Outpost Snipe

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Defence of Outpost Snipe
Part of Second Battle of El Alamein of the Second World War
Al alamayn map.png
El Alamein map
Date 26–27 October 1942
Location El Alamein
Coordinates: 30°50′N 28°57′E / 30.833°N 28.950°E / 30.833; 28.950
Result British victory
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Harold Alexander
United Kingdom Bernard Montgomery
Nazi Germany Erwin Rommel
Nazi Germany Georg Stumme 
Kingdom of Italy Ettore Bastico
Units involved
2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade
239th Battery, 76th Anti-Tank Regiment RA
Kampfgruppe Stiffelmayer
15th Panzer Division (part)
El Alamein is located in Egypt
El Alamein
El Alamein
El Alamein, Egypt

The defence of Outpost Snipe in Egypt took place in the Second Battle of El Alamein, part of the Western Desert Campaign during the Second World War. On the night of 26/27 October 1942, the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, with 13 × 6-pounder anti-tank guns and the 239th Battery, 76th Anti-Tank Regiment RA with six more six-pounders, was ordered to occupy a desert feature known as "Snipe", a small depression in the landscape suitable for an outpost. Once consolidated it could be used as a jumping-off point for an advance by the 24th Armoured Brigade.[1]

Battle[edit]

A 6-pdr anti-tank gun in action in the Western Desert, 29 October 1942 (E18802)

The battalion advanced at 11:00 p.m. 3,000 yards (2,700 m) to what was thought to be "Snipe" but was a similar depression some 800–900 yards (730–820 m) south-east of the objective.[2] Having established a base by 3:45 a.m., Bren carrier patrols went out and found that about 35 Italian and German tanks and infantry (Kampfgruppe Stiffelmayer) had laagered nearby and tanks of the 15th Panzer Division were 1,000 yards (910 m) to the north. Exchanges of fire and skirmishes went on through the night. In the early morning of 27 October, two tank columns passed Outpost Snipe, apparently unaware of the force hiding there. The troops opened fire with the 6-pounders and destroyed a tank and a tank destroyer for no loss. At 5:45 a.m. Axis tanks emerged from dead ground and the gunners aimed at the thinner side armour of the tanks as they passed. The British gunners knocked out 16 tanks but with the position unmasked, a "deluge" of artillery fire fell on the outpost for the rest of the day.[3] Outpost Snipe received artillery-fire and tank attacks, including a brief incident of friendly fire, the mistake being realized when observers saw that the "enemy" were firing on the Germans. The 24th Armoured Brigade attempted to advance at 6:00 a.m. on 27 October and relieve the battalion but was repulsed.[4]

From 1:00–5:00 p.m. on 28 October, the defenders of Snipe were attacked several times by tanks. The British gunners ran short of ammunition and Lieutenant J. E. B. Toms made a mad jeep dash under fire, collected more and brought in the ammunition but his vehicle was destroyed. An order to withdraw was received at 11:00 p.m. that night. A serviceable gun was brought back and the remainder were spiked before the withdrawal.[5]

Casualties[edit]

The Battalion had suffered 72 casualties but a committee of inquiry concluded that the force had managed to knock out 52–57 Axis vehicles, of which 21 German and 11 Italian tanks had been destroyed, along with five self-propelled guns.[6]

Victoria Cross[edit]

Lieutenant Colonel Victor Turner was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle.[7]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 54, 53.
  2. ^ Latimer 2003, p. 244.
  3. ^ Latimer 2003, pp. 245–246.
  4. ^ Playfair et al. 2004, pp. 54–55.
  5. ^ Latimer 2003, pp. 246–254.
  6. ^ Latimer 2003, pp. 253–254.
  7. ^ Playfair et al. 2004, p. 56.

References[edit]

  • Latimer, Jon (2003) [2002]. Alamein. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-6213-9. 
  • Lucas Phillips, C. E. (1972) [1965]. Alamein. British Battles (revised ed.). London: Pan Books. ISBN 0-330-30011-3. OCLC 271436664. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; and Molony, Brigadier C. J. C.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F. C. & Gleave, Group Captain T. P. (2004) [HMSO 1966]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series IV. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-068-8. 

External links[edit]