El Alamein - A Gunner's View
Personal Account By Captain J T Lang
EL ALAMEIN - A GUNNER'S VIEW
September - November 1942
A Personal Account By Captain J T Lang on El Alamein
Captain John Lang served with 128th (H) Field Battery RA (TA). He was at El Alamein and this is his personal account.
"On 1st September we had a gun position on the edge of the Delta and an OP on Cephran pyramid as back stop for a German attack.
"On 8th September we relieved 44 Division at Alamel Alfa in Box E. Every morning early I went 15kms south in my Bren Carrier to keep an eye on things. There was a lot of German debris.
"On 14 October we had an exercise with infantry and live ammunition in 'M' Area. A shell landed close behind my carrier, fortunately we were all in it. It was very comforting to find the light armour coped with the shrapnel.
(Friendly fire is not new!)
"On 16 October back in E box. With John Robertson I took 55 gunners forward and by night dug pits in the F.D.L.'s and buried 600 rounds next to each pit.
"This was then camouflaged before daylight and we eat and slept in an underground water cistern.
"This took to 19 October. In the meantime the guns moved to positions in the line and calibrated twice.
"On October 22nd Guns moved forward to our predug positions and carefully camouflaged by day with no movement allowed, all surveyed in ready to go.
"I received an American white scout Car to replace my Carrier. It was more roomy but the radio didn't work unless sitting on a blanket. It was not so easy to conceal, not so manoeuvrable with no tracks just 4 wheel drive wheels. Why change at the last minute?
"2140 Oct 23. Firing commenced, 600 rounds per gun for 5 hours 20 minutes. I am in gun position to go forward with 2 Seaforths at first light.
"Oct 24th. Go forward early, quite a few bodies. Shortly hit a mine which blew off my right front wheel so we are stuck. LAD recovery vehicle picks us up and we transfer back to Bren Carrier.
"Oct 25/26th. O.P. established at Greenock - see Op order attached. It was German defensive position. Several dead cleared out. I acquired a Luger pistol which works on our 9mm ammunition.
"Guns moved forward and shooting goes on as targets identified. Communications by cable, signallers doing a great job.
"To our left 7th Argylls mount a night silent attack but much smallarms and shouting.
"C.O. comes on the phone line - no one knows where the Argylls are - go out and find them. We set off in the carrier - brief brush with some Italians - and find the Argylls rather jaded but operational.
"They have no food or water! O.P. vehicles carry reserve supplies as sometimes we get isolated . We handed out all ours including a few carefully horded bottles if beer.
"Returned to O.P. and worked out Argyll location by back compass bearing and reading off milometre of carrier to O.P. report to C.O.
"Nov 1st. 2 days in new O.P. in front of infantry as they are on a reverse slope. C.O. appears (he was like that) and moves me from a burned out tank which I thought good concealment. He made me dig a hole which O.P.A. and I had to occupy in daylight for All purposes.
"Nov 2nd. Coming down from O.P. in the dark we are challenged "Vo vas Dar" which turned out to be Afrikaans. Botha Rifles had taken over and we were not told. The password system worked! It was changed every day and you didn’t move at night without it!
"Over next days we fired supporting Indians, Australians and 50 Div. As well as 51 Div.
"Nov 4th. Last firing. We have fired about 1800 rounds per gun since 23/10.
"Nov 6th. Advance to Daba airfield. Find Italian rations - a nice change from compo. Also find captured 25 pounder gun. Our artificer checks it out and it will be towed behind the cook's 3 tonner which has a hook.
"Later we taught the cooks gun drill and used the gun on many fire plans across N. Africa. A sergeant major always checked elevation and direction O.K. It was a very good for morale which was very high. We were the only battery in 8th Army with nine gun, normally eight.
"After Alamein we were sure we were the best.
"At Data the rains came and everything was bogged down except the coast read which was nose to tail.
"We rested, reorganised and swam."