Deir el Shein sources - July 1942

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Tom OBrien, May 17, 2023.

  1. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    Hi, I've been asked to contribute to a thread about the action in which 18th Indian Infantry Brigade was overrun on 1 July 1942 at the beginning of the First Battle of Alamein. First Bn diary is that of 4/11 Sikhs:

    WO169/7773 – 4/11 Sikh Regiment

    C.O. Lieut Col. R. Bampfield

    1 June 1942 ERBIL
    Bn still at Erbil training hard. A cadre course for young NCO’s was started. C Coy under [???] were still at K.K. dump area.

    2 – 3 June 1942
    [no entries]

    4 June 1942 ERBIL
    Message from 4 Ind Div congratulating Sub Mohd [?] Khan on award of I.D.S.M. This was first intimation of his award.

    5 June 1942
    [no entry]

    6 June 1942 ERBIL
    Sub Mohd [?] Khan and staff went to RUWANDIZ to start the hot weather rest camp.

    7 June 1942 ERBIL
    ‘C’ Coy arrived from KK & our RUWANDIZ party also returned. Warning Order for move caused much speculation as to destination.

    8 June 1942
    [no entry]

    9 June 1942 ERBIL to MOSUL
    Left ERBIL by road at 1100 hrs and arrived at MOSUL about 1400 hrs. Encamped for night north of town where we were visited by the Commander of 10 Ind Div Major General C.O. HARVEY. Now clear that we are to return to our old hunting grounds in the WESTERN DESERT. The Bde was to move across to the HAIFA area in three flights of which we were to be the first flight with Bde HQ.

    10 June 1942 MOSUL to CHADADA
    Marched early and had an uneventful journey over bad roads. Halted every two hours for 20 mins. Arrived in the afternoon about 1500 hrs at CHADADA where the men were able to bathe in the river.

    11 June 1942 CHADADA to DEIR EZ ZOR
    Marched soon after daylight and had a long march to DEIR EZ ZOR which was reached at about 1600 hrs. The going again was only moderate but all vehicles arrived all right.

    12 June 1942 DEIR EZ ZOR to PALMYRA
    A very long march to PALMYRA where we arrived at about 1700 hrs. The going was moderate and all vehicles got in well with little trouble.

    13 June 1942 PALMYRA to DAMASCUS
    Another tiring days march over fair tracks to DAMASCUS. The latter part of the days journey was a very welcome change after the previous marches and everybody was greatly impressed with the crops etc. We got into DAMASCUS at about 1700 but we [were] warned for an 0300 start. However the men were able to get a bit of a wash up.

    14 June 1942 DAMASCUS to LAJJUN Camp (HAIFA area)
    Marched at 0330 & so missed seeing much of DAMASCUS. Presumably in order to deceive the enemy the route taken was along the BEIRUT road for a considerable distance before slinking [??] S.W. along a new road. However the journey was most interesting & except for short distances the road surface was excellent. Arrived at LAJJUN Camp at about 1500 hrs. The Camp was practically on the site of MEGIDDO on the south side of ESDRAELON. The camp itself was built as a permanent standing camp & the general accommodation etc was excellent.

    15 – 16 June 1942 LAJJUN Camp
    Days spent in washing, cleaning up& general overhaul of all equipment etc.

    17 – 20 June 1942 LAJJUN Camp
    Training started.

    21 June 1942 LAJUNN [sic? Not sure which is correct spelling]
    Conference for C.O. at Bde HQ re marking out defences. Bde HQ some 18 miles away. Whole Bde well spread out over about 40 miles.

    22 June 1942 LAJUNN
    Recce for defence position cancelled & W.O. received to move to Eighth Army area, where the situation in the desert was none too good. Advance party in four trucks under [norman or laidlaw ??] left for CAIRO area.

    23 June 1942
    Road party in unit M.T. under Willis & Ward, who had just returned off a Commando Course, left at 0500 hrs. Remainder of Bn left for HAIFA EAST railway station starting at 0645. Everybody entrained by 0945 & train left at 1005 hrs for KANTARA.

    24 June 1942
    Arrived KANTARA on time at 0200 hrs. Men got tea & by 0430 everything had been ferried across the canal & all loaded up in train ready for move. The train left at 0500 for SEMILLA which was some 15 miles from MERSA MATRUH. This obviously indicated a change in plan as our road parties were definitely ordered to Cairo. Some of the mess servants got left behind on departure but they caught up later as they were brought along by 2/5 ESSEX REGT. Arrived AMIRYEH at 1500 hrs where we had a two hours halt & the men were able to cook food. Left at 1700. Up to now we had been running well on time. From now onwards slow progress & sometime during night halted short of DABA. Moved again but then halted soon after owing to the train running out of water. Were passed by 2/5 ESSEX train. Eventually got water & arrived at DABA 1600 hrs. After another 20 miles or so the train halted about a ¾ mile short of GALAL where the ESSEX had also halted. Some doubt as to reason.

    25/26 June 1942
    Obliged to spend night here although had to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Continual air activity on both sides. The enemy dropped flares & soon realised the situation. As a result both us & the Essex were bombed. One stick bursting very close to the train. Unfortunately everybody was not able to get clear in time and 7 were killed & 18 wounded. Of the wounded 2 later died in hospital. The remainder of the night was spent lying dispersed away from the train. No further bombing directed on us but not much sleep obtained & a most unpleasant return to W.D. However all well next day & jawans [??] cheerful.

    26 June 1942
    At 0745 hrs the train was ordered to move back to DABA, where we arrived at 1200. After a short halt we moved back to EL ALAMEIN & came under 1 S.A. Div. Went into a dispersal area N.W. of station at about 1415. At about 1600 Willis & road party arrived. They had gone to DABA but had been sent back from there. Still no news of Bde HQ & momeson [??] except that Brigadier Lochner [??] was in hospital in HAIFA with pneumonia.
    A quiet night except for one stick of bombs dropped about ¾ mile away on main road.

    27 June 1942 EL ALAMEIN
    Colonel Mays 2/5 ESSEX who was acting brigadier called a conference at 0930 & explained that the bde group was to move about 16 miles south to the DEIR EL SHEIN area & construct a bde box. Had to ferry in our unit tpt. C.O. & recce parties left at 1100 hrs. Morrison [?] & his party arrived at 1500 hrs having been to MATRUH & recced about five different Bn positions.
    Colonel Gry 2/3 G.R also arrived and took over Bde from Colonel Mays. Now obvious that all was not well in front. Battalion all ferried across to Box area by 2030 hrs & work started immediately on defences.

    28 June 1942 DEIR SHEIN
    Battalion worked all through day & up to 0130 hrs on defences. Able to get a compressor to help from 1 S.A. Div who were most helpful. Sent out truck patrol under Knox about 20 miles. He was able to bring back useful information about the position of our own troops. One recce plane over high up otherwise it was a procession of our planes coming & going.

    29 June 1942 DEIR SHEIN
    Work on the defences started again at 0600 hrs. The men have done magnificently & all the section & platoon positions well down & wire & mines laid along quite a bit of front. By now a certain amount of our own forward troops were coming through our box. Very difficult to get a clear picture but obvious that we are going to play an important part in the next day or so. Considerable problems over water & our water carts were going to back to HAMMAM for water – over 40 miles away. As a result the men were working under very trying conditions. However all that could be done was done & the C.O. was tireless in going round all day & all night checking the defences. Brigadier Purves [??] our late C.O. called in on the way back with his bde who had been in action at SOLLUM & MATRUH. Know was again out & again brought back much useful news.

    30 June 1942 DEIR SHEIN
    Most of our forces were east of us now & the GUIDES CAV took over patrolling in our front area. The planned line up on our side is:- 1 S.A. Div in the EL ALAMEIN area – where there is a proper concreted position – to some extent – ourselves 18 Bde some 15 miles south with the New Zealand Div in another box about 15 – 20 miles south. Mobile columns filling the gaps between the boxes.
    Enemy columns were reported moving N.E. about 15 miles in front and during the day an attack was put in on the Alamein Box but was not pressed. Our own position was on the way to completion but owing to lack of mines there were still gaps in the perimeter. In the box itself were 2/5 Essex, 4/11 Sikhs, 2/3 Gurkha Rifles, 66 Field Coy S & M, 4 medium M.G. manned by the Cheshires, 7 Matilda tanks manned by scratch crews from 42 R.T.R. while the arty consisted of 18 (?) 25 pdrs manned by 121 Field Regt & 79 Field Regt, approx 20 2 pdr A/Tk guns manned by unit’s, South Africans & some of the WELSH Regt also 16 (?) 6 pdr A/Tk guns manned by ? In addition of course was an ADS from 32 Field Ambulance & some S.A. sappers with compressors.
    In all quite a formidable party. The unit A/Tk guns however were only drawn during the afternoon & arrived during the night. Positions however had been dug in our area. The 25 pdrs only arrived late in day & they were not all dug down. The 6 pdr A/Tk guns were a complete gift from the blue & were completely in the open. Although we had plenty of guns they were not all dug down and as a result half their effectiveness was lost. The whole show was of course a race against time – improvising the A/Tk defence fire plan as stuff arrived. Men dug & mined to about 1000 & then had to halt as no more mines available.

    List of B.Os. present with the Bn. on the midnight of 30/6/42.
    Lt-Col. R. Bampfield.
    A/Major. G.F. Colley M.C.
    A/Capt. J.R.M. Harris.
    T/Capt. S.A.C. Trestrail.
    A/Capt. A. McNiven M.C.
    2/Lieut. A.G.R. Willis.
    2/Lieut. M. Morrison.
    2/Lieut. S.J. Ward.
    2/Lieut. J.U. Knox.
    2/Lieut. A.C.B. Wimbush.

    Capt. V.F. Siqueira. I.M.S. (attd. From 22.9.40)

    On duty at Basra. Capt Mohd Siddiq M.C. Capt J.H. Gordon.

    Capt. J.A.W. Burgess.

    S.A.C. Trestrail Capt
    Comdt. 4/11th. Sikh Regt.


    1 July 1942 DEIR EL SHEIN (16 m south of El Alamein)
    Early in the morning at about 0630 hrs gunfire was heard from the north & bearings taken indicated that it was from the ALAMEIN Station area. Reports from the GUIDES CAV in front indicated that the enemy were also moving in our direction. At about 0830 armd cars were reported about two miles to the west & a certain amount of MET movement was reported. Soon after this the enemy guns opened up from the north & started what was obviously ranging. They used air bursts followed by concentrations. This continued for some time. Most of the shelling being directed on 2/5 ESSEX & Bde HQ area. This was followed by heavy concentrations on both areas with a certain amount in our B Echelon & HQ area.
    Between 0900 – 1000 two British P.W. came in with a white flag & went to Bde & said that they had been told to say that unless we surrendered the position would be attacked. Some useful information was obtained from them & then they went off & told the Hun to stick it up re attack.
    An enemy column – probably lorried (Italian?) infantry & a few guns were reported to the south. Later they made a half hearted attack on the 2/3 G.R. position which was easily dispersed. Our own arty was very active and replied vigorously. Last minute efforts were made to get all remaining 2 pdr A/Tk guns dug down. Conditions grew difficult & the dust made observation difficult. The situation seemed well in hand. Shelling continued throughout the morning with varying degrees of intensity. No casualties, but the telephone wires to Bde & coys were cut by shell fire on several occasions. A report at about midday stated that some enemy had managed to break in between the 2/5 ESSEX & 2/3 G.R. This was from the East & was probably the weakest place in the box. The presence of tanks – (estimated 30 – 40? never confirmed) was also reported.
    By 1300 hrs dust had made conditions extremely difficult & it became increasingly difficult to obtain information. The west side of the box was completely quiet. About this time there was a comparative quiet period. Rumour reported that the eleven guns supporting the ESSEX had been badly knocked about. This was quite a possibility but was not confirmed. Later in the day visibility improved & with it the enemy started to press home his attack. He must have brought up tanks & guns under cover of the dust because by about 1500 hrs there were quite a number of tanks on the horizon. It was also thought that some infantry were holding the last gap & using heavy machine guns. Our A/Tk guns were now in action but the 6 pdrs in portee had an exceedingly difficult task. The enemy tanks seemed to be for a nos [???] of large Mk IV – most of tanks were IV – sat back at about 1200 – 1600 – nearly hull down & covered the advance of others who moved forward northwards towards the ESSEX east & reserve coy. Their progress was slow. At the same time their guns which must have moved up kept up a steady and accurate fire on the ESSEX & on Bde H.Q.
    By 1600 hrs it was clear that all was not well with [sic] & our ‘C’ Coy reported that it seemed as if the reserve coy of the ESSEX had been overrun. In the meantime there was an advance in the direction of our B Echelon area. It therefore seemed that the enemy was now in three parties. Rear covering party of tanks & guns, who had now started to shoot up any transport they could see – several of our trucks going up in flames & any movement above ground brought down machine gun & gun fire. Second party of tanks moving onto the ESSEX with a third party moving slowly by bounds in our direction. Our own tanks went into action but suffered heavily & it is doubtful if many got away.
    By 1630 there was practically no firing from the ESSEX area & our ‘C’ Coy reported that the position had been overrun. Soon after this Morrison [?] reported that the tank were coming on & the last message through from him stated that the tanks were all over his area. While this was taking place another group of tanks advanced on ‘B’ Echelon. By now there were many fires burning as vehicles were hit in the ‘B’ Echelon dispersal area. This advance, as was the other advance on ‘C’ Coy, was supported by Infantry guns & 8 Mk IV tanks hull down who opened up with gun & MMG on all movement. Very little fire from our own guns. A tp of 25 pdrs near Bn HQ kept very quiet & suddenly opened up on the tanks in ‘C’ Coy area at about 900x. One tank definitely hit & probably another. This troop was heavily engaged by the supporting tanks & was out of action within 1½ mins of opening fire. It was a gallant action. The tanks now closed in on all the coys & by 1715 it was all over. Bn HQ alone was unspotted & all lay up in slit trenches, all escaped later.
    The tanks & guns then turned on Bde HQ & shelled & MMG’d the whole position. It appeared that PW’s were collected by the tanks & some armd cars [???]. If a post resisted with Bren or rifle then a tank came in close & used both gun & MMG until men came out. Various small parties were able to get away during this period & later. This was done on foot & in trucks as well. At 1800 Bde HQ received very heavy gun fire & five Mk IV tanks moved forward & took the position. MMG’s from the south also supported this attack.

    2 July 1942
    About thirty men under the C.O., Adjutant & Wimbush collected at HAMMAN where we remained for another day as well.

    3 July 1942
    [no entry]

    4 July 1942
    On orders from Corps we moved to Amiryah [??] where there were some more men under the Medical Officer – Siqueira – who had been captured but had later escaped. Advanced parties moved that afternoon by road to MENA.

    5 July 1942
    The Bn arrived at GEIZA at about 1200 hrs & came to where 32 Rest Camp used to be.

    6 July 1942
    Remained in old 32 R.C. area.

    7 July 1942
    Moved to COWLEY area & went into BANNU LINES. Our camp site was practically the same are as when we returned from BENGHAZI & our quarter guard occupied the same tent as before complete with the Reft Unit.
    Our losses in the DEIR EL SHEIN Box were BO 7, VCO’s, IOR’s 500, Foll’s 32. It is estimated that the enemy lost 8 – 10 tanks. Of the Bde as a whole only about six escaped from the ESSEX while over 400 got away from the 2/3 Gurkhas. Bde HQ suffered considerable casualties & only a few got away. Of the unit tspt [sic] 26 15 cwt, 11 30 cwt & 1 water cart got away.

    8 July 1942
    2/Lt Hill joined the unit on first appointment.

    9 July 1942
    [no entry]

    10 July 1942
    Morrison joined on arrival from India via Iraq in company with Siddiq, Burgess & Gordon who had been on various jobs.

    11 – 31 July 1942
    The remainder of the month was spent in individual training for Coys & running M.T & cadre courses for Specialists. Bn organised as HQ Coy & A & B Coy. A nos [soc] of E.R.E. personnel returned.
    Strength on 31st. BO’s 8 + MO, VCO 20, IORs 349, Folls 35.


    After a short halt of about a week in the HAIFA area we suddenly received orders to move to CAIRO, there to become G.H.Q. Reserve. Adv. Parties left on 22nd. June; road parties on 23rd and 24th. June and the Bde by train on 23rd and 24th June. After crossing the canal at KANTARA we were told that our destination was MERSA MATRUH.
    On the evening 26th. June 2/5 Essex and 4 Sikh found themselves at GALAL Station some 25 miles west of DAABA [sic]. Here there was a long halt during which enemy bombers were active. Some casualties were sustained – 2/5 Essex 1 killed and 2 wounded, 4 Sikh 9 killed and 16 wounded.
    At 0700 hrs on 27th. in accordance with orders received through a Liaison officer at 0300 hrs both Bns returned to EL ALAMEIN, where 2/3 G.R. had already arrived, detrained and went into dispersal areas, for the night. 2/5 Essex and 4 Sikh road party rejoined here at 1600 hrs.
    At 0900 hrs on 28th orders were received to proceed to DEIR EL SHEIN, 11 miles SSW of EL ALAMEIN Station and prepare a Bde. “Box”. No extra transport was available so the move was done by ferrying. Bde H.Q. having not yet arrived Col. May went ahead to recce the position. 2/3 G.R. transport arrived in time to carry out their move. The move of the Bde was completed by 0300 hrs on 29th. Bn Comds had moved on ahead with Coy. comds so, as units first flights arrived, they were able to start digging at once.
    Water was difficult to get – Water carts sometimes having to go as far as HAMMAM forty miles away.
    Bde H.Q. arrived on the evening of 28th with Bn Adv parties having been to MERSA MATRUH and had a some what exciting drive back.
    The Bde now dug intensively, Bns averaging 18 to 20 hrs work out of the 24 on ¾ gallon of water a day. Section posts were completed by the evening of 30th and a double dannerts fence on the inner side of the minefields. Some units completed this to a triple fence. Wire came up well but we had difficulty over mines. Three different types were issued and often they came without fuzes as there was no R.E. officer in charge of the issuing. We could not get mines supplied as quickly as we were able to lay them and thus lost much valuable time. Guns did not exist when we first arrived but there were rumours of some coming from various sources. Eventually comd. 121 Fd Regt arrived and made a recce and sited the guns we expected. Eventually we got approximately 18 x 25 pdrs, 16 x 6 pdrs and 20 x 2 pdrs A/Tk. There was little time to dig them in and they later suffered accordingly.
    On the evening of 30th June the enemy attacked the EL ALAMEIN position astride the main ALEXANDRIA – MERSA MATRUH road but were driven off. We were warned by 1 S.A. Div under shoe command we were, to expect an attack from the N.W.

    - 2 -

    At daybreak (0545 hrs) on 1st July firing could be heard [from?] the North and at some distance. Guids Cav. Patrols reported enemy tanks and inf. moving towards us from the North. At 0900 hrs two enemy shells fell on the southern side of the Bde Box, followed by two in Bde H.Q. area. The enemy then ranged methodically for about half an hour though where his O.Ps were we never discovered. He used a considerable amount of air burst H.E. for this purpose.
    At about 1000 hrs he concentrated on the Essex and gave them a very heavy pasting for an hour or so. They sat tight in their trenches and did not suffer very heavy casualties. From 1100 hrs onwards, while still keeping heavy fire on the Essex, he searched the rest of the area pretty thoroughly.
    At about 1300 hrs aided by a dust storm plus the dust raised [by] his shelling he lifted the mines between the Essex right and Gurkha left and pushed in some infantry and machine guns. The infantry were engaged by mortar and other fire and most of them left pretty hurriedly but the m.m.g. were established and later caused a considerable amount of trouble.
    About 30 – 40 enemy Mk. IV tanks now appeared and twelve of them and a few light tanks came through the gap in the minefield and formed up behind the Essex. Our A/Tk guns and 25 pdrs engaged them and got two but they and their artillery opened fire with considerable accuracy and most of our guns were knocked out. After silencing our guns in that area the tanks closed in on the Essex and forced them to surrender. I was not able to see a great deal of this as the dust was very thick and artillery [and] m.m.g discouraged one from standing up for too long.
    The enemy tanks now turned their attention to the Sikhs and, though losing several more of their number, worked their way round and captured most of the Bn. While this was going on Bde H.Q. was subjected to some of the most intense shelling I have yet seen and a certain amount was also put down on the Gurkhas.
    The Gurkhas were attacked once from the south during the morning and beat off the attack. They had a few casualties from shell fire during the day but apart from the Coys in the N.E. and S.W. they were better off than most of us and were able to get away a good many men when ordered to leave.
    The Bn. being, as far as I could see, P.W. I decided to lie up in my slit trench with Trestrail and my H.Q. personnel and wait till dark and try to get away. Enemy tanks passed very close to us but did not see us and we were able to see the attack on Bde H.Q. which was carried out by five Mk. IV tanks supported by Infy. Guns. There was nothing we could do to help.
    By 1900 hrs everything was over. I got my party away at 2140 hrs and succeeded in getting through.

    - 3 -

    As a result of a call for assistance from Bde H.Q. the 1st Armoured Div. was sent forward to help us but they arrived too late and when they did get within three miles of us there seemed to have been some hitch and they never put in an attack. I could not get the true story about this.
    An eventual count up back here revealed that we had the following:-

    BDE. HQ. Ballentine and 30 – 40 O.Rs.
    Daniell (Not in the action).

    2/5 ESSEX. Porter and Crouchee who were on a course and had not rejoined. About 12 B.O.Rs.

    2/3 G.R. 12 Officers and 580 G.O.Rs.
    Harry Garland got away but went too far North and was captured.

    4 SIKH
    . 3 Officers and 370 I.O.Rs.
    My 3 officers at Basra did not catch me up and I now have them here, also two have just arrived from India.
    Our doctor was captured by an Italian but knocked him out and got away.

    66 FD COY. Practically complete.

    18 I.B.T. COY. Practically complete.

    32 FD AMB. One section missing.

    121 FD REGT. Had very few people with us. Stansfield was wounded slightly and is alright. Barham is with us too.
    Metcalfe going strong. Roberts a P.W.

    W/SHOP SEC. Bull and most of his vehicles safe.

    Charles Grey was wounded in the arm and seen being put into a truck and driven away.
    News re Alex, Moore and Munford is vague, but they were alright when last seen.
    I fear Cragg was killed.
    I am afraid that this is not a very clear account of all that happened but it was very difficult to see all round and even at Bde H.Q. information was vague. I was in touch with them till the tanks were very close and was able to get a certain amount of news to them but they had not a lot to give in return.

    - 4 -

    The artillery did all they could to help us but most of [the] guns did not arrive till the afternoon of the 30th and there was [no] time to dig them in and camouflage them properly. A 6 pdr A/Tank on a portee is a very conspicuous object and suffered accordingly.

    I think that if we had had another 24 hours to prepare the position the story would have been a very different one.

    On my way back I met General Norrie had he said that day’s delay that we caused was of the greatest value and enabled 8th Army to complete further concentrations of troops to stem the German advance.

    [sgd: R Bampfield]


    Commandant 4th Bn. 11th. Sikh Regiment.


    3rd. August 1942.

    Juha, cehwillis, CL1 and 3 others like this.
  2. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Cheers Tom for this help.

    I am planning to review what happened to the 18th Indian Infantry Brigade @ Deir Shein, on 1st July 1942. It is an action I was unaware of.

    The catalyst for this plan was found in Post 114 by Sledgehammer in the thread of that name, which aroused by interest.:
    To which Tom responded in Post 115:
    Then in Tom's Post 133:
    From: Sledgehammer 1942

    I have assembled most of the information on the brigade and their action on this website (see attachment). There are a couple of lines of inquiry there - yet to be started.

    A quick scan of online sources has been done, minus noting what they were.

    As some know I find episodes in the history of the British Indian Army fascinating.

    Attached Files:

  3. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And this is the war diary of 2/3 Gurkhas:

    Source: WO169/7790 – 2/3 Gurkhas

    1 June 1942
    Bn moved to Kirkuk from Erbil, to as Internal Security tps.

    1 – 6 June 1942
    Bn remained in KK, guarding various vital points in the oilfields.
    Truck patrols were sent out daily on the main roads.
    A little individual trg was carried out.

    7 June 1942
    Orders were received to prepare to move to EGYPT. Some equipment, including M.M.Gs, were handed back to Ordnance.

    8 June 1942
    After many false starts owing to non-arrival of tpt from Baghdad, Bn moved to ERBIL to join remainder of the Bde.
    5 trucks were handed over – one to Bde HQ.
    4 to 32 Fd Amb.

    9 June 1942
    18 Bde moved to MOSUL.

    9 – 12 June 1942
    Bde HQ and 2/5 Essex Regt left on 10 June by road.
    4/11 Sikh Regt left on 11 June.
    2/3 G.R. and 121 Fd Regt left on 12 June.
    Some more equipment was received during this period, but Bn left without Carriers or A/Tk guns.

    12 June – 1 July 1942
    The Bn under command of Major H.E. Garland, left MOSUL, IRAQ on Friday 12th June, Lt-Col. Gray left a day earlier with the Brigadier to carry out a reconnaissance. Subsequently he took over the Brigade, on account of the Brigadier falling ill, and did not return to the Bn. In Bde HQ also were Capt. E.N. Mumford as Staff Captain, Lieut T.C. Ballantine and Lt. Gragg.
    At the time of leaving MOSUL the following British Officers were present:-
    Major H.E. Garland - O.C. Bn.
    Capt. H.L. Minchinton - O.C. A Coy.
    Capt. J.C.W. Mills - Adjt.
    Capt. A.B. Taggart - O.C. Carrier Pl.
    Capt. C.P.A. Joynes - O.C. B Coy.
    Capt. M.H. Oldfield - O.C. D Coy.
    Lieut. A.G.L. MacGregor - O.C. A/Tk Pl.
    2/Lt. A.P.M. Pern - Q.M.
    2/Lt. G.E. Hales - D Coy Coy Officer.
    2/Lt. W. Plummer - O.C. C Coy.
    2/Lt. G.V. Ballance - M.T.O.
    2/Lt. R.I. Crowley - A Coy Coy Officer.

    At Damascus on 14 Jun, Capt Oldfield was left in Hospital with a poisoned elbow. He rejoined the Bn on 5 July at Mena, Cairo.

    Capt. Greenway had been in hospital since mid May and rejoined the Bn to take over command on 9 July at Mena, Cairo.

    The Bn arrived at HADERA, Palestine on 15 Jun by M.T. after an uneventful, tiring but interesting journey, travelling direct to Damascus and thence south through Syria. HADERA is about 25 miles SOUTH of HAIFA almost on the Mediterranean coast. It was fortunate to find a certain amount of hutted accommodation although Rifle Coy men had to live in tents. A brief stay only was anticipated as the situation in the Western Desert was growing steadily worse. With this in view individual training was ordered.

    On 20th June at about 1830 hrs a warning order to move, at very short notice was received from Bde HQ. At about 2100 hrs Major Garland was called away to a conference at Bde HQ, and returned about midnight with the details for the move.

    On 21st June an advanced party with representatives from each company left for Egypt by M.T. This party arrived at MERSA MATRUH on 24th June.

    A road party left Hadera on 22nd June and a rail party the next day. Both these parties were due to arrive in MATRUH on 26th June. However owing to bomb damage to the railway line both parties returned to EL ALAMEIN, joining forces on 27th June, the advanced party having joined the road party at BAGHUSH the day before.

    The Bn moved SOUTH some 8 miles from EL ALAMEIN, by M.T. to a depression in the Desert named DEIR EL SHEIN. The majority of the Bn arrived that evening but A Coy and portions of HQ and D Coy remained in the vicinity of EL ALAMEIN station for the night, owing to lack of transport. This party was subject to bombing during the night, but sustained no casualties.

    The Brigade which came under 1st South African Div, was to form a box in as brief a time as possible, as MATRUH had then been evacuated and Axis forces were advancing Eastwards towards EL ALAMEIN. This box was in line with those of the South African Div (at EL ALAMEIN 8 miles North), and that of the N.Z. Div about 10 miles South on the edge of the depression.

    The Bn was allotted a semi-circular sector of some 6000x frontage running from North to South West. On the right was 4/11 Sikh Regt on left 2/Essex. The Coy dispositions were as follows:-

    D Coy right, B Coy A Coy and left C Coy. No.3 Pl was distributed between B & D Coys. No.4 Pl, which had no carriers, was distributed amongst the rifle coys to thicken up their fire. Bn HQ and the rest of HQ Coy were situated behind B Coy in the depression. D & B Coy positions were along a small ridge while A & C Coys were on more or less flat ground above the lip of the depression. A/Tk guns of varying calibres were distributed in Coy areas.

    On 28th Jun 2/Lieut Hales was sent to Bde HQ as Liaison Officer, but was evacuated to hospital with dysentery shortly after.

    Throughout 28th June section posts were dug. Both B & D Coys had extreme difficulty in their sectors owing to rocky ground. They received assistance in the form of compressors. Digging continued all night and up till the enemy attack on 1st July. ON 29th and 30th June wire and mines were received at irregular intervals and laid accordingly. Wiring was still in progress when the attack began. The whole front had a double Dannert fence, but there were considerable gaps in the minefield, particularly at Coy junctions, although the Q.M. brought up further mines about 1330 hrs on 1st July. It was impossible to lay them. The only gaps in the wire were Eastwards through B & A Coys.

    B.O’s casualties during June –

    2/Lt. Ford went as attached officer to 8 Div at the beginning of Jun.
    Capt. Oldfield was admitted to hospital in Damascus on 14 Jun.

    2/Lt. Hales was attached to 18 Bde as L.O. from 28 Jun, and was admitted to hospital on 30 Jun.

    Cont’d [Not held]

    1 July 1942

    Up to 1000 hrs on 1st July there was some desultory shelling by the enemy from the North, mostly upon D & B Coys and Bn HQ areas. At about 1115 hrs after a rejection by Bde HQ of a demand to surrender an attack by Italian Infantry supported by a few tanks was put in from the North. Some lorried infantry advanced towards C Coy, debussed and put in a halfhearted attack from a distance. This attack was repulsed.

    Up till 1400 hrs no determined attack was put in, but shelling continued with very little respite. The Bn suffered a few casualties in both men and vehicles during this period.

    About midday a severe dust storm sprung up and only abated about 1800 hrs. This must have proved of great value to the enemy in concentrating his forces, while reducing visibility to only 100x.

    About 1600 hrs a few tanks appeared on D Coy front but were driven off by A/Tk weapons.

    At about 1500 hrs rifle Coys were ordered to hold two platoons with a small Coy HQ in readiness to go to BN HQ, from where it was proposed to launch a counterattack on the 2/5 Essex front to restore the situation. This, however, never materialised as later tanks made their way behind the 4/11 Sikhs and all communication with Bde HQ broke down.

    After a lull, during which it appeared as if the enemy had drawn off a very fierce artillery bombardment started at 1800 hrs. Enemy artillery, tanks and infantry attacked from the North West and 2/5 Essex were overrun. Our artillery suffered severe casualties. At this time also an allied force of tanks appeared from the East, outside A Coy minefield. They were immediately engaged by hostile artillery and drew off in a Southerly direction beyond B Coy. Assistance had been asked for by Bde at about 1500 hrs, but too late.

    Enemy tanks managed to force a passage through the minefield to the North and in behind C Coy. At the same time others appeared in front of D Coy and fired continually, but ineffectually at their position.

    At about 1900 hrs it became apparent that the position was untenable and the majority of the remaining personnel of other units were evacuating the area, an order from Bn HQ was sent out that keymen of each Coy should leave in trucks. This did not reach A & C Coys. Between 2015 and 2100 hrs a proportion of people got away in trucks, running the gauntlet for two miles. It became necessary to break through a gap East, not actually held by the enemy but covered very thickly and effectively by fire. The Bn suffered surprisingly few casualties, only one vehicle being actually hit.

    After dark the rest of the Bn came away, C Coy were unable to withdraw one platoon and Coy HQ as they were surrounded by tanks. D Coy who had to surrender, got about half the Coy away in the confusion caused by an allied aerial bombardment of the box which started about 2230 hrs. Major Garland and a party of A & HQ Coys attempted a breakthrough. About this time also, but inadvertently ran into a hostile post of tanks and infantry. They scattered and a considerable proportion returned during the next few days. Several men spent some time with the South African Division who looked after them admirably.

    No.7730 Rfn SETE SING GURUNG, who was captured, managed to escape after three days in enemy hands. His report was of great value. Lt-Col Gray, Major Garland, Capt Mumford and about 200 men were taken prisoner. No definite news could be gained of Lt. Cragg. He had been severely wounded earlier in the day. Lt-Col. Gray had been slightly wounded in the right arm.

    The casualties reported by the Bn were as follows:-

    2-3 Gurkhas - 1 Jul 42.jpg

    2 July 1942
    On July 2nd about 350 men and officer [sic] together with a few vehicles gathered at HAMMAM. A further 150 with a few more vehicles returned to AMRIYA the next day.

    3 – 5 July 1942
    On 3 July orders were received to proceed, the next day, to AMRIYA. The Bn arrived there by M.T. and was ordered to move to MENA. A rail party left in the evening and a road party on the morning of 5th July, joining forces at No.8 Reinforcement Camp. From here the Bn moved to Cowley Camp and the Bde came under 10 Ind Div.

    6 – 31 July 1942
    1. Bn remained in Mean Camp, near Cairo, reorganising.

    2. A draft of 150 G.O.Rs from India and hospital joined the Bn on 8 July 42 from the Reinforcement camp.

    3. Individual training, as far as the limited number of weapons permitted, was carried on.

    4. A new driving course of 20 G.O.Rs was started on 8 July.

    5. The new Bde HQ Staff arrived on various dates.

    Brigade Comd - Brig WINDSOR S.W.Bs.

    B.M. - Major BREDIN Dorsets.

    D.A.A.&Q.M.G. - Major BUCKLE 8 Punjab Regt.

    S.C. - Capt. HOBBS 9 G.R.

    6. Following awards were announced on 27 July.

    Sub Kishan Sing Thapa 3 G.R. I.O.M.
    7939 L/Nk Churamani Thapa 3 G.R. I.D.S.M.

    7. B.Os.

    Capt. Greenway reported his arrival from Hospital on 10 July and assumed the command of the Bn.

    Capt. Oldfield reported his arrival from Hospital on 8 July.

    2/Lieut. Hartley ) arrived from Baghdad on

    2/Lieut. Blackburne-Kane ) 3 July 42.

    Capt. Taggart went on Sub-Unit Comds course on 24 July 42.

    2/Lt. Crowley went on Gas Course on 24 July 42.


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  4. sol

    sol Very Senior Member

    Map from "The North African Campaign 1940-1943" by Bisheshwar Prasad

    Attached Files:

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  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Worth noting that although I don't have a copy, this is on my very long list of sources worth examining (in case anyone is headed to Kew):

    Action of 18 Indian Infantry Brigade at Deir El-Shein: report
    : WO 106/2233
    Description: Action of 18 Indian Infantry Brigade at Deir El-Shein: report
    Date: 1942 July
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  6. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Ah I wish this request had come Thursday!

    Next time.

    All the best

  7. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    Thanks to Charley posting elsewhere (Post 10) his 'source' a video on the general context and battle of the 18th Indian Infantry Brigade @ Deir Shein, on 1st July 1942. See: Matruh to Ruweisat: Sources

    The video (17 mins):
  8. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    A few small updates:

    1) Charley's Post 5 I have requested a researcher visit TNA and copy this report: Action of 18 Indian Infantry Brigade at Deir El-Shein: report | The National Archives

    2) Looked at the TNA Index using Deir el Shein and they list two other records, both appear to be POW escape reports, so no copying requested. One is for: a) Charles Edward Gray. Rank: Lieutenant Colonel, IA103, 3 Gurkha Rifles; b) Edward Neville Mumford. Rank: Captain, IA 632, Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army.
    Links: a) Name: Charles Edward Gray . Rank: Lieutenant Colonel , IA103, 3 Gurkha Rifles . ... | The National Archives b) Name: Edward Neville Mumford . Rank: Captain , IA 632, Gurkha Rifles, Indian Army . ... | The National Archives

    3) Lt. Col. Gray became the 18th Brigade Commander on the evening 28/6/1942, he re-appears after his escape to Switzerland and returned to India in another thread. See: Infantry Training School at Saugor
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2023
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  9. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    One of the puzzles in the information gathered, much of it here, was which unit deployed six pounder anti-tank guns in the 'box'. There is reference to them as being on portees too.

    So in there is this:

    Jephson's book refers to:
    From ‘The Day Rommel Was Stopped: The Battle of Ruweisat Ridge, 2 July 1942.’ By Chris Jephson and F.R. Jephson; which is available via Google books (no cut & paste):"+++"the+buffs"&pg=PT110&printsec=frontcover

    More research then on the 1st Royal East Kent Regiment, The Buffs needed and I know they appear here too.

    It remains unclear, to me anyway, which unit(s) provided the anti-tank unit(s), armed with 2 pounders. Till another day.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2023
  10. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    See a South African article (2004) The role of the 1st South African Division during the FIRST BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN, 1-30 JULY 1942 by Dr CJ Jacobs. FIRST BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN - South African Military History Society

    Provides a useful context, the divisional commander wanted them closer to his position on Ruweisat Ridge and that the 18th Indian Brigade position was beyond British artillery range.
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    265 Anti-Tank Battery were present:

    Cover-1.jpg 101-102.jpg

    Apologies about the resolution and thanks to the person who provided this source (I regret that I can't recall who it was).
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2023
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  12. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    I have researched the 1st Buffs action at Deir el Shein as a detachment from their anti-tank company, with six-pounder AT guns was involved, led by a Major Peter Graham Clarke, 26yrs, 67104, died 2/9/1942, buried at El Alamein Cemetery 19/5/1943 (with two other Buffs soldiers). From: Commissioned from university 31/1/1936. From:

    One Buffs member who died on 1/7/1942 was reburied a year later @ El Alamein. See:

    So in outline: The 1st Buffs They were destroyed in the Battle of Gazala, 14th December 1941 and most members were captured. The NZETC Official History refers to: The Buffs lost 531 men and only the Quartermaster, the Medical Officer, and 69 other ranks escaped capture. See: CHAPTER 26 — Gazala and Beyond | NZETC . See: The British Empire and The British Empire Background: Operation Crusader - Wikipedia
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2023
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  13. JohnB

    JohnB Junior Member

    Begs the question of who put 18th Indian Brigade in that position? Presumably Willoughby Norrie, XXX Corps commander.

    Useful map showing the brigade out on a limb. Don't quite understand the thinking of defending a depression rather than the high ground.

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  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Can't answer your question, but it sounds like a mess:

    WO201_537_0218.jpeg WO201_537_0219.jpeg WO201_537_0220.jpeg

    Extracted from:
    Reference: WO 201/537
    Description:1 Armoured Division: report on operations in Western Desert
    Date: 1942 May-July
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  15. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    These are the relevant pages to the action by 18th Indian Infantry Brigade from the SA Official History Crisis in the Desert: May - July 1942 by J.A.L. Agar-Hamilton and L.C.F. Turner:

    DSC00094.JPG DSC00095.JPG DSC00096.JPG DSC00097.JPG DSC00098.JPG
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  16. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    And more:

    DSC00099.JPG DSC00100.JPG DSC00101.JPG DSC00102.JPG DSC00103.JPG DSC00104.JPG
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  17. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member

    From Crisis in the Desert, p.272:

    "When General Norrie assumed command of the [Alamein] Line, after handing over Matruh on 23 June, he was disturbed by the wide gaps between the three fortified positions, but could do little with the troops at his disposal. Even the original boxes could not be adequately held, but he did try to fill the gap between El Alamein and Bab el Qattera by the establishment of a new position at Deir el Shein, which he assigned to 18th Indian Infantry Brigade..."


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  18. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    JohnB added above, cited in part:
    I have encountered references to the depression much later being defended ably by the enemy and that the steep sides posed difficulties - for artillery duels. Not my focus, so not bookmarked.

    It is possible that confusion, sandstorms and more explain. As Andreas explained in the Battle of Gazala, 14th December 1941, the 1st Buffs were overwhelmed, with most of the unit captured. Higher command understood their position was Alam or Alem Hamza given as their location, when in fact their actual location was Point 204 six miles away. See: First Taste of Gazala – 10-13 Dec 41

    The article JohnB refers to the South African divisional commander wanted the 18th Indian Brigade closer to his position on Ruweisat Ridge and that the 18th Indian Brigade position was beyond British artillery range.

    I have yet to look for current maps or imagery.

    Thanks to Charley & Tom for their posts too, read quickly and now I must retreat.
  19. davidbfpo

    davidbfpo Patron Patron

    In Post 5 Charley posted:

    Action of 18 Indian Infantry Brigade at Deir El-Shein: report
    : WO 106/2233
    Description: Action of 18 Indian Infantry Brigade at Deir El-Shein: report
    Date: 1942 July

    I have obtained this document (thanks to a pointer by a member to a researcher). The sheets are slightly illegible, as copies were made using carbon sheets and the author is the Essex Bn. CO Lt. Col. May who had been a POW, so it was composed and submitted 12/4/1944. He is very critical of the Sikh Bn. On my first reading he adds more details, such as The Buffs arrived with six six-pounder anti-tank guns (not sixteen) and the brigade only had the small arms ammunition it came with, so ran out!

    Note the author Lt.Col. K.F. May had commanded the brigade when it arrived at El Alamein, until the senior officer from the Gurkhas took over, Lt. Col. Grey (who was also a POW).

    Update: See Post 71 for a typed copy.

    There are six images, start with 9053; the others are file frontispiece covers etc.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 5, 2024
  20. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I didn't expect to see such criticism of the Sikhs. It doesn't marry with the war diary account from them above or the battalion history here:

    The Essex Regiment 1929-1950 History

    May's account is damning enough but his praise of his own battalion and the Gurkhas at the end reinforces it.

    One wonders whether the 30th Corps Diary might add any more.

    Lighting a beacon for desert war experts here...
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