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The Battle of El Alamein Begins

23 OCT 1942: World War II and the Battle of El Alamein begins. El Alamein, in Egypt, one of the turning point battles of the Second World War, began with a massive artillery bombardment preceding attacks by British and Australian divisions. On the night of 23 October 1942, a massive artillery barrage heralded the great Allied offensive. The infantry successfully captured most of their objectives; however, the tanks were unable to follow through and continue the thrust.

With the Axis forces stubbornly holding their lines intact, Montgomery worried that his offensive was becoming bogged down.

Changing tactics from the drive westwards, he ordered the Australians of 9th Division to switch their attack northward. What followed was a week of extremely fierce fighting, with the Australians grinding their way forward over well-defended enemy positions. As had happened in July, their gains so worried Rommel that he again diverted his strongest units to stop them.

Places such as Thompson’s Post, the Fig Orchard, the Blockhouse and the Saucer became an inferno of fire and steel as the Australians weathered the storm of bombs, shells and bullets.

With Rommel’s attention firmly on the Australians in the north, naturally this left his line weakened further south, and on 2 November the British tanks struck a decisive blow there. The Panzerarmee had suffered crippling losses and Rommel was forced to order a general withdrawal, or face total annihilation. His army now began a headlong retreat that would soon see them ejected from Africa altogether.

Between July and November 1942, the Australian 9th Division suffered almost 6,000 casualties. Although the price was fearfully high, they had without doubt played a crucial role in ensuring an Allied victory in North Africa. Photo; A 25 pounder gun firing during the British night artillery barrage which opened Second Battle of El Alamein, 23 October 1942. More;

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