Sunday, July 27, 2008

[Anecdote] NX60436 Cpl. Henry E. Zouch remembers unrecorded valour at Alamein

At the time of the following incident, Henry was a corporal of 18 Platoon, D Company 2/17th Battalion. He wrote of a remarkable feat by one soldier on the second night of the Battle of El Alamein as follows;

“The Battalion advanced without artillery support with D Coy forward left, 18 Pl 9 Sec on the extreme left flank, when I contacted A Coy 2/13th Bn and proceeded to dig in. At this moment, the RAF dropped bombs on our Bn HQ hitting an ammunition truck some 400 yards to our rear, which lit up the whole front.”

“Approximately 40 yards in front of my section, a number of enemy machine guns opened fire on our Bren Gunners, Bruce Hindson (NX58750) and Horrie Kennedy (NX59787). This post was very close and we were losing men because the rocky ground prevented us from digging in. The remaining enemy positions had no field of fire on our position as they ran along facing east. Also, 18Pl HQ had problems as Lt. Al Urquhart (NX22422) was badly wounded by machine gun fire, leaving Sgt. Ted Taylor (NX21402) in charge of the platoon.”

“It was decided that the position in front had to be taken under covering fire of the two Bren Gunners. Whilst waiting for the reserve 7 Sec to join us, out of the blue on my left ran a soldier. In the semi-darkness he looked like an English soldier in Tommy battle dress. He threw a number of grenades into the enemy machine gun post and then jumped in with his submachinegun. He worked away from us down the enemy positions, throwing grenades, until I lost sight of him in the darkness some 100 yards away. What happened to him we never heard as we were in the battle for another nine days and nights.”

“The machine gun post had 10 German soldiers and 8 Spandau (MG42) machine guns. What a remarkable soldier this man must have been. I wonder if his deeds were ever recorded. Noone knew where he came from, but enquiries indicated that he could have been a British Commando working independently.”

image composite of crop from 020286 Australian War Memorial and photo of Henry Zouch from my personal collection.

The anecdote is taken from one submitted by Henry Zouch to "What we have, we hold - a history of the 2/17th Australian Infantry Battalion 1940-1945" by the 2/17th Battalion History Committee. Published under fair dealing for review as allowed by the Copyright Act.

NX60436 Sgt. Henry Eddington Zouch passed away in 1999.

He was 79 years old.


Anonymous said...

My father is the Ted Taylor mentioned. Any further info on the 2/17th from the Middle East or New Guinea which may refer to him would be most appreciated. Keep up the good research.

blitzcraig said...

In the book "Last Man Standing - The Battle of El Alamein" there is mention of this soldier. I dont have the book handy to give the brave soldier's name, but he was mentioned as Herb Ashby witnessed the whole thing. He managed to wipe out 3 machine gun nests if I remember correctly. He was an Australian who had had enough of watching his friends and comrades fall.