11 July - 17 July 1942

11 July 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-203 torpedoed and sank Panamanian tanker Stanvac Palembang 50 miles northeast of Trinidad at 0352 hours; 5 were killed, 45 survived. American pilots John Haggin and Wynant Farr of the Civil Air Patrol based in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States reported the sinking of an enemy submarine 25 miles east of Absecon, New Jersey; this sinking was not confirmed by the US Navy.

German submarine U-166 sank Dominican sailing vessel Carmen with the deck gun 8 miles off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic at 1900 hours; 1 was killed, 7 survived.

Atlantic Ocean : On 10th July , German submarine U-201 deployed by German U-Boat command to locate Allied convoys in South Atlantic and on Gibraltar , discovered Allied convoy Outbound South OS-33 west of Maderia islands and called for three more submarines to attack convoy , forming Wolfpack HAI.

A hard convoy battle raged over the next seventy-two hours. However initial attacks made by German submarines went wrong or them at first. 325 miles west of Madeira archipelago, Free French destroyer Léopard, Royal Navy frigate HMS Spey, and sloop HMS Pelican , all of which adroitly capitalized on radar and Huff Duff , trapped and sank German submarine U-136 with four depth charges (all 45 aboard were killed) as the three warships escorted Allied convoy OS-33.

North Sea : German naval trawler V 1236 struck a mine and sank off Holland.

El Alamein , Egypt : After a heavy and accurate artillery fire from British and Australian guns , Australian 26th Brigade infantry battalion 2/24 and British tanks from 44th Royal Tank Regiment attacked Point 24 at the western end of Tel el Eisa hill , near El Alamein, Egypt, capturing it in the early afternoon without suffering a single casaulty and routing two Berseglia battalions and a battalion of Sabratha infantry division , fortified Point 24 after capturing it and then went on to successfully defend the captured height against Axis counterattacks. Meanwhile, another column of Allied tanks and motorized infantry from 24th Australian Brigade nicknamed Daycol raided Deir el Abyad, capturing about 1,100 Italian troops from Trieste Motorised Infantry Division.

By early afternoon, Point 24 was captured by Australian infantry and was then held against a series of Axis counter-attacks throughout the day. All day the 2/48th Battalion had been under heavy Axis shell fire but Australian infantry had toiled on, improving weapon-pits and laying mines. Every concentration of Axis troops to attack Point 24 had been dispersed by heavy and accurate Brtitish artillery fire .

By the next morning the Australian 2/48th battalion had suffered 39 casualties, but they had taken 89 German prisoners and 835 Italians and captured 27 Italian guns of 35-mm to 75-mm calibre . In all the brigade knocked out 18 tanks and took 1,150 prisoners.

Meanwhile a small column of British armour, Australian motorised infantry, and guns nicknamed Daycol then set off to raid Deir el Abyad , captured eight more Italian guns and caused a battalion of Italian infantry from Trieste Infantry Division to surrender. Its progress was checked at the Miteirya ridge and it was forced to withdraw that evening to the Tel el Eisa. During the day, more than 1,100 more Italian prisoners were taken by this column. Italian Sabratha infantry division was out of action for good.

The battle report of the Armoured Army of Africa gives the German version of British 30th Corps’ operations on the 11th including those of the 2/24th Battalion against Point 24 :

"Early next morning the enemy again attacked after a very heavy preliminary bombardment. In this attack two Bersaglieri strongpoints, which had held firm the previous day, fell very soon . A battalion of Trieste division which was committed to plug a gap was overrun and wiped out. This made the situation so serious that almost the whole of the army artillery had to be committed in the northern sector . Before evening all the other battalions of the Trieste Division were brought forward to the Point 21 area to seal off the advance . Reconnaissance Detachment 3 was moved into the area south-west of Point 237 to prevent the enemy from breaking through to the west. “I was compelled to order every last German soldier out of his tent or rest camp up to the front,” Rommel wrote later, “for, in face of the virtual default of a large proportion of our Italian fighting power, the situation was beginning to take on crisis proportions.”

On 11th July Rommel decided to smash the British penetration with a strong counter-stroke using the 21st Panzer Division . He brought the division up from the south on the 12th and decided to capture the Alamein Box next day and cut off the Australians on Tel el Eisa . "The attack was to be supported by every gun and every aeroplane we could muster. "

The damage had been done however and Rommel only hoping to seal of Tel el Eisa penetration made by Australian 9th Division , would lose more than thirty tanks against the Tel el Eisa positions in the next five days in failed counter attacks to recapture the ridge. His losses in tank crews were also “heavy.” Infantry strenghth in Afrikakorps divisions reduced to 1.300 fighting men in avarege on 12th July. After the second day of the Australian action, a chastened Rommel recorded in his diary:

“There could be no question of launching any large-scale attack in the immediate future. I was compelled to order every last German soldier out of his tent or rest camp to the front, for, in face of the virtual default of a large proportion of our Italian fighting power, the situation was beginning to take on crisis proportions.”

Epecially towards Italian units under his command Rommel was becoming more harsh , dismissive and insulting : The place of every man of the Panzer Army is at the front,’ he said. ‘Recreation homes, recreation camps and such like institutions will be disbanded immediately. There is no such thing as replenishment behind the front.’ And to the Italians corps commanders he fired off an even more threatening note: ‘Cases where soldiers leave the battlefield without a fight are becoming more frequent … You must not shrink from inflicting the death penalty.’

In the meantime, Commander of 13th Corps General Strafer Gott made preliminary moves for an attack by 13th Corps over Ruweisat Ridge to Deir el Abyad, where he hoped to join hands with 30th Corps’ exploitation forces. At first light on the 11th, Briish 2nd Armoured Brigade completed the occupation of the Alam Nayil feature. With this position firmly in hand, Gott called on Brigadier Inglis , temporary commander of 2nd New Zealand Division at midday with orders for New Zealand and 1st Armoured Divisions to secure a start line running north-east from Alam Nayil to a point on Ruweisat Ridge three-quarters of a mile east of the junction of the northern extension of Barrel track and the eastern Alamein-Himeimat track. The start line, with New Zealand Division on the left, was to be secured immediately.

At the end of the day Auchinleck, noting that Rommel was transferring armour to the north, set in train preparations for an attack from the south and centre in the Ruweisat Ridge region similar to the operation which had been in contemplation when the 24th Brigade’s raid in that sector was
being planned . The staff of Eighth Army, however, did not know that although one of the enemy’s armoured divisions and about 30 German tanks (approximately two-thirds of the total German tank strength) wer e in the north, the bulk of his armoured forces were still in the south under the firm command of the Afrikakorps (Lieut-General Nehring) and poised to undertake the projected offensive as soon as the detachments inthe north returned .

The successful attack at Tel el Eisa left the Australians brimming with confidence. One of the infantry battalions involved summarized the operation as two nights and a day of “hard fighting” but “the Bn with its supporting arms had shown itself more than equal to anything the Germans could produce.”

There was a telling feature in the Australians’ defense of Tel el Eisa, one that Rommel must have noticed and would cost him dearly in his next large-scale attack at the end of August. An Australian operational narrative recorded of it:This was the first campaign in which 9 Australian Division was fully supported from the air. Co-operation between land and air forces was complete, and within an hour of calling for support Boston bombers and fighter bombers would be blasting enemy troops and positions.

Fuka , Egypt : A SAS detachment of four jeeps equipped witch Browning and Vickers heavy machine guns under command of Captain Paddy Mayne staged a night raid on recently established Axis airfields at Fuka , Egypt , destroying 20 German ME-109 fighters on the ground as well as fuel depots and retreated without loss back to its field base in south

Mediterranean Sea : South African armed whaler HMSAS Protea, South African armed whaler HMSAS Southern Maid, and a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Walrus aircraft located and sank Italian submarine Ondina on the surface with depth charges 60 miles off Beirut, Syria-Lebenon.

German cargo ship Brook was hit and sunk by RAF Desert Air Force Martin Baltimore and Boston A-20 bombers off Mersa Matruh.

German cargo ship Delos was hit and fatally damaged by RAF Coastal Command Beaufort bombers from Malta and beached near Tobruk , declared total loss.

Danzig , East Prussia : 24 British Lancaster bombers (of 44 launched for this mission) bombed the German submarine yards at Danzig, Germany, losing two aircraft in the attack; this was the longest mission by British bombers to date.

Caucasian Front , Soviet Union : Only two weeks into the operation, on 11 July, the Germans began to suffer logistical difficulties, which slowed the advance. The German Sixth Army was continually delayed by fuel shortages though it reached Lisichansk on Don River , dividing Soviet South West Front into two which later became defunct. Next day from remants of South West Front , STAVKA created Stalingrad front commanded by Marshal Timoshenko.

Soviet 5th Tank Army, commanded by Major General A.I. Liziukov began a series of counter attacks to retake Voronezh but heavy Luftwaffe air raids inflict heavy casaulties and checks its advance then force it to retreat north of Voronezh within four days. Between active anti tank defence of 23rd and 24th Panzer Divisions around Voronezh and heavy Luftwaffe air raids , 5th Soviet Tank Army lose about half of its tanks in the process tilkl 14th July. However these Soviet counter attacks also delay deployment of 4th Panzer Army to south towards Don and Caucaus oil fields till mid July.

Moscow , Soviet Union : Joseph Stalin began moving massive numbers of troops into the Stalingrad area. Soviet Marshal Semyon Timoshenko was placed in overall command of the new Stalingrad Front

Rastenburg , East Prussia : Increasingly confident of victory, on July 11 Hitler issued a directive for the planning of Operation Blücher, a German attack from the Crimea across the Kerch Straits and into the Caucasus.

Berlin , Germany : On July 11, Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery, informed SS leaders, ‘by order of the Führer’, that henceforth, ‘in public discussion of the Jewish question any mention of a future total solution must be avoided. However, one may discuss the fact that all Jews are being interned and detailed to purposeful compulsory labour forces’.

Wellington , New Zealand : The US Marines headquarters unit arrived in New Zealand.

Aleutian islands : US military personnel captured the “Akutan Zero”, a Zero fighter that had crashed in the Aleutian Islands to study it.

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12 July 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-129 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Tachirá 50 miles southwest of Grand Cayman island; 5 were killed, 33 survived.

Atlantic Ocean : Wolfpack HAI start attacking Allied convoy OS-33 Outbound South off Maderia islands. German submarine U-116 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Cortona (0022 hours; 31 were killed, 23 survived) and British cargo ship Shaftesbury (0945 hours; all 45 aboard survived), German submarine U-201 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Cortona (shard credit with U-116) and British cargo ship Siris (0413 hours; 3 were killed, 52 survived), and German submarine U-582 torpedoed and sank New Zealand patrol craft HMNZS ML-1090 and British cargoship Port Hunter (0147 hours; 88 were killed, 3 survived).

Bay of Biscay : German submarine U-159 en rouer back to her base at La Rochelle , France after complating her patrol in Caribbean Sea , was located and attacked by a RAF Coastal Command Wellington bomber from 172 Squadron equipped with ASW radar and Leigh Leight to illumunate the German submarine in the darkness in Bay of Biscay. The aircraft dropped four 250-pound depth charges that shook German submarine severely and caused a great deal of minor damage, but nothing fatal. The pilot was the American serving in the RAF, Wiley B. Howell, who seven nights earlier had hit and sunk Jürgen von Rosenstiel’s Type IXC U-502 with the loss of all hands.

El Alamein , Egypt : German 104th Infantry Regiment from 21st Panzer Division attacked Allied troops on Trig 33 and Point 24 in the Tel el Eisa ridge region near El Alamein, Egypt; the German attack was driven off after it suffered 600 casualties (all killed) mainly due to heavy British and Australian artillery fire and field guns and machine gun posts across Australian perimeter.

On 12 July Rommel wrote to his wife that, though a ‘very serious situation’ was being overcome, the air was ‘still electric with crisis’.

Mediterranean Sea : Royal Navy submarine HMS Safari torpedoed and then after surfacing shelled with her deck gun and sank Italian cargo ship Adda in the Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia, Italy.

Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Swordfish torpedo bombers torpedoed and sank Italian cargo ship Sturla off Mersa Matruh , Egypt

Italian submarine Alagi torpedoed and sank Turkish cargo vessel Antares in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cairo , Egypt : Churchill wrote an increasingly anxious Auchinleck (who both commanded Middle East Therater as CiC and Eighth Army field commander ) who was constantly looking to north and north east about a possible German intrusion over Don , Caucaus to Iran to Middle East that ‘the only way in which a sufficient army can be gathered in the northern theatre is by your defeating or destroying Rommel and driving him at least to a safe distance … It must be recognised, however, that if you do not succeed in defeating and destroying Rommel, then there is no possibility whatsoever of making a sufficient transference to the north, and we shall continue to be entirely dependent on the Russian front holding.’

Auchinleck , still could not make a proper command and chain of command system and authority over field commanders of Eighth Army and still yet to find a general to take over Eighth Army wrote back : ‘I quite understand the situation … My aim is to destroy him as far east as possible … unless we can destroy the German forces here and so be enabled to transfer troops to Persia we stand to lose Iraq and the oil should the Russian front break.’

Malta : A series of heavy Axis air raids were repulsed between 2 - 12 July by RAF , 37 German aircraft and 14 Italian aircraft were shot down by RAF fighter interceptors and British anti aircraft batteries at cost of 26 Spitfire fighters with little damage on Malta and its military or supply logistics facilities. On 12th July , nine more German aircraft including seven JU-87 and JU-88 bombers were shot down by RAF Spitfire interceptors wit almost no damage on Valetta , harbour or Takali Luqa airfields , which would prove to be last German air raid on Malta till September. Italian Air Force bombing from high attitude is very inaccurate and ineffecttive. The Italians were finding it impossible to mount sustained and effective attacks on Malta during the summer of 1942; in July the Regia Aeronautica had around 140 aircraft committed to the attacks on Malta, of which only 60 were bombers, including 15 Stukas. In terms of numbers this was not sufficient to be effective, as Malta’s air defences, both fighter and gun, had become so potent that some Italian airman viewed the attacks on Malta as ‘rotta della morte‘’ – the ‘route of death’. The RAF had certainly noticed an unwillingness by the Italians to press home attacks.

Leningrad - Volkhov Front : The Volkov pocket was eliminated by the German troops, with over 30,000 Russian prisoners taken, including General Andrey Vlasov.

Caucaus Front , Russia : On 12 July, with the South-Western Front practically ripped to pieces, its rear and that of the Southern Front threatened by the German south-easterly drive, Stavka Directive No. 170495 formally set up the Stalingrad Front with Marshal Timoshenko in command, Nikita Khrushchev as commissar and Lieutenant-General P.I. Bodin as chief of staff. For troops, the Front was assigned three reserve armies, the 62nd under Major-General Kolpakchi, the 63rd under V.I. Kuznetsov and the 64th under V.N. Gordov, armies which were only slowly detraining or remained as yet on the move, their echelons stretching all the way back to Tula and the north, their infantry facing staggering forced marches to a ‘front’ whose location was practically unknown to the commanders.

Indian Ocean : Japanese armed merchant cruisers Aikoku Maru and Hokoku Maru intercepted sank New Zealand freighter Hauraki by gunfire in the Mozambique Channel.

Kokoda , Papua New Guinea : First detachments of Australian 32nd Militia Battalion arrived at Kokoda village on strategically vital Kokoda Track (that goes from Salamanua and Buna on northern coast over Papua New Guinea to south towards Port Moresby) after five day long march across harsh jungle terrain Owen Stanley Mountains

South China Sea : American submarine USS Seadragon torpedoed and sank Japanese transport Himaya Maru off Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina.

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13 July 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : US Navy destroyer USS Landsdowne sank German submarine U-153 in the Caribbean Sea 50 kilometers northwest of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal; all 52 aboard were killed.

While sixty miles off Almirante, on the evening of July 11, a small seaport in northern Panama, German submarine U-153 (damaged on 6th July at Gulf of Mexico by Army Air Force aircraft) encountered the 560-ton American Navy net tender Mimosa (YN-21), which mounted a 3” gun. Mimosa excitedly reported to the Panama Sea Frontier via radio that a submarine had attacked her, firing three torpedoes. The first missed the bow; the other two ran under the shallow keel. Mimosa boldly shot two rounds from her 3” gun at German submarine.

The commander of the US Navy Panama Sea Frontier, Clifford van Hook, issued orders to hunt this German submarine to destruction. A radar-equipped Catalina flying boat of Patrol Squadron 3 reached the scene shortly after midnight and the nearby PC-458 (also known as U.S.S. Evelyn R.) gunboat, mounting sonar, a 3” gun, and twelve depth charges, joined in the hunt. At about 4:00 A.M., the Catalina got a radar contact at four miles and dropped two brilliant parachute flares. These illuminated a surfaced German submarine, which the Catalina attacked, dropping four Mark XVII depth charges, two set for 25 feet and two for 50 feet. The crew reported a perfect “straddle.” However, when daylight came, there was no sign of a disabled U-153 or debris. Nonetheless, van Hook directed PC-458 to work the area with sonar and saturated the skies with Army and Navy aircraft (B-18s, Catalinas, P-39 fighters, etc.).

The aircraft and the PC hunted the U-boat all-out for twenty-four hours. Finally, at about 10:00 A.M. on July 13 , another Catalina reported “a moving oil slick” and directed PC-458 to the spot. After gaining sonar contact, the PC let go ten depth charges set for 150 to 300 feet. Meanwhile, the circling Catalina flying boat dropped eight bombs and twenty-four depth charges, a total of forty-two missiles. Other than the oil slick, no sign of a U-boat appeared. Toward evening, the new (1942) American destroyer USS Lansdowne, commanded by William R. Smedberg III, relieved the PC. USS Lansdowne promptly got sonar contact and dropped four 600-pound depth charges. Nothing further was ever heard from U-153. She sank with all hands. In a controversial decision, Washington gave equal credit for the kill to the Lansdowne and to the B-18s of Army Air Forces Squadron 59, which had supposedly bombed her off Aruba on July 5 and 6.

20 miles north of Cárdenas, Cuba, German submarine U-84 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Andrew Jackson; 3 were killed, 46 survived. Two miles east of Cuba, German submarine U-166 torpedoed and sank US cargo ship Oneida; 6 were killed, 23 survived. 80 miles south of Mississippi, United States, German submarine U-67 torpedoed and sank US tanker R. W. Gallagher; 10 were killed, 42 survived.

Atlantic Ocean : Battle of convoy OS-33 Outbound South closed down. German submarine U-201 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Sithonia of Allied convoy OS-33 490 miles west of Canary Islands; 7 were killed, 21 survived. The rest of the convoy entered Allied air cover range.

Arctic Ocean : The floating wreck of Dutch merchant steamer Paulus Potter, damaged by German air attack 8 days prior, was discovered by German submarine U-225. The ship was a member of Allied convoy PQ-17. The second officer and two crew boarded the deserted ship and made an attempt to get her under way. However, the flooding in the engine room was too deep and after taking food, cigarettes and other useful material including a heavy chest from the bridge, they returned to the submarine. The chest contained the confidential papers pertaining to the convoy codes and positions which the Dutch in their haste had forgotten to throw overboard. U-225 then torpedoed and sank the Dutch merchant.

Vinnitza , Ukraine : From directly new orders Hitler’s new field HQ (Codename : Werwolf) at Vinnitza , Ukraine , Field Marshal Fedor von Bock, commanding officer of German Army Group South, was fired from his command by Hitler for moving two Panzer divisions from 4th Panzer Army to assist the embattled 9th Panzer Division on Voronezh without Hitler’s direct authority. German Army Group B command was given to Field Marshal Maximillien Von Weichs on 17th July.

Next day Hitler then changed the Fall Blau plan : First He orders Fourth Panzer Army to be detached from Army Group B and head south to join Army Group A to speed up capture of Rostov on Don (key crossroads city that opens into Caucaus) to complate encirclement of Soviet armies in south and reach oil fields in Maikop and Grozny as soon as possible. Then he decided to make Stalingrad major objective of Army Group B (which left with only German Sixth Army , Italian Eighth Army and Hungarian Second Army)

The weaknesses of Hitler’s overambitious plan were obvious to any trained staff officer. German Chief of Staff General Halder tried to persuade Hitler to concentrate the offensive against Stalingrad initially, and to postpone the attack on the Caucasus until the left (northern) flank was secured and any threat to its rear removed. Hitler seemed to be losing concentration and drastically underestimating what the Russians could do. The new Russian willingness to conduct deliberate withdrawals appeared to Hitler to indicate Russian weakness: Fremde Heere Ost and the German generals were not fooled. As early as 3 July , Field Marshal Von Bock allegedly told Hitler that the Russians were ‘gradually getting smart’ (probably one of the reasons why he was fired because he began to opresent inconvinient facts to Hitler)

Another distraction which diverted Hitler in these crucial weeks was the possibility that as Russian resistance in the east was cracking (as Hitler believed it was), the British and Americans might be more likely to invade France. After explaining this on 13th July Hitler immediately transferred the two senior SS panzer divisions — Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler and Das Reich — to the west, followed, two weeks later, by the Army Großdeutschland division.

Stalingrad , Soviet Union : The same day Stalingrad was put on a war footing, two days after the creation of the Stalingrad Front (comprising three reserve armies — Sixty-Second, Sixty-Third and Sixty-Fourth) by STAVKA: on 25 August it would come under a ‘state of siege.

Moscow , Soviet Union : The German breakthrough to the south-east brought an eruption in the Soviet command: whatever battles raged within the Stavka, Colonel-General Vasilevskii had clearly won one, that there must be no more ‘stand-fast’ disasters in the style of Kiev and Vyazma in 1941. There was, however, every reason to hang on grimly at Voronezh, not merely to hold German forces which might otherwise turn south, but also to cover the Tambov-Saratov area through which ran Moscow’s communications with the east, and alternative oil supplies, since the Volga line had been under heavy German attack for some time. Although Stalin had apparently no very high opinion of his commanders, and even less of the bulk of the Red Army troops, he had no option but to accept withdrawal in the south-east. (Gehlen’s special compilation of intelligence reports, Wichtigste Abwehrmeldungen, contains one secret report of a supposed Stavka session of 13 July, in which the withdrawal plan was propounded and accepted: suspect though that item is, since Stalin scarcely disclosed his plans in the presence of Chinese and American attachés, timely withdrawal orders were issued to Timoshenko and to Malinovskii.) At the same time, Stalin proposed to tie up German reserves at the centre and on the northern flank by ordering offensive operations by the Kalinin and Western Fronts in the Rzhev area (four armies to attack towards the end of July) and by a renewal of offensive operations in the Leningrad area, where for eight weeks artillery and armoured reinforcements had been moved in.

London , UK : From Britain, in an attempt to give the Russians information that would enable them to anticipate future German moves, material culled from the Germans’ own Enigma messages was sent on to Moscow. These messages included, on July 13, details of the precise defensive line which the Germans intended to hold in the Voronezh region, while pushing their armoured forces forward between the Donetz and the Don. On the following day, London sent Moscow further details of the objectives that had been laid down for three of the German armies then about to go into action.

El Alamein , Egypt : Tanks of German 21st Panzer Division attacked Allied troops in the Tel el Eisa ridge region near El Alamein, Egypt and on El Alamein box held by South Africans , driving Australian troops out of Point 24 at a heavy cost.

In the morning 21st Panzer Division launched an attack against Point 33 and South African positions in the El Alamein box. The attack was halted by intense artillery fire from the defenders. Deeply concerned that the battlefront was coalescing into “rigid, static warfare” in which “the British were masters,” Rommel decided to launch his own full-scale counteroffensive against the Alamein positions in the north on July 13. He would send 21st Panzer and “every gun and every aeroplane we could muster” to cut off the Alamein fortress in the north and then destroy it.

The attack of 21st Panzer Division was a dismal failure, not even getting beyond the start line. British artillery pounded the assembly points , Desert Air Force bombed and strafed German armor and infantry concentrations constantly and 21st Panzer was exhausted and confused about what Rommel intended. Rommel summed up the results the next day in a letter to his wife: “My expectations for yesterday’s attack were bitterly disappointed. It achieved no success whatever."

In fact, on 13th July Rommel’s counterstroke failed comprehensively against Australian and mostly South African defence. 9th Australian Division repulsed two German attacks with heavy concentrations of artillery fire whole day. 1st South African Division Headquarters was warned of the impending attack of the 5th Panzer Regiment by ‘Most Secret Usual Sources’ (i.e. Ultra) early that morning, which enabled the defences to be placed on full alert.5Heavy shelling and dive-bombing attacks began against 3rd South African Brigade holding Alamein box in the early afternoon, but the troops were well protected in their fortifications and losses were small. Meanwhile, full support for the defence was provided by the artillery batteries of 9th Australian and 1st South African Divisions along with 7th Medium Regiment. These guns were able to put down very heavy concentrations of fire which made any progress very difficult and costly for the German infantry. Indeed, the German infantrymen who were meant to go in with the panzers were simply unable to get forward. The South Africans noted that ‘the volume of arty fire brought to bear on the enemy broke up the main part of his attacks when they were barely in range of inf weapons’. This meant that the panzers, shorn of their infantry support, just as they had been on 10 July, were unable to mount a fully developed attack. At 17.40 hours, 16 tanks advanced to 300 yards and shot up a number of machine-gun posts, but the South Africans intercepted a message from 34th PAK52 Regiment to 21st Panzer Division complaining of a minefield which had been located in front of the South African pillboxes and suggested that the attack be called off. The German engineers tasked with lifting the mines were unable to get any further than the South African’s outer wire. The panzers mounted another attack late in the evening which met the same reception. The 400 supporting German infantry were unable to close with the defences and while 11 tanks took up hull-down positions and shelled the South Africans, three tanks cruised around just outside the wire firing at pillboxes. South African anti tank gunners and batteries along with dug in tanks at Alamein box kept the German tanks away though. As long as the artillery of Eighth Army could put down heavy concentrations of fire whenever needed, 21st Panzer Division could not make any progress and had to retreat in dusk.

The German infantry did not even approach the wire. They assembled two or three kilometres too far back, and shell fire from Australian and South African guns rained down on them. One regiment alone, the 1st South African, pumped out 8,000 shells and by day’s end the ears of the gun crews bled. Under this weight of fire the German infantry advance crumbled before it passed through the Italian front line. A bad-tempered Rommel decided that evening that he would have to call off the operation, and he lamented the lost opportunity of a stormy day that would, he claimed, ‘have robbed the British of all visibility’. But this sounds like a desperate general looking for excuses.

Rommel was still determined to drive the British forces from the northern salient. Although next day Australian defenders had been forced back from Point 24, heavy casualties had been inflicted on 21st Panzer Division and 9th Australian Division still held Tel el Eisa.

Meanwhile further south of Alamein line , 2nd New Zealand Division with (hopefully) support of 1st British Armored Dvision of 13th Corps (General Gott who was acting more and more erratic) began complating its attack on Ruweisat ridge. The aim of this operation (Codenamed BACON) is with British armor suport to capture Ruweiasat ridge , destroy Italian Pavia and Brescia divisions and breakthrough to east.

Malta : In the Mediterranean, there was considerable relief for Britain on July 13, with the announcement that, in the previous six weeks, a total of 693 German and Italian aircraft had been shot down by the defenders of Malta, while a further 190 German and Italian aircraft had been destroyed by British aircraft based on Malta.

Gibraltar : 12 Italian frogmen swam 5 kilometers from Algeciras, Spain to Gibraltar and planted limpet mines on British merchant ships in Gibraltar harbour; the resulting explosions would sink cargo ships Meta, Shuma, and Baron Dougla and would damage the ship Empire Snipe

Duisburg , Germany : 194 British bombers (139 Wellington, 33 Halifax, 13 Lancaster, and 9 Stirling aircraft) from RAF Bomber Command attacked Duisburg, Germany, destroying 11 houses and killing 17 without causing damage to the intended industrial targets; six bombers were lost on this mission.

Rovno , Ukraine : 5,000 Jews from the Rovno ghetto were shot by SS Einsatzgruppen and Ukranian SS Volunteers in a forest near the city.

South China Sea : USS Seadragon torpedoed and sank Japanese transport Shinyo Maru off Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina.


I wonder how Turkey reacted to this attack on a neutral by a Colonial power?


LOL… On 11th July 1942, A captured German officer on Point 24 , was heard muttering that day had said: ‘I hope the Italians don’t get to hear of the Australians back to desert again. If they do , we will never stop them!’


I can’t blame the Italians for that.b​:sunglasses::wave:


14 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : German submarine U-130 commanded by Korvettenkapitän Ernst Kals sighted British Convoy SL 115 Sierra Leone south of the Azores and west of the Canary islands on passage from Freetown, British West Africa to the United Kingdom. The convoy was escorted by the Royal Navy sloops HMS Londonderry, HMS Hastings and HMS Bideford with the ex-US Coast Guard cutter HMS Lulworth.

The German submarine radioed in the location and the Italian submarine Pietro Calvi picked the position of the convoy up and her commander Captain Primo Longobardo moved in to attack. HMS Lulworth spotted the submarine by radar and charged , forcing her to crash dive. Passing over the submarine, HMS Lulworth dropped an accurate spread of depth charges which so damaged the Italian submarine she was forced to the surface. HMS Lulworth opened fire on the Italians and made two unsuccessful attempts to ram before hitting her amidships. A Royal Navy boarding party was attempting to get on board the submarine but was hampered by fire from both parties and the Italian submariners leaping into the water. The Pietro Calvi then capsized and went under taking the leader of the boarding party with her. 42 of the 78 crew of the Pietro Calvi were lost with the boat including Longobardo.

During the attack U-130 had arrived and fired torpedoes at HMS Lulworth but missed, and the sloops HMS Hastings and HMS Londonderry drove the German submarine away. HMS Lulworth spent the following month being repaired, the damage caused by the ramming had been extensive but the ship made the passage without incident.

El Alamein , Egypt : After a heavy artillery fire and Luftwaffe air attacks , German 21th Panzer Division and elements of 384th Regimnent under heavy British and Australian counrterartillery fire that inflicted considerable casaulties on German units , infiltrated Australian positons around Point 24 on Tel El Eisa ridge and encircled two Australian companies which had to evacuate Point 24 in late afternoon and stage a fighting retreat to breakout the encirclement. However both Australian companies retreated more or less intact to main Australian lines at Tel el Eisa after knocking out ten German panzers whole day before evacuating Point 24 which Axis forces recaptured but after a more futile attacks on Tel el Eisa traşin station that was reoulsed by 20th Australian Brigade exhausted Axis forces did make to advance on main Tel el Eisa ridge that day.

One incident must suffice to illustrate the spirit in which the defence was conducted . When two Bren-gunners were crushed in their pit, Australian Private Dwyer 5 leapt up and, while the fire-fight was at its height, dug them out in plain view of th e enemy. The first attack was repelled by keeping the upper hand in the fire-fight—the tanks were kept closed up, one commander who poked his head up to have a look being promptly shot dead—and the defenders hung on against the second attack until night blinded the tanks and action ceased.

Some of the German tanks engaged in the attack on Point 24 afterwards moved across the front of the forward companies of the 2/48th abou t Tel el Eisa station . Failing to draw fire, eight of the tanks from 21st Panzer Division crossed the railway line and advanced on Point 26 . They were then engaged by field guns, swung west to avoid this fire and came within close range of two Australian anti-tank guns. A brisk fire-fight developed in which all neighbouring infantry joined . Some tanks burst into flames and the rest soon withdrew. The 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment reported having destroyed seven of them in quick succession ; four of these were hit by Sergeant Digby’s gun and three by Bombardier Muffett’s. Tanks of the British 1st Army Tank Brigade were hurried forward ready to give support next morning . Dawn revealed ten burnt-out German tanks left on the battlefield .

The four days of July 10–14 had been crucial in the defense of the Alamein positions. They had been good days for the Eighth Army, disastrous for Rommel’s Panzerarmee. Two Italian divisions had been all but destroyed and the Afrika Korps had also suffered heavy losses without getting close to breaking through the Alamein defenses. Rommel had been fought to a standstill and his fears of static, rigid, attrition-type operations were fully justified. He was desperately short of men and fuel. Intercepted German communications on July 10 revealed that to relieve the “strained fuel situation in Africa a long-range bomber gruppe is to be used to transport fuel from GREECE and CRETE.” Urgent reinforcements were to arrive by air, too, which included a reconnaissance unit and a mountain artillery regiment. Eventually, a complete division, the 164th German Infantry Division , would be sent by air from Crete.

But Eighth Army had its supply problems, too. It was so short of 25-pounder ammunition, the caliber of its standard field gun, that a proposal was made to limit firing to just 15,000 rounds per day. This amount was “completely inadequate” for an army engaged in a last-ditch defensive battle. There were severe shortages of many types of small arms ammunition too. Despite these shortages, on the evening of July 14, the Eighth Army launched its own counter punches against the Axis forces. They too would soon see their plans frustrated as Eighth Army incurred crippling losses amongst some of its best formations.

After the capture of Tel el Eisa, General Auchinleck had been contemplating a significant blow against the Axis forces in the center of the Alamein position. With Axis armor concentrated at north on Tel el Eisa ridge , he decided to capture the prominent feature of Ruweisat Ridge in center of Alamein line further south using two infantry and an armored division. The attack was codenamed Operation Bacon. The two infantry divisions, the 5th Indian Division on the right flank and the 2nd New Zealand Division to their west, were to capture the ridge in a silent night attack on the night of July 14. Critical to the success of the operation was the arrival of the tanks of the 1st Armoured Division in the early dawn of July 15. These tanks would be sorely needed, especially as the New Zealanders, after a six-mile advance, would be out of artillery range of their own 25-pounders and have an open, vulnerable left flank. The task of protecting this flank had been allocated to the 22nd Armoured Brigade, which had seventy-five tanks at its disposal, of which thirty-one were Grants. This was a strong force “well able to deal with whatever enemy armor was south of the ridge, and to protect the infantry during the inevitable period of disorganisation.”

Acting Major-General Lindsay Inglis, the temporary commander of the 2nd New Zealand Division, had become frustrated with his division’s largely passive role since 3 July. Inglis wrote to Freyberg that: “Gott of 13th Corps is very good, but the strategic direction of the show as a whole beats me and I think Gott agrees. Since we came into the Alamein line I’ve had orders to go to Dabba and another time to Sidi Abd el Rahman to exploit attacks by 30th Corps. Those are the occasions on which I probed north West but on neither occasion was there the slightest possibility of exploiting to the named places because the last mentioned Corps gave nothing to exploit.”

On top of that, from the time that Bacon was first mooted on 10 July it was known that the Axis defences south of the ridge were being thickened up. New Zealand patrols mounted on the night of 11–12 July penetrated three miles into the defences and garnered important information. It was noted that:the enemy was working at high pressure to create in the inland sector a centre of resistance to withstand any attack which we might launch. This conclusion was based on the recce reports of digging and laying minefields and the preparation of a screen of guns behind which he was placing defence of infantry.

However, the intelligence picture concerning the location of Axis units and the state of their defences on the Ruweisat ridge remained fairly sketchy in British side. Due to lack of coordination and cooperation between 13th Corps and Eight Arty HQ and resulting intelligence failure between Auchinleck , Dorman-Smith and Got and neglect of providing armor support for New Zealand Division , Kiwis would attack strongest portions of enemy defences without tanks which were supposed to come later. The lack of detailed tactical intelligence highlighted the limitations of Ultra intelligence. Ultra could tell Auchinleck and his chief of staff Dorman-Smith the location of German and Italian units, and sometimes their strength, but it could not provide the detailed tactical intelligence which was vital for mounting a successful operation. Dorman-Smith was aware that Bacon would hit the Italian Brescia and Pavia Divisions but knew little of the defences these forces occupied. The intelligence officers of 2nd New Zealand Division were limited to gaining information from patrols and observing the enemy through field glasses. The lack of visibility in the desert hampered their knowledge of what was happening on Ruweisat ridge. The only time the air was clear enough for detailed observation was for a limited period after sunrise, and then only if there was no morning mist. Once the sun rose there was always heat haze or mirage which made accurate long-distance observation difficult. Unfortunately, the aerial photographs of the Axis defences on the Ruweisat ridge, which should have been a vital part of the intelligence picture, arrived late and so overexposed as to be useless

The problem for 2nd New Zealand Division remained this: mounting such a long night advance meant that the battalions would have gone beyond the supporting range of their field artillery batteries. Moreover, the bulk of supporting arms, including artillery and anti-tank guns, would then have to drive six miles across desert still containing pockets of enemy troops before the positions on the ridge could be consolidated. At the Corps Conference held on 13 July, Inglis decided to rely on the assurances which Lumsden ‘rather grudgingly’ gave him that the 2nd and 22nd Armoured Brigades would advance at first light from their night leaguers. While 2nd Armoured Brigade was ‘to close up to the troops on the ridge’, 22nd Armoured Brigade was ‘to come up on the immediate rear of 4 Bde and seal off the Division’s left flank’. These were the orders as Inglis understood them.

Under those circumstances Operation BACON , Auchinleck’s great(!) offensive to take Ruweisat ridge from Italian Pavia and Bresicia divisions launched that night. His policy was to “…hit the Italians wherever possible in view of their low morale and because the Germans cannot hold extended fronts without them.” The First Battle of Ruweisat Ridge began at 2300 hours, under cover of darkness. It began well with the Indian (5th Brigade) and New Zealand infantry (4th Brigade and 5th Brigade) overrunning two Italian divisions in a perfectly executed night attack. New Zealand and Indian infantry attack commenced at 2300 hours on July 14. The New Zealanders on the left easily took their objectives in a suprise night attack, although one battalion went astray in the six-mile advance to the objective. At one stage, the New Zealanders were holding more than 2,000 Italian prisoners from Italian Pavia division which they sent back to rear of Eighth Army. The enemy defences were found to be dispersed and relatively easy to subdue. Many of the Italian defenders, surprised by the unexpected attack, fled from their positions. One member of 18th NZ Battalion described the scene as: “a mad and weird pattern of coloured tracer. There was the hoarse shouting of our men using the bayonet and the frightened ‘Mamma mia’ of the Italians. We were moving forward in slow easy stages spending waiting time on our stomachs while mortar landed about us.”

But unbeknown to New Zealanders had inadvertently bypassed a group of German tanks as well as a few German infantry positions. On top of that they had no armored support and 1st British Armored Division that was supposed to support them was moving too slowly and relutcantly to join them due to bad coordination , atrocious communication and staff work between 13th Corps HQ under General Strafer Gott , 1st British Armored Division and its commander General Lumdsen (neither of them urging further drive to their field units anyways since according to baleful British tank doctrine , tanks supposed to exploit a breakthrough after it occured not aid infantry) and New Zealand Division. A disaster was in making for 2nd New Zealand Division when next day on first day light their forward infantry battalions found themselves scattered , over exposed and defenceless on rocky terrain of Ruweisat ridgethat is very hard to dig in and position anti tank gun batteries and meanwhile German 15th Panzer and German 90th Light Infantry Divisions regrouped for counter attack which German doctrine excelled as instant counter attack to seal any enemy penetration.

The intention was for the 4th New Zealand Brigade and 5th New Zealand Brigade (on 4th Brigade’s right) to attack north-west to seize the western part of the ridge and on their right the Indian 5th Infantry Brigade to capture the eastern part of the ridge in a night attack. Then 2nd Armoured Brigade would pass through the centre of the infantry objectives to exploit toward Deir el Shein and the Miteirya Ridge. On the left, the 22nd Armoured Brigade would be ready to move forward to protect the infantry as they consolidated on the ridge. Despite New Zealanders captured their objectives , 2nd British Armored Brigade was moving too slow and relutantly and minefields and pockets of resistance created disarray among the attackers. 22nd Armored Brigade also entered into an Italian minefield and delayed.

"My expectations for yesterday’s attack were bitterly disappointed,’ Rommel wrote to his wife on July 14. ‘It achieved no success whatever.’ The battle on the Eastern Front, he added, ‘is going splendidly, which gives us courage to hang on here’.

Malta : On 14 July, Air Vice-Marshal Keith Park arrived Malta by flying boat and took command of RAF Fighter defences. Ordered to circle until a raid had passed, he soon became weary of this and landed anyway, much to the irritation of Air Marshal Lloyd, who admonished him for taking an unnecessary risk.

A New Zealander who had been a highly successful fighter pilot during the First World War, Park had, by 1940, taken charge of 11 Group of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. His tactical skill and resolve in managing the whole of the south-east of England – the front line during the battle – ensured the adoration and respect of most Allied fighter pilots.His opposite number during the summer of 1940 had been none other than Kesselring, and now the two faced each other again. Two years before, the German Commander had been hampered by his superiors – notably Göring – and by faulty intelligence; by July 1942 he found himself in much the same situation as, once again, the Axis had failed to deliver a killer blow.

In Operation Pinpoint, Royal Navy carrier HMS Eagle departed Gibraltar to deliver 32 Spitfire fighters to Malta; she was escorted by cruiser HMS Cairo, cruiser HMS Charybdis, and five destroyers.

Mediterranean Sea : German submarine U-562 fired two torpedoes at a small Allied convoy which he had been chasing for some hours just off the coast of Syria-Lebanon, scoring one hit on Dutch motor tanker Adinda. Adinda would be able to sail for Haifa, arriving at 1400 hours, to receive temporary repairs. U-562 claimed two hits and claimed that Adinda had been sunk.

Dardanelles , Turkey : The Ay-class Turkish submarine Atilay hit a mine and sank in the Dardanelles off Canakkale with the loss of all hands

Marseille , France : Two women were shot dead in Marseille by French Vichy political police Milice , when an enormous crowd gathered illegally for Bastille Day, waving French flags and singing “La Marseillaise”. Charles de Gaulle led Bastille Day celebrations of his own in London

Rastenburg , East Prussia : Reinhard Gehlen and Heinz Herre presented to General Franz Halder intelligence on the Soviet difficulty in recruitment and the redirection of Lend-Lease war goods to Egypt.

Caucaus Front , Russia : On 14 July, German Army Groups A and B had made contact with each other in the Millerovo area, but the previous day Hitler had precipitately abandoned the idea of a rapid advance on Stalingrad. The Stalingrad attack was broken off, and First and Fourth Panzer Armies were committed with the Seventeenth Army to an attack on Rostov; Fourth Panzer was turned south from the great Don bend. On the lower Don, with Rostov as its focus, Hitler determined to fight another giant encirclement battle, to deliver the coup de grâce to the Russians – ‘finished’, in his view – between the Donets and the Don. Paulus’s Sixth Army would therefore plunge on to Stalingrad alone, bereft now of 40th Panzer Corps which streaked off to the Rostov battle. This, of course, greatly reduced the concentration of force. Entirely against Halder’s advice, he diverted Hoth’s Fourth Panzer Army southwards and also deprived Sixth Army of 40th Panzer Corps, thus slowing its advance down into a slow, frontal assault towards Stalingrad.

Stalingrad , Soviet Union : Martial law was declared in Stalingrad, Russia.

Baltic Sea : German patrol boats damaged Soviet submarine ShCh-317 in the “Nashorn” minefield in the Baltic Sea; Finnish minelayer Ruotsinsalmi and patrol boat VMV-6 followed the oil slick from ShCh-317 and sank the damaged submarine with depth charges, killing all 38 aboard.

Zagreb , Yugoslavia : For the assassination of German Gestapo chief SS Major Helm, the Germans killed 700 people in reprisal in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.

Washington , USA : After impasse with British goverment about opening a Second Front unresolved , US President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to abandon major offensive operations in the Pacific Theater and instead direct planning efforts on the invasion of North Africa. Neither Marshall nor Secretary of War werte yet to give up to open up a Second Front in France in 1942 so both Marshall and Admiral King decided to go London as soon as possible to solve the strategic dead end.

Rio de Janerio , Brazil : Brazil declared war on Germany and Italy after Brazilian ships were sunk by German submarines over the past several days.

Auschwitz , Poland : The deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz concentration camp began.

Czechslovakia : Some German Jews were deported from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in occupied Czechoslovakia to Minsk, Byelorussia and other locations in Eastern Europe.

Dutch Harbor , US Territory of Alaska : Japanese submarine I-7 torpedoed and sank US freighter Arcata east of Dutch Harbor, US Territory of Alaska, and proceeded to machine gun survivors in lifeboats; despite the attacks, 25 of the 29 aboard survived.

Australia : Back in Australia, plans for battle in New Guinea and Guadalcanal are turning to action. The US 34th Division moves from Adelaide to Brisbane. Task Force 44 leaves Brisbane for New Zealand. Task Force 42 of submarines is ordered to fan out to interdict Japanese shipping. Vice Adm. Robert Ghormley orders 7th Marines on Samoa to be ready to sail for the Solomons on four days’ notice.

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15 July 1942

Atlantic Ocean : At 2025 hours, German submarine U-576 attacked Allied coastal convoy KS-520 with four torpedoes 30 miles off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, United States, torpedoed and sinking Nicaraguan cargo ship Bluefields and US cargo ship Chilore, and damaging Panamanian cargo ship J. A. Mowinckel. In resulting coıunter attack by convoy escorts , two US Navy Kingfisher aircraft counterattacked with depth charges as well as antisubmarine motor vessel Unicoi with her deck guns, sinking U-576, killing all 45 aboard.

German submarine U-201 attacked British cargo ship Yeoman of Allied convoy OS-33 with torpedoes and gunfire 400 miles southwest of the Canary Islands at 0146 hours; 43 were killed, 10 survived and were rescued by Spanish tanker Castillo Almenara. In the same area, German submarine U-582 torpedoed and sank British cargo ship Empire Attendant, also of Allied convoy OS-33, at 0330 hours; 59 were killed. After that final attack German submnarines withdrew due to strong Allied air patrols from Gibraltar.

In the South Atlantic, 1225 miles west of Portuguese Angola, German armed merchant cruiser Michel sank British transport ship Gloucester Castle with gunfire at 1900 hours; 93 were killed, 61 survived.

Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-571 disabled tanker Pennsylvania Sun with gunfire 200 kilometers west of Key West, Florida, United States at 0749 hours; 2 were killed, 59 survived on 3 lifeboats. The tanker would later be repaired and would return to service

El Alamein , Egypt : Another Axis attack by 21st Panzer Division and 164th German Infantry Division was mounted against Tel El Eisa held by 9th Australian Division on 15 July but made no ground against tenacious Australian resistance. During the night of the 14th-15th patrols of Australian 2/48th Battalion could hear German voices and the engines of vehicles on their front near Tel el Eisa railway station. These were fired on, and in the morning it was discovered that 15 German vehicles were close to the wire and two machine-guns and two anti-tank guns had been established at or near the railway station. There was a sharp fight in which 32 Germans were captured and others killed . The vehicles were captured but later destroyed after the ammunition and equipment they contained had been salvaged.
That night a patrol from the neighbouring company of the 2/48th had attacked a German party lifting the minefield, taking seven prisoners.

Meanwhile in front of the 2/24th Australian Battalion dawn on the 15th had revealed 10 German tanks and infantry in 70 troop carriers approaching Trig 33 . At 7.30 a.m. after an intense artillery barrage a German attack by 21st Panzer Division was made by some 35 tanks and about seven companies of infantry. The tanks came up to the foot of Trig 33 and fourteen tanks reached that feature but the following infantry were driven back by the machine gu and artillery fire from Australian 2/24th and later the tanks withdrew to dead ground . At 8 .15 a.m. there was a second German attack from the north with 25 tanks and this too was beaten off with the help of a counter-attack by light tanks of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment. (which Australian infantry were grateful and admired very much , calling each tanker in 44th RTR "bloody heroes engaging enemy with inferior Valentine tanks with two pounder pop guns) A third German infantry attack without tanks was repulsed after about half an hour 's fighting wi,th support of very heavy British and Australian artillery fire. A fourth attack by both German tanks and infantry at midday was broken up by Australian anti tank , artillery and machine-gun fire and 44th Royal Tank Regiment tank fire. Ten German tanks were destroyed in the day and the Australians took 63 German prisoners .

British and Australian artillery fire plus Desert Air Force raids dispersed and inflicted heavy casaulties on German panzer and troop concentrations before Tel El Eisa and prevented further attacks.

Meanwhile New Zealand 4th Brigade and 5th Brigade captured the western end of Ruweisat Ridge near El Alamein, Egypt before dawn. It was only at dawn that the New Zealanders appreciated how faulty their intelligence picture (relayed by Eighth Army headquarters and 13th Corps HQ) had been before the attack. Far from meeting the main resistance on the ridge, the scattered ‘outposts’ had actually been the main defence lines of Italian Pavia and Brescia infantry divisions. The two New Zealand brigades, deploying on the crest of the Ruweisat ridge, had actually broken through to the rear areas of the Panzer Army Afrika. Unfortunetely New Zealanders lacked British armor suppport since 1st British Armored Division that was “promised” by General Gott and General Lumdsen was nowhere to be seen. Without tank support, New Zealand brigades on west side of Ruweisat ridge suffered heavy casualties as German tanks repeatedly attacked, overrunning several positions by dusk and capturing 730 prisoners. At the eastern end of the ridge, Indian 5th Infantry Brigade, with British tank support, captured several Axis positions and 2.000 Italian prisopners from Pavia infantry division.

At first light, a detachment from 15th Panzer division’s 8th Panzer Regiment launched a counter-attack against New Zealand 4th Brigade’s 22nd Battalion on exposed positions at Ruweisat ridge that was recently captured in night. Due to to rocky terrain no anti tank gun positions were dug and with no armor support (that were promised by 13th Corps commander Gott and 1st Armored Division commander Lumsdsen) . A sharp exchange by German panzers counter attack on Ruweisat knocked out their anti-tank guns and New Zealand infantry found themselves exposed in the open with no alternative but to surrender. About 350 New Zealanders were taken prisoner.

While the 2nd New Zealand Division attacked the western slopes of Ruweisat Ridge, the Indian 5th Brigade made small gains on Ruweisat ridge to the east. By 07:00, word was finally got to 2nd Armoured Brigade which started to move north west. Two regiments became embroiled in a minefield but the third was able to join Indian 5th Infantry 5th Indian Brigade as it renewed its attack. With the help of the armour and artillery, the Indians were able to take their objectives Point 64 by early afternoon capturing capturing 1,000 more Italians and four Italian generals but could not advance further due to heavy Axis artillery fire and Italia n minefield and need to cover flank of 2nd New Zealand Division. Meanwhile, the 22nd Armoured Brigade had been engaged at Alam Nayil by 90th Light Division and the Ariete Armoured Division, advancing from the south. While—with help from mobile infantry and artillery columns from 7th Armoured Division—they pushed back the Axis probe with ease, they were prevented from advancing north to protect the New Zealand flank.

Seeing the Italian Brescia and Pavia infantry divisions under pressure, Rommel rushed German troops to Ruweisat. By 15:00, the 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment and part of 21st Panzer Division from the north and 33rd Reconnaissance Regiment and the Baade Group comprising elements from 15th Panzer Division from the south were in place under Lieutenant-General (General der Panzertruppe) Walther Nehring. At 17:00, Nehring launched his counter-attack. 4th New Zealand Brigade were still short of support weapons and also, by this time, ammunition. Once again, light anti-tank defences were overwhelmed and about 380 New Zealanders were taken prisoner including Captain Charles Upham who gained a second Victoria Cross for his actions including destroying a German tank and several guns and vehicles with grenades despite being shot through the elbow by a machine gun bullet. At about 18:00, the brigade HQ was overrun by 8th Panzer Regiment.

5th New Zealand Brigade also needed the help of 22nd Armoured Brigade, which was nowhere to be seen. In late afternoon 5th Brigade CO Brigadier Howard Kippenberger raced back to get the tanks.

He found them four miles away, and the 22nd Armored Brigade boss doing nothing. Kippenberger said his brigade is being attacked from the rear on Ruweisat Ridge and needs immediate help. The brigadier offered to send his reconnaissance tank. Kippenberger said there is no time. The brigadier started to explain his “difficulties.”

As Kippenberger is being bored to death, Gen. Lumsden turned up in his staff car. Kippenberger went to Lumsden, who calmly unfastened a shovel while listening, and killed a scorpion. After this, he climbed up beside the brigadier on the turret of the lead tank, sticked his index finger on Ruweisat ridge , and says, “I told you to be there at first light.” Kippenberger jumped down. A few minutes later, so does Lumsden. 22nd Armored Brigade finally moves.

But it is too late. 5th New Zealand Brigade lacked artillery support, was isolated on the ridge, and under heavy enemy fire. By 17.00 hours, 2nd Armoured Brigade had advanced closer to the ridge but 6th Royal Tank Regiment soon hit some scattered mines and lost two tanks. Once again, the armoured regiments had to halt and feel their way gingerly around the obstacle. Again, such caution must have appeared maddening to the remaining troops of 5th New Zealand Brigade still on the ridge, but to drive on without caution was to risk the loss of large numbers of tanks on hidden mines.

At about 18:15, 2nd Armoured Brigade engaged the German armour at peak of Ruweisat ridge and halted the Axis eastward advance , allowing remants of 4th New Zealand Brigade to withdraw. At the same time 22nd Armored Brigade also linked up with hard pressed 5th New Zealand Brigade at south of Ruweisat ridge and drove German panzers away. At dusk, Nehring broke off the action. 4th and 5th New Zealand Brigades suffered 1.406 casaulties mostly prisoners in this botched Operation BACON attack and lost of their night gains in west of Ruweisat ridge due to slow moving and reaction of clumsy British armıored brigades , their lethergic commanders , complate breakdown in communications and failure to coordinate between British armor and Commonwealth infantry because Eighth Army and 13th Corps HQ did not see that as a priorty since army was formed in August 1941. As a result New Zealander casaulties were unnecessarily high and they could not complately capture Ruweisat ridge only the peak of it.

Lieutenant-Colonel Reid, of the New Zealand Royal Engineers, managed to escape from the German counterattack with a mixed group of engineers who had been supporting 4th New Zealand Brigade. As they headed away from the battle area they came upon an unexpected sight:

“We saw some of our tanks on the ridge to the south. Imagine our surprise and disgust on topping the ridge to see a large number of them all lying snugly below the crest. Here were the tanks we had been expecting, practically within range of our recent positions, and yet not one of them had come to our assistance. The crews were all very sympathetic with us and just yearning for a fight, but were sorry nothing could be done without orders. It made us mad to think that the tanks had been so close and that we had had no support from them. Had they moved forward over the ridge an hour before, the position undoubtedly would have been saved, as I understand there were no more than sixteen tanks to be dealt with. We were cut off for some hours, and lack of communication and knowledge of the forward situation evidently had been responsible for the hold up.”

Understandably, there was great resentment within the New Zealand Division that the British armour had not come to support them. However, the 22nd Armoured Brigade had had a long and hard drive filled with delays caused by minefields and enemy crossfire even to reach the position where Reid found them.

Still Brigadier Eric Dorman Smith Auchinleck’s unofficial Chief of Staff of Auchinleck and Eighth Army (and main responsible party of bad planning and preperation of Operation Bacon) was satisfied since Eighth Army held high ground at Ruweisat ridge at the end of 15th July. Later New Zealand Brigadier Kippenberger attributed the high casualties to the failure of armor to coordinate with infantry. “There was also a large number of dead, more dead Italians than on any other battlefield I have ever seen,” Kippenberger writes, “and many Germans, as the German gunners mostly fought to the death.”

Missing the irony in his comment, one of the principal staff officers of Eighth Army later wrote that “a more prudent course” would have been to complete the capture of the ridge in two stages by designating an intermediate objective. That way, “proper artillery and armoured support could be provided to permit the advance to resume to Point 63.” Years later, Brigadier (then major general) Eric Dorman Smith Auchinleck’s Chief of Staff, wrote, “It is still a matter of surprise that the commander of the New Zealand Division does not appear to have protested at the difficulty of his task.” This statement revealed a fundamental difference in the mindset of British and Dominion officers. For Dominion commanders, orders from superior officers, especially the Army commander, were sacrosanct. They were to be fulfilled to the best of one’s ability. But for many British officers in Eighth Army, these orders from the higher headquarters were seen as a starting point for discussion and debate. If things were considered too difficult, the orders could also be discreetly ignored. In keeping with this tradition, a recent British account of the debacle lays the blame for it squarely on the New Zealanders. It would seem that assuming the armored brigades would stick to the agreed plan was just too much to expect.

Besides this there was British 1st Armoured Division, which had a tendency to be a law unto itself Whichever corps it happened to be in at the time, and whatever expectations the infantry might have of the armour’s intentions, the understanding given to the armoured brigades was that they should wait on the start line until someone told them they were required. So as dusk came, infantry and tanks fought their individual battles. It was as if they spoke different languages.

Kippenberger’s summation of the battle was more accurate. “The battle was a tragedy of misdirection and mismanagement,” he informed the official historian. The New Zealand Official History claimed that its ‘examination of the tank role at Ruweisat’ was ‘undertaken at some length in perhaps a vain effort to explain the inexplicable’. In fact, the absence of the British armour to support the infantry on the ridge was only one failure amongst many during the operation. The British armour advanced cautiously for a reason: there were too many unsubdued enemy positions on both flanks along the route of the New Zealand brigades’ advance for the armour to drive forward rapidly that morning. When they did move, they met scattered mines that delayed their progress and forced them to abandon their original axis of advance. By the late afternoon, when the armour had nearly reached the New Zealand positions, 1st Armoured Division discovered a powerful force of German armour massing to the north. This, too, demanded a cautious approach, and ultimately meant that the armoured commanders chose to fulfil their ‘independent’ role of ‘neutralising’ the German armour rather than providing support to the infantry. Otherwise, they feared, quite rightly, that they would be caught at a tactical disadvantage in the coming fight and might lose heavily. The New Zealand soldiers, who had taken an enormous risk in reaching the ridge, perhaps had reason to think that the British armour would take a similar risk. That it did not certainly destroyed their trust in British armour.

Unfortunately, despite Gott’s and Dorman-Smith hopes for achieving more definite success soon, other tragedies were shortly to occur.

The capture of Ruweisat Ridge did alarm the Axis forces though. An intelligence report of 15th Panzer Division recorded the sound of heavy fighting on the night of July 14, then the loss of three easternmost strongpoints “without a single report from the Italians.” The report “was most astonished that the enemy could not exploit his penetration to a breakthrough by pushing his tanks forward.” German General Fritz Bayerlein , Rommel’s Chief of Staff later acknowledged "When Rommel lost Tell el Eisa and Ruweisat Ridge, he and all of us know we were lost."

On the day of the Ridge’s capture, the Panzer Army Afrika sent off an urgent signal outlining a deteriorating military situation. It read:

“The situation on the Alamein front became critical on 15th July since, as a result of a night attack by the enemy in about brigade strength with individual light lorries (Kamionetten) and tanks, the main body of the Italian Brescia and Pavia Divs. was routed, that is to say they were either taken prisoner or they abandoned their positions.Several times lately Italian troops under the influence of artillery fire have abandoned their positions, and could not be persuaded even by their officers to offer resistance to the enemy. These symptoms of panic make it imperative to send further German forces, particularly lorried infantry and anti-tank troops, to Panzer Army as quickly as possible.”

The capture of Ruweisat Ridge had clearly taken Rommel by surprise. It could have been turned into a greater reversal for Rommel had a better plsnning was done by 13th Corps and Eighth Army staff officers and commanders (Auchinleck , Gott , Dorman-Smith) before Operation BACON was initated and after it started had British armored brigades been able to protect the isolated infantry on the Ridge and use the position for further exploitation of the exposed Axis forces. The fleeting opportunity was lost and, overall, Operation Bacon was a disappointment. Worse still it further eroded confidence in Eighth Army’s leadership. Eighth Army seemed incapable of mounting a sustained offensive operation if it required detailed planning, shared doctrine and tight coordination.

In the western desert in Egypt, New Zealand Sergeant Keith Elliott won the Victoria Cross for leading an attack which captured four machine gun positions, an anti-tank gun and fifty prisoners despite being seriously wounded in the chest.

Captain Charles Hazlitt Upham, wounded during the fighting at Ruweisat Ridge in Egypt, refused to be evacuated and chose to lead his men in combat until he was unable to move. He would survive the battle and would become the only man in WW2 to be awarded the Victoria Cross and Bar decoration.

Benghazi , Libya : After sundown, US Army B-24 bombers attacked Benghazi harbor. Libya.

Malta : Recently appointed RAF Vice Air Marshall Keith Park soon proved such accusations unfounded, and was quick to re-establish the Island’s offensive role. Under previous RAF Vice Air Mashal Hugh Lloyd, the Spitfires had still been acting defensively, taking off and generally heading south to gain height, then returning to intercept the bombers and 109s over the Island. Park thought this tactic was ludicrous, and said as much to Lloyd. With plenty of Spitfires to play with, the new RAF fighter commander Park thought it made much more sense to try to intercept enemy bombers before they reached Malta, the idea being not only to shoot them down but also to break up their formations and thus encourage them either to turn back or to drop their loads at sea – a plan which would, in theory, save lives, time, aircraft and labour. The Island’s radar was now much improved, and by insisting on a much quicker take-off time – two or three minutes – and by working in three squadrons, this was, in theory, quite possible. The first squadron would climb into the sun, then turn with it behind them to attack the high enemy fighter cover. The second squadron would intercept the bombers’ close fighter escort or, if unescorted, the bombers. The third would make a head-on attack on the bombers as they approached, some ten miles north of the Island. Even if the bombers were not hit, it was important to break up their formation and force them to jettison their bomb loads in an effort to improve their chances of escape. Park also insisted the Air Sea Rescue was improved.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German troops from 1st Panzer Army captured Millerovo on the Voronezh—Rostov railway and Boguchar in southern Russia. Red Army also evacuated Kamensk where the railway line crossed the River Donetz… Soviet Marshall Timoshenko pulled back recently formed Stalingrad Front armies across Don bend. Panzers drive to cut off Rostov from the east in a classic Blitzkrieg maneuver. This cuts the railroad from Voronezh to Rostov-on-Don, which in turn cuts off Rostov from the world.

In STAVKA (Soviet Genetral Staff) the idea that defending every morsel of ground was a sacred duty was giving way. ‘Major evasive movements’ — living to fight another day, an idea favoured by Vasilevskiy, the Chief of the General Staff — were briefly back in favour of Stalin.

Baltic Sea : Finnish minelayer Ruotsinsalmi and patrol boat VMV 16 sank Soviet submarine Shtsh 317 with depth charges near the lightship Kallbådagrund.

UK : That day, in Britain, British cryptographers widened their mastery of the Eastern Front Enigma by breaking the cypher used by the German anti-aircraft units for their most secret messages; it was given the code name ‘Weasel’ and was to continue to be broken until the end of the war. The importance of the ‘Weasel’ Enigmas was considerable. The anti-aircraft units which used it served the dual purpose of engaging both aircraft and tanks; their 88 millimetre dual-purpose gun proved to be one of Germany’s most powerful anti-tank weapons.

Netherlands : Unknown to British Intelligence, July 15 saw the despatch from Holland of the first two thousand Dutch Jews deported to Auschwitz. Their departure was known, but not their destination, nor their fate.

Akutan Island , Alaska : A salvage crew arrived at Akutan Island, US Territory of Alaska to recover a A6M2 Zero fighter that had crashed there during the Japanese attack in the prior month.

Aleutian Islands : American submarine USS Grunion attacked the Japanese anchorage at Kiska, Aleutian Islands with torpedoes, sinking submarine chaser Ch-25 (all 68 aboard were killed), sinking submarine chaser Ch-27 (all 68 aboard were killed), and damaging submarine chaser Ch-26.

Pearl Harbour , Hawaii Islands : USS Enterprise departed Pearl Harbor for the South Pacific escorted by batleship USS North Carolina, and the cruisers USS Portland and USS Atlanta and nine destroyers. Leading Task Force 16 is Rear Adm. Thomas Kinkaid. Next stop is Tonga.

South China Sea : American submarine USS Seadragon torpedoed and sank Japanese troop transport Hakodate Maru off French Indochina


16 July 1942

Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico : German submarine U-160 fatally damaged British tanker Beaconlight with 2 torpedoes 10 miles northwest of Galera Point, Trinidad at 0934 hours; 1 was killed, 40 survived in 3 lifeboats; British tug HMS Roode Zee sank the wreck to prevent it from becoming a hazard. German submarine U-166 stopped small trawler Gertrude 30 miles northeast of Havana, Cuba; Gertrude was sunk by gunfire after the crew of 3 abandoned ship as ordered.

German submarine U-161 attacked Allied convoy AS-4 500 miles north of Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands at 1543 hours; the Germans observed two torpedo hits, both of which were made on US transport Fairport, which sank with all 123 aboard surviving in two lifeboats and five rafts.

Atlantic Ocean : In the South Atlantic, German armed merchant cruiser Michel, after shadowing the targets since morning, sank US tanker William F. Humphrey with 3 torpedoes and gunfire at 2100 hours (8 were killed, 40 survived); at the same time, Michel’s speedboat Essau damaged the other ship, Norwegian tanker Aramis, with 2 torpedoes which sank next day.

El Alamein , Egypt : Australian 2/23th Battalion attacked Point 24 west of Tel El Eisa near El Alamein, Egypt. The Australians—supported by British tanks—launched an attack to try to take Point 24 but were forced back by German counter-attacks. The Australian attack ended in failure, suffering 50% casualties. The Australians demolished the remaining battalion of Sabratha Division and part of German 1/383 Regiment, sending back 601 prisoners, of whom 41 were Germans. There were three colonels in this tally, one of them German; some small compensation for the disaster on Ruweisat the previous day. The success was short-lived but it kept Rommel dancing. As the situation quietened down on Ruweisat, he put 9th Panzer Regiment on hold, moved 33rd Recce Battalion, Briehl Group from 90th Light Division, and a battalion from 104th German Infantry Regiment north to meet yet another ‘critical’ situation. It was the same old story – left foot, right foot, left foot, with hardly time to draw breath. What might have been accomplished if the Ruweisat breakthrough had been exploited! On Point 24 recently captured in the morning , the situation was now too hot for the Australians. The area was swept by German artillery and mortar fire, and they had no artillery, no Vickers guns and no anti-tank guns, and casualties were mounting. Australians withdrew from Point 24 to Tel El Eisa ridge again in the evening suffering %50 casaulties during the day.

After seven days of fierce fighting, the battle in the north for Tel el Eisa salient petered out. Australian 9th Division estimated at least 2,000 Axis troops had been killed and more than 3,900 Italian and 240 German prisoners of war taken in the battle. Possibly the most important feature of the battle, however, was that the Australians had captured Signals Intercept Company 621, which had provided Rommel with priceless intelligence from British radio communications.

Meanwhile, German tanks attacked along the Ruweisat Ridge, unable to break the lines held by Indian 5th Infantry Brigade, British 2nd Armoured Brigade, and British 22nd Armoured Brigade.
Early on 16 July, German general Nehring renewed his attack on Point 63 captured by 5th Indian Brigade the day before with 15th Panzer and German 90th Light Infantry Divisions. The 5th Indian Infantry Brigade pushed them back with help of British and Indian artillery fire but it was clear from intercepted radio traffic that a further attempt would be made. Strenuous preparations to dig in anti-tank guns were made by Indian and British infantry, artillery fire plans organised and a regiment from the 22nd Armoured Brigade was sent to reinforce the 2nd Armoured Brigade. And this time British armor arrived and supported infantry in time to repel German attack.

When German attack resumed late in the afternoon, it was repulsed. Nehring tried again that evening, with the setting sun behind him and strong JU-87 Stuka support above, unaware that careless use of radio had disclosed his plans to the defenders. Around 6.30pm clouds of dust rising over a ridge less than 2,000 metres away warned 5th Indian Brigade of approaching trouble, and panzers streamed into sight. They ran into fire from hull-down British tanks and dug-in Indian manned six-pounder anti tank guns and machine guns, and what the divisional history calls ‘a furious engagement’ took place over the heads of the infantry. The battle clamoured on into the night, with light tanks and armoured cars skirmishing out to meet the enemy, creating a spectacular criss-crossing display of tracer. At 9.00pm Afrikakorps decided he had had enough and broke away. Daylight revealed bodies German infantry in heaps sprawled on the ground 800 metres from the Indian positions, and behind them a graveyard of wrecked German tanks and guns reaching back as far as Deir el Shein. There was reason to believe several tanks were shamming dead, and a few shells among them sent them scurrying for safety. Demolition parties of engineers dealt with the debris.

After the battle, the Indians counted 24 knocked out German tanks, as well as eight destroyed German armoured cars and 27 German anti-tank guns (including eight dreaded 88 mm antitank guns which Indians happily added to their artillery park) left on the battlefield.

In three days’ fighting, the Allies took more than 2,000 Axis prisoners in Ruweisat ridge, mostly from the Italian Brescia and Pavia Divisions; the New Zealand division suffered 1,405 casualties of these 730 are prisoners (nine of them would escape and return back to Eighth Army lines in next few months). The fighting at Tel el Eisa and Ruweisat had caused the destruction of three Italian divisions, forced Rommel to redeploy his armour from the south, made it necessary to lay minefields in front of the remaining Italian divisions and stiffen them with detachments of German troops.

German 90th Light Division war diary made the following summary: ‘Final appreciation of the day’s events: Owing to bad leadership and to supply difficulties the attack of 90th Light on 10.7 progresses only hesitantly. As a consequence of considerable losses of vehicles (through bombing and artillery fire) Battle Group Marcks was no longer in a position to detach vehicles to ensure the bringing up of supplies during the attack …

In his daily report to Rome on the morning of 17 July, Rommel said that on 16 July, following heavy artillery preparation in the early morning, the Australians had attacked west, south of the coast road, supported by tanks. They ‘overran a battalion of Sabratha Division in dug in positions and took over 400 prisoners. By midday the position was restored by German troops. Eight tanks were destroyed’. Always, it seemed, Rommel could find Germans somewhere to plug a gap. His report on the southern part of the line said that ‘during the last few days’ his enemy had destroyed nearly four Italian divisions. ‘This has lowered the striking power of the Panzer Army so far that no offensive operations can now be undertaken, especially as the enemy has reinforcements continuously in infantry, tanks and artillery,’ Rommel wrote. ‘If he succeeds in making any more breaks into our line, the Alamein positions will no longer be tenable.’

Rommel wrote to his wife on July 17 : “Things are going downright badly for me at the moment, at any rate, in the military sense. The enemy is using his superiority, especially in infantry, to destroy the Italian formations one by one, and the German formations are much too weak to stand alone. It’s enough to make one weep.”

And Kesselring (whose orders , instructions and advice Rommel arrogantly violated by entering Egypt in premature victory fever) very likely in Rome said smugly, ‘I told you so.’

Of course, Rommel was lucky. He always had been. However stretched he might be, however stupid his own mistakes were, he could always rely on the British armor to fumble and allow him to recover. So it was this day. The devastating drive through the centre never took place. While his guns and mortars dealt with the New Zealanders, he had time to pull together a scratch force.

Still temporary commander of 2nd New Zealand Division General Inglis was truly not a happy man, and he wrote to wounded and recovering General Freyberg on 11 July that what the army needed was ‘a commander who will make a firm plan and leave his staff to implement it, crash through with it; and once the conception is under way, move about the battlefield himself and galvanise the troops who are looking over their shoulder … I feel that penny packets of enemy who could easily have been destroyed have been allowed to make progress instead, and that time has been frittered away over and over again’.

During 16th July , while failing German counterattack on Ruweisat ridge was going on , another crisis ( an unecessary one if Auchinleck had not reversed his decision) broke between General Auchinleck and Australians. The 20th Australian Infantry Brigade was ordered to take up a hasty defensive position behind the Indians on Ruweisat ridge but these hurried orders caused another row between Auchinleck and Morshead. Auchinleck had promised that he would not detach any further units from 9th Australian Division and Morshead immediately telephoned Eighth Army Headquarters. He was extremely angry that Auchinleck had broken their agreement and forced the Commander-in-Chief to return the brigade. Soon afterwards, Eighth Army sent the urgent message to 9th Australian Division demanding ‘every possible step be taken’. Morshead relented and the orders to 20th Australian Brigade were confirmed, but the incident had further damaged relations between Morshead and Auchinleck.

In a moment of rare comedy, the brigade intelligence officer selected a ‘nice piece of empty desert’ as a forming-up place. On reaching this point on its drive, the brigade found ‘some well scattered and well camouflaged tents sunk deep in the desert. Suddenly the place came to like a poked ant heap. Agitated staff officers and orderlies scurried hither and thither.’ The assembled column of trucks had just motored into Eighth Army Tactical Headquarters. This was not marked on any maps and its location was kept secret as a security measure. This certainly improved security but it also isolated Auchinleck from the men actually doing the fighting.

Such a cry for leadership from an army longing to be led. Neither Claude Auchinleck who still tried to be both Mediterranean Theater commander in Chief and Eighth Army commander nor his subordinates had that leadership quality.

In the Western Desert in North Africa, British Sergeant Keith Elliott from 5th Indian Brigade win the Victoria Cross for leading an attack which captures four machine gun positions, an anti-tank gun and 50 German prisoners despite being seriously wounded in the chest.

Caucasian Front , Russia : Soviet forces evacuated Boguchar in Voronezh Oblast and Milerovo in Rostov Oblast in southern Russia as German troops advanced toward Stalingrad.

Vinnitza , Ukraine : Hitler, with victory over Russia apparently not far off, transferred his headquarters from the ‘Wolf’s Lair’ at Rastenburg to a new site, ‘Werewolf’, at Vinnitsa. Despite the ‘swarming flies and mosquitoes’ which so upset him, Hitler was to remain at Vinnitsa for more than two months. On his first day there, he was visited by Himmler, who had driven down from his own headquarters at Zhitomir, eighty miles to the north. The two men discussed the Caucasus, which once again seemed so nearly in the German grasp. ‘The Führer’s view’, Himmler wrote on the following day, ‘is that we should not visibly incorporate this territory into the German sphere of power, but only militarily secure oil sources and borders.’

Black Sea : German HE-111 bombers hit and fatally damaged both Soviet destroyer Bodry and minelaying light cruiser Komintern at Poti, Georgia. Komitern sank next day.

Germany : Eight (of 21 launched) British Stirling bombers from RAF Bomber Command attacked Lübeck, Germany at dusk; 2 were lost on this mission. Elsewhere, small groups of bombers attacked various targets in the Ruhr region in Germany. Luftwaffe Kammhuber radar line for air defence and anti air craft gun bıoxes are becoming very effective repeling RAF night time air raids

Vichy France : 9,000 Vichy French policemen conducted a round-up, gathering 12,887 Parisian Jews born outside of France. 6,000 of them were sent to Drancy Concentration Camp Camp located just outside the city (they were destined for Auschwitz) , while the other 6,000 were detained at the Vélodrome d’Hiver stadium where they had to share one water tap and ten toilets in hot summer weather under brutal Vichy Fascist Milice guards. (Vel d’Hiv roundup)

A decree was published in Paris announcing that the "nearest male relatives, brothers-in-law, and cousins of troublemakers above the age of eighteen will be shot. All women relatives of the same degree of kinship will be condemned to forced labor. Children of less than eighteen years old of all the above mentioned persons will be placed in reform schools

Washington , USA : The United States severed diplomatic relations with Finland

Guadalcanal , Solomon Islands , South West Pacific : The Japanese began the construction of an airfield on Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

South China Sea : American submarine USS Seadragon (Lieutenant Commander W. E. Ferrall, USN) sighted a Japanese transport ship at 0923 hours, beraing 301-degrees at a range of 16,000 yards. 10 minutes later, Seadragon sighted a convoy of four ships. The submarine sped toward the convoy, and once in attack position, fired two torpedoes at the second ship in the column from a range of about 1,250 yards; both missed, hitting the beach beyond after almost 5 minutes. All ships in the convoy then turned toward USS Seadragon and started firing their guns. Two more torpedoes were fired from the stern at the last ship of the column at the range of about 2,750 yards. The ship, 5,303-ton Japanese transport ship Hakodate Maru, en-route from Taiwan to Bangkok, Thailand, was struck by both of them and sank 2 miles off the coast north of Cape Varella, French Indochina. USS Seadragon meanwhile had submerged to 100 feet. At 1052 hours, US Seadragon returned to periscope depth and could see only three ships. After the sinking, USS Seadragon set sail for Fremantle, Australia.

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17th July 1942

Bay of Biscay : A RAF Whitley aircraft of No. 61 Squadron RAF and Lancaster aircraft of No. 502 Squadron RAF located , bombed and sank German submarine U-751 northwest of Cape Ortegal, Spain, killing all 48 aboard.

A Whitley of RAF Coastal Command Squadron 502, piloted by A.R.A. Hunt, spotted U-751 on the surface. Attacking from an altitude of fifty feet, the Whitley dropped six 250-pound Mark VII depth charges with Torpex warheads set for 25 feet. The close straddle literally lifted U-751 out of the water, the airmen reported. Nonetheless, the Whitley mounted a second attack with ASW bombs and machine guns. The U-751 survived these attacks and contrary to doctrine, she dived. A couple of hours later when he returned to the surface, a big RAF four-engine Lancaster of Bomber Command Squadron 61, on loan to Coastal Command and piloted by Peter R. Casement, was orbiting overhead. As the Lancaster bomber ran in to attack, the U-751 “fired back with all her guns.” The Lancaster dropped ten close Mark VIII depth charges, then a string of ASW bombs. The bow of the U-boat rose vertically and she slid stern first beneath the sea and sank. The German crew spilled into the water, some of them shaking fists in defiance, the British aircrew reported. The British made no attempt to rescue the Germans. None survived.

On the day British aircraft sank U-751, July 17, a homebound boat, Captain Hans-Heinz Linder in U-202, found a convoy, Outbound South OS 34, close to the site of that sinking. Linder shadowed—and reported—until he was forced off by the escorts. His signals brought in two Type VII German submarines outbound to the Americas, Ritterkreuz holder Reinhard Suhren in U-564 and Ludwig Forster in U-654 to intercept the convoy.

1,000 miles West of Angola, German armed merchant cruiser Michel, having pursued since the previous evening, caught up and sank Norwegian tanker Aramis with gunfire at dusk; 20 were killed, 23 survived and were captured.

El Alamein , Egypt : Australian 24th Brigade and British 44th Royal Tank Regiment, supported by RAF fighters, attacked Miteirya Ridge (also known as Ruin Ridge to Australians) between Tel el Eisa and Ruweisat near El Alamein, Egypt; the offensive initially overran the line held by Italian Trento Division and Italian Trieste Division, but would ultimately be driven back by German tanks and Italian Trento Division.

Up on Ruweisat ridge, the Indian 5th Brigade carried out a coup that restored possession of the ridge to the Eighth Army – too late, of course, for the armour to exploit, but there was some satisfaction in wresting back the territory that the New Zealanders had won and lost. It began on 17 July when one company of the 4/5th Rajputana Rifles of the 5th Indian Brigade, which had withstood the German counter-attack on 16 July, edged forward and took post about a kilometre west of Point 64. Next day a depleted 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, all that was left of the 9th Indian Brigade, was brought up to leapfrog ahead to the western Point 63, where the 4th NZ Brigade had been overrun on 15 July. The regiment was reinforced for the task by a troop from 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, a battery of six-pounders from the 149th Anti-Tank Regiment, and a machine-gun company from the 6th Rajputana Rifles. All but one platoon of the machine-gunners were posted in scrub about 2,000 metres south west of Point 64 to support the attack from the flank. As the West Yorks assembled in broad daylight around 4.30pm there was no sign of interest from the enemy, and even when they moved forward to the start line nothing stirred to the west. But the opening barrage at 5.30pm stung the enemy into action, and shells came hurtling back. The West Yorks moved forward in classic 1914–18 style, following a creeping barrage that moved forward 100 yards in two minutes. Their supporting arms trundled along behind. As the troops and barrage approached, the Axis infantry broke and ran, with the enthusiastic West Yorks overshooting their objective in hot pursuit. A two full battalions of Italian Trento motorised infantry division surrendered in face of 5th Indian Brigade and more than 1.000 Italians captured by West Yorks who were in hot pursuit. It took some time to bring them back to Point 63 and restore order, but they were ready when the Axis counter-attacked with ten tanks in support. The attack was repulsed by British and Indian anti tank guns and machine guns and the Yorks continued to hold the inhospitable ridge under constant shelling and German JU-87 dive bombing.

Private Vallicella from Italian Trieste motorised infantry division found his way to a German field hospital. He had been taking supplies to the Trieste Division when his convoy was targeted by RAF bombers. He and his companions threw themselves under their truck just before it was hit. He survived physically unhurt but psychologically traumatised. When the doctors asked him what had happened, he broke down and needed two tranquillising injections before he drifted into a deep sleep. ‘For 16 months we have led this life,’ he noted. ‘Maybe at this point we can only hope that a bomb takes us out and finishes our suffering.’

How could one weak British Indian battalion take a position from which only a few days before two New Zealand brigades had been ejected and captured considerable number ofd prisoner in the process ? The answer lies in the north.

With Auchinleck’s orders “not to give any respite” (his quote) Australian 9th Division was brought further south of Alamein line just flank of Tel El Eisa to attack Miteiriya Ridge. Miteiriya Ridge was ten miles to the north of Ruweisat Ridge and ran almost parallel to it. Although difficult to see from a distance, Miteiriya offered a valuable observation site, especially as it ran east to west for a considerable distance. While named after the remains of a building on its crest, the part of the ridge named Ruin Ridge proved a most apt name for the Australian attacks here.

24th Australian Brigade, with the support of 15 tanks, secured Tell el Makh Khad on Mitierna ridge on the morning of 17 July, losing six tanks on an uncharted minefield. With the remaining tanks they went on to take a ruin on Miteiriya Ridge, a location with which they were to become familiar before the month ended. They were pushed off both features by a combined German-Italian force led by 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions and Trento infantry division, aided by bombers. The Australians claimed 800 prisoners mostly Italians captured from Trieste mechanised infantry division, however Afrikakorps also captured 250 Australians in exchange that day.

The first action to capture Ruin Ridge was made on July 17 by just one Australian battalion when at least a brigade attack was required. The 2/32nd Australian Infantry Battalion initially succeeded in capturing Ruin Ridge, but vigorous German counterattacks were made and took their toll. Reinforced by 2/43rd Battalion, the third German counterattack drove the Australians back. The 9th Division’s War Diary recorded of it:

"Between 1630 and 1730 hrs intense enemy arty fire and pressure from enemy tks on front and flanks forced the withdrawal of our tps to telegraph line south and SW of ry [railway] causing substantial casualties to personnel tks and equipment. Our front was firm by 2030 hrs.95One battalion diarist recorded how the change from “comparative triumph to gloom was startling.”

The moment 2/43 Battalion moved forward to join 2/32 Battalion on the ridge, “Bn. Came under severe shelling from enemy batteries which continued until final objective was reached.” With their ammunition stocks “almost exhausted,” with no communication with its artillery support, and with several large enemy counterattacks looming, the “CO ordered withdrawal.” Given the unfavorable circumstances, there was little else the battalion could do. The attack was very similar to that launched by the New Zealanders on Ruweisat Ridge, but this time the feature could not be held. Casualties in both battalions were high and numbered 317.

As Frank Querruell, of the 2/32nd Australian Battalion, could testify thşings went very wrong for them on Mitieria ridge that day. A veteran of the Tobruk siege, he now found himself at El Alamein. For him, 17 July was the hardest day of the war. It was ‘hot as hell’ and he wore only shorts and a tin hat as the Germans threw a barrage of artillery at Tel el Eisa.

“Shells, mortars and tank fire were everywhere and suddenly there were German tanks coming towards our dug-out, and the trench was falling on top of us. There were Germans everywhere and I was struggling with my gun which wouldn’t work because of the dust. We were cut off from the rest of our company by the enemy’s counter-attack. All of us in this dug-out suddenly found guns pointing down at us and Huns shouting ‘Hande hoch!’ ‘Hands up!’ So there were all of us—me too—with hands up.”

Limited though the Australian operation was and easily repulsed by Afrikakorps , it kept Rommel skipping. Panzer Army’s diary reported that early on the morning of 17 July ‘two strong battle groups … of 9th Australian Division attacked south-west along the Qattara Track from the area Mahk Khad … overran the right wing of Trieste Division and the Bergsaglieri strong point of 21st Italian Corps and pushed forward quickly to area north of Sanyet el Miteiriya. A strong force had to be brought up from the central sector to seal off this penetration … Panzerarmee was thus forced to abandon its attempt to win back 10th Italian Corps’ old positions in the central sector …’ After this fiasco Mitierya ridge was nicknaned “Ruin Ridge” by Australians.

Yet that night, Australian 2/28th Battalion, the reserve battalion of the brigade, was tasked with reoccupying the position on the Tel el Makh Khad ridge which the 2/32nd and 2/43rd had lost that day. Amazingly, this manoeuvre succeeded almost without opposition. The Australian hold on Tel el Makh Khad ridge was consolidated and strengthened over the next few days and gave them a valuable observation point over Mitierna ridge.

Frau Rommel must have become worried about her husband in mid-July 1942. His letters to her up until then had generally been optimistic and full of fresh ideas for military exploits, but on 17 July, Rommel wrote:

“Things are going downright badly for me at the moment, at any rate, in the military sense. The enemy is using his superiority, especially in infantry, to destroy the Italian formations one by one, and the German formations are much too weak to stand alone. It’s enough to make one weep.”

Eighth Army had chewed its way through four Italian infantry divisions by 17 July which seriously weakened the position of the Panzer Army. This constant attrition forced Rommel to adopt new defensive methods whereby German infantry was interspersed amongst Italian formations in a process Rommel called ‘corseting’. The very same procedure had been used by Wellington at Battle of Waterloo albeit under very different circumstances where British regulars had been mixed with unsteady German and Dutch troops. Rommel hoped to stiffen his defences and ensure that there would be no easily identified weak points in the Panzerarmee’s line.

In another letter to his wife on 18 July , Rommel said 17 July had been a critical day. ‘But it can’t go on like it for long, otherwise our front will crack,’ he wrote.

Luftwaffe Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and Field Marshal Ugo Cavallero, the Italian Chief of Staff arrive at Rommel’s HQ and argue over the situation. Rommel’s continuing battles at Alamein are draining the supply larder and preventing the attack on Malta from being launched. Rommel is warned that his men are near the bottom of the barrel.

Rommel can neither advance nor retreat nor hold. He needs tanks, guns, petrol, ammunition, and troops to hold. Four Italian divisions have been destroyed since July 1. All Commando Supremo has in reserve is the force earmarked to invade Malta, the Ramcke Parachute Brigade and the Italian Folgore Parachute Brigade. They can come forward at once, but without transport. And if they are committed at Alamein, the invasion of Malta must be scrubbed.

Rommel says these tough troops could redress the situation.

Kesselring warns that adding these troops to North Africa puts a greater strain on a logistics chain …and Malta is still there to rip the chain apart. “We just had to have Malta,” Kesselring writes later. “Yet the withdrawal of the forces destined for the invasion of the island made this impossible. Even I was eventually forced to decide against it, as the premises for success were just no longer there. The calling off of this undertaking was a mortal blow to the whole North African undertaking. I now urged the resumption of the offensive as vigorously as I had intervened after Tobruk to break it off… With all the immense disadvantages of a purely defensive operation – which could not solve the supply problem – there was no choice but to opt for an offensive solution … the situation in North Africa could only be stabilized if the Egyptian and Mediterranean ports were in our hands.”

The invasion of Malta is permanently shelved. Ramcke’s paratroopers and the Folgore Brigade will go to Alamein. Rommel is committed to a new offensive in August. It is a turning point of the war.

Libya : In Libya, US Army Middle East Air Force launched B-24 bombers to attack Benghazi and B-17 bombers to attack Tobruk.

Caucasian Front , Russia : German 1st Panzer Army reached Voroshilovgrad (now Luhansk), Russia and began to overflank and encircle key cross roads city Rostov on Don and Sovviet 56th Army defending it from east and south

He 111 bombers of German Luftwaffe unit II./KG 55, with the new Lotfe 7D bombsights, flew tactical missions in support of German 1st Panzer Army near Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, destroying the key bridge across the lower Don River.

Netherlands and Germany : B-17 bombers of the USAAF VIII Bomber Command planned attacks on Hannover and Hamburg, Germany, but both missions were recalled after launch due to poor weather. 33 of the bombers attacked targets of opportunity after receiving the recall order; 21 of them attempted to attack the Fokker factory at Amsterdam, the Netherlands but accidentally dropped bombs on civilian quarters, killing 150. On the same day, B-26 bombers of US VIII Air Support Command attacked Cayeux, France as a diversion to draw German fighters away from the primary targets in Germany.

Italy : In Italy, about 280 American bombers attacked the rail marshalling yard at Naples while RAF bombers attacked Reggio di Calabria

Greece : German occupation forces conducted an anti-patisan operation at Trifolo near Katerini, Greece, rounding up suspected resistance fighters and executing the suspects en masse.

Poland : Heinrich Himmler visited Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland for two days to inspect the construction of crematoriums, inspect the expansion of prisoner barracks, and observe the extermination of two trainloads of Dutch Jews in gas chambers. On the following day he was shown over the ‘original’ Auschwitz, the punitive camp for Poles, and he asked to be shown some beatings in order ‘to determine their effects’. At the end of his visit, he urged the expansion of the barracks at nearby Birkenau and of the armaments industry within the camp perimeters, at which the deportees could be put to work. Before leaving, he raised the camp Commandant, Rudolf Hoess, to the SS rank of major. Then, on July 19, he ordered the ‘total cleansing’ of the entire Jewish population of the General Government ‘to be carried out and completed by December 31’.

Indian Ocean : German submarine U-178 sank transport City of Canton northeast of Beira, Mozambique at 0031 hours; 8 were killed, 76 survived (one of whom was taken prisoner by the Germans)

India : Chinese 38th Division under Sun Liren arrived at Ramgarh Training Center, India.

Rabaul , New Britain : USAAF B-17 bombers attacked Rabaul, New Britain.

Nassau Bay , Papua New Guinea : Troops of the Australian 3rd Division and US 41st Division marched from Nassau Bay toward Salamaua, New Guinea.

Gudalcanal , Solomon Islands , South West Pacific : A B-17 aircraft of US 435th Bombardment Squadron conducted a photograph reconnaissance mission over Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. USMC Lieutenant Colonel Merrill Twining and Major William McKean were on board the aircraft; upon seeing the Japanese progress on the Guadalcanal airfield, he noted "I hope they build a good one. We are going to use it.

Aleutian islands , North Pacific : US 11th Air Force bombers attacked Japanese positions at Kiska, Aleutian Islands.

Is it clear who put the mines there? By the way I am not sure if everyone on this forum knows that Canakkale is the same place as Gallipoli, right? Correct me if I am wrong but I understood this from Turkish friends and familly,

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Yes , Canakkale is the town in Dardanelles , Gallipoli is the peninsula in the north. Atilay the Turkish submarine was making a trial dive to test anti submarine detection cable system laid down by Turkish Navy in Dardanelles and accidently entered a Turkish minefield.


What no likes for that one ?