“Stand to! Tanks! Lots of the bastards"
22nd July 1942: After a successful advance the New Zealand infantry find themselves unsupported as dawn approaches
In North Africa both sides continued to push for better positions on the new front line outside El Alamein.
On 21st-22nd July 1942 New Zealand units of the 8th Army attacked Rommel's lines, attempting to expand the position of the Ruweisat Ridge. Initially the plan went well with the infantry reaching their objectives at El Mreir. To consolidate their positions they needed tank support - but the tanks intended for this role never reached them, having failed to get through the minefields.
So when a German counter-attack developed they were very vulnerable.
Brigadier George Clifton1 describes his personal situation in the early hours of the 22nd:
The Aucklanders and my own H.Q. crew were hard at work, scraping shallow foxholes in the silt of the depression, and the battle looked like pausing until first light. Might as well rest a bit, ready for the day ahead; so I got down on the old bed-roll and “died”, leaving Crowley to dig in the Div. wireless set against possible trouble.
Forty minutes later, Cliff George woke me up, reporting his safe arrival. I told him what the plan would be at first light, and to rest his men until we could see enough to put them at it. The hour was probably about a quarter to five. He disappeared into the dark and I started putting my boots on.
‘Then hell broke loose. An Auckland carrier came dashing in across the depression, yelling “Stand to! Tanks! Lots of the bastards".’
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