Australian counter-attack in the desert
10th July 1942: The British break out from their new defensive lines at El Alamein as fresh Australian troops launch a major assault
In Africa the Commander in Chief Middle East, Claude Auchinleck, had taken personal command of the battle and sought to to seize the initiative back from Rommel by launching a series of attacks. While Rommel’s troops were exhausted and starting to feel the effects of being at the end of a long supply line, the 9th Australian Division had just been brought up to the front line.
At 3am on the 10th July a massive artillery barrage opened up from the British lines, assisted by the proximity of the El Alamein railhead. This would have been typical of World War I battle, intended to soften up the Italian defensive lines before the infantry assault. James Ambrose Brown1 was a spectator from the South African positions, close by:
July 10, 1942
The roar of gunfire broke through my sleep. It was still dark but showing signs of dawn breaking. Great red flashes flickered across our lines from far into the desert, right down to the coast.
Ahead, where the shells were bursting, the flickering, dancing flashes were duplicated in a red melody. The dull drumming of the bursting shells did not slacken or cease until the sun was well over the horizon; then came the thin rattle of machine guns from the coast road.
‘About 1100h a force of Stukas passed over at a tremendous height, wheeled and dropped their load on positions beyond the ridge flanking the coast. ‘The Aussies are getting it,’ someone said.’
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