Sunday, July 27, 2008

[Image] Zero Hour: Alamein

2140Hrs 23rd October, 1942
El Alamein, Egypt.

Zero Hour.

The allies opened their assault on Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Alamein, Egypt at 2140hrs on the 23rd October, 1942. The commencement of hostilities occurred with the largest artillery barrage of the Western Desert campaign.

On a front of six miles, the artillery of Montgomery's 8th Army was dispersed every 23 yards. At amazing pace, the English Artillery signalled to Rommel that his assault on Egypt was going to cost much more than ever anticipated.

The Australian 9th Division was deployed in the northern sector of the Alamein battlefield opposite Rommel's Panzer Tank Divisions and substantial numbers of Afrika Korp Infantrie. The artillery was to commence a punishing creeping barrage that would move forward sweeping the way for the 9th Division on foot. These tactics caused many casualties on both sides.

All personal accounts of Zero Hour at Alamein that I have read have one thing in common. All say that those that survived it never forgot it as long as they lived.

On a personal note I remember as a child in the 1970's visiting my Grandparents at their home. On the mantle piece in their loungroom was a large brass shell casing. Hand engraved on the bottom of it was "Alamein 1942". It fascinated me, for here in my mind was a highly explosive device that may go off with the slightest noise or vibration. I think it may have been a scam perpetrated by my parents to keep my behaviour quiet while we paid a visit :) In any case when I asked my Grandfather (NX17811) about it he said "That's a Tommy 25 pounder from Alamein". He never elaborated on it and I never understood enough to ask more.

I always wondered what happened to that shell.

image 042485 Australian War Memorial.

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