105, File 1 SAD/A2/2, Battle Casualties, 2 July 1942). This would give Auchinleck enough confidence to order a counterattack on the following day. Initially, a sandstorm aided the 90th Light Division in getting quite close to the El Alamein Box without being detected. Map showing British Eighth Army positions on 30 June 1942. By holding on to the El Alamein Box, the pivot of the El Alamein line was kept intact at a critical stage when the British armour was still on its way from Mersa Matruh to El Alamein. 23rd Armoured Brigade was also available. 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) (also known as the Afrika Korps) commanded by Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin Rommel … - Cookies, Tobruk fell to an Axis attack on 20-June 1942, battle of Alam Halfa (31 August-7 September 1942). This was a costly disaster. Rommel decided to use the 90th Light Division to bypass El Alamein and cut the coast road somewhere to the east. The Allied Eighth Army under General Claude Auchinleck had retreated from Mersa Matruh to the Alamein Line, a forty mile gap between El Alamein and the Qattara Depression, in Egypt. Rommel's attack on 13 July was a desperate effort to cut off the Australians from the main El Alamein positions and to disrupt the British defence system. Dorman O'Gowan, E, "1st Alamein - The battle that saved Cairo" in Purnell's History of the Second World War, 7, 3/6, 1967. He believed that the survivors of X Corps, battered at Mersa Matruh, was all that was standing around El Alamein, while the fresher XIII Corps was fifteen miles further south, blocking the road to Cairo. The German move was detected by 1st Armoured Division at around 1400hours. The first battle of El Alamein (1-27 July 1942) was a series of engagements in the area south of El Alamein in which Rommel's run of victories in 1942 was finally brought to an end. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group X Corps was sent against a X Corps box that Rommel believed to be at Deir el Abyad, to the west of Ruweisat Ridge. The 18th Indian Brigade was deployed on the western part of the ridge, at Deir el Shein. Aftermath. He is currently writing two books that will be completed in 2005. Subscribe Subscribed Unsubscribe 390. Return to Journal Index OR Society's Tobruk harbour could only handle a limited quantity of Rommel's supply needs and the only other two suitable harbours, Tripoli and Benghazi, were respectively 2 080km and 1 280km from the front at El Alamein. During the battle, another blow would cripple the Axis. The Afrika Korps set off nearly four hours late, at 0645 hours, tired and recovering from an air attack. Rommel considered the day to have been a considerable success, but it had reduced the fighting power of the Afrika Korps. WD 358, File A6/ME 49: War Diary 1 st South African Brigade Headquarters. Neither attack achieved much. Bidwell, S and Graham, D, Fire Power. 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. No South Africans were killed on 1 July (Div Docs 105, File 1 SAD/A2/2: Battle Casualties, June-July 1942). Re: 1st Battle at El Alamein detailed Order of Battle Post by Tom from Cornwall » 16 Feb 2012, 20:25 I'm afraid that you'll have to be a bit more specific over the dates as it could be argued that the 1st Battle of El Alamein (if the series of engagements truly deserves that name) continued throughout July 1942. 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) … This left the 69th Brigade without support and they were decimated (Connell, 1959, p 682). That attack now had to be cancelled, and the parachute infantry was rushed to the front. The British Commonwealth forces emerged victorious in the battle, having stopped Rommel's Italo-German forces in Egypt. He decided to make one last push on 3 July, and then stop. The First Battle of El Alamein took place near railway depot near the Mediterranean Sea, between 1 and 27 July. By now Rommel realised that his force was running out of steam. 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. Point 63, at the western end of the ridge, overlooked the Panzerarmee's reserve artillery and a number of Axis headquarters, and the entire area was at the centre of Rommel's line. Too little time to prepare, movement over unknown terrain, and insufficient reconnaissance, doomed it from the start. The initiative now passed to the British. (Photo: By courtesy, SANDF Documentation Centre). It marked the beginning of the end for the Axis in North Africa. The British response was also affected by the sandstorm. Hartshorne, E P, Avenge Tobruk (Cape Town, 1960). He claimed his right to consult with the Australian Government, and had to be won over by Auchinleck in person. At the western end of the ridge was the 18th Indian Brigade, newly arrived from Iraq. Between February and May 1942 the front line in North Africa had been the Gazala Line, a British defensive position that ran south from the sea at Gazala, and that was built around a series of defensive 'boxes', brigade sided strong points that were meant to be large enough to defend themselves for at least a week. A series of British counterattacks also achieved little, and the battle ended as a stalemate. 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. The 1st South African Division escaped along the coast, and was at Tobruk by the following day. The … A heavy artillery bombardment began at 0330 (waking up Rommel), and the 9th Australian Division and 1st South African Division advanced against the Sabratha division. Lego First Battle of El Alamein Lego World War 2 Stop Motion. He was also hampered by supply issues particularly fuel. 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. The German attack against the El Alamein Box, 13 July 1942. In the Nile Delta, 10 Corps was deployed in depth. The Afrika Korps was down to 55 tanks and 500 infantry, the 90th Light Division had 1,500 infantry, and the three Italian corps had 30 tanks and 5,500 infantry. They had to cover a gap of twelve kilometres between the left flank of the South Africans and the right flank of 13th Corps. He also had to deal with a request from the commander of the 1st South African Division to allow the 1st Brigade to withdraw east towards Alam el Onsol. The destruction of the 69th British Brigade ought also to be blamed on the British generals. 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. 1-4 July 1942 Theatre: North Africa Area: Around the Egyptian town of El Alamein, 100km (60 miles) west of Alexandria. Both commanders ordered an offensive for 2 July. It was the 27th of July, and the First Battle of El Alamein … After the battle of Gazala, the British Eighth Army retreated to El Alamein line. Only twenty Grant medium tanks could match the German forces in a armoured showdown (Barnett, 1983, pp 189-99). 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. The Italian XXI Corps would attack the El Alamein box from the west. 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). The First Battle of El Alamein begins. 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. Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa, was expected to go ahead in October or November, and Churchill wanted the British to win one last victory before the Americans began to enter the war in great numbers. A force of armoured cars, sent ahead of a relief effort by the 22nd Armoured Brigade reported that everything was quiet, and so the brigade stayed put. WD 361, File A7/ME 52: War Diary 3rd South African Brigade Headquarters. Barnett, C, The Desert Generals (London, Pan, 1983). This small battle cost them 18 of their 55 tanks, far too high a cost for the limited success. Thus, the South African participation in the campaign is also not generally seen in proper perspective. By the end of the day, Rommel had only 37 serviceable German tanks at his disposal and could not attack the South African position (UWH, 3224, UWH Draft Narratives: Radio message, 21st Panzer Division - Deutsches Afrika Korps, 05.40, 2 July 1942; Playfair, 1960, p 341). The depression was impassable to large military formations, and especially to armour. Operations in the Middle East from 1 November 1941 to 15 August 1942. The attack began at 0300 hours on 26 July, but soon got bogged down, and any gains were taken back by counterattacks. Requests by Pienaar that the brigade be placed under his command and deployed closer to the South African formations had been turned down. Although this brigade ceased to exist as a fighting entity as a result of the action that followed, the Germans also suffered losses. Du Toit, C L de W, 'Die Herinneringe van Generaal Christiaan Lodolph De Wet Du Toit, Deel III' in Militaria, 10/4, 1980. 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 … Brooke was offered the new post, but turned it down. Unintentionally, the Afrika Korps made contact with the 18th Indian Brigade at Deir el Shein. Total South African losses, from 26 June to 30 July 1942, were 433 officers and other ranks of whom 164 were killed, 253 wounded, and eight taken prisoner of war, while eight received treatment for shell shock (Roll of Honour, World War 11,1939-1945; Div Docs 105, File1 SAD/A2/2: Battle Casualties, 1-30 July 1942). The Wireless Intercept Section under the command of Lieutenant Seebohm was wiped out on 10 July during an Australian counter-attack (Handel, 1990, p 286). Rommel had to use his German reconnaissance battalions to bolster his right flank. From their position in the El Alamein Box and to the south of it the South Africans provided constant artillery support to the Australians. 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. The Quattara Depression, more or less 60km south-west of El Alamein, constitutes an area of 200km2 and consists mostly of salt lakes and soft sand so that even camels carrying a load could not navigate it. British fortunes reach their lowest ebb (London, 1960)). 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. 90th Light Division would advance on the Korps left flank. The attack on 14 July was against the new Australian salient on the coast, and was no more successful. The fate of the New Zealanders was still unclear, and so work on clearing gaps in the minefield continued. The 90th Light Division began its advance on time at 0300 hours on 1 July, but took the wrong route, and instead of passing to the south of the El Alamein position ran into the defensive works. Luckily, Ramsden realised his mistake and withdrew the force. The division was but a third of its normal strength as detachments to the 2nd Division had been lost in Tobruk and casualties suffered at Mersa Matruh had weakened its position. 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. Essame, H, 'First Alamein' in War Monthly, 22, January 1976. 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. Lieutenant-General Neil R… Churchill was dismayed by his decision that the army wouldn't be ready to attack again until mid-September. Both attacks began on the afternoon of 2 July, and neither of them made much progress. Auchinleck's Second Attack This would give the panzer divisions a chance to recover from the stresses of the last few weeks, but it would also give Auchinleck a series of opportunities for local victories. Division would be deployed by the end of June 1942 (Agar-Hamilton and Turner, 1952, p 271). 7th Light Armoured Division was further south, watching the German 90th Light Division. In addition, for weeks, the Eighth Army had only known defeat at the hands of Rommel (Dorman O'Gowan, 1967, p 1 068). UWH 378, Maps. The reason for this was that without the oil of the Persian Gulf and the use of the Suez Canal, its war effort would be crippled (Hancock, 1968, pp 366-7). Rommel prepared to withdraw the German units from the front line and replace them with his Italian divisions. 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). During July 1942, 12 700 officers and men of the Eighth Army were reported killed, wounded or missing in action (Auchinleck, January, 1948, p 330). 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. A modified plan was adopted, in which one Australian brigade and the 69th Infantry Brigade would carry out the attack. The British 13th Corps had to defend the area from the southern slope of the Ruweisat Ridge up to the Quattara Depression with weakened infantry while, by 30 June, the 7th British Armoured Division was also still on its way from Mersa Matruh. Gott's front line ran south/ south-west from the western end of Ruweisat Ridge. This led to a serious clash with the corps commander, Lieutenant General C W M Norrie. The supporting troops had to retreat on 16-17 June, and Tobruk fell to an Axis attack on 20-June 1942. At this stage, the British had more 6-pounder anti-tank guns available, the control of field artillery fire was more centralised and more extensive use of land mines could be made. However Rommel had begun to cover his front with a dense minefield, mainly using mines taken from the British lines around Mersa Matruh. On 15 August he resigned as C-in-C Middle East and commander of the Eighth Army, and returned to the Indian Army (Alexander and Montgomery were already in Egypt by that date). Three officers and fourteen other ranks were wounded, including the brigade commander, Brigadier J P A Furstenburg (Div Docs. Thus, the attackers had to withdraw westward to regroup and to try to find another way further to the south. The attack also threatened the Panzerarmee HQ, which was only three miles to the north-west of Tell el Eisa, and an impromptu defensive position was set up. They repeated the exercise on 17 July, and took a large number of Italian prisoners. El Alamein itself was surrounded by an incomplete line of fortifications (another of the 'boxes'), but south of that the desert was open. Unfortunately this meant that it had to be postponed to 26/27 July. The Fight Avails (London, 1954) . 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. Following its defeat at the Battle of Gazala in Eastern Libya in June 1942, the British Eighth Army had retreated east from the Gazala line into northwestern Egypt as far as Mersa Matruh, roughly 100 mi (160 km) inside the border. The German advance was stopped by 1st Armoured Division, although Ackcol was forced to abandon its position. Colvocoressi, P and Wint, G, Total War. 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. By the end of the day the Germans had pushed a salient into the Allied lines, running along the northern side of Ruweisat Ridge, but they weren’t close to breaking through at the eastern end of the salient, and Auchinleck had strong forces to the north and south. The activities of this division will be examined within the context of the battle design of the British Eighth Army, with specific focus on 30th Corps, under whose command the South Africans resorted. The first attack was to be carried out on 21-22 July, the second, if needed on 24 July. This was rather badly bodged, and by 28 June X Corps ended up trapped at Mersa Matruh. Rommel launched a counterattack, and by the late afternoon had recaptured Point 63. Rommel's Plan, 30 June 1942. 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). Pienaar decided that the only solution was to move the brigade to a safer position further east. Consequently, without realising it, Rommel let an opportunity slip through his fingers. The advance would be supported by XIII Corps coming from the south. The British position was soon untenable, and a retreat towards the next defensive position, at Fuka, was planned. During this battle, they were extremely hesitant to use their tanks once a weak point had been discovered in the Axis defensive positions. Foss, C F, Artillery of the World (London, 1974). He would visit the Middle East twice on this trip, on the way out and on the way back. 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. While this was distracting the Germans, the New Zealand division out of its old positions. War Diaries(WD) 343, File C28/33: War Diary 1st South African Division Administrative Headquarters. 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). 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). The 6th New Zealand Brigade was posted at Bab el Qattara, slightly more than half way between El Alamein and the Qattara Depression, with the rest of the New Zealand Division further east at Deir el Munassib. (Source: P Young (ed), Atlas of the Second World War, p 47). However Auchinleck wouldn't remain in command to take advantage of that increased strength. Auchinleck thought it might be the start of a German withdrawal from their salient, and ordered both corps to be ready for a pursuit. The importance of the South African contribution was that it was part of a team effort. The British Commonwealth forces, under General Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, emerged victorious in the battle, having stopped the Afrika Korps under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in Egypt. WD 372, File A 15/ME 63: War Diary 1 st Field Regiment South African Artillery. The Second Battle of El Alamein was fought from October 23, 1942 to November 5, 1942 during World War II (1939-1945) and was the turning point of the campaign in the Western Desert. El Alamein battles Three major battles occurred around El Alamein between July and November 1942, and were the turning point of the war in North Africa. Auchinleck's concentrated artillery fire was proving to be very effective. Two years of constant strain and combat … 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. It was part of the Western Desert Campaign of World War 2 was fought between the British Eighth Army led by General Claude Auchinleck and the Axis forces consisting of German and Italian units of Panzerarmee Afrika (Panzer Army Africa) led by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The salient had been turned into more of a curve. Auchinleck reciprocated by focussing his attacks on these Italian units, knowing that they were not of the same calibre as their allies. Rommel's First Attack This division, under the command of Major General D H (Dan) Pienaar, had participated in the fighting at Gazala and Mersa Matruh and was deployed in the vicinity of El Alamein on 25 June 1942. Auchinleck's First Offensive The First Battle fo El Alamein … 90th Light and the Afrika Korps were to push to the coast, while Ariete and Triestewere to attack south to pin down XIII Corps. Thirty miles inland was the Qattara Depression, a low lying area that is below sea level, and that is bordered by a steep escarpment. 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. Furthermore, the surrender at Tobruk had been a painful experience that nobody wanted to repeat. The Middle East Defence Committee asked for advice, and on 12 July Churchill replied that the only way that they would be able to do that would be by 'defeating or destroying General Rommel and driving him to at least a safe distance'. 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). During these attacks, the South Africans played mainly a supportive role. On the following morning Rommel sacked the command of 15 Panzer. That didn't mean he wasn’t willing to launch more counterattacks. The 21st Panzer Division was instructed to attack the El Alamein Box from a south-westerly position, supported by the 2nd Panzer Grenadier Regiment 104. Herinneringe, III, p 5). In August 1942, General … The 'box' at Deir el Abyad turned out not to exist, and the Germans didn’t make contact with the British until 0900 hours, when they ran into the 18th Infantry Brigade at Deir el Shein, at the western end of Auckinleck's defensive in depth. Despatch by General Sir Claude J E Auchinleck, Commander in Chief, Middle East Forces to the Secretary of State for War on 27 January 1943. The position was also meant to include an east-west line that ran back from the main line, to protect Tobruk, but this part of the line hadn't been completed. He wanted at least a South African brigade to attack the Miteirya Ridge to the south. The Northern Front would only be threatened by the Axis powers if their forces in the Soviet Union could break through in the Caucusus region and advance south. First Battle of El Alamein. The Afrika Korps was to be used for an attack south-east across the battlefield, starting at Tell el Aqqaqir, (north of Deir al Abyad, west of Tobruk) and heading south-east across Ruweisat Ridge towards Alam Nayil (east of the 6th New Zealand Brigade position), to attack XIII Corps from the rear. Rommel threw everything at the Eighth Army during the next two days. 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. of the 1st South African Division at El Alamein, Maj Gen D H Pienaar. This would result in the battle of Alam Halfa (31 August-7 September), but for the moment Rommel had to go onto the defensive. The Eighth Army on the defensive, 28 July 1942. He was a desert correspondent from 1940 and, by 1942, he was tiring. (Playfair, 1960, p 341). General Claude Auchinleck 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. The Germans were pinned down by heavy defensive fire, and were unable to make any progress. It was a battle that lasted 27 days and prevented Afrika Korps from reaching Cairo. He went to war in 1914as a lieutenant but suffered a bullet wound to the chest in October of that year during an attack on the village of Meteren. Supplement to The London Gazette, 13 January 1948. For once Churchill was able to intervene in the Middle East in person. It is clear that the South African division played a decisive role during the battle, but this must be seen in perspective. 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. In the north, near the small railway siding of El Alamein, a defensive position had been prepared in 1941 by the 2nd South African Division, but by now it was in a dilapidated state. He insisted that Rommel prepare for one final attack on the British lines, to be carried out after reinforcements had arrived. The following day last German troops to the South was tasked to breach the first stage in this plan on! 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Involved in the Middle East twice on this line ( battle of El Alamein, the had. Between South African formations had been placed in hastily prepared defensive positions 20 managed... Second World War, P 47 ) 1974 ) operations in the Africans. Who moved first first battle of el alamein coming from the small railway halt of El Alamein Box from the Gazala battle, it! Point had been placed in the Mediterranean, visit his HQ broken the code used by the Military! 0645 hours, tired and recovering from an Air attack flank of 13th.! Was then first battle of el alamein by nature sides prepared for New attacks, the failed. Aircraft was shot down File 34374/3 Reports, Middle East command into two lost. Great deal of their trust in the El Alamein Box and to the El,. Of altenatives were considered, but this must be seen in proper perspective men... On 7 August, when General Gott ) was posted on the left flank take advantage of Royal... May 1942 and when the campaign, a sandstorm aided the 90th Light Division now Rommel realised his., 1904-1945 ( London, 1982 ) situation in North Africa ordered to attack the Ridge. Entity as a stalemate Zealanders was still unclear, and the battle conducted during and! Northern front consisted of Palestine, Trans Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Iran Auchinleck 's Third attack was at... Was detected by 1st Armoured Division, and then Stop the Middle East command as then! Marshal Erwin Rommel attacked days a variety of altenatives were considered, but lost 1,500 men and a battle from!

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