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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Attack on El Mreir Depression

The Attack on El Mreir Depression

Eighth Army had been attacking since 10 July and it continued to take the initiative. On the night of 21–22 July, intending to exploit the enemy's known weakness in tanks and shortage of reliable infantry, another attack was launched. The main attack was made in the central sector by 2 NZ Division and 5 Indian Division, the purpose being to cut the enemy forces in half. It page 346 was considered that if this attack succeeded the enemy's communications could be severed by our armour and the northern part of his forces squeezed back from the south and east. Supporting and diversionary attacks were made in the north by the Australians and South Africans and in the south by 7 Armoured Division.

The task allotted to 6 Brigade was the capture of the eastern tongue of the El Mreir Depression, while 5 Brigade assisted by fire from its positions south of Ruweisat Ridge. The attack was launched by 6 Brigade at 8.45 p.m. on 21 July. In pitch darkness the battalions advanced through minefields, clearing enemy positions at the bayonet point and attacking tanks and vehicles with sticky bombs and grenades. The forward battalions reached their objectives but, as dawn approached, were pinned to the ground by heavy fire. Then, at first light, the enemy armour appeared from north of the El Mreir Depression. It had not been possible to organise the position and the tanks of 1 Armoured Division did not come through the minefields in time to intervene. Remnants of 24 and 25 Battalions escaped in the confusion and 26 Battalion avoided being overrun only by withdrawing south-east on to 5 Brigade.