The Principles of War Podcast
Australian Artillery at El Alamein
ArtilleryPodcastThe Battles of El Alamein

89 – Artillery at 2nd El Alamein

This episode looks at the orchestration of effects for the artillery for the 2nd Battle of El Alamein.  Listen to the podcast to learn more about Ex Bumper, Anti Tank Artillery, Arty C2 and the AGRA and Counter Battery fires.

2nd Alamein was the apogee of Australian Artillery in the Second World War and we will look at the role that BRIG Ramsay from 9th Div Arty built a team and capability to support the 9th Div and MAJ GEN Morshead.

What where the Lessons from Exercise Bumper?

  • The largest exercise ever conducted by the British Army in preparation for a German invasion of England. An anti invasion exercise, with 12 divisions and 3 independent brigades so over 250,000 troops exercise the anti invasion plan. What were the lessons learnt from Ex Bumper?  BRIG Kirkman, assisting Montogomery who was the chief umpire understood the need for improvements in artillery C2 and centralisation at the Divisional and higher level.

    What is the AGRA (Army Group Royal Artillery)

  • The lack of the AGRA – the Army Group Royal Artillery.  BRIG Kirkman worked to centralize artillery leading to the development of the AGRA.  The composition of the AGRA was generally 3 medium REGTs, 1 heavy REGT and 1 field REGT.  This was a tool that Army or Corps Commander could influence the battle and weight their main effort.  During the landing in Italy, 1 AGRA was reinforced with another AGRA firing from Sicily, across the Strait of Messina.  We discuss the role of REME is supporting the AGRAs.
  • How were Time on Target missions coordinated during 2nd Alamein?

    Developments in the employment of Anti-Armour Weapons  

  • How was anti armour artillery employed?  We look at the principles, defilade, enfilade and depth and compare the 2 pdr and the 6 pdr.  German anti tank weapons where a high value target.  Prior to Alamein, sometimes it took as long as 5 hours for artillery support.  Smoke in some Regiments was increase to 33% given it’s ability to degrade AT weapons effectiveness in the self propelled guns supporting armoured units.  The German 88 was an excellent anti tank weapon and efforts to neutralise it were critical to support armoured manoeuvre.

    How was Counter Batter fire organised? 

  • The primary idea behind the CB battle is that it is far, far better to give than to receive. We look at current CB doctrine, and compare that with how the CB battle was fought in 1942.  We look at sound ranging and flash spotting and how that was fed into the Counter Battery Office.  We covered the development of the Counter Battery Office in our episode on Vimy Ridge.  
  • Co-locating Counter Battery Staff with RAF staff decreased the time for photo reconnaissance detection of hostile batteries.

Montgomery, who had fought in WW1, understood the impact that artillery can have and was keen to restore it’s capability to delivery decisive effects on the battlefield.  How did he do this?

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