The Eighth Army evacuated the Gazala line west of Tobruk on 14 June and on 21 June disaster struck when the garrison of Tobruk surrendered and 33 000 men, mostly South Africans of the 2nd South African Division, went into captivity. Eventually the Eighth Army would be able to fortify the entire gap, but that wasn't the case in July 1942. At the western end of the ridge was the 18th Indian Brigade, newly arrived from Iraq. Cancel Unsubscribe. (Source: P Young (ed) Atlas of the Second World War, p 47). The New Zealanders managed to fight their way to El Mreir, but this only meant that they were isolated on the Axis side of the minefields. Auchinleck's Second Attack The 1st South African Division escaped along the coast, and was at Tobruk by the following day. The fate of the New Zealanders was still unclear, and so work on clearing gaps in the minefield continued. WD 358, File A6/ME 49: War Diary 1 st South African Brigade 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). British fortunes reach their lowest ebb (London, 1960)). Thus, Rommel's forces found time to recuperate and retain their positions, with heavy British losses. Furthermore, although the British had 150 tanks left, most were no match for the German panzers and anti-tank gunners. On the same day the Australians attacked towards Miteiriya, on the southern side of their salient on the coast, and once again defeated part of the Sabratha division, before withdrawing to their original positions. Auchinleck struck first. By this time the newly arrived Folgore division had been placed in the line, and Rommel was able to shift his men around. Hancock, W K, Smuts, Volume II, The Fields of Force, 1919-1950 (Cambridge, 1968). (Source: S Bidwell, Gunners at War.). Furthermore, concentrated artillery fire improved the fire power of the defending British forces, while making the attackers' task more difficult. 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. 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. Apart from the situation of the Axis forces, British reinforcements arrived at a steady pace and the British war cabinet assured Auchinleck that it would be a long time before the German forces in Russia would be able to reach the Middle East through the Caucasus. The South Africans were more directly involved in the last operation of the battle, Operation 'Manhood'. Auchinleck realised this and he restructured the control of firepower in the Eighth Army. UWH 224, Draft Narratives: Radio Message, 21st Panzer Division - Deutsches Afrika Korps, 05.40, 2 July 1942. 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. 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. In attempting this, Rommel was losing tanks fast. Brooke was offered the new post, but turned it down. By now Rommel realised that his force was running out of steam. The rest of the Axis forces conducted fixing attacks against the rest of the Eighth Army. His counterattack began at noon, but was quickly stopped by artillery fire from the El Alamein position. An attempt to hold onto Tobruk failed. That didn't mean he wasn’t willing to launch more counterattacks. The loss of the El Alamein Box would have ruptured the El Alamein line, cut off the Australians from the rest of the Eighth Army and probably forced a general retreat to the Nile Delta. The defensive position was divided into three corps areas with 30th Corps near the coast and 13th Corps in the south. However, Rommel's forces had also been weakened by the continuous fighting since the start of the offensive at Gazala on 26 May. 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. 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. 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). He didn’t really want to go back in May 1942 and when the campaign began he was in India. XXX Corps would carry out this attack, with the support of the newly arrived 9th Australian Division. The German summer offensive of 1942 was now well under way, and they were getting dangerously close to the Caucasus, from where they could potentially strike into Persia and seize the vital oilfields. 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. 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. 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. The brigade began the attack with 104 tanks. 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. Butler, J R M (ed), History of the Second World War, UK Military Series (Playfair, ISO (et al), The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume III, September 1941-September 1942. Auchinleck's new position stretched south from the small railway halt of El Alamein, close to the Mediterranean coast. Thus, the South African participation in the campaign is also not generally seen in proper perspective. The destruction of the 69th British Brigade ought also to be blamed on the British generals. The actions in the first campaign forced an end to the fighting by July 22nd. The Afrika Korps set off nearly four hours late, at 0645 hours, tired and recovering from an air attack. Rommel prepared to withdraw the German units from the front line and replace them with his Italian divisions. UWH 324, File 34374/3 Reports, Panzerarmee AfrikaCommander Southern Front, July 1942. Auchinleck reciprocated by focussing his attacks on these Italian units, knowing that they were not of the same calibre as their allies. The Afrika Korps commander believed this to be the start of a major attack, and summoned 21 Panzer to help. Div Docs, 88, File 1 Div/81/A2: Strengths, June to October 1942. 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). Sloan, C E E, Mine Warfare on Land (London, 1986). The depression was impassable to large military formations, and especially to armour. 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). Operations in the Middle East from 1 November 1941 to 15 August 1942. 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). However, the operation failed mainly because the British armour could not move fast enough through the breaches in the minefields. 90th Light and the Afrika Korps were to push to the coast, while Ariete and Triestewere to attack south to pin down XIII Corps. X Corps was sent against a X Corps box that Rommel believed to be at Deir el Abyad, to the west of Ruweisat Ridge. Rommel launched the Afrika Korps on one last attempt at 1600 hours, but it was stopped nine miles east of Deir el Shein. The one thing that Moorehead missed was the Battle of El Alamein. By radio, Fellers had submitted the order of battle of the Eighth Army to Washington on a daily basis, but in June 1942, the British had discovered this and, on 29 June, changed the code. South of this lay the Sahara Desert, also impassable for motor vehicles (Barucha, 1956, p 417). 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. In addition, for weeks, the Eighth Army had only known defeat at the hands of Rommel (Dorman O'Gowan, 1967, p 1 068). 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. Luckily, Ramsden realised his mistake and withdrew the force. 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. For most of the day, the South Africans beat back the attacks, but by 16.10, German tanks, supported by dive bombers, advanced up to 300m from the South African positions. On the following morning Rommel sacked the command of 15 Panzer. However, Pienaar did not want the 1st South African Rommel forced to defend his Brigade to suffer the same fate as positions the 18th Indian Brigade. Owing to several reasons, conflict between British and South African officers was inevitable. 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. 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). German artillery fire was very accurate and the possibility existed that the panzers could swing the axis of their advance to a more north-westerly direction and destroy the brigade, which had a severe shortage of anti-tank guns. Unfortunatly General Gott didn't realise that the attack had failed, and so at 0800 he ordered 23rd Armoured Brigade to begin its advance, towards the second objective, further west in the El Mreir area. On 5 August Churchill visited the front, where he met with Gott, Auchinleck and the leaders of the Desert Air Force. 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.. The eventual British counterattack, on 5 June, was so badly handled that Rommel was able to launch his own counterattack later on the same day. 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. Colvocoressi, P and Wint, G, Total War. The German move was detected by 1st Armoured Division at around 1400hours. Thus the position could not be enveloped from the south. Neither attack made much progress. This small battle cost them 18 of their 55 tanks, far too high a cost for the limited success. Rommel was confident of victory, but he had misread the British deployment. Both commanders ordered an offensive for 2 July. The so-called El Alamein Line was the last obstacle between Rommel and the Suez Canal. From their position in the El Alamein Box and to the south of it the South Africans provided constant artillery support to the Australians. 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 … Thus, the attackers had to withdraw westward to regroup and to try to find another way further to the south. The tanks advanced too early and could not be supported by the South African artillery. They repeated the exercise on 17 July, and took a large number of Italian prisoners. A series of British counterattacks also achieved little, and the battle ended as a stalemate. His first plan was to split the Middle East command into two. XV Panzer and 90th Light were to extend their lines to fill the gap. Although this brigade ceased to exist as a fighting entity as a result of the action that followed, the Germans also suffered losses. 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. 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. The Italians suffered a heavy defeat. Requests by Pienaar that the brigade be placed under his command and deployed closer to the South African formations had been turned down. Consequently, without realising it, Rommel let an opportunity slip through his fingers. Both sides prepared for new attacks, but it would be Auchinleck who moved first. Their contribution prevented Rommel's forces from capturing Alexandria, the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf oilfields. 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. Alexander and Montgomery took command two weeks before Rommel's final offensive in Egypt, the battle of Alam Halfa (31 August-7 September 1942). This time they inflicted heavy losses on the Trieste division. The German attack against the El Alamein Box, 13 July 1942. These attacks cost Rommel 24 tanks, six armoured cars, six 88mms and ten anti-tank guns. The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942). This situation was aggravated by the weak road and limited railway system along the coast. 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. The First Battle fo El Alamein … He would abandon the attacks around El Amamein and attack to the south of Ruweisat Ridge, heading for Alam Nayil and Deir el Munassib. Fact File : First Battle of El Alamein. He had decided  to fly to Moscow to visit Stalin and try and explain why the Western Allies were invading North Africa and not France. Early on 1 July, the German 90th Light Division tried to break through the line between the El Alamein Box and Ruweisat Ridge in an effort to reach the coast east of the South African position. Pienaar's concern for his men was proved correct the next day, when a column of the British 50th Division (Accol) was driven out of the same position by a German attack with heavy losses, just as he had predicted (Hartshorne, Cape Town, p 158). 30 were lost in the minefield, and others as they advanced past it. Both sides were now exhausted, but the British were able to recover quicker than Rommel. Gott's front line ran south/ south-west from the western end of Ruweisat Ridge. 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). He claimed his right to consult with the Australian Government, and had to be won over by Auchinleck in person. A modified plan was adopted, in which one Australian brigade and the 69th Infantry Brigade would carry out the attack. 7th Light Armoured Division was further south, watching the German 90th Light Division. Initially, a sandstorm aided the 90th Light Division in getting quite close to the El Alamein Box without being detected. General Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was sent ahead to examine the situation and report to Churchill. Auchinleck's concentrated artillery fire was proving to be very effective. 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, in retrospect, the South Africans had thwarted the key component of Rommel's plan. 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. Auchinleck backed up Norrie, but also gave him permission to replace the South Africans with Ackcol, part of the 50th Division. British Army Weapons and Theories of War, 1904-1945 (London, 1982). By last light, the 79th British Anti-Tank Regiment was also deployed near the threatened point but, by that time, the German attack had lost its momentum (Tungay, Cape Town, pp 252-3). The 5th New Zealand Brigade was to attack to the right. 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. After the First Battle of El-Alamein, Egypt (150 miles west of Cairo), ended in a stalemate, the second one was decisive. This would give Auchinleck enough confidence to order a counterattack on the following day. Rommel was planning to chance his axis of attack. The Sabratha division suffered very heavy losses, and was temporarily out of action. However, during the second half of July, Rommel proved not only to be a good commander during offensive operations, but also in defence. 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). It marked the beginning of the end for the Axis in North Africa. Thus, Auchinleck decided to change over to an offensive posture. The Eighth Army on the defensive, 28 July 1942. Kruger, D W, The Making of a Nation. Churchill was dismayed by his decision that the army wouldn't be ready to attack again until mid-September. He prepared orders for a full scale attack on the southern front, to be carried out on the following day. The attack was cancelled at 1000 hours, ending the first battle of El Alamein. 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. 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