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2nd New Zealand Divisional Artillery

The End of Operation Lightfoot

The End of Operation Lightfoot

The next move was to hand over the existing 25-pounder positions to South African gunners in the night 27–28 October and take up new positions to the north to support a major Australian attack. But before this could take place the New Zealand gunners saw some sharp action.

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Three Me109Fs came over bombing and strafing in mid-morning and destroyed one vehicle. They were hotly engaged by 41 and 43 Batteries and Bofors of other units. Already 42 Battery had claimed a hit on a single Ju88 which came over on a nuisance raid—no mean feat. Other enemy aircraft came over; but they had been warned and kept very high. The Right Section of A Troop of 41 Battery moved forward in the morning with 25 Battery when the latter adopted a sniping role on Miteiriya Ridge. The position was exposed and both the 25-pounders and the Bofors came under heavy shellfire which destroyed an ack-ack ammunition truck late in the afternoon, killed a gunner, and wounded two others.

When the armoured brigade withdrew, H Troop of 32 Battery moved back to the wagon lines south-south-east of El Alamein; but E and G Troops stayed in action and were heavily shelled. Lieutenant Holt and a bombardier of E Troop were both wounded, but they stayed with the troop. E3 fired one round at a truck, more as an outlet for pent-up emotions than in the hope of doing the enemy harm. A lance-bombardier and gunner of G Troop were wounded in the course of heavy mortar fire and Sergeant Laing carried the gunner to safety despite heavy machine-gun fire. When some 18 enemy tanks were seen approaching rapidly from a ridge 5000 yards away and the field artillery OPs could not observe them, Second-Lieutenant Doig went to an infantry post and from it directed the fire of the 5th Field, destroying one tank and immobilising another. The rest quickly withdrew.

The field regiments had meanwhile been busy co-ordinating arrangements for the relief and had parties reconnoitring the new areas in the sector of 9 Australian Division. Field batteries moved independently. The 4th Field took over positions vacated by the 2nd/7th Field, RAA, and was in full occupation by 9 p.m. The 5th and 6th Field were relieved later and then had to prepare new positions near Tell el Eisa station. The Bofors batteries accompanied them. Only essential transport was taken, the rest going back to the wagon lines. The CRA set up a tactical headquarters—a bare minimum of facilities—a mile to the east, with RHQ of the 14th Light Ack-Ack and alongside the Australian divisional headquarters.

The New Zealand infantry and 9 Armoured Brigade withdrew to the rear. The anti-tank batteries went with them, except for 34 Battery, which had hitherto operated with the Divisional Reserve Group and now came under the command page 397 of 20 Australian Infantry Brigade. The night 27–28 October in which most of these moves took place was enlivened by the activities of enemy aircraft, some of which dropped baskets of butterfly bombs (anti-personnel) while others circled singly dropping occasional heavy bombs. At dawn Stukas and medium bombers were briefly active.

The fighting on Miteiriya Ridge, successful up to a point, though disappointing in its outcome, had cost the gunners the following casualties:

Killed Wounded
4th Field 11 19
5th Field 6 14
6th Field 7 13
7th Anti-Tank 1 16
14th Light Ack-Ack 3 6
—— ——
Total 28 68