The 4th Armoured Brigade
Engagements - 1942
After becoming an Independent Armoured Brigade in September 1942, the 4th Armoured Brigade was involved in the following battles and campaigns, still under the command of 7th Armoured Division. These include Holding the El Alamein Line (including Alam Halfa), Battle of El Alamein and Pursuit across the Desert. For information on the engagements if fought as part of 7th Armoured Division up to the end of the start of the Battle of El Alamein, please go to the main 7th Armoured Division, Engagements 1942 page.
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Holding the El Alamein Line - July to October 1942
In order to watch the wide left flank of the Alamein - Himeimat line and to control the increasing number of armoured car regiments becoming available, 4th Armoured Brigade was now reformed as a Light Armoured Brigade. Brigadier W. G. Carr, DSO, then commanding 22nd Armoured Brigade, a 12th Lancer who had commanded 4th CLY, took over command from Brigadier Richards. The task of patrolling on sectors on which contact was slight had in the past generally been done by the support group, later the motor brigade of the Division. The disadvantages of tying the motor brigade down to this task had been made painfully clear in May. Although officially now an independent brigade, the Brigade continued to serve under command of 7th Armoured Division and to carry their sign, until almost the end of the war in North Africa in May 1943. The 22nd Armoured Brigade took 4th (Light) Armoured Brigades place as the armoured brigade of 7th Armoured Division for the rest if the war.
At first the brigade was composed of 11th Hussars and 12th Lancers, 4th Hussars with one squadron of 8th Hussars, equipped entirely with Stuarts, RHQ and one squadron of 3rd CLY (Sharpshooters) 3 RHA and 1st Bn KRRC. After 69th Brigade's abortive attack on the Taqa plateau, the Brigade took its place on the left of the line, 1st KRRC, supported by 4th/8th Hussars holding Himeimat, with one company back at Samaket Gaballa with the Sharpshooters. 11th Hussars and 12th Lancers took it in turns to patrol south of the escarpment to Maghra, and to send long distance patrols as far afield as Qara.
Alam Halfa: On the last night of August, Rommel made his final attack to reach Alexandria. Breaking through the minefield north of Himeimat, the Germans advanced slowly, picking his way as cautiously through a dummy minefield if it was a real minefield, to Deir el Ragil, harassed by the Brigade on their right flank and to the rear. The German advance however had forced the Brigade to abandon first the Himeimat and then Samaket Gaballa positions, as it had always been foreseen that it would. When the Germans turned north east on the following day, the Brigade continued to harry the long right flank as the lead German units came to an abrupt halt, held by 22nd and 8th Armoured Brigades. On 31st August 4th/8th Hussars lost two Tanks, 3 lorries, along with 1 Officer injured, 5 ORs killed, 16 ORs injured, one of whom later died of wounds, but two enemy Tanks were probably knocked out and inflicted many casualties on enemy infantry. After several days' battering from the ground and air, the Germans withdrew to a line running north from Himeimat, to which they clung. Meanwhile the Brigade continued to carry on with it old job, of patrolling and harrying the enemy whenever possible. Click here to see the Brigade Order Of Battle at this time
The formation of 10 Corps brought many changes. Brigadier Carr went home, replaced by Brigadier Mark Roddick, recently arrived from England as second in command of 22nd Armoured Brigade. 12th Lancers left the Brigade, to be replaced by 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry, and it was further reinforced by The Royal Scots Greys, who had been serving as a fourth regiment in 22nd Armoured Brigade, after coming into the field ahead of the rest of the 8th Armoured Brigade. The Sharpshooters (3rd CLY) left the Brigade to reform and re-equip in the Delta.
Battle of El Alamein - 23rd October
Shortly before the battle of Alamein, we were relieved by 1st Free French Brigade, and lost the Greys to 22nd Armoured Brigade. We carried out several exercises to practise our future role of exploiting the break-through, even to the extent of being equipped with carrier pigeons. When the battle of Alamein began on 23rd October, we were in reserve under 7th Armoured Division, ready to pass through 22nd Armoured Brigade, if they succeeded in breaking through the minefields east of Gebel Kalakh. During the attack by 7th Armoured Division on 25th October, 4th Light Armoured Brigade was covering the Divisions right flank ran into heavy anti-tank fire and a minefield which resulted in 4th/8th Hussars losing ten tanks from 'A' Squadron (4th Hussars) and the 8th Hussars Squadron another five. This was at a rate higher than the Divisional commander thought was 'affordable, so its advance stopped. As they could not break through the Brigade along with the rest of the Division were withdrawn from the south and put into reserve, before being and sent up north on 1st November. The Scots Greys rejoined the Brigade and 11th Hussars left to rejoin 7th Armoured Division, 1st Household Cavalry Regiment taking their place. By 4th November the enemy had been finally broken, and 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions had begun to break out. The Brigade, under command of 2nd New Zealand Division passed through on the left, heading straight for the escarpment west of Fuka. They reached this, after capturing crowds of prisoners, on the afternoon of the 5th, but were held up there by a determined rearguard of 15th Panzer Division. 7th Armoured Division that night passed through the Brigades line and moved north on its left. Click here to see the Brigade Order Of Battle at this time
Pursuit across the Desert - November to December 1942
After short pause for petrol, while it poured with rain, the Brigade continued its advance along the coast road west from Matruh, while 7th Armoured Division drove west well into the desert to the south. Late on 11th November, after dealing with a series of rearguards, we reached the foot of Halfaya Pass defended by the Italian Pistoia Division reinforced by Germans. This was attacked by the New Zealanders during the night and by first light found the Brigade was at the head of the pass in time to join up with 22nd Armoured Brigade coming from the south. The enemy made no attempt to hold Bardia which the Brigade entered that afternoon. Click here to see the Brigade Order Of Battle at this time
The Brigade now returned to 7th Armoured Division, taking over command of the Royals and 4th/6th South African Armoured Car Regiment in place of 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry and the Household Cavalry. Taking a wide sweep to the south, we reached Knightsbridge at last light on 13th November and Acroma on the morning of the 14th, capturing the tail of the Germans fleeing west from Tobruk. The Brigade continued the pursuit along the coast road into the Gebel, but left behind the Royals under command Of 7th Armoured Division, and also 4th/8th Hussars, who handed over their few remaining tanks to the Scots Greys.
Mines and road blocks made progress slower than would have been like and Brigadier Roddick was himself wounded on a mine and was succeeded by Brigadier C. B. (Roscoe) Harvey, DSO, another 10th Hussar, but the Brigade entered Benghazi on 20th November, just beating the 11th Hussars, who approached the town from the south. After a pause there for a few days while the King's Dragoon Guards (KDG) took the place of 4th/6th South African Armoured Car Regiment, the Brigade rejoined the rest of 7th Armoured Division between Agedabia and Agheila, and took up its usual position on the open left flank, with the Royals returning to its command.
By 25th November Rommel had managed to form a firm defensive position at Mersa Brega, which could not be assaulted or turned by the slender forces which were all that the British had there and could maintain at the time. By 12th December 1942 30 Corps had taken over control over operations from 10 Corps, bringing up 51st (Highland) Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division. 8th Armoured Brigade had replaced 22nd Armoured Brigade in 7th Armoured Division, with the latter re-equipped, and the 4th Light Armoured Brigade came under the command of the New Zealand Division on the left flank, which prepared to outflank the Mersa Brega - Agheila position by a direct advance north of Marada to cut the road between Agheila and Marble Arch. Faced with this threat, the enemy began to withdraw: by that time we were south-west of Agheila, but had not cut the coast road to the north. On the 15th December, while it protected the left flank, New Zealand troops turned north to do this, but got into great difficulties in trying to cross a very large soft wadi.
The main body of the enemy got away to the west that night by the light of a brilliant moon. During the 16th the Brigade fought a series of running battles all day with a succession of rearguards, and on the morning of the 17th it found the enemy's main body near Nofilia. The Scots Greys closed in on the village from the east and south while the KDG watched the west. The leading squadron of the Scots Greys overran the enemy's forward positions, capturing some 200 prisoners and a tank battle followed against some 30 German tanks. Meanwhile the New Zealand Division passed round to the south of the Brigade in an attempt to outflank Nofilia and cut the road north-west of where the battle was going on. The enemy recognised the threat and began to withdraw, aided by the oncoming darkness. During the night the whole force withdrew. The 7th Armoured Division now took on the pursuit of the retreating Germans and Italians, while the Brigade remained near Nofilia. It was now that 1st Bn KRRC left to join 7th Motor Brigade, being very much in need of rest and re-equipment and their place was taken by the 2nd Bn KRRC, who have stayed with the Brigade for the rest of the war, apart for the Sicilian campaign and the first week or so of the Brigades time in Italy.
On 21st December the Brigade rejoined 7th Armoured Division, leaving the Scots Greys behind with the New Zealand Division, with whom they were to stay for the rest of the campaign in North Africa. By the 24th it had closed up to the enemies rearguard position just east of Sirte, which was evacuated that night. A thick ground mist and the presence of many mines and booby traps around Sirte delayed the pursuit, and it was not until Boxing Day that the Brigade regained contact with a rearguard of some strength on the Wadi Chebir. This rearguard withdrew on the night of the 27th into the enemy's main position, which was found to run from the sea just north of Buerat el Hstin, south-west across the main road west of the village, then parallel to and south of the road to about 5 miles south-east of Gheddahia. Enemy patrols operated southwards along the line of the track to Bu Ngem. The Brigade took over the task of observation and keeping contact with the enemy along the entire front and to assist with this, 11th Hussars came under the Brigade's command.
A further pause followed while supplies were built up, landing grounds built and more troops brought forward. The main trouble in these weeks came from the Luftwaffe who carried out a daily strafe of our area. Patrols of SAS and LRDG were busy at this time spying out the land behind the enemy's line in preparation for the Brigade's next move.
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