Operation Supercharge represents the crucial ‘break in’ battle at El Alamein that triggered the end for Rommel’s forces. The 9th Armoured Brigade was involved in the attack, they starred an heoric charge, few expected their returning. The operation is famously called "Balaklava in tanks" evoking memories of the charge of the light brigade during the Crimean war in 1854. The 9th Armoured Brigade had to charge against the PAK-front of the joint italian and german forces.   

The 9th brigade was equipped with the new Sherman tank as well as the older Grant and the obsolete Crusader tanks [Via]

During the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Brigade was commanded by Brigadier J.C.Currie. The Brigade was nominally independent, but was placed under command of the 2nd New Zealand Division specifically for the El Alamein battle. The NZ infantry gained their objectives, but as with Operation Lightfoot on the first day of the battle, lanes could not be cleared through the minefields until night was almost over.


We all realise that for armour to attack a wall of guns sounds like another Balaclava, it is properly an infantry job. But there are no more infantry available. So our armour must do it. — Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg.

Brigadier Currie had tried to get the brigade out of doing this job stating that he believed the brigade would be attacking on too wide a front with no reserves and that they would most likely take 50% losses.

The reply came from Freyberg that Montgomery

... was aware of the risk and has accepted the possibility of losing 100% casualties in 9th Armoured Brigade to make the break, but in view of the promise of immediate following through of the 1st Armoured Division, the risk was not considered as great as all that. — Freyberg.


The 9th Armoured Brigade was forced to make its attack silhouetted by the early daylight. As dawn came on 2 November, the 9th Armoured Brigade surged forward in battle line, breaking through enemy anti-tank guns and machine-gun posts. Tank after tank was hit by the German 88 mm guns that kept firing through seven air attacks. Many tanks went up in flames, although the survivors pushed on towards Tell el Aqqaqir. Some even made it to within 10 yards of the defending guns before being knocked out. Then the Panzers of the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions arrived to add to the destruction. Some of the British tanks made it to within 100 yards of the Aqqaqir ridge. 

A Crusader has a close call with artillery [Via

The 9th never reached their objective. In fact, they took 75 percent casualties and lost 102 of their 128 tanks. Nevertheless, they breached the gun line and the 1st Armoured Division of X Corps, under the command of Raymond Briggs, was now able to engage.

After the Brigade's action, Brigadier Gentry of the 6th New Zealand Brigade went ahead to survey the scene. On seeing Brigadier Currie asleep on a stretcher, he approached him saying, 'Sorry to wake you John, but I'd like to know where your tanks are?' Currie waved his hand at a group of tanks around him, replying 'There they are.' Gentry was puzzled. 'I don't mean your headquarters tanks, I mean your armoured regiments. Where are they?' Currie waved his arm and again replied, 'There are my armoured regiments, Bill.’

Nevertheless, the assault of 2nd New Zealand Division had drawn in both 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions, with the result that there was a wide gap in the Axis lines to the south west. Through this gap, Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery, commander of 8th Army, pushed the remainder of his armour, breaking the Afrika Korps line and pushing westwards into its rear areas and supply lines. By 4 November, the battle was won and Montgomery was entertaining the captured Afrika Korps commander, Wilhelm von Thoma, to dinner in his caravan.

In an account of the battle published to mark its 25th anniversary, Montgomery wrote:

I must mention the magnificent fight put up by 9th Armoured Brigade - 3rd Hussars, Wiltshire Yeomanry, Warwickshire Yeomanry.... If the British armour owed any debt to the infantry of 8th army, the debt was paid on 2 November by 9th Armoured Brigade in heroism and blood....

General Bernard Freyburg, the NZ Division's commander, also paid tribute to the gallant support provided by the brigade.

Winston Churchill heaped praise on the New Zealanders who had played a key role in this and previous battles. When Churchill visited the Division in 1943 he had this to say:

“All are filled with gratitude to the people of New Zealand, who have sent this splendid Division to win fame and honours across the oceans.”


Wikipedia | figurfanatikern.blogspot.com | www.flamesofwar.com | www.armymuseum.co.nz | www.thomasharder.dk

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