As we commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the Second Battle of El Alamein, we are featuring a unique item which highlights the vital role the artillery played in a battle which is now widely recognised as the turning point of the North African Campaign.
The role of the New Zealand division was to help the British forces break through the enemy defences which were now deeply entrenched across extensive minefields and to apply enough pressure to turn the tide of the German advance across North Africa. The Second Battle of El Alamein begun at exactly 9.40pm on the 23rd October 1942 with an extensive artillery barrage of over 900 allied guns opening fire on the Axis positions. This barrage lasted for 20 minutes and provided cover for the infantry to begin their advance. Over the following two weeks, the allied forces successfully breached the Axis line and wore down the Afrika Corps in a hard fought battle that ultimately forced them to retreat back across North Africa and eventually concede defeat in May 1943.
This 25 pounder shell case was one of the first 900 fired at 9.40pm on the evening of the 23rd October 1942. This was the first shot fired from one of the New Zealand Guns (Gun C3) by 63694 Gunner Ivan Trevor (Tim) Stowe of the 48th Battery, 6th Field Regiment, who was only 23 years old at the time. Tim Stowe kept the spent shell case and later had it engraved with the date and time of the barrage as well as his details, to mark this historic occasion.
Image at top: 27th Battery NZ Field Regiment firing 25 pounder at El Alamein and left: ‘Gun at full recoil’.