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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Battle of Alamein Begins

Battle of Alamein Begins

With dramatic suddenness, after weeks of static warfare, the Battle of Alamein began on 23 October. At 9.40 p.m. the greatest page 383 artillery barrage yet fired in Africa began. With a single crash about a thousand guns opened fire and 30 Corps began to advance. In position along this sector, from north to south, were 9 Australian Division, 51 Highland Division, 2 NZ Division, and 1 South African Division. The attack began under the light of a brilliant moon, later hidden by dust and smoke. As the artillery barrage thundered ahead of them, the infantry moved forward to their objectives on Miteiriya Ridge on a two-brigade front, 5 Brigade on the right and 6 Brigade on the left. The 23rd Battalion attacked the first objective on the right and 24 Battalion the first on the left. The 28th (Maori) Battalion followed behind mopping up enemy strongpoints which the forward battalions had passed. Then the other four battalions, 21 and 22 on the right and 25 and 26 on the left, leap-frogging through the advanced battalions, pressed forward fan-wise to attack the final ridge that was the objective. Scores of tanks now roared forward through the lighted lanes in the minefields.

field hospital plans

5 NZ Field Ambulance MDS, Alamein battle (839 casualties admitted in 24 hours, 24 October 1942)

The opposition in the first stages of the attack had been mainly from mortar and machine-gun fire, with many casualties from anti-personnel mines, but in the second stage the infantry found strongly defended posts and snipers. Strongpoint after strongpoint had to be taken with the bayonet. At dawn on 24 October the battle was still raging, but by 7 a.m. Miteiriya Ridge was in our hands. On 24 October enemy counter-attacks by armour and infantry on the right of the New Zealand sector were broken up by artillery and supporting fire from our tanks, and the infantry consolidated.