The pursuit through Egypt continues

German 88mm gun abandoned near the coast

A German 88mm gun abandoned near the coast road, west of El Alamein, 7 November 1942.

The commander of a Stuart tank scans the ground ahead through field glasses before giving the order to advance, Cyrenaica, November 1942.

In Egypt the breakout from the El Alamein positions was well under way.

The British had done their best to cut off the German and Italian forces retreating westwards along the coast road, which were already subjected to devastating bombing raids. The 4th Hussars, a famous cavalry regiment in which Winston Churchill had served as a young man, was amongst those leading the charge across the desert in their tanks. The weather changed however and they became bogged down and unable to move.

Conditions changed on the 9th and they came into contact with the rearguard. The following entry comes from the War Diary of the 4th Hussars, illustrating the type of small but nevertheless lethal action they would encounter in the following days:

0545 – The Regt having reached better going, which had also dried out considerably during the night, a move was made across the desert to CHARING CROSS, just West of which refuelling took place. For approx 15 miles West of CHARING CROSS the Regt was moving through other troops of the 8th Army, incl 2nd Armd Bde. After about 15 miles the Bde was again leading the advance of the 8th Army.

1130 – the Brigadier, having gone on ahead of the Regt, made arrangements for 2 petrol bowsers of the RAF to be made available for the Regt to refuel at Kilo 100. This was duly done and the Regt was able to proceed again with full tanks.

1300 – At Kilo 117 an enemy strongpoint was encountered. This strongpoint had been previously reported by the Derby Yeomanry and consisted of approx six 88mm guns, eight 105mm guns and several smaller A/Tk guns. This time A Sqn were the leading Sqn and was ordered to advance as far as possible. C Sqn was ordered to the South of the road in order to find the enemy flank. During the out-flanking movement C Sqn definitely destroyed one enemy 6pdr Portee (whose crew was also captured), 2 more guns and several MET. Two MET and 25 PoW were taken, all of whom were Germans from the 90th Lt Div. During this action, 2Lt AH Cartmell and 1 OR [Other Ranks] were killed and 3 ORs wounded, 2 of whom died of their wounds. One Tank of C Sqn was set on fire.

1630 – The enemy were seen to be withdrawing from their strongpoint and M Battery 3rd RHA laid a concentration on the road. At the same time A Sqn, together with D Coy KRRC, advanced. Between them 150 PoW were taken, all from the 90th Lt Div. A Sqn continued their advance until they met considerable A/Tk fire in the area of the aerodrome at Kilo 126. By this time it was almost dusk and the Regt was ordered to leaguer North of the road at Kilo 120, approx 10 miles East of SIDI BARRANI.

The War Diary of the 4th Hussars is available at Desert

A Grant tank and trucks make their way along a road flooded by recent rains while in pursuit of the enemy, 10 November 1942.

Grant and Lee tanks of ‘C’ Squadron, 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, 2nd Armoured Brigade, El Alamein position, Egypt, 7 July 1942.

2nd Lieutenant Winston Churchill of the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars in 1895.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Q November 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm

A Grant tank AND a Lee tank alongside each other. Interesting comparison between the two, ie Lee with cupola and more sloped armour on the top turret. I note some of the Grants arrived with browning machine guns on top.

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