Topic: The Battle of El Alamein (1942)

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This summary by Cpl Wright - NZCF, first appeared in the 6th Battalion (Hauraki) Regimental Association's newsletter in November 2004 (No. 37). It is reprinted here with permission.

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6th Hauraki Insignia

General Bernard Montgomery headed the allied forces. He had under his command almost twice the manpower the German axis had, and also tanks strength 3:1, artillery 2:1, and aircraft 5:1 in his favour. Despite his great numbers the enemy were battle hardened and would not make his victory easy by any means.

The NZ division led, by Lt General Freyberg, had completely assembled on the Alamein line by June 1942, this included the following:

  •  2nd Division Cavalry Regiment
  • 27 Battalion (machine gun)
  • 4,5,6 Field Regiment RNZA
  • 7 Antitank Regiment RNZA
  • 14 LAA Regiment RNZA
  • 6 Field Company (Engineers)
  • 7,8 Field Company RNZE
  • 2 NZ Division Signals
  • 5 NZ Infantry Brigade (Kippenberger)
  • 21,22,23,24,25,26 and 28 Maori Battalion
  • 9 Armoured Brigade with 35 Sherman, 37 Grant and 46 Crusader - total = 118 vehicles 
  • 14 Battalion Sherwood Foresters

The role of the NZ division was planned to be two fold, firstly they were to be used in the main offensive to penetrate the enemy's defences and then secondly to exploit any major break through in the German line.

On the 30th of September Montgomery visited the NZ forces who had just finished intensive training, involving practice raids with real life situations including live ammunition and artillery exploding near by.

 The general told the New Zealanders in a speech "The Eight Army is made up of men from all parts of the empire. All are hard fighting men but none are better than the New Zealanders."

 At 9:20 on 23rd October 1942 the battle began, with the allies firing more than 800 artillery pieces. This barrage lit up the whole Alamein line and left the Afrika Korp with nothing to do but hide in their foxholes. The battle lasted for 13 days and was broken down to 3 stages described by Montgomery as "break-in", "Dog Fight", and the Break out and Pursuit."

 However, Rommel was a very experienced general who managed and controlled his troops well. The Germans contained the Allied assault, which had eventually turned into a hand-to-hand blood bath.

 The Maori Battalion proved to be most excellent at this form of combat, completely slaughtering the enemy and eventually meeting up with the Australians.

The pressure put on Rommel became too great for even him to handle and despite being given a "victory or death" message from Hitler, on the same day he decide to escape to lick his wounds. He left under the cover of darkness on the 3-4th of November.

Winston Churchill stated afterwards "This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Another of Churchill's comments was, "Before the battle of Alamein we had nothing but losses, but after it we had nothing but victories."

 The Hauraki Regiment now displays El Alamein on its Colours as a Battle Honour to show that members of its Regiment participated in this great and influential engagement and that they displayed courage and honour in doing so.

Cpl Wright - NZCF



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