el almein

November 5th, 2005  

Topic: el almein

iam doing a project on the british {english} foot soilder's part in this battle and all i can find out is that the aussies and new zealanders did all the fighting and the british supplied the tanks is this true or false
November 5th, 2005  
sorry i ment el almein no al elmein
November 5th, 2005  
Here's just some general information on the Battle of El Alamein.....


At 9.40pm on 23 October 1942 the largest artillery barrage ever seen in the desert war began. Over 800 artillery pieces opened fire. The whole of the Alamein line was set alight by a thunderous fire. The Afrika Korp and Italian divisions could only cower in their foxholes and endure this deliverance from hell. The Allied offensive on the Alamein line had begun.
The battle raged for thirteen days and can be broken down into three distinct phases as described by General Montgomery: the 'Break-in', the 'Dog Fight' and the 'Break-out and Pursuit'.
The day preceeding the battle had been no different to usual. Sporadic shelling had taken place, troop and transport movement had been normal. In other words there was nothing to indicate to the enemy that the attack would commence tonight.
The first phase lasted from 23-25 October and saw the Eighth Army launch a diversionary attack with 13th Corps in the south while the main Allied attack would be launched simultaneously in the north. The New Zealand Division's attack (in the north) was carried out under a full moon. Sapper units detonated explosives in the enemy wire and placed coloured electric lights to indicate the cleared paths. Heavy resistance was met in the form of mortar and machine gun fire however the tasks were accompished and the following infantry moved forward towards their initial objectives on Miteiriya Ridge. The ridge was taken by 7am the following morning while fighting still raged around strongpoints of heavily armed infantry and snipers. These had to eliminated one by one by means of the bayonet.
Although good progress had been made across the entire front, the most optimistic hopes had not been fulfilled. Numerous minefields had been found which could not be cleared until nightfall. Infantry penetrations had not driven far enough to completely pierce the enemy's deep defensive systems. The expected Axis counter-attacks came the day after the offensive in an attempt to regain lost ground. Attacks on the right of the New Zealand sector by panzers and infantry were turned back by artillery and supporting tank fire.
The diversionary tactics of the offensive had been successful. The 21st Panzer Division had been tied up in the southern sector with the attack by 13th Corps and the 90th Light Division was occupied with preparations on the coast for an expected seaborne landing which was never intended.
Over the next ten days the second phase of the battle, the 'Dog Fight' raged across the whole front. The Eighth Army made positional improvements and extended a deep wedge in the Axis lines. On the night of the 26th after the failure of his initial counter-attacks, Rommel re-grouped the 21st and 15th Panzer Divisions in preparation for a major counter-attack however the Allied Air Force now had dominance of the skies and so destroyed this attempt from the air.
The main Allied progress during this period was made on the coastal sector where the 9th Australian Division advanced with a series of skillful advances. These strong attacks lead Rommel to belive that the main thrust of the offensive was being made along the northern coastal road, so he moved his reserves to contain this threat. The Allies took advantage of this move and with a regrouped 10th Corps which included the New Zealand Division, embarked on plans for a major assault on the night of 1st November. The intention was to penetrate into the area below the Australian sector and then out into the open desert beyond the enemy's defences, thus dividing him in two. This plan was similar to the original 23 October attack but included even heavier artllery support. The assault itself was to be carried out by the 151st (Tyneside) brigade from the 50th British Division and the 152nd Highland Division while the New Zealand Division's Maori Batallion was to clear an enemy position on the flank. The remainder of the division was to hold the line while the assault was taking place.
At one o'clock on the morning of the 2nd November another tremendous artillery barrage opened up. This signalled the beginning of the third phase of the battle, the 'Break-out and Pursuit'. One hundred and fifty thousand rounds were fired on a 400 yard front over the next four and a half hours. This awesome event produced a great red glow in the sky. The first objectives were taken around 4am. Two hours later the final objectives had fallen and were being consolidated. The Maori Batallion had cleared the enemy flank positions with brutal bayonet charges and linked up with the Australians. The battlefield was shrouded with great clouds of dust that had been churned up by hundreds of vehicles moving at pace and the air was full of the acrid smell of cordite smoke. Just before dawn the three armoured regiments of the 9th Armoured Brigade passed through to carry on the attack. In spite of a strong anti-tank screen which inflicted crippling tank losses the enemy defensive line was decisively broken. A panzer counter-attack was launched in the afternoon but was met by the 1st and 10th British Armoured Divisions and repelled with heavy losses. At the end of the day approximately 50 Axis tanks and ten 88mm anti-tank guns had been destroyed. An armoured car regiment, the Royal Dragoons had even broken through the enemy lines and was now operating in the rear, cutting telephone wires and destrying supply dumps. The 10th Corps was victorious.
Throughout the night of the 2nd November and the morning of the 3rd the battle continued along the whole front, however the enemy resistance were crumbling and Rommel's forces were now beginning to retreat as fast as they could. The Allied divisions advanced their lines further and early on the 4th November they began the chase. Reconnaissance aircraft reported enemy traffic was nose to tail along the coastal road, all of it heading west. This desperate retreat provided good taget practice for the desert airforce and all efforts were made to inflict as much damage as possible.
The Battle of El Alamein had resulted in a resounding victory for the Allied forces. The Afrika Korps had sustained serious damage in both manpower and precious equipment but had managed to escape with a small force. The Italian divisions had been decimated. Thousands were captured or had capitulated.
Never again would Rommel threaten Libya or Egypt.


The Battle of El Alamein, fought in the deserts of North Africa, is seen as one of the decisive victories of World War Two. The Battle of El Alamein was primarily fought between two of the outstanding commanders of World War Two, Montgomery, who succeeded the dismissed Auchinleck, and Rommel. The Allied victory at El Alamein lead to the retreat of the Afrika Korps and the German surrender in North Africa in May 1943. El Alamein is 150 miles west of Cairo. By the summer of 1942, the Allies were in trouble throughout Europe. The attack on Russia - Operation Barbarossa - had pushed the Russians back; U-boats were having a major effect on Britain in the Battle of the Atlantic and western Europe seemed to be fully in the control of the Germans.

Hence the war in the desert of North Africa was pivotal. If the Afrika Korps got to the Suez Canal, the ability of the Allies to supply themselves would be severely dented. The only alternate supply route would be via South Africa - which was not only longer but a lot more dangerous due to the vagaries of the weather. The psychological blow of losing the Suez and losing in North Africa would have been incalculable - especially as this would have given Germany near enough free access to the oil in the Middle East.

El Alamein was a last stand for the Allies in North Africa. To the north of this apparently unremarkable town was the Mediterranean Sea and to the south was the Qattara Depression. El Alamein was a bottleneck that ensures that Rommel could not use his favoured form of attack - sweeping into the enemy from the rear. Rommel was a well respected general in the ranks of the Allies. The Allied commander at the time, Claude Auchinleck - did not command the same respect among his own men. Auchinleck had to send a memo to all his senior officers that ordered them to do all in their power to correct this:

"…(you must) dispel by all possible means the idea that Rommel represents anything other than the ordinary German general……….PS, I’m not jealous of Rommel."

In August 1942, Winston Churchill was desperate for a victory as he believed that morale was being sapped in Britain. Churchill, despite his status, faced the prospect of a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons if there was no forthcoming victory anywhere. Churchill grasped the bull by the horns./ he dismissed Auchinleck and replaced him with Bernard Montgomery. The men in the Allied forces respected ‘Monty’. He was described as "as quick as a ferret and about as likeable." Montgomery put a great deal of emphasis on organisation and morale. He spoke to his troops and attempted to restore confidence in them. But above all else, he knew that he needed to hold El Alamein anyway possible.

Rommel planned to hit the Allies in the south. Montgomery guessed that this would be the move of Rommel as Rommel had done it before. However, he was also helped by the people who worked at Bletchley Park who had got hold of Rommel’s battle plan and had deciphered it. Therefore ‘Monty’ knew not only Rommel’s plan but also the route of his supply lines. By August 1942, only 33% of what Rommel needed was getting through to him. Rommel was also acutely aware that while he was being starved of supplies, the Allies were getting vast amounts through as they still controlled the Suez and were predominant in the Mediterranean. To resolve what could only become a more difficult situation, Rommel decided to attack quickly even if he was not well-equipped.

By the end of August 1942, Montgomery was ready himself. He knew that Rommel was very short of fuel and that the Germans could not sustain a long campaign. When Rommel attacked, Montgomery was asleep. When he was woken from his sleep to be told the news, it is said that he replied "excellent, excellent" and went back to sleep again.

The Allies had placed a huge number of land mines south of El Alamein at Alam Halfa. German Panzer tanks were severely hit by these and the rest were held up and became sitting targets for Allied fighter planes that could easily pick off tank after tank. Rommel’s attack started badly and it seemed as if his Afrika Korps would be wiped out. He ordered his tanks north and he was then helped by nature. A sandstorm blew up which gave his tanks much needed cover from marauding British fighters. However, once the sandstorm cleared, Rommel’s force was hit by Allied bombers that pounded the area where the Afrika Corps had their tanks. Rommel had no choice but to retreat. He fully expected Montgomery’s Eighth Army to follow him as this was standard military procedure. However, ‘Monty’ failed to do this. He was not ready for an offensive and he ordered his men to stay put while they held a decisive defensive line.

In fact, Montgomery was waiting for the arrival of something that soldiers in the desert were only allowed to refer to as ‘swallows’. In fact, they were Sherman tanks - 300 of them to assist the Allies. Their 75 mm gun shot a 6lb shell that could penetrate a Panzer at 2000 metres. The 300 ‘Monty’ had were invaluable.

To cope with Montgomery’s attack, the Germans had 110,000 men and 500 tanks. A number of these tanks were poor Italian tanks and could not match the new Sherman’s. The Germans were also short of fuel. The Allies had more than 200,000 men and more than 1000 tanks. They were also armed with a six-pound artillery gun which was highly effective up to 1500 metres. Between the two armies was the ‘Devil’s Garden’. This was a mine field laid by the Germans which was 5 miles wide and littered with a huge number of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. Going through such a defence would prove to be a nightmare for the Allies.

To throw Rommel off the scent, Montgomery launched ‘Operation Bertram’. This plan was to convince Rommel that the full-might of the Eighth Army would be used in the south. Dummy tanks were erected in the region. A dummy pipeline was also built - slowly, so as to convince Rommel that the Allies were in no hurry to attack the Afrika Korps. ‘Monty’s army in the north also had to ‘disappear’. Tanks were covered so as to appear as non-threatening lorries. Bertram worked as Rommel became convinced that the attack would be in the south.

At the start of the real attack, Montgomery sent a message to all the men in the Eighth Army:

"Everyone must be imbued with the desire kill Germans, even the padres - one for weekdays and two on Sundays."

The start of the Allied attack on Rommel was code-named "Operation Lightfoot". There was a reason for this. A diversionary attack in the south was meant to take in 50% of Rommel’s forces. The main attack in the north was to last - according to Montgomery - just one night. The infantry had to attack first. Many of the anti-tank mines would not be tripped by soldiers running over them - they were too light (hence the code-name). As the infantry attacked, engineers had to clear a path for the tanks coming up in the rear. Each stretch of land cleared of mines was to be 24 feet - just enough to get a tank through in single file. The engineers had to clear a five mile section through the ‘Devil’s Garden’. It was an awesome task and one that essentially failed. ‘Monty’ had a simple message for his troops on the eve of the battle:

"All that is necessary is that each and every officer and men should enter this battle with the determination to see it through, to fight and kill, and finally to win. If we do this, there can be only one result - together, we will hit the enemy for six out of Africa."

The attack on Rommel’s lines started with over 800 artillery guns firing at the German lines. Legend has it that the noise was so great that the ears of the gunners bled. As the shells pounded the German lines, the infantry attacked. The engineers set about clearing mines. Their task was very dangerous as one mine was inter-connected with others via wires and if one mines was set off, many others could be. The stretch of cleared land for the tanks proved to be Montgomery’s Achilles heel. Just one non-moving tank could hold up all the tanks that were behind it. The ensuing traffic jams made the tanks easy targets for the German gunners using the feared 88 artillery gun. The plan to get the tanks through in one night failed. The infantry had also not got as far as Montgomery had planned. They had to dig in.

The second night of the attack was also unsuccessful. ‘Monty’ blamed his chief of tanks, Lumsden. He was given a simple ultimatum - move forward - or be replaced by someone more energetic. But the rate of attrition of the Allied forces was taking its toll. Operation Lightfoot was called off and Montgomery, not Lumsden, withdrew his tanks. When he received the news, Churchill was furious as he believed that Montgomery was letting victory go.

However, Rommel and the Afrika Korps had also been suffering. He only had 300 tanks left to the Allies 900+. ‘Monty’ next planned to make a move to the Mediterranean. Australian units attacked the Germans by the Mediterranean and Rommel had to move his tanks north to cover this. The Australians took many casualties but their attack was to change the course of the battle.

Rommel became convinced that the main thrust of Montgomery’s attack would be near the Mediterranean and he moved a large amount of his Afrika Korps there. The Australians fought with ferocity - even Rommel commented on the "rivers of blood" in the region. However, the Australians had given Montgomery room to manoeuvre.

He launched ‘Operation Supercharge’. This was a British and New Zealander infantry attack made south of where the Australians were fighting. Rommel was taken by surprise. 123 tanks of the 9th Armoured Brigade attacked the German lines. But a sandstorm once again saved Rommel. Many of the tanks got lost and they were easy for the German 88 gunners to pick off. 75% of the 9th Brigade was lost. But the overwhelming number of Allied tanks meant that more arrived to help out and it was these tanks that tipped the balance. Rommel put tank against tank - but his men were hopelessly outnumbered.

By November 2nd 1942, Rommel knew that he was beaten. Hitler ordered the Afrika Korps to fight to the last but Rommel refused to carry out this order. On November 4th, Rommel started his retreat. 25,000 Germans and Italians had been killed or wounded in the battle and 13,000 Allied troops in the Eighth Army.
November 5th, 2005  
It should be remembered that this battle lasted for two weeks. Monty had to switch his attack from one end of the line to other, the Germans fought bravely to hold the line and even the Italians held there section of line for a long time until they were over run. They had been re-equipped with 88 mm guns and used then until the tanks literally ran over them. This battle was the first major battle that the British & Commonwealth troops had won, and much of this was due to the tanks and other equipment we had purchased from America
November 6th, 2005  
what about the taking of Tobruk???
It was a much needed victory and the Aussies & Brits held it and gave Rommel a bloody nose while they re organised/re cuperated.
November 6th, 2005  
Tobruk....The first defence of Tobruk was a fine feat of Arms and much of the credit should be given to the Australian Infantry that did such a great job fighting there. Rommel did by pass Tobruk why he charged head long towards Egypt. After Tobruk was relived along with Australian troops the next lot of troops put most of their defences facing west and Rommel just swept around them and into Torbruk
November 6th, 2005  
Isnt that true that Aussies and Kiwis held Tobruk for weeks while RAF was bombing the Nazi's supply lines?!
November 6th, 2005  

Topic: Re: el almein

Originally Posted by knight01
iam doing a project on the british {english} foot soilder's part in this battle and all i can find out is that the aussies and new zealanders did all the fighting and the british supplied the tanks is this true or false
Troops from Britain made up over 60% of the infantry, as well as all of the armoured units.
November 7th, 2005  
Yeah, I know for a fact the Brits had more Infantry on the ground then the ANZACs. After all Australia only had the two divisions in North Africa at the time, and I think New Zealand had the same.
Im not sure why there isn't any info on the British Infantry at El Alimein. You may want to search 8th Armys History, find the Brit Infantry Divisions, and search their histories.
November 23rd, 2005  
Yeah, I know for a fact the Brits had more Infantry on the ground then the ANZACs. After all Australia only had the two divisions in North Africa at the time, and I think New Zealand had the same.
Im not sure why there isn't any info on the British Infantry at El Alimein. You may want to search 8th Armys History, find the Brit Infantry Divisions, and search their histories.
It's cos everyone loves an Aussie

We are never known for our numbers, we are known for what we achieve when we are outnumbered and outgunned.