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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Plan for the Offensive

Plan for the Offensive

Alamein presented a new problem in desert warfare. Both sides were firmly established behind carefully prepared and extensively mined positions with both flanks secure. There was no alternative but to break through with infantry. The plan was to attack in the northern sector and, at the same time, to carry out a diversionary attack in the south to draw off a portion of the enemy's armour, which was at that time widely dispersed. It was hoped that the enemy would be deceived at the start as to our intentions, and that it would be possible to launch our armour through the gap made by the infantry while his armoured forces were still divided. Behind the enemy's front, which was held by mixed German and Italian infantry, 15 Panzer Division was located in the northern and 21 Panzer Division in the southern sector, while 90 Light Division was engaged in coast protection at Ghazal. Italian divisions were wedged in between these German forces.

The British 30 Corps was assigned the task of making the necessary gaps in the northern defences. In 30 Corps were 9 Australian Division, 51 Highland Division, 1 South African Division, and 4 Indian Division, with supporting artillery. The New Zealand Division was to come under the command of 30 Corps for the first attack and 10 Corps for the breakout. The southern sector was held by 13 Corps, which included an armoured division, 50 Northumbrian Division, including one Greek brigade, and 44 Home Counties Division. The plan adopted involved extensive changes of disposition in the battle area and the quick move of armoured forces to the fronts, with the inevitable road congestion. It was essential, therefore, that enemy air activity should be restricted in order to prevent disorganisation at this vital stage of the offensive. Actually, the subjugation of the enemy air force was completed before the battle began. Lastly, every effort was made to conceal our preparations and make it appear that the main attack would be launched in the south.