed a defensive position near El Alamein. Gott's front line ran south/ south-west from the western end of Ruweisat Ridge. Div Docs, 88, File 1 Div/81/A2: Strengths, June to October 1942. The operation was a fiasco. Thus, everything depended on whether Rommel's forces could break through the El Alamein line and manoeuvre into a good position in the open terrain from there to the Nile Delta in order to destroy the British armoured formations before they were able to recuperate (Macksey, 1968, p 94). 7th Light Armoured Division was further south, watching the German 90th Light Division. Apart from wasting valuable time, their planning also left much to be desired. The Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October – 11 November 1942) was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein.The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.. By last light on 1 July, Rommel's forces had not progressed further east than Deir el Shein and the Eighth Army was still in control of the situation (Playfair, 1960, p 341). Early in the war, Italian crypto-analysts had broken the code used by the American military attache in Cairo, Colonel Bonner Fellers. Supplement to The London Gazette, 13 January 1948. Churchill's first idea was that Auchinleck should return to Cairo to concentrate on his role as C-in-C in the Middle East, while General Gott was given command of the Eighth Army. 21 Panzer made two attempts to advance east along the ridge, but on both occasions was stopped by 1st South African Brigade and Robcol. The advance would be supported by XIII Corps coming from the south. The Battle was actually composed of two battles. 90th Light Division would advance on the Korps left flank. Lieutenant-General Neil R… The El Alamein Box still constituted an important component of the British defensive line, but the operations from 14 to 23 July were conducted mainly in the vicinity of Ruweisat Ridge. Bernard Montgomery was born in London in 1887 and trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Colvocoressi, P and Wint, G, Total War. The minesweepers had been unable to create a gap for 2nd Armoured Brigade, coming from the east, in time, and as a result the Germans were able to defeat the New Zealanders by 0515 hours on 22 July. The German move was detected by 1st Armoured Division at around 1400hours. Connell, J, Auchinleck. Loading... Unsubscribe from Lego World War 2 Stop Motion? UWH 324, File 34374/3 Reports, Panzerarmee AfrikaCommander Southern Front, July 1942. On 26 May Rommel launched an attack on this line (battle of Gazala, 26 May-14 June 1942). This would give Auchinleck enough confidence to order a counterattack on the following day. A sandsto… The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought in Egypt between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) of the Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) (which included the Afrika Korps under Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin … (Source: P Young (ed), Atlas of the Second World War, p 47). Thus, the attackers had to withdraw westward to regroup and to try to find another way further to the south. In the days immediately before Rommel's first attack on the El Alamein position Allied troops were fed into the position from east and west. The area was generally very flat, and even some of the named ridges weren't major features (the Ruweisat Ridge, which featured heavily in the battle, was a low stony ridge, most notable as a viewpoint over the surrounding desert). XIII Corps would pull out of its southern positions and move them onto the Alam Nayil ridge, in order to concentrate his artillery more closely. Rommel attacked at Mersa Matruh late on 26 June. Until 25 June the British had been intending to defend the Mersa Matruh position, but on that day General Auchinleck, the commander-in-chief in the Middle East, decided to remove General Ritchie and take over command of the army in person. During the main attack on 10 July the South African occupation of Tell el Makh Khad protected the southern flank of the Australians and retarded Rommel's efforts during the next two days to dislodge them from Tell el Eisa. X Corps was sent against a X Corps box that Rommel believed to be at Deir el Abyad, to the west of Ruweisat Ridge. Based on this experience, Montgomery, Auchinleck's replacement as commander of the Eighth Army, could later find suitable solutions to defeat Rommel at El Alamein (Dorman O'Gowan, 1967, pp 1 072-5). Auchinleck backed up Norrie, but also gave him permission to replace the South Africans with Ackcol, part of the 50th Division. The Union of South Africa entered the Second World War on 6 September 1939. On 4 July Auchinleck planned a minor offensive, with XIII Corps to push north west of El Mreir (to the west of Ruweisat Ridge), while XXX Corps was to stop any further German advances, and push west if possible. He also believed that a British success in Egypt would have an impact on the attitude of the Vichy French officials in Algeria and Morocco. (Playfair, 1960, pp 347-57). The 69th British Infantry Brigade then had to move through the breach and breach the second minefield so that the British armour could exploit the breakthrough (WD 347, File A3/ME37: War Diary 1 SA Division HQ, Appendix, 30th Corps Operational Order No 68 of 26 July 1942, pp 1-2). In line with Auchinleck's battle design to use infantry in a more mobile role, only the 3rd Brigade was deployed inside the El Alamein Box, while the 2nd and 1st Brigades were deployed in a southerly direction towards the Ruweisat Ridge. Consequently, without realising it, Rommel let an opportunity slip through his fingers. Bidwell, S and Graham, D, Fire Power. There was some concern that the Russians wouldn't defend the Caucasus, as an advance in that area would take the Germans further away from Moscow, and the British began to consider the possibility that they would need to form an army to reinforce Persia. Rommel launched a counterattack, and by the late afternoon had recaptured Point 63. Once again Auchinleck insisted that he couldn't attack until mid-September, and this convinced Churchill that the time was right for change. Build up to Battle All they could offer in the short term were the Ramcke and Folgore parachute brigades, which had been preparing for the invasion of Malta (Operation Hercules). His counterattack began at noon, but was quickly stopped by artillery fire from the El Alamein position. The British forces in the Middle East had to defend on two fronts. He is currently writing two books that will be completed in 2005. The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought on the northern coast of Egypt between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) of the Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) (also known as the Africa Corps) commanded by Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) … The division was tasked to breach the first of two minefields of the Axis between the Miteiriya and Ruweisat ridges. Thus, Rommel's forces found time to recuperate and retain their positions, with heavy British losses. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group Fact File : First Battle of El Alamein. The fate of the New Zealanders was still unclear, and so work on clearing gaps in the minefield continued. On the other side, Rommel concentrated his German formations to break through at Bab el Quattara. The sacrifices were worth it, as Rommel's forces were again prevented from enveloping the El Alamein Box. The Italian XX Corps, to the south, had 50 tanks, but they were generally rather outdated. The South African field artillery also had only sixty 25-pounder guns available for the coming battle (Divisional Documents 88, File 1 Div 81/A2, Strengths; June-October 1942). British losses were already high, while Rommel had by then received some reinforcements (Liddell Hart, 1974, p 300). The division executed a very important function on 1 July, but their losses would have been higher without the action of the brave men of the 18th Indian Brigade at Deir el Shein. The British response was also affected by the sandstorm. Archival Sources: SANDF Documentation Services: Divisional Documents (Div Docs) 68, File 64: Operational Report, 1 st SA Division, El Alamein Defensive Battle, 29 June to 30 September 1942. He then went back and covered it up until the moment that Churchill sacked the commanders in Egypt … They did not have adequate anti-tank guns and the accuracy of the German artillery support cut the telephone cables of the South Africans, making field artillery support difficult. During the period 1977 to 1980, he served in various appointments in the operational areas of SWA and on the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia border. The rest of the Axis forces conducted fixing attacks against the rest of the Eighth Army. (Source: M Wright (ed), The World at Arms, Reader's Digest Illustrated History of World War II, p 90). On 11 July, Ramsden visited the divisional headquarters. War Diaries(WD) 343, File C28/33: War Diary 1st South African Division Administrative Headquarters. The 4th New Zealand Brigade had the hardest task, advancing north-west to Point 63. This would have been the right time to launch the XXX Corps attack in the north, but General Morshead, commander of the 9th Australian Division, objected to his role, on the grounds that his men were exhausted. The salient had been turned into more of a curve. He hinted that the South Africans had played far too passive a role in the battle and should be more directly involved in supporting the Australians. (Source: S Bidwell, Gunners at War.). He wanted at least a South African brigade to attack the Miteirya Ridge to the south. Pienaar and Ramsden had already been at loggerheads at Gazala in May because of Ramsden's callousness regarding human losses (Hartshorne, Cape Town, p 162). Young, P, Atlas of the Second World War (New York, 1974). He was a desert correspondent from 1940 and, by 1942, he was tiring. From 4 until 7 July, the Eighth Army conducted limited counter-attacks against Italian deployments and the South Africans had to despatch several patrols to determine their exact positions (WD 347, File A3/ME 37: War Diary, 1st SA Division HQ, 2 July 1942). Rommel threw everything at the Eighth Army during the next two days. It marked the beginning of the end for the Axis in North Africa. He cancelled the attack east, and moved north with his own HQ and a battle group from 15 Panzer. He didn't expect to face much opposition while crossing the Ruweisat Ridge area. On the British side XIII Corps was ordered to attack. First Battle of El Alamein (1st July 1942 – 27th July 1942) For five days, from the 1st July, Rommel attacked the British defensive position which held despite all his efforts. His tank forces had already arrived in the vicinity of El Alamein by 30 June, but he had too little information on the British forces and, believing the propaganda of the BBC on the strength of the El Alamein line, he decided to attack early on the following day (Liddell Hart, 1974, p 239). He claimed his right to consult with the Australian Government, and had to be won over by Auchinleck in person. The first stage in this plan came on the night of 7-8 July, when an Australian force raided the 15 Panzer position. What is less well known is that South African forces played a more important role in the so-called First Battle of El Alamein, 1-30 July 1942, a battle that could have cost the British Empire the war in North Africa. Rommel didn't know that the New Zealanders had abandoned the box some time earlier, and believed that this attack was a major success. Home » First Battle of El Alamein (1-27 July 1942) Articles. Thus, Auchinleck decided rather to withdraw to El Alamein, confirming a decision by the British General Staff that this would be the best position from which to defend Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez Canal (Auchinleck, January, 1948, p 328). Furthermore, the surrender at Tobruk had been a painful experience that nobody wanted to repeat. Without the help of the 1st British Armoured Division on Ruweisat Ridge and the British and Australian artillery, the South Africans would not, on their own, have been able to withstand the onslaught of the panzers on 13 July. He then turned south to eliminate the Bir Hacheim Box, at the southern end of the line, which was abandoned on the night of 10-11 June. In early August Brooke and Churchill met in Egypt. Once the British line here was broken, he would be free to advance towards Cairo, leaving the Eighth Army isolated on the coast. Ramsden sent the infantry into unknown territory, without studying air photographs of the terrain that were available to him (C L de W du Toit: Herinneringe, III, p 10). On the British side Auchinleck ordered part of the 10th Indian Division ('Robcol') to take over the 1st Armoured Division position, leaving the armour free to advance west along the southern side of Ruweisat Ridge. Thus, compared to the rest of the Eighth Army, the South African losses were relatively light. Mussolini has given explicit orders that Italy's forces were to reach the city first. Initially, the Eighth Army tried to defend Egypt in the vicinity of Mersa Matruh, but this town could easily be enveloped from the south. At the same time, British reinforcements were arriving at such a slow rate that a large-scale offensive before September was out of the question. Fortuna… During the battle, another blow would cripple the Axis. His fears proved to be well founded as, by late afternoon on 2 July, it had become clear that the position could no longer be held. The Fight Avails (London, 1954) . During the afternoon 2 Armoured Brigade attempted to pass through the gap, but ran into heavy enemy fire and had to retreat, having lost 21 tanks for no purpose. On 11 July the Australians took the western end of Tell el Eisa, and then raided towards Deir el Abyad, ten miles to the south. From a British perspective, the situation in North Africa did not look good by July 1942. Furthermore, although the British had 150 tanks left, most were no match for the German panzers and anti-tank gunners. The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942). 23rd Armoured Brigade was also available. In the Western Desert, the war encompassed Egypt and Italian Libya. The First Battle of El Alamein took place near railway depot near the Mediterranean Sea, between 1 and 27 July. Before the column had advanced one kilometre, three British tanks had become stuck in a minefield and were hit by anti-tank fire, while others experienced mechanical problems. The first Battle of El Alamein occurred between July 1-27, 1942. Next was the 7th Motorised Brigade. The German advance was stopped by 1st Armoured Division, although Ackcol was forced to abandon its position. Auchinleck's new position stretched south from the small railway halt of El Alamein, close to the Mediterranean coast. He joined the SADF in 1973 and served as an armour officer at 1 Special Service Battalion in Bloemfontein. of the 1st South African Division at El Alamein, Maj Gen D H Pienaar. The infantry attacks began at 2300 hours on 14 July, and at first all went well. In the first Battle of El Alamein, beginning July 1st, 1942, German General Erwin Rommel tried in vain to attack the Allied defensive positions with his Afrika Corps (and Italian allies), yielding tremendous losses to his army forces in turn. On the British side an armoured force was slowly being put together, and by the end of the day the 1st Armoured Division had 38 M3 Grant medium tanks, 61 M3 Stuart light tanks, 12 Valentine infantry tanks and 8 Crusader cruiser tanks. General Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was sent ahead to examine the situation and report to Churchill. At nightfall he was recovered by stretcher bearers and taken to an Advance Dressing Station where his wound was considered fatal and a grave was dug for him. From their position in the El Alamein Box and to the south of it the South Africans provided constant artillery support to the Australians. He would visit the Middle East twice on this trip, on the way out and on the way back. The Northern Front consisted of Palestine, Trans Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The field artillery of the 9th Australian Division, as well as the 7th British Medium Regiment in the Box, had to help halt the German advance (WD 347, File A3/ME 37: War Diary, 1st SA Division HQ, 2 July 1942). Brooke was offered the new post, but turned it down. This limited success encouraged Rommel to issue ambitious orders for the pursuit – 90th Light and the Italian XXI Corps were to mop up around El Alamein, while Ariete, Trieste and Littorio divisions dashed east towards Alexandria. Rommel's second onslaught against the El Alamein line, 2-3 July 1942. This led to a serious clash with the corps commander, Lieutenant General C W M Norrie. Too little time to prepare, movement over unknown terrain, and insufficient reconnaissance, doomed it from the start. Auchinleck would remain in charge of the area east of the Suez Canal, while a new Commander-in-Chief in the Near East would take over west of the Canal. Du Toit, C L de W, 'Die Herinneringe van Generaal Christiaan Lodolph De Wet Du Toit, Deel III' in Militaria, 10/4, 1980. The tactical headquarters of the Eighth Army was situated to the east of this position on the Alam el Haifa Ridge (Dorman O'Gowan, 1967, p 1 062). Auchinleck's next target was the western end of Ruweisat Ridge, which was now defended by the Italian Brescia and Pavia divisions. On 5 August Churchill visited the front, where he met with Gott, Auchinleck and the leaders of the Desert Air Force. The concept was that these two brigades would serve as the mobile component supporting the 3rd Brigade and the 18th Indian Brigade (Divisional Documents, 68, File 64: Operational Report, 1st SA Division, El Alamein Defensive Battle, 29 June - 30 September 1942, p 2). First Battle of El Alamein. 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