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"Supercharge", Battle of El Alamein 1942

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posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

Battle of El Alamein - 23rd October - 4th November 1942.

(My father Major Hugh Robertson, from Nigg in Scotland, wrote this as a speech.)

Introduction: Reasons for choosing this particular battle
a. One of the decisive battles of World War 2.
b. It was my first time in action.

1. Why the Seaforth Highlanders? Born and bred in Coatbridge is not quite true. I was taken North by my parents at the age of 12 to the Hill of Nigg. There I went to Tain Royal Academy and had a different life in nature, much more aware of the seasons as they passed. I attended the academy from 1929- 1935.
2. After this, I returned to Coatbridge to start my apprenticeship with Alex Davidson. Salary Scale!!
3. Called up in March 1940 - Cameronians (S.R.) at Hamilton barracks and at the racecourse until June 1940. (The barracks were near the racecourse). It was suggested that I should apply for a commission.
4. Chosen to report to R.M.C. Sandhurst, September 1940. Hard training with R.T.U. held over all cadets. Form to be filled in stating the regiment of choice. My first choice was the Seaforth Highlanders.
5. Reported to Fort George about Christmas, 1940. I was not much like F.G. Delighted to receive a posting to the 9th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders, stationed at Edderton, and even more delighted when I discovered that my company was billeted in Tain.
6. Training involved - marching from Tain to Inverness and onto Nairn. Crossing on Nigg Ferry and carrying on back through Tain, Edderton, Bonar Bridge and Invershin, to camp near Lairg. Training, cross-country marches, exercises, etc. Playing at soldiers!
7. Applied for a transfer to the R.A.F. and received acceptance, in Sept 1941. Returned to the unit, lecture from C.O. and handed over command of the platoon.
8. Battalion moved to Wick, in October 1941. Attached to the Home Guard at Golspie Sutherland. Dec 41 to Jan 42. Recalled to battalion and told that A.C. had stepped in and refused to allow any further transfer to the R.A.F. Took over command of Platoon again.
9. Posted to the 5th Battalion in March 1942, which was preparing to go overseas. Stationed in Fleet, Hampshire Battle School. Explain how the 5th Seaforths were unique, and illustrate the badges and feathers etc. (My father often said that he was stopped and asked who he was with because the mark of the 5th Seaforths was a feather in their cap!).
10. Sailed from the tail of the bank of Gourock, in June 1942 and arrived at Port Tewfik, in August 1942. The Bergensfjord called in at Freetown and Capetown. Crossed the equator twice - old sea dog! Certificate of proof!
11. Tell of impressions of the desert - the sand -endless flies - intense heat by day - quite cold at night. Gyppy Tummy and desert sores were something that the men had to get used to.
12. Rommel tries to break through the Southern flank of the 8th Army at Alam Halfa, on 30th August, in a bid to capture Alexandria and Cairo. H.D. digs in around the sphinx and the Great Pyramid. The attack was repulsed by General Montgomery. (This is the first time he refers to his unit as H.D., - also known as Highway Decorators, due to their wont to paint or mark H.D. wherever they stopped or rested)
13. The battalion moved into Box E in the Stuka Valley on 8th September 1942 and carried out exercises in the desert. Attached to Australians for a few days.
14. Read from "Sans Peur" page 12 .Tell about patrol experience. Pages 19 and 20. Divisions role page 21 - battalions role page 22.
15. Refer to the map and describe the object of attack with details. Forming up on the start line. Company strength was greatly reduced. 'C' Company had 4 Officers and 85 other ranks. Platoon strength I Officer and 21 men. Last minute instructions -0100 - creeping barrage 100 yards in three minutes. Advance to the halfway mark. Barrage stationary for half an hour, regrouping with remnants of 'B' Company. Approximately 35 men were joined by their Company Sergeant Major and 5 men. Reached objective with 17 men, 4 Bren Guns. Digging in on objective by 03.45 hours. Tanks came through at dawn. The battle raged all day long. Moved position later in the day and dug in again. The next morning, the battle of tanks renewed - kills getting further and further away.

Count the cost. Battalion losses - 12 officers and 165 men killed or wounded. 'C' Company had lost three officers killed. Mental arithmetic - chance of survival NIL, but finished, still fighting the Germans on the plains of Northern Germany, in May 1945.

To accompany this speech my father drew a map of the battle, "Supercharge" Objectives and achievements of operations under command 2 New Zealand Division 2/3 November 1942.

History

Item list and details

Hand drawn Map of "Supercharge" Objectives and achievements of operations under command 2 New Zealand Division 2/3 November 1942

Person the story/items relate to

Major Hugh Robertson

Person who shared the story/items

Linda McLean

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

He was my Father.

Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID

111138