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Issue 186 - The Raaf at El Alamein

Issue 186 - The Raaf at El Alamein

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Published by akaflorence

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Published by: akaflorence on Dec 30, 2012
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08/15/2013

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AIR POWER DEVELOPMENT CENTRE BULLETIN
THE RAAF AT EL ALAMEIN
The Battle of El Alamein was a major turning pointin World War II, but it also showed the importanceof coordination between air and land forces on the
 battleeld. It is not often recognised that the RAAF played a signicant
role in the battlefor the air over El
Alamein.
By July 1942,the Panzer ArmyAfrica, composedof German andItalian units under 
Field Marshal ErwinRommel, had struck 
deep into Egyptthreatening theBritish control of the Suez Canal and
the Middle Easternoilelds. The
British Eighth Armydefended Egyptand the Canal near asmall desert town called
El Alamein. Here, in early July, the Axis advance was
halted and both sides dug in and began replenishing their 
forces in preparation for the next major offensive which
the British launched under Lieutenant General Bernard
Montgomery on 23 October.In preparation for the offensive, RAF Middle EastCommand shared with the Royal Navy the tasks of guarding British supply lines to the Middle East, and
denying the enemy delivery of essential supplies,
especially fuel. RAF squadrons, including a number of Australian squadrons, conducted reconnaissance of theMediterranean Sea. Axis convoys heading for NorthAfrican ports were subject to attack by aircraft, surfaceships or submarines. The interdiction of supplies,
 particularly fuel, to the Panzer Army Africa deprived
Rommel of manoeuvre in the desert war and was a major factor in the Allied victory at El Alamein.The tasks of maintaining control of the air over the battleeld and attacking Axis ground forces were
allocated to the
Desert Air Force,
commanded by Air 
Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham RAF.
Coningham hadassumed commandin 1941 and setabout improving the
equipment, doctrine
and organisationof the Desert Air 
Force, gradually
achieving air 
superiority in NorthAfrica for the rsttime. To provide
 better air support
for the October land
offensive, Coningham’s
headquarters was co-
located with that of the Eighth Army at Burg el Arab,
west of Alexandria.Two RAAF squadrons, Nos 3 and 450, ew P-40Kittyhawk ghter/ground attack aircraft as part of theDesert Air Force in 1942. These rugged aircraft proved
highly capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground
attacks. For the two months leading up to the battle,the Australian squadrons were engaged in maintainingcontrol of the air around El Alamein. This was achieved
 by intercepting any enemy aircraft in the battle zone and
 by attacking their airelds.On 15 September, 18 Australian Kittyhawks wereattacked by 15 Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Me-109s. Theresulting dog-ght continued until two squadrons of RAFKittyhawks joined the fray driving off the Messerschmitts.
Issue 186, September 2012
It would be difcult for me to pay an adequate tribute to the work and achievements of the Desert  Air Force; sufce it to say here that the Desert Air Force and the Eighth Army formed one close,integrated family; collectively, they were one great ghting machine working with a single purpose, at all times with a single joint plan.Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery 
 
Commander Eighth Army 
 A No 3 Squadron Kittyhawk taxying in the desert.

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