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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume II

172 — General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

General Freyberg to the Minister of Defence

8 November 1942

Further to my telegram of 3 November (No. 167), the situation has continued to develop favourably.

On 4 November the New Zealand Division, with the British Light Armoured Brigade1 and a battery of medium artillery under command, motored out from south of the breach made on 2 November, swung south of the armoured battle then in progress, and thrust north on Fuka. On the evening of 5 November we contacted the enemy rearguard position south of Fuka, covered by a minefield, tanks, and guns. Eight enemy tanks were destroyed during the day and prisoners taken, including GOC Trento Division and his staff. A breach was forced in the minefield by evening and the enemy retired that night. On 6 November the New Zealand Division was directed on the Baggush area. Our forward elements found that the enemy had withdrawn farther west but were holding a rearguard position near Minqar Qaim, where they were engaged by another British armoured formation which destroyed 15 enemy tanks and 12 guns. Meanwhile, dense traffic moving west was reported on the roads west of Matruh.

On the main road, on aerodromes, and in the positions the enemy tried to hold, there is abundant evidence of disorganised retreat. Abandoned vehicles, aircraft, guns and equipment, and groups of disarmed enemy being marched eastward are to be seen from Alamein to Baggush. Some enemy groups are endeavouring to get away westward; others were cheerfully giving themselves up.

It remains to be seen whether the enemy has reserve dumps of ammunition and equipment, &c., on his Lines of Communication

1 4th Light Armoured Brigade.

page 135 to re-equip the disorganised forces he has been able to extricate. The depleted Panzer Corps are reported to be streaming west of Sidi Barrani today. I thought they would endeavour to hold the frontier or go right back to Agheila. I consider the latter course is more likely.

Today, owing to heavy rainfall, we are held up in the waterlogged desert and petrol and supplies have not yet reached us. Tomorrow we have been ordered to take Matruh, if that is necessary, and then press on along the coast road towards Sollum. British armoured formations are moving west with all speed in the south with the intention of cutting off the enemy's retreat, while the RAF batters the coast road and the Halfaya defile.

I am glad to report that during these recent operations our casualties have been light: 3 killed and 17 wounded. This situation will continue until the enemy stands and endeavours to stabilise the front.

Despite the miserable climatic conditions of the last two days, spirits are high in the present atmosphere of victory. I feel that, although optimistic, the forecast in my last cable1 may not prove inaccurate.

1 No. 167.