Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45

Battle for Egypt – The Summer of 1942

by Lieutenant-Colonel J. L. Scoullar

War History Branch

Department of Internal Affairs

Wellington, New Zealand


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Aftermath of Libyan Campaign

Chapter 2: A Hazardous Project

Chapter 3: Alternative Roles

Chapter 4: Division in Syria

Chapter 5: Rommel Strikes

Chapter 6: Forced March to the Desert

Chapter 7: Preparations for Decisive Battle

Chapter 8: Auchinleck takes Command

Chapter 9: Rommel’s Battle Plans

Chapter 10: Germans Break In

Chapter 11: New Zealand Division Isolated

Chapter 12: Twenty-four Tense Hours

Chapter 13: Eighth Army in Last Ditch

Chapter 14: The Enemy Plan

Chapter 15: Eighth Army Holds the Line

Chapter 16: Defeat of Ariete Division

Chapter 17: Thrusts, Parries, and Plans

Chapter 18: Both Armies Prepare Attacks

Chapter 19: Battle of Tell el Eisa

Chapter 20: Armies Spar for Positions

Chapter 21: Planning for Ruweisat

Chapter 22: Capture of Ruweisat Ridge

Chapter 23: The First Disaster

Chapter 24: Fighting on the Ridge

Chapter 25: Enemy Prepares Counter-attack

Chapter 26: Fourth Brigade Overrun

Chapter 27: Reflections

Chapter 28: Raids, Patrols, Consolidation

Chapter 29: Plans for El Mreir

Chapter 30: Advance of Sixth Brigade

Chapter 31: Succession of Disasters

Chapter 32: Price of Bad Planning

Chapter 33: Reorganisation

Appendix I

Appendix II: 22 Battalion in Captivity

Appendix III





Looking north-east at Minqar Qaim – Wire for defensive positions in Syria – Machine-gunners digging in, Syria – Sappers digging a gunpit, Syria – Convoy at the ruins of Palmyra – On the Damascus road – Dumps on fire at Mersa Matruh – Unloading on the escarpment at Minqar Qaim – Digging in on the rocky escarpment – Looking east from 5 Brigade HQ – Shells bursting on gun positions – Observing shellfire – A 25-pounder in action at Minqar Qaim – Lieutenant-General Freyberg wounded – The break-out – painting by Peter McIntyre – Wrecked vehicles – painting by J. Crippen – Headquarters 5 Infantry Brigade halted – After early morning conference at Munassib – The northern edge of the Qattara Depression – 19 Battalion advancing against Ariete Division – Enemy shells on Alam Nayil ridge – Some of the guns captured by the CRA’s column and 19 Battalion – German 88-millimetre guns captured on Alam Nayil – Ruweisat Ridge – 18 Battalion transport bombed – 25-pounders firing on Ruweisat Ridge – painting by C. Hansen – 21 Battalion Signal Office – El Mreir Depression – painting by J. Crippen – 28 Battalion RAP – The hard summer of 1942 – Lieutenant-General W. H. E. Gott – General Auchinleck and Major-General Freyberg – Brig G. H. Clifton and Col W. G. Gentry – Rommel, with staff, and Brig Clifton – Brig H. K. Kippenberger – Maj-Gen L. M. Inglis – Brig C. E. Weir – Lt-Col G. L. Agar – Lt-Col R. C. Queree – Lt-Col K. W. R. Glasgow – Lt-Col C. L. Walter – Lt-Col J. M. Mitchell – Lt-Col F. M. H. Hanson – Lt-Col A. J. Nicoll – General Auchinleck and Lt-Col R. J. Lynch – Lt-Col C. L. Pleasants – Lt-Col S. F. Hartnell – Lt-Col J. T. Burrows – Brig Kippenberger and Lt-Col S. F. Allen – Lt-Col J. T. Russell – Lt-Col R. E. Romans – Lt-Col A. W. Greville – Lt-Col C. D. A. George – Lt-Cols J. Gray and J. N. Peart – Lt-Col F. Gwilliam – Col S. H. Crump – Brig H. S. Kenrick – Capt C. H. Upham – Sgt K. Elliott


The Axis Approach to the Oilfields – Syria and Lebanon – Minqar Qaim and Alamein: Dispositions on evening 26 June 1942 – El Alamein – Ruweisat Ridge: Plan of Attack and Dispositions on 14 July 1942 – El Mreir: Plan of Attack and Dispositions on 21 July 1942 – The Advance of Panzerarmee on Matruh, 26–27 June 1942 – 21 Panzer Division’s Encirclement of New Zealand Division at Minqar Qaim on 27 June 1942 – Withdrawal of New Zealand Division from Minqar Qaim on night 27–28 June 1942 – The Rout of Ariete Division, 3 July 1942 – 4 and 5 New Zealand Brigades from 3 to 7 July 1942 – Ruweisat Ridge: The Morning of 15 July 1942 – Ruweisat Ridge: Afrika Korps’ Attack on 4 New Zealand Brigade, 15 July 1942 – El Mreir: The Advance and Dawn Counter-attack, 22 July 1942 – El Mreir: 23 Armoured Brigade’s Advance and final New Zealand Dispositions, 22 July 1942

The occupations given in the biographical footnotes are those on enlistment. The ranks are those held on discharge or at the date of death.

This volume was produced and published by the War History Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs

Editor-in-Chief: Sir Howard K. Kippenberger, KBE, CB, DSO, ED

Associate Editor: M. C. Fairbrother, DSO, OBE, ED

Sub-Editor: W. A. Glue

Illustrations Editor: J. D. Pascoe

Archives Officer: R. L. Kay

The Author

Lieutenant-Colonel J. L. Scoullar served with the Otago Regiment from 1916 to 1919 and in the New Zealand Staff Corps from 1920 to 1922. He was brigade major and later a zone commander, Auckland Fortress, from 1941 to 1943. He is a journalist and throughout the Second World War from September 1939 to December 1945 was military commentator for the Weekly News. He is now Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times, Tauranga.