The British Guns open up
23 October 1942: Montgomery launches his attack at El Alamein with a massive artillery bombardment on a scale not seen since the First World War
The day of waiting and discomfort was over. The British Eighth Army - including Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian, Polish and Free French forces - was poised for action. A frontal assault on the German lines was about to be launched. The prelude was to be an artillery bombardment, a tactic that had been highly developed by the Royal Artillery during the First World War.
Almost every one of the most senior officers had experience of the Western Front, and would have had some idea what to expect. For younger men it was a surprising and awe inspiring event.
At the gun positions final checks had been made. Some of the men took off their coats, others took off their shirts, for they knew before the night was over they would be wet with sweat…
Ernie Huntley1 was one of tens of thousands watching and waiting that evening:
As usual in the desert, twilight fell very quickly. It was the time when all the Desert Force seem to come alive. The transport columns started to make their way forward from the rear echelon, over various tracks, Sun, Moon, Star, Springbok and many others raising as they did clouds of choking dust which completely blackened out the sky. Each evening they brought up fresh supplies of food, petrol ammunition and the odd item from the canteen, letters, replacements and for some, the ever welcome hot evening meal.
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