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Infantry Brigadier

16. Alamein

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16. Alamein

The four days in Cairo made a heavenly break. I visited friends in hospital, dined with the Twentieth, dined at Shepheard's and the Continental, bathed and watched cricket at Maadi, played golf at Gezira, and at the end went back quite happily. It had been a great pleasure to see how quickly and greatly the men benefited from their leave. They came in dusty and dirty and tired and also thoroughly dehydrated. They had baths and clean clothes, as much beer as they could drink, and complete freedom, and they returned with their faces filled out, their eyes bright, and their old jaunty, confident air.

Until the leave period was over we rested in a pleasant area near the sea at Burg el Arab, almost free of flies. The Kiwi Concert Party put on some very bright shows, there was excellent bathing, we took like easily, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for nearly a fortnight. The last leave parties returned and we moved twenty miles south into the desert and set to work to train hard. It was clear that the next phase was going to be our counter-offensive. Some people had even seen the new Sherman tanks.

The preparations and training were extremely interesting and thorough. Quite early we knew that we would be one of the assaulting divisions, and that when the break-through was made we were to take part in the pursuit. New Zealand Division was reinforced by 9 Armoured Brigade under John Currie, and additional artillery regiments, field and medium. We still had only the two infantry brigades, 6 Brigade now under Gentry.

Our training cannot be described better than by quoting the account General Freyberg circulated a few months later:

Time being short, we started our training with a full scale page 222 Divisional rehearsal under conditions as similar as possible to the actual attack we were to carry out later to capture Miteiriya Ridge. Complete plans and preparations were made for the ‘attack’ which we carried out by moonlight on 26th September. Actual minefields had been laid in positions corresponding to those in which we expected to find them. The guns had been moved forward by night to positions which had been surveyed and by morning were dug in and camouflaged. The infantry lay up all day. The attack was carried out on a two-brigade front … in accordance with an artillery-timed programme. To aid the infantry to keep direction, smoke and tracers were fired on the inter-brigade and inter-divisional boundaries. Sappers blew the wire with Bangalore torpedoes and cleared and marked gaps in the minefields. The route was lit, anti-tank weapons, machineguns, and mortars were passed forward and a regiment of tanks went through in support of each brigade.

Live shell was used, and we had one or two casualties but all ranks gained confidence from the accuracy of the barrage. The new Corps Commander, Sir Oliver Leese, came up and followed the barrage to see for himself.

Following this exercise Brigades carried out Brigade and battalion training to perfect their drill. Each infantry brigade also carried out a special exercise on the attack in co-operation with tanks supported by artillery, using live ammunition. All weapons were zeroed and the artillery meticulously calibrated.

The more it was examined the more apparent it became that an infantry attack by moonlight over this featureless country covered by minefields, booby-traps, and wire was a difficult and complicated operation.

These exercises were absolutely invaluable in giving us some experience to go on. We thought and worked and trained very hard. Air photographs and intelligence reports showed that the enemy defences were formidable. There were two distinct defensive zones, each covered by wire and minefields, then a third line of defended localities, and behind that our old acquaintances 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions and the Italian Ariete. It was not going to be easy and we spared no pains. I have never worked or thought harder than in these weeks, nor have I ever worked troops so hard; and all commanders and staffs did the same.

But we did more than merely train. 9 Armoured Brigade page 223 was a new formation, composed of the 3rd Hussars, the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, and the Royal Warwickshire Yeomanry, and equipped with Sherman and Crusader tanks. The 3rd Hussars was an old desert regiment. It had sent a squadron to Crete and two 3rd Hussar tanks had led the counter-attack at Galatos. We knew many of its officers. The other regiments were fairly new arrivals in Middle East. Both they and we were resolved that there was going to be no more nonsense about tanks and infantry failing to co-operate.

The General gave a dinner party in Alexandria to the senior officers of the Division and of 9 Armoured Brigade, and it can be said that thereby a lot of reserve and shyness was broken down. The regiments put the New Zealand fern-leaf, our distinctive emblem, on their tanks and vehicles. We were pleased that they were clearly proud to wear it. We sent our men to examine and admire their Shermans, and our bands to play at their ceremonial parades and church services. We called on one another at every opportunity and got to know as many individuals and personalities as possible. Above all we trained together, did T.E.W.T.s, and prepared and carried out exercises together. The result was that throughout the battle 9 Armoured Brigade gave us magnificent support regardless of their terrible losses. No formation can have made greater sacrifices for the victory.

Towards the end of the training period we had a series of Brigade ceremonial parades and were inspected by General Montgomery. I thought that 5 Brigade, with its four battalions at full strength, looked splendid. As the General walked round I remarked to him that every man was a veteran. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘trained to kill in the moonlight.’ We had our band out, gave a general salute, marched past by companies and advanced in review order in full peace-time style and, at the end, the General said to me that it was an inspiration to him to see such grand troops. A good ceremonial parade is a great morale builder for troops and commanders; though the troops grumble at the preparations, it does them good— as soldiers—and they enjoy the spectacle and the pride of disciplined corporate power. For a commander there is no page 224 better opportunity, other than the test of actual battle, of judging the temper and spirit and standards of a unit. When all is well it is exhibited by the care and forethought revealed in the preparations and turn-out, the crispness and accuracy of orders, the steadiness of the men while waiting, by the freedom and confidence, even the swagger of their movements and, perhaps most of all, by the way in which they meet the inspecting officer's eyes. After the parade I felt very content.

The Army Commander called together all officers of the rank of Brigadier and above. With a big map he explained his plan for the battle and his view of the way it would be fought, in four phases: ‘the break in, the dog-fight, the breakthrough, and the exploitation’. All the infantry Brigadiers were a little maliciously pleased when he said that he had altered his plan after seeing that the armour was not trained. A few days before the battle, we were given authority and instructions to explain the Army plan to our officers and men, with only a few reservations.

There were several conferences at Division. We sat round a relief model of Miteiriya Ridge and discussed point by point every phase and detail of our task. General Freyberg and the new G.1, Ray Queree, worked and travelled many hours a day. There was much to arrange with the two corps we were to come under, 30 Corps for the battle and 10 Corps for the break-through and exploitation, and with our neighbours on either flank, 51 Division on our right and 1 South African Division on our left. On several points, such as rate of advance of the barrage, length and timings of pauses, boundaries, and routes, compromises had to be accepted. At length the divisional plan was completed and issued, and brigades got ahead with their own planning.

We finished our training programmes about the middle of October and moved to the beach area again so that the men could swim and relax and rest. Commanders and staffs became busier than ever. We reconnoitred our assembly areas and the routes to them and thence to the lying-up positions, selected sites for headquarters and harbouring areas for transport and tanks and found out what our neighbours were doing, went up to the line and stared at the page 225 ridge that was our objective. It all entailed long, tiresome journeys over dusty, crowded roads and tracks and had to be done without the units in the line suspecting that anything more than a relief was contemplated.

I spoke to all officers and told them the general plan and our own task and plan. I also told them that we were lucky to have lived so long to share in the great battle close ahead.

Each brigade planned to take its first objective with one battalion. I selected the Twenty-third, as I thought Reg Romans my most fiery commander. Ralf Harding of the Twenty-first and Tom Campbell, now commanding the Twenty-second, were equally determined and skilful, and likely to keep better control in the long advance to the final objective. The Maoris were split between 5 and 6 Brigades, two companies going to each for mopping up.

I spoke to the Twenty-third, seated on the slopes of some sand-hills. I told them that this was the turn of the war and the greatest moment of their lives: they had the duty and the honour of breaking in, on which everything depended; our hats were in the ring and I expected them to do it, whatever the cost. Reg called the men to their feet and they gave three fierce, thunderous cheers. As I went away someone remarked that our first objective was as good as taken.

I meant to speak to the other battalions, but that evening we were told that ‘D’ day was 23 October, when the moon would be full, and we moved during the night to assembly positions ten miles from the front. The following night, that of 22/23 October, we moved forward and before dawn were dug in immediately behind the line. There the troops lay, each man in his own slit trench, all day.

There was a final conference at Division during the morning. All the elaborate and complicated preparations and moves had been completed successfully and there was no sign that the enemy had any suspicions. We were confident of success but rather worried about the timings. The infantry were due on the final objective at 2.45 a.m. on the 24th. As sunrise was at 6.20 a.m. only two and a half hours of darkness were available to clear the final minefields and bring forward the supporting arms, including our own tanks. page 226 We had wanted an earlier start and a shorter pause in the advance so as to have a longer period of darkness for these purposes, but the other divisions would not agree. I was particularly pessimistic on this point and Gentry said that even if it went like an exercise it was virtually impossible. Fortunately we were wrong. Fred Hanson assured us that his sappers would make their gaps in good time and would not be far behind the infantry, and he was right.

The Division had to advance to a depth of between 5,000 and 6,800 yards from its start-line. We had only 104 guns and these had to cover a front 2,500 yards wide at the first objective, and 4,800 yards wide on the final objective. That meant that each gun would be firing on a lane 24 yards wide and increasing to 46 yards wide, far too few shells to the yard to be worth much as a barrage, for a barrage must saturate every yard of ground with shells to be effective. Accordingly, the artillery plan was for a fourth of the guns to fire on the barrage lines to help the infantry to keep direction and for the other three-quarters to fire concentrations on particular spots where the enemy was known to have defences. Therefore, by later standards, there was no real barrage. The divisional objective was equally divided between the two brigades, 5 Brigade having a little farther to go. The rate of advance was 100 yards in 3 minutes, which proved too slow for our resolute infantry.

In each brigade one battalion was given the task of taking the first objective 3,400 yards from the start-line and 1,400 yards behind the enemy forward positions. There was then a pause of a full hour. The bombardment continued while the other battalions came up, put out tape for their start-lines, and formed up under protection of the leaders. The advance was then to be resumed at the same pace to the final objective. The right company of the Twenty-first had another 3,400 yards to go and would find a nasty-looking knot of posts when it arrived. I told Ralf Harding to put his best company at it and he chose Butland's. The left company of the Twenty-second had to go 2,500 yards. Every effort had been made to ensure that everyone knew his unit's and his own part in the plan. Diagrams were prepared page 227 and issued, showing the position of all sub-units on the start-lines and their position on the objective with a line joining the two and the distance and bearing marked. Timings of the bombardment, pauses, and lifts were also shown.

The sappers were to clear, fence off, and light two routes for the transport and tanks of each brigade for the whole distance from our F.D.L.s to the objective. Two other routes, reserved for 10 Armoured Division, were to be cleared in the centre. Gentry and I both sited our headquarters on the start-line within a few hundred yards of one another. We now had Armoured Command Vehicles—A.C.V.s—huge clumsy contrivances but excellent to run a battle from.

We knew that the enemy positions opposite us were held by the German 164 Division and the Italian Trento Division, and were in great depth. We had no information about actual dispositions except what could be deduced from air photographs. It was evident that opposition would stiffen as we advanced and Miteiriya Ridge itself was solidly held. In the event, it proved that the forward positions were more lightly held than we expected.

There was complete quiet all the afternoon. I strolled about and came on a party from the Scottish battalion holding the line being briefed for a patrol that night. They were completely unaware that anything particular was going to happen. Hardly anyone else was visible.

Immediately after dusk there was activity everywhere. The infantry got out of their cramped slits and made their final preparations. The cookers came up with the last meals for many of them. The tracks from the rear, Sun, Moon, Star, Bottle, and Hat were lit with their distinctive signs and the transport moved up in orderly sequence. Exactly to the minute, the hundred first-line vehicles and anti-tank guns of the Brigade arrived and were parked close to headquarters. Equally punctually the heavy tanks of the Wiltshire Yeomanry rumbled up and Peter Sykes, their commander, reported in. John Currie called to make sure that everything was in order. It was evident that 9 Armoured Brigade meant business. The battalion commanders came in, all cheerful and confident, chatted a little while and went away with page 228 more than our casual good wishes. We all continually looked at our watches.

About 9 o'clock, in brilliant moonlight, the infantry started to fall in by platoons and soon were moving smoothly on to the start-line, which had been surveyed in and marked as usual by white tape. There did not appear to be the slightest hitch anywhere but, although I was very confident, I felt more nervous and anxious than before any other battle.

I walked along the front of the Twenty-third. The battalion was doing the first stage of its advance with sections in single file, fifty yards apart. I went along the front of two companies and said ‘Good luck, boys’ to every section. The responses were stirring: ‘We'll do it, Sir’; ‘We won't let you down, Sir’; ‘The Twenty-third will do it, Sir’—there was no doubt that the infantry also meant business. I stopped to speak to Reg Romans. He had his jacket off and his shirt sleeves rolled up and looked as if he knew what he intended to do. Pat Lynch, one of the company commanders, who was to die within an hour, said it was time to go. Reg blew his whistle and as one man the battalion stepped off. I watched till they had disappeared, remembering the same and other men on other nights, and turned to see the Twenty-first and Twenty-second coming up in two long lines stretching out of sight. They lined up to the tape and sat down to wait for their own moment.

I walked back to the A.C.V. and before I got there the bombardment opened, the memorable opening bombardment of Alamein. Delivered by 800 guns it was the greatest there had ever been in Africa. The General was at the A.C.V., and we stood for a few minutes fascinated and awed and with our hearts praying for the gallant battalions going forward into the storm. ‘If ever there was a just cause’, he said to himself, touched my shoulder, and departed. I climbed into the A.C.V. and sat down across the table from Monty.

For twenty minutes the guns fired on all known and suspected enemy batteries; it was a twenty to one concentration, twenty troops of artillery battering each enemy troop. Then the fire switched on to the enemy F.D.L.s, pounded them for another twenty minutes, and at 10.20 p.m. started to lift page 229 back, and the infantry assault opened. There was hardly any artillery fire in return; in a few minutes it was clear that we had gained tactical surprise and that the enemy gunners were pinned down or knocked out.

We did not expect any news until after the first objective had been reached at 11 p.m. I got restless and went out on to the low ridge behind which we were sheltering. There was nothing to be seen, not even the hundreds of bursting shells, through the thick dust and smoke. The moonlight was dulled. There would plainly be trouble in keeping direction and touch. Far away on our right I could hear clearly the skirling of the Highland pipes, warlike, stirring music. It was not easy to return to the A.C.V. and sit down again. The minutes passed slowly. Whenever anyone opened the door the maddening incessant clamour of the guns became deafening. A whole field regiment was firing directly over us from a few hundred yards back. The waiting group of officers and orderlies stood on the lee side to get some shelter from the uproar and concussion.

Two signallers with a set had accompanied the sappers who were to make the left gap. We had no set to spare for the other gap. At about the expected time they called to say that the sappers had started clearing the gap and were under small-arms fire. They knew nothing about the infantry except that there was fighting going on ahead. A few walking wounded came back and were immediately picked up by ambulances and rushed off to the dressing station. We had men posted on the ridge to look out for success signals and report what they could see. They said there was nothing but haze to be seen but they could hear small-arms fire. ‘Scores of Spandaus’, they said.

At 11 p.m. no one saw any of the flares announcing success; which was not surprising, for there was now a high cloud of dust obscuring the stars and darkening the moonlight. We could not get 23 Battalion on the air, nor on the line that Brigade Signals was running forward with them. I had told C.O.s emphatically that if communications broke down (and in 1942 they always did), an officer fully apprised of the situation must be sent back when there was important page 230 information to give. Half an hour later there was still no news of the infantry, but in some way a message arrived that the right-hand gap was nearly cleared. I decided to wait no longer and ordered Max Coop to take forward 23 Battalion's transport by that route. A few minutes later the left gap was reported cleared and I told Sykes to take his tanks forward. Delay would be fatal and I had to assume that no news was good news.

About midnight, when the advance was due to be resumed, Coop called to say that he had reached the first objective with his transport, there were some dead and wounded scattered around but no other sign of the Twenty-third. Nor had he seen the other two battalions. Visibility was less than fifty yards. The Brigade appeared to have vanished from off the face of the earth. I told him to dig in his anti-tank guns and stay there. Shortly afterwards we lost touch with him. He had been blown up on a mine, badly wounded, and his set damaged. We told Division that the position was obscure, but that it seemed certain that the first objective had been taken and that the advance was proceeding. I supposed that the Twenty-third had lost direction and had got split up; the real solution of the mystery of their disappearance did not occur to either Monty or me.

After a further long delay the set with the sappers reported that the Twenty-second had gone past, that the tanks had come up and were crawling forward as fast as the sappers could clear and their own Scorpions flail. Before long all the Scorpions had broken down or had been knocked out.

Somewhere about 3 o'clock Angus Ross, now Adjutant of the Twenty-third, appeared. He was dusty and dishevelled and he brought a remarkable story. The first objective had been taken without nearly enough fighting to satisfy the battalion in its exalted mood. The men were surging forward; Reg said to Angus, or Angus said to Reg: ‘We can't stop here, we haven't fought yet,’ and on they went. They went through the standing bombardment and fought their way without artillery assistance to the foot of Miteiriya Ridge, about another 1,500 yards. There they had stopped, perhaps feeling lonely, for they were far ahead of anyone else and of page 231 the barrage for the second phase. When this fresh barrage came it trampled over them, the Twenty-first and Twenty-second passed through on its heels to storm the ridge, and the Twenty-third fell back to the first minefield. Angus could not explain their action and I did not press him, being indeed very grateful for his invaluable information.

Angus went back, having made the position clear enough for me to order the transport of Twenty-first and Twenty-second forward by the right-hand route. By 4 a.m. both of these battalions had got into communication again and reported that they were on the final objective. There were two more anxious hours with daylight approaching. The sappers, splendidly commanded by Jerry Skinner, pressed on devotedly, tanks and supporting arms and transport kept on their heels, and before daylight we were able to report that both routes were completed and the situation was in hand, with the Wiltshire Yeomanry right up with and ahead of the infantry.

I had a hurried breakfast and went up the left-hand route in a jeep. There were many signs of the night's work. A few New Zealand dead around the first objective and stretcher-bearers at work, but very many casualties, friend and foe, all the rest of the way. There were a few damaged tanks and the disabled Scorpions on the route and a tank officer told me that Colonel Sykes had been gravely wounded.

I first found Twenty-second Battalion Headquarters on the reverse slope of the ridge. Tom Campbell told me of difficulty in forming up on the first objective and of hard fighting on and near the final objective. MacDuff's company had made a fine charge there. He was right on his objective with supporting arms dug in and was quite comfortable. Casualties were well over a hundred.

On the top of the ridge, I found John Currie looking at ten tanks of the Wiltshire Yeomanry from his brigade. They had pressed forward and had been disabled on still another minefield. After consolidation he had resumed command of his regiments. John Currie, who was later killed in Normandy, was a most fearless character, and he kept me with him for a quarter of an hour in full view while he watched page 232
Map 10

Map 10

page 233 the damaged tanks, a hundred yards away, being shelled by 88's.

I went along behind the ridge, passing unhurt through an area that we later found to be heavily mined, and visited Ralf Harding. His headquarters was being shelled and I got his story while sitting with him in a very cramped slit-trench. He had had the same trouble on the first objective and thought that Bunny Abbott, the new brigade intelligence officer, had done very well in getting out the tape. The Twenty-first had had very hard fighting on and just past the ridge. Butland's company had lost all its officers, Butland had been killed, Bailey had taken command and Sergeant Bramwell had done a great job. Bramwell was awarded a D.C.M. and when I told the General that the Selection Board had turned him down previously he gave him an immediate commission, one of very few. Another company commander had been killed, McElroy, the second-in-command, who had found some excuse for taking part in the attack, had been wounded, and altogether about half the officers and some 150 other ranks were casualties. The carrier officer had been killed a few minutes before my arrival. The battalion was on its objective, supporting arms dug in, and was quite comfortable.

One company which had been detailed to exploit beyond the objective, had done good work. It had destroyed seven field guns and taken 130 prisoners and could have done much more. I had ordered that the company should be back not later than 4.30 a.m., so that our front should be clear for the tanks and our artillery defensive fire if there was a counterattack. These two considerations made us miss many opportunities for exploitation. I often thought of it after this experience, but every time decided that the important thing was to make certain of holding our set objective; which may have been an unnecessarily rigid attitude.

As I went away I nearly stumbled on a small metal knob just showing above the sand. It proved to be a booby-trapped 500-pound bomb.

I went across to see if there was a proper tie-up on the inter-brigade boundary. Our neighbours on the right were page 234 a very depleted Black Watch company in good touch with us. While there I met George Murray, the Brigadier commanding 152 Brigade. He told me that his casualties were very heavy but he had all his objectives. I returned by the right-hand route, seeing an extraordinary number of dead Highlanders who must have strayed into our area. In front of one post there was a whole section, a corporal and seven men, lying in line, all on their faces.

The Twenty-third was being shelled, so I waited a few minutes before visiting Reg. He met me by saying: ‘I won't let you speak to my men again before a battle’; but he frankly admitted that he had been carried away by the fiery enthusiasm of the men. I knew that his own and Angus's ferocious ardour had had something to do with the matter but decided no action was necessary. The battalion had about 170 casualties. It had now settled down rather too far forward and with the first minefield behind instead of a protection in front; so I told Reg to move back behind the field.

I returned feeling that, though the brigade losses were heavy, it had completely carried out its task and was solidly in possession. We had 288 prisoners. It was really the most satisfactory battle we had yet fought. The Maoris had lost about 50 and the total brigade casualties were 561 killed and wounded. These were nearly all incurred in the rifle companies, over 500 of them in the 12 companies that had made the assault, each about 100 strong.

There had been sufficient initial success everywhere to constitute a ‘break in’ and to open the ‘dog-fight’, but 152 Brigade and 5 New Zealand Brigade seemed the only brigades to have taken all their objectives. The situation map we saw in the morning showed, on our right, 9 Australian Division a little more than half-way, and the right brigade of 51 Division well forward but short of the final objective. On our left 26 Battalion of 6 Brigade was on and 25 Battalion, whose flank had been exposed by the failure of the South Africans to get much past the first objective, was 1,000 yards back. There had been no successful counter-attacks anywhere. New Zealand Division had taken some 300 prisoners, page 235 and there were only 1,400 in all, which showed how thinly held the forward defences had been. Both Germans and Italians had on the whole fought well.

There was a great deal more fighting before the battle was won but 5 Brigade, except for the Maoris, was not called on for any more. 6 Brigade did an attack on the night of the 26th/27th to straighten its line, which it did after a stiff fight. We were not involved and next evening handed over to the South Africans and moved back into reserve.

The only incident had been the second last Stuka raid I saw, made at dusk on the evening of the 26th. Monty and I, sheltering all tangled up together in one slit, survived a very near miss and the Maoris had some casualties. There was no doubt at this time that we were rapidly gaining complete air superiority. The close formations of Bostons and Baltimores, ‘the eighteen imperturbables’, were going forward and back all day and every day. Enemy fighter-bombers made occasional hit-and-run attacks, but the Stukas were being shot down like pigeons and we saw no more of them after this night.

New Zealand Division continued to control a sector, with a constantly increasing number of guns and British troops under command. General Freyberg, with his tactical headquarters in four Stuart tanks, spent most of every day well forward with his finger on the pulse of the swaying battle. It was often not very amusing making the trip up to him. On one track there was a dead Italian who had been rolled over so often that he was flattened out exactly like a hearthrug. After a visit, I often reflected that the General's idea of safety was purely relative.

The rifle companies in both our brigades were now down to an average strength of fifty to sixty and no reinforcements were available. It was clear that another attack would cripple the battalions and the Division would be unable to take part in any operation to exploit success. The assaulting infantry were the twenty officers and 400 other ranks (at full strength) of each battalion. Actually, in this battle, the Twenty-second attacked with a total strength of 310 in its rifle companies and headquarters. After the capture of the page 236 objective they were joined by 129 heavy weapon carriers. The remaining 244 men in the battalion were not brought forward at all. These figures would be typical. The rifle companies bore the brunt of every attack, particularly of the attack over minefields. The ‘heavy weapon holders’ of the mortar, anti-tank, carrier, and anti-aircraft platoons, the headquarters, intelligence, transport, signals, medical, and administrative personnel numbered fifteen officers and 328 other ranks. The C.O. and a small tactical headquarters, the intelligence section, most of the signallers and some medical personnel normally went into an attack, but the remainder could not and did not come forward until gaps in minefields were cleared and the situation stabilized; of course, most of the transport and administrative personnel were never required in the forward area during an attack. Ninety per cent. of the casualties therefore fell on the rifle companies and a casualty list of 150 was a much more serious matter than it was to a battalion of the First World War, with its four rifle companies each over 200 strong. A couple of sharp actions, even if successful, usually left a battalion incapable of attacking again until reinforced and until reinforcements were assimilated. It was my opinion that rifle company strengths of fifty were adequate for defence, which is mainly a matter of guns and automatic weapons, but that nothing less than eighty per company was sufficient for an attack.

The battle continued violently in the ‘dog-fight’ phase, while we sat back in reserve and sent our men in relays to bathe. 9 Armoured Brigade remained in the fray and had tremendous losses. The Maoris, who were still fairly strong, took part under command of 151 Brigade in an attack on a Point 29. They took it with over 100 casualties in a very severe fight. Baker was very nastily wounded, his second-in-command Hart was killed, and Charlie Bennett took command. A member of a well-known Maori family, he was then only twenty-six, the youngest officer to take a command and the first who had not been a soldier of some sort before the war.

By the end of October a broad and deep salient had been driven into the enemy position, mainly by a series of page 237 powerful infantry attacks with limited objectives and almost unlimited artillery support. On the early morning of 2 November a further penetration of 4,000 yards on a front of 3,000 yards was made by two British brigades and armour under General Freyberg's command. This salient was flat as a table and was most unhealthy under violent shelling and heavy armoured counter-attacks. But it was held. In the north 90th Light had been drawn in against the Australians and fought to a standstill. In the evening the General told Brigadiers that the enemy were cracking and warned us to have our transport ready for the break-through. No one else that we met had the same optimism.