CHAPTER 12 — A Fateful Month
A Fateful Month
July I942 was a most critical month for the Allied fortunes in North Africa. The fate of Egypt-perhaps of the whole Middle East-hung upon a thread. On the run since Tobruk fell, Eighth Army, its commander decreed, would stand and fight on the Alamein line. But could Auchinleck rally his shattered forces, pursued as they were by a determined foe, whose impetus showed no sign of abating? The enemy's objective was the Suez Canal. Only the Alamein line, and a battered Eighth Army, now lay between.
From a defence viewpoint the Alamein line had many advantages. It was short-less than 40 miles over-all. It ran roughly north and south, across the enemy's line of advance. At one end was the coast; at the other the Qattara Depression, a sea of soft sand and salt marshes virtually impassable for army transport. With its flanks thus protected, the line was braced by three bastions-the El Alamein Box near the coast; Fortress A (also known as the Kaponga Box, or the Qattara Box), a well-prepared stronghold about 20 miles to the south- south-west; and Fortress B, some 15 miles farther south-south- west, close to the edge of the Qattara Depression.
Auchinleck's first big difficulty was to find enough war-worthy troops to man these strongpoints and protect the gaps between them. Fortunately, i South African Division under General Pienaar had been brought back intact from the Sollum area before the end of June, and was now entrenched in the Alamein Box. The only other large infantry formation on the spot and fit to fight was the New ealand Division, allocated to Fortress A. Fifth Indian Division, by now only at about one brigade strength and split into a number of small mobile columns, was initially assigned to Fortress B.
The gap to the north of the New Zealand Division was to be ‘plugged’ by what remained of I Armoured Division, with 50 Division (remnants) in support. Eighteenth Indian Infantry page 214 Brigade, lately arrived from Iraq, was also assigned to positions in this gap. South of our Division, mobile columns of 7 Armoured Division were to cover the gap between the Kaponga Box and Fortress B. But as enemy thrusts and pressures developed, and Eighth Army worked out its own counter-measures, these dispositions were, of course, varied.
Fortress B soon proved untenable and the Indians were withdrawn, leaving the New Zealanders guarding the southern flank. While our 6 Brigade, which had been moved forward from Amiriya while the Division was at Minqar Qaim, held out in Fortress A, 4 and 5 Brigades and the Artillery formed mobile columns which struck at enemy penetrations north of the Fortress. By 9 July, however, the Kaponga Box was evacuated and 4 and 5 Brigade Groups occupied positions east of the Fortress area, their main line running from north-east to south-west, with the artillery deployed facing north and north-west. This further shortened the Alamein line which now ran, apart from bulges, due north and south. Sixth Brigade again went into reserve at Amiriya. And with this brief sketch of the general situation we must now return to Petrol Company.
Their first task was to refuel the Division's transport following the move from Minqar Qaim. They were also ordered to supply its mobile elements-4 and 5 Brigades and Artillery— with enough POL to carry them 200 miles. As already mentioned, a replenishment area for ammunition, supplies and petrol had been established nine miles west of Company Headquarters, i.e., a few miles east from Divisional Headquarters at Munassib. At 10 a.m. on i July, lorries from Nos. I and 2 Platoons, under Second-Lieutenant MacShane and carrying 10,000 gallons, were despatched to this replenishment area, where their loads were soon quitted. Then arose the usual conundrum: where was the Copany to obtain more petrol?
Preliminary instructions had indicated that the refilling of Petrol Company's load-carriers would be done at Hammam, east of El Alamein, or possibly from 96 FMC, both of which lay to the rear of Petrol Company's headquarters. So instruct- tions were given to Lieutenant Browne (recently promoted, page 215 and detailed to act as Petrol Officer for the New Zealand Division) that the lorries of MacShane's convoy were to be sent back, when empty, to the Company area. Meanwhile, Commander NZASC had sent Captain Tomlinson1 of his staff to check on refilling arrangements with Corps and 96 FMC. This officer duly contacted Corps, who instructed that refilling was to be done in Fortress A-then occupied by 6 Brigade-‘to clear an FMC allegedly still there’, as Petrol Company's war diary quaintly puts it. In view of this new instruction Tomlinson countermanded the Company order for MacShane's empty trucks to return to Company Headquarters, since they would now need to go forward, not back, to be refilled.
Major Forbes was not very happy over this. The latest situation reports, which he had just seen at Headquarters Command NZASC, showed enemy tanks east of the general Alamein line-and our soft-skinned vehicles would be ‘easy meat’ in any encounter. Neither Colonel Crump nor the Senior Supply Officer was then available; but Forbes managed soon afterwards to contact the Colonel, who confirmed that refilling would take place in the Fortress. MacShane was thereupon sent forward, with thirty-four 3-ton trucks from 1 and 2 Platoons. That same afternoon (i July) four missing lorries of 1 Platoon which had lost their way the previous evening were picked up and returned to the Company area.
After MacShane had started on his 12-mile journey Forbes returned to NZASC Headquarters, only to learn that the position east of the Alamein line had still further deteriorated. All forward convoys were now to be stopped. He phoned 6 Brigade Supply Officer at the Fortress and found that MacShane's convoy had arrived safely and was loading. Meanwhile, convoys from Divisional Supply and Divisional Ammunition Companies, also bound for the Fortress, had been turned back.
MacShane left the Kaponga Box, fully loaded, at 8 p.m., receiving much attention on the northern exit from enemy aircraft, which dropped flares but no bombs. His convoy proceeded about ten miles east then halted to await the page 216 moonrise, still attended by enemy flares. At midnight they pushed on again, their progress hampered by soft sand and poor visibility. To add to their troubles, intermittent rain commenced. In the murk they passed about one mile wide of the Company area, and MacShane lost touch with ten of his trucks. He then ordered the rest of the convoy to laager for the night while he set out to find Company Headquarters. This he eventually did at 3 a.m. By 7 a.m. the convoy had been guided in, minus the ten missing vehicles, which turned up later in the day. All told, they brought back 20,000 gallons.
Meanwhile Captain Washbourn, with seventeen vehicles, had gone seeking POL at Hammam. He found none there, nor at Burg el Arab, but managed to obtain 10,000 gallons at Bahig. This load came in at 7.15 a.m. on 2 July and half of it was issued immediately to ASC units in the area. This completed the Division's refuelling, and left 25,000 gallons in hand. At 9 a.m. Colonel Crump held a conference of his company commanders and instructed that petrol would now be drawn from 86 FMG. Our Company was to have, by nightfall, 35,000 gallons on wheels in i and 2 Platoons.
These requirements were duly met; and next day Sam Burkitt, with sixteen three-tonners from i Platoon and three three-tonners from No. 2, gaily departed, at 6 a.m., for further loading at 86 FMC. But at a conference held at 10 a.m., Commander NZASC advised that owing to the tactical situation refilling that day was to be done at 91 FMC! At 10.30, therefore, Captain Latimer set out ‘to recover or redirect 2/Lt Burkitt's convoy’, since 86 FMC was now closed. However, when Latimer reached No. 86 he found that Burkitt's convoy had indeed loaded there, and was then heading for home with 11,880 gallons of petrol and two 3-ton loads of assorted oils.
That afternoon (3 July) Maurie Browne paid a visit to 91 FMC and found nothing in our line available there-not even petrol. At this time, also, there was an urgent need for MBO (mineral burning oil, alias kerosene) then being required by the Field Ambulances for hospitals; and a special oil, which Ordnance was unable to supply, for the recoil mechanism of the 25-pounder guns. The six-pounder anti-tank guns, also, page 217 were needing MBO for their buffers. So Petrol Company was instructed to obtain these supplies at all cost. Having drawn a blank at 91 FMC, Forbes despatched Lance-Corporal Baldwin with a 3-ton lorry to Bahig, via Hammam, for MBO, gun oil and M 220, a vehicle lubricant used by Divisional Cavalry.
Next day petrol was again drawn from 86 FMC. That day, too, the water situation-always rather ‘iffy’ in the desert— was improved by the arrival of a 4 RMT convoy from Alexandria (speeded on its way by Captain Torbet) which was guided in by MSM Williams of Petrol Company Workshops. There was great jubilation when Williams also delivered to the Company its first mail since Syria. Meanwhile Lance-Corporal Baldwin, unable to find what he wanted at Bahig, had been directed on to Alexandria, returning to the Company at 3 p.m. with a full load of the highly essential gun oils and MBO.
These examples are typical of Petrol Company's problems and activities in early July, while the two armies locked together in a desperate struggle-the one to break the thinly-held Alamein line and so achieve a world-shaking victory, the other to hold on in a back-to-the- wall effort to avert catastrophe.
Rommel began by attempting to envelop the Alamein Box. On i July he thrust at the gap to the south of it, but this move was thwarted by the South Africans. At the same time he mounted a heavy assault with tanks and artillery against 18 Indian Brigade at Deir el Shein, in the area between the South Africans and the New Zealanders, in an effort to get in behind 13 Corps.
After some hours of fighting, the Deir el Shein positions were overrun and the enemy penetrated strongly. The situation for Eighth Army now looked extremely grave. Plans were made for a further deep withdrawal, with the South Africans retiring on Alexandria and our Division falling back towards Cairo. We would then make a last stand at the Wadi Natrun.
But this plan, fortunately, was never needed. On 2 July our Division formed mobile gun columns and struck northward at the enemy's flank. Heavy blows were delivered, too, by the British armour, which knocked out many German tanks. Next day 4 Brigade, with 4 and 5 NZ Field Regiments, page 218 attacked and crippled the ‘crack’ Italian Ariete Armoured Division, capturing 350 prisoners and 44 guns. On the same day 5 Brigade struck north-west against the enemy flank at El Mreir.
Petrol Company knew little of these aggressive actions. There were rumours, of course; but real information was meagre indeed. For our drivers, early July brought hectic days and noisy nights. Bombing and strafing went on continually, with dogfights overhead and the RAF and the Luftwaffe both vigorously active. So, too, were the flies. And one perspiring Petrol Company driver, weary of fighting the insects for his food, threw his dixie in the sand and shouted: ‘There, you B—s; take the flaming lot!’ With in-the-shade temperatures reaching 110 degrees, tempers were apt to rise accordingly.
Tank and artillery battles raged around-and sometimes across-the Divisional Petrol Company locations. The fluid situation caused many moves (some in hot haste, as enemy columns hove in sight) and frequent changes in the issuing and refilling points. Heavy night dews and early morning mists saturated the men's bedding-usually only a blanket or two-and then, soon after, came the blazing sun, baking everything and everyone. Our Company's main concern in those critical days was to maintain the Division at its maximum mobility; and to this end the Company always carried in each of its two operating platoons 18,000 gallons of POL ‘on wheels’.
On 6 July, at midnight, a message reached Company Headquarters advising that the Divisional Cavalry was now equipped with General Stuart tanks, and that Petrol Company must henceforth carry 1000 gallons of high octane petrol-known to the Company as HOPS. This amount was picked up next day from the Qattara fortress, which then held large stocks, and our loading of MT petrol was correspondingly reduced. On 8 July Workshops' No. 11 Section moved out for duty at Maadi, its tasks there including the maintenance of Divisional vehicles still operating at Base, and the formation of a collection centre, ex Tel-el-Kebir, for spare parts for all Divisional ASC units.
July the 8th brought increased air activity, and in one sharp dogfight a British fighter plane was shot down in the Petrol Company area. The aircraft exploded, scattering debris far and page 219 wide, with little trace left of the pilot. That afternoon Sam Burkitt's convoy of thirteen vehicles was severely shelled while reloading in Fortress A. He got his trucks away without mishap, but noticed when he left a large column of black smoke rising from the petrol dump. A direct hit, he concluded, had set fire to one of the pits.
Sam's load of petrol was the last to come out of Fortress A. That afternoon 6 Brigade withdrew, leaving a rearguard. Next day this rear party also pulled out-and for most of the day the enemy staged a full-scale attack against the empty fortress. At 6 p.m. 25 of his tanks and 200 vehicles poured into the Kaponga Box.
So far in this campaign the Company had borne a charmed life, with no damage caused by enemy action to either man or vehicle. Some close shaves were experienced on 10 July when a column of trucks drove through our area at 5.30 a.m., narrowly missing many sleepers, who preferred the ‘safety’ of the open desert to dossing down close to their loaded vehicles. This, it transpired, was no enemy raid, but a convoy from our own Divisional Ammunition Company; and the remarks hurled by Petrol Company drivers at the departing heads of their Ammo ‘cobbers’ were both choice and explicit.
That afternoon the Company received pay—their first since Syria-at the rate of thirty shillings per man. So at last one was able to settle one's debts, bets and poker losses. But with so much spending power and so few consumer goods there was only one way to beat inflation: a truck was sent to Alex for canteen and mess supplies. But, the stern order admonished, ‘definitely no liquor’-and this at the height of a hot desert summer!
Still, the war at that stage was not entirely ‘dry’. For already the Divisional Supply Company, as Bates records in his unit history, ‘had begun to supplement its normal ration work by bringing up welcome cargoes of beer, cigarettes and other luxury items from Alexandria’. He adds: ‘The daily issue now included rum, and in general the rations were good. A sample, issued on 21 July: sixteen ounces of M and V, twelve ounces of bread, four ounces of sausages, two ounces of tinned fruit, one ounce of margarine, three ounces of sugar, two ounces of milk, page 220 one ounce of cheese, three-quarters of an ounce of tea, and ten cigarettes. Beer was also a regular item, but was a charge against unit funds and was not an issue. Later in the month fresh limes were issued. An unusual demand from the troops was quicklime; the Italians had buried the dead just below the sand, and the stench was bringing in hordes of already insufferable flies. Lime was issued on 31 July.’
On 14 July Petrol Company's clean casualty sheet suffered a smudge when eighteen Stukas bombed and machine-gunned the replenishment area. No. 1 Platoon were there at the time, and once again our men came off unscathed. Several Company vehicles, however, were damaged by splinters, the worst being the QM truck (from Headquarters Platoon) which had gone with the convoy to the replenishment area to bring back water. Other units were much less fortunate, their casualties from this raid totalling twenty-one killed and about fifty wounded. Petrol Company's efficient vehicle dispersal undoubtedly saved them, then, as on other occasions. Three days later another bombing raid, by Junkers 88s, about a mile from the Company area, wounded several Divisional Ammunition men, including Second-Lieutenant Cording, formerly a sergeant in Petrol Company.
Though altogether an uncomfortable month, July 1942 lacked nothing in excitement. Heavy gun battles raged to the north of us; bombings and dogfights were daily affairs; while every night the RAF roared overhead on their regular two-way ‘bus-route’. British tanks sometimes trundled through our lines to get more quickly at promising targets-and sometimes they drew from the enemy armour streams of spectacular but quite unpleasant tracer. Prisoners of war were now included in our loads-mostly Italians.
At one stage Petrol Company also carried ‘walking wounded’, from an MDS north-west of the Company area. Urgent and serious cases were then being evacuated by the RAF in flying ambulances-Bombays and De Havillands. At 9.20 a.m. on 24 July, two Bombays were seen approaching the MDS and coming in to land. At that moment several Messerschmitts appeared, some remaining at a considerable height-watching for intercepting Spitfires-while one swooped down in vicious page 221 attack. Both Bombays succeeded in landing, though one had obviously been badly shot up. Another spurt of bullets set it ablaze. The ME then made several runs at the second Bombay, and it, too, burst into flames. Neither of our planes carried Red Cross markings. Their crews were able to get away safely before the aircraft caught fire.
Later that month came another severe raid, vividly described in a letter by Maurie Browne:
We had a Hell of a time a couple of nights ago. I awoke with a singing in my ears and a burning all over me. Couldn't make it out until I realised it was mosquitoes. There were millions of them, and they routed the whole Division! I had the mistaken idea that I was the only one being nipped-until I saw young Jack2 hop out of his bed and go tearing off into the sand, waving his arms and smacking himself.
They were all anopheles, and had evidently been blown up from the Delta in a windstorm. I had never seen a mossie before in the desert proper, and couldn't believe it. The only consolation was that the Hun must have got as many as we did and may not feel so keen about Egypt now. They have all blown away again, but we're still scratching the bites and hoping we don't get malaria.
The Hun, indeed, was anything but keen about Egypt by then, and still less were his reluctant allies, the Italians. By the time Rommel's troops reached Alamein they were already dog-tired from constant fighting, constant travelling, and lack of rest. The iron will of their Commander drove them on. But when his plans misfired, and hopes of a rapid victory vanished, his men became dispirited. Even in the famous Africa Corps morale ran low; for this was not (as many suppose) a corps d'élite of picked and seasoned troops. They were, in fact, just run-of-the-mill recruits, and some were quite new to desert fighting. They were now at the end of inordinately long supply lines, which brought only a trickle of the food, the guns, the tanks, the reinforcements and the petrol that they needed-especially the petrol.
In the desert, Rommel's order of priority had always been (1) petrol and oil, (2) water, (3) food, (4) prisoners. And Brigadier Young relates3 that, at a conference with the Supreme page 222 Command in Italy that month, Rommel complained bitterly about being halted for lack of petrol. Three tankers had just been sunk in two days. Marshal Cavallero was at pains to reassure the German C-in-C: other means had already been adopted to keep him supplied. Petrol was being sent over in the double bottoms of hospital ships! Rommel, it is said, exploded in indignation.
Later, at a conference with Hitler himself, Rommel told the Fuehrer that his panzers were ‘standing at the door of Alexandria’ but that it was impossible to push it open unless they were reinforced and the supply position improved. Above all, they could do nothing without petrol. Hitler then produced another brainwave: the mass production of very small shallow-draught vessels, like landing craft, armed with two 88-milli- metre guns each, and much more difficult targets than tankers. These, Hitler assured him, would be able to slip across the Mediterranean at night, and by means of them the petrol problem would be solved. This plan, of course, was never carried out.
By the middle of July we had taken the enemy's measure. The tide of battle ebbed and flowed, but Eighth Army stood firm on the Alamein line. There were even plans for a great British counter-thrust to reach the coast at Daba and Fuka. That would have ‘boxed’ the enemy's forward elements and cut his lines of communication. But apart from a daring raid on Fuka airfield, by a motorised column which shot up installations and planes on the ground, this plan came to nothing. And Auchinleck's edict of 5 July that ‘Eighth Army will attack and destroy the enemy’ turned out to be so much wishful thinking.
For our Division July was a month of triumphs and disasters. The destruction of the Italian Ariete Armoured Division on 3 July was, says Lieutenant-Colonel Scoullar, ‘an outstanding episode in the Dominion's military history…. It seriously disconcerted both Germans and Italians and made the latter more fearful in subsequent conflicts with the New Zealanders. It increased German distrust of the fighting qualities of their allies and Italian cynicism concerning Rommel's leadership. It was possibly one of the main factors which led Rommel to plan an page 223 operation with the sole purpose of eliminating the New Zealand Division.’4
Then, on the night of 14-15 July, came the spirited capture of Ruweisat Ridge by our 4 and 5 Infantry Brigades, with 5 Indian Brigade on one flank. Our men carved their way through strongly-held enemy positions, dealing heavy punishment and taking masses of prisoners. Enemy tanks, prowling in the dark, were attacked by intrepid infantrymen, who destroyed several with ‘sticky’ bombs, or by shooting the tank commander and then climbing aboard to drop hand grenades on the crew inside. The remaining tanks withdrew in confusion.
But daylight quickly changed the picture. British tanks, expected by then to give support, were not on hand. Artillery moving up behind 5 Brigade met unforeseen delays. To dig in on Ruweisat's rocky outcrop was virtually impossible. So when the German armour counter-attacked in 5 Brigade's rear that morning, many of the infantry were caught in a hopeless position. The brigade sustained severe casualties, and almost the whole 22 Battalion was captured.
Fourth Brigade, which had reached its position on the ridge with twenty-one anti-tank guns, suffered even more severely, first from enemy mortars and artillery, which shelled incessantly throughout the day, then from a swift onslaught late in the afternoon by tanks and armoured cars. These made short work of our anti-tank weapons and their gallant crews, leaving the infantry defenceless. Most of the survivors of 19 and 20 Battalions went into the ‘bag’, including Capain Upham,5 Whose heroic exploits that day, and at Minqar Qaim, gained him a bar to his Victoria Cross.
On the credit side, we had killed large numbers of Germans and Italians and brought back 1600 prisoners. At one stage 5 Brigade alone had over 4000 in hand, while 4 Brigade probably took even more. Its commander (Brigadier Burrows6) page 224 estimates that there were 20,000 prisoners for the taking' when he reached the ridge at daylight. With proper tank support this action could have crippled Rommel's army. Captured material included 12 88-millimetre guns, 43 other field guns, 60 anti-tank guns and mortars, and ‘automatics beyond counting’.
That night (15-16 July) the surviving units were withdrawn and consolidated on a low ridge some 1200 yards south of Ruweisat. Sixth Brigade came up from reserve and extended the line. The remnants of 22 Battalion and of 4, Brigade (excepting 18 Battalion which now joined 5 Brigade) were withdrawn to Maadi. That same week another night attack was ordered, with 6 Brigade going in this time (21 July) against strong enemy positions at El Mreir. And again, for the same reason-lack of the promised tank support-disaster overtook us. Within a few days all three New Zealand infantry brigades had suffered drastic losses.7
During this period a kind of ‘uneasy peace’ settled down over the rear areas. Petrol Company's two operating platoons worked in echelon on alternate days, allowing four vehicles from the disengaged platoon to be in workshops daily for routine inspection and check-over. The possibility of sudden moves (Eighth Army still seemed to be ‘looking over its shoulder’ to alternative positions some miles farther back) precluded Workshops from opening up on a full scale. So a policy developed during this campaign of conducting Workshops operations well to the rear.
No. 11 Section, under Staff-Sergeant O'Connor, had gone back to Maadi on 8 July. Four days later, Colonel Crump ordered blacksmiths and their gear to be sent to Divisional Ordnance Workshops at Hammam, to make vehicle springs for our Company. On 31 July he further instructed that one section of Workshops, plus one clerk from Company Headquarters, would set up shop at Amiriya. Thus only Workshops Headquarters and one of its sections remained with the Company.
For July 1942 Petrol Company's running aggregated 71,616 miles, with a petrol consumption of 10,781 gallons. In that page 225 month POL issues were: Petrol, 339,518 gallons; Oils: M 220, 3738 gallons; G 600, 2226 gallons; M 160, 1615 gallons; Hypoid, 180 gallons; HBF, 32 gallons: total, 7791 gallons. Grease, GS, 2439 lb. AGO, 1669 gallons. MBO, 2054 gallons. Petrol issues for the campaign to date totalled 401,518 gallons.
On 9 July the Company issued petrol to an extraordinary total of 19,070 gallons-a fact which disturbed Commander NZASC, who called for a report on the amounts drawn by each unit. This aggregate, however, was not inconsistent with the Division's voracious requirements of POL for night moves, and accords with the amounts drawn during the Western Desert campaigns of September-December 1941.
|From Petrol Point
|33 Bty, 7 A-Tk Regt
|HQ 4 Bde
|4 Fd Amb
|32 Bty, 7, A-Tk Regt
|NZ Div Pro
|5 Fd Amb
|HQ NZ Div (Rear)
|31 i Bty, NZA
|NZ Div Cav
|5 Fd Regt
|6 Fd Regt
|8 Fd Coy, NZE
|6 Fd Coy, NZE
|NZ Div Sigs
|41 Lt AA Btv
|4 Fd Regt
|Issues in area from No. 2 Pl:
|Div Sup Coy
|6 Res MT Coy
|Div Amn Coy
|Div Sup Coy
|Div Sup Coy(3 Pl)
|Issues in area from No. I Pl:
|HQ, Div Pet
|Workshops Div Pet
|4 Res MT
|9 Jul 42:
|Total issues by Coy: 19,070 gals
These figures gave the first true picture of the Division's POL usage in this campaign. They followed the regrouping of 4 and 5 Brigades during the night of 8-9 July, a maximum movement of not more than ten mies, made between the page 226 hours of 8.30 p.m. and 5.30 a.m. There was also the movement of the Divisional Cavalry, now using tanks. Before 8 July many units had been making independent drawings from Fortress A and other non-Petrol Company sources; so, until these ‘dried up’, no reliable estimate of actual petrol usage had been possible.
3 Desmond Young, Rommel.
6 Brig J. T. Burrows, CBE, DSO and bar, ED, m.i.d., Order of Valour (Gk); Christchurch; born Christchurch, 14 Jul 1904; schoolmaster; CO 20 Bn May 1941, Dec 1941-Jul 1942; 20 Bn and Armd Regt Aug 1942-Jun 1943; comd 4 Bde 27-29 Jun 1942, 5 Jul-15 Aug 1942; 5 Bde Mar 1944, Aug-Nov 1944; 6Bde Jul-Aug 1944; Commander, Southern Military District, 1951-53; Commander K Force, 1953-54; Commander, SMD, 1955-60.
7 In the Ruweisat action, Sergeant Keith Elliott, of 22 Battalion, won the Victoria Cross for a series of brilliant explliants.