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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Battle of the ‘Break-Out’

Battle of the ‘Break-Out’

It was 1.5 a.m. on the morning of 2 November when every gun on the Corps' front opened up a terrific barrage. One hundred and fifty thousand rounds were fired on a 4000-yard front during the next four and a half hours. Under this umbrella the assault brigades advanced. New Zealand sappers worked with the British infantry, lifting mines and marking lanes through which tanks and guns could advance in close support. Shortly after 4 a.m. word came through that the first objectives had been taken, and two hours later both brigades were on their final objectives and consolidating. Meanwhile, 28 (Maori) Battalion had cleared out the enemy pocket on the right flank and linked up with the Australians. At a quarter past six 9 Armoured Brigade passed through to carry on the attack. In a fierce and most gallant battle against a powerful anti-tank screen, the three armoured regiments fought their way forward. Their casualties in tanks were extremely heavy but the page 393 result of their attack was decisive. Enemy tanks counter-attacked our salient in the afternoon, but 1 and 10 British Armoured Divisions were deployed forward in time. All but one of our armoured divisions were engaged and all the enemy's.

Throughout the night of 2–3 November and the next morning the battle continued along the whole front. On the New Zealand sector the infantry came forward during the night, taking over from the assault brigades, and held the salient securely on 3 November while our armour widened the gap. It was clear that the enemy's resistance had been broken, and on 3 November our tactical reconnaissance aircraft observed lines of enemy transport moving west, against which the bomber force flung its full strength. On the night of 3–4 November 9 Australian Division advanced its line north towards the coast, the Highlanders advanced across the Rahman track, and early the next morning 10 Corps, including 2 NZ Division, began the chase. At the same time 13 Corps in the south advanced. What was left of the Afrika Korps, with some remnants of the Italian Mobile Corps, was in full retreat, leaving five Italian infantry divisions to their fate.