Major Gerald Jackson had served in 6RTR during the retreat towards El Alamein in June and July 1942 and took part in a series of engagements which took their toll both on tank numbers and on crew-members. He then joined 10 Corps HQ as Personal Liaison Officer to Brigadier George Webb in time for the October battle.
I soon found that the work was interesting and had a hectic time working under George Webb on the movement plans of 10th Corps to its battle positions, I had never realised before how much work had to be done to get formations and supplies into the places where they were needed and now on a scale that we had never experienced before. One of the first things that struck me was that this was now quite a different Army, the improvement in morale since Montgomery had arrived was amazing, in July I had left a bewildered angry army that did not seem to know what it was trying to do and had now come back two months later to this hive of purposeful activity.. . . Just before it all started I went up with the Brigadier to visit 30 Corps and we also visited some of the assault divisions including our old friends the New Zealanders, it was a hive of activity, tracks forward were being marked with signs and lamps for use at night and tanks and guns were moving up to their positions. I was particularly impressed with the new Shermans, here at last was a proper tank with a decent gun in the main turret and there seemed to be plenty of them.
On the 23rd October I went forward to Tac HQ and then in the evening at 9.40pm the barrage started, it was an amazing spectacle, gun flashes as far as the eye could see and the noise like someone continuously hammering on a big drum. The armoured divisions were moving up and I went to watch them following their allotted tracks, it was a most impressive sight and one had a sneaking feeling that one would have liked to be with them. . . .I spent most of my time going up and down from rear HQ to main HQ and at times visiting divisional HQs picking up all the information I could about how the battle was progressing, it was a new experience to see what went on in these HQs and to watch progress on the maps. As usual there was a lot of confusion at times but somehow it all seemed much better controlled and there was an air of confidence about that made a pleasant change. Minefields were again proving to be the big problem as these were on a scale we had never seen before and new ones always seemed to be found where least expected. The tanks were having a rough time and losses were very heavy, as usual mainly from those cursed 88s, we still had not solved the problem of getting the tanks through the minefields in support of the Infantry. We had a few bombs dropped on us, mainly by marauding night bombers as the RAF seemed to have complete mastery of the skies during daylight. For the final break through I went up to 1st Armoured Division which was located just our side of the German minefields and in front of our guns, in the early hours of the next morning the barrage opened, 800 guns each firing 400 rounds, the noise was deafening and the flashes lit up the sky and in the distance one could see the almost continuous flashes of the shells arriving on their targets.
By first light the New Zealanders had secured their bridgehead and the Armoured division was moving forward, 9th Armoured brigade was soon astride the Rahman track but was held up by the inevitable 88 screen and suffered very heavy losses. It was interesting to be among the original defences and to see the pock marked ground where the barrage had fallen, the trenches, and here and there one or two of those 88s so well dug in that only the barrel appeared above ground level, no wonder they were so difficult to knock out.
We moved our HQ through the Alamein position and could see the over-run enemy trenches, burnt out tanks, destroyed guns and of course the corpses. We were now kept frantically busy organizing forward supply dumps for the advance, we moved again to near Girawla, the main hazard now was scattered mines along the roadside and booby traps which were abundant. Traffic was chaotic as it had rained heavily and off the road the desert was a quagmire where even tracked vehicles could hardly move, the main road was an amazing sight with vehicles nose to tail as far as one could see, and if one wanted to get through one had to take a chance of mines and take to the desert, it was fortunate that the Luftwaffe never made an appearance.
We heard of the Allied landings by the Americans and British 1st Army in North Africa and wondered if we would after all lose the race to Tripoli, it was still a very long way to go, and in the past we had always come to a grinding halt at El Agheila