- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Alexander Dall
- Location of story:
- Egypt 1942
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 November 2003
To make an attack doubly effective, it helps if the enemy is misled about where it is to take place. If he disposes his forces according to received reconnaissance at X, and the real attack takes place at Y, the battle is already partly won.
Before Alamein, the 'Bertram Plan' was conceived and carried out to create the impression that the major blow would be struck in the south, and various stratagems were employed to create this illusion. Some actual "illusions" were indeed invented by the stage magician Maskelyne, but the greater part of the enterprise was masterminded by Lieutenant-Colonel Richardson.
The 1st. Armoured Division formed part of 10 Corps, and were held back in the Delta till routes were cleared through the "Devil's Garden" of extensive minefields. When we did move westwards,it was necessary, as part of the plan, to leave our extensive site apparently still occupied. Tanks, lorries, wireless trucks, petrol bowsers, etc., all had to leave behind models of themselves, because there were daily visits of Storch "shufti-kites" taking aerial photographs of our location.
Lorries delivered heaps of assorted timber, cardboard sheets and nails, and each crew set about building a replica of their vehicle, and covering it, as before, with a camouflage net. Ours was a large, rectangular Armoured Command Vehicle (ACV),and we laboured to construct something that would not collapse under its own weight.
On the evening of 21st. October, we silently stole away, leaving these fragile simulacrums where our vehicles had been, and headed for the battlefield.
Not quite silently. The German monitors had become accustomed to overhearing a certain level and type of wireless traffic over the previous weeks from this location, so this was maintained by a small group of operators working through a pile of message forms.
Our efforts formed only a small part of 'Bertram'. For instance, a complete twenty-mile dummy pipeline made of empty petrol cans was laid down to the south, with pump houses at intervals. Meanwhile in the north, where the real attack was to be made, a large dump containing 600 tons of supplies, 2000 tons of petrol, etc., was gradually created and camouflaged.
Although the ensuing infantry and tank battles were of terrifying intensity, they might well have been even worse if Rommel had known exactly where we were going to strike, and had made appropriate preparations to repel them.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.