‘The Bays’ & Operation Lightfoot

Armoured Fist

‘The Bays’ and Operation Lightfoot during the Battle of El Alamein, October 23-25.

The successful defence of the line at El Alamein soon had Montgomery thinking about the offensive. Re-enforcements were flowing in to North Africa, US Grant tanks had proved successful and new Sherman tanks had started to arrive.

The Axis forces had dug-in behind minefields after their attacks on the British lines had failed, so the key to a successful British attack was to negotiate the mines with minimal disruption and delay.

The Plan “Operation Lightfoot” 

Armoured plan for Lightfoot revolved around a two-prong attack to the north and south, though the northern attack would only be a feint to draw off a proportion of the Axis forces. The diversion would be carried out by the 7th Armoured ‘Desert Rats’ supporting XIII Corps, while the main thrust would come from X Corps and supporting infantry divisions of XXX Corps to the south.

The infantry divisions of both thrusts were to move forward and secure the minefields and prepare lanes for the armoured units to attack through. As most of the mines were anti-tank the infantry units could quickly cross the minefields allowing the engineers to get started clearing lanes.

The 1st Armoured and 10th Armoured divisions would then attack through the corridors created by the engineers to attack Axis armoured units. Montgomery hoped to divert Axis troops away from his main thrust with the diversionary attack to the south.

Montgomery expected a twelve-day battle broken into three stages ~ “The break-in, the dog-fight and the final breaking of the enemy.” During the build-up to Operation Lightfoot, the British had been running a number of deceptions to make the Axis unsure of their intentions, and area of any planned attack. In the north some tanks had been disguised as trucks with canvas and plywood shells, while in the south similar things had been done to disguise jeeps and trucks as tanks.

‘The Bays’ ~ The Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards), 2nd Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division

The Bays had battled through Gazala and the withdrawal on El Alamein, it’s ‘A’ Squadron fighting with distinction at Alam el Halfa ridge, drawing Axis forces into the range of the British gun line. 

A German Map, 1. Pz Div = 1st Armoured Division
Crusader as a Truck The Regiment was refitted whiles resting at Khatatba receiving on September 10 Shermans for both ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons and upgraded Crusader IIIs fitted with 6pdrs. On October 20 their commander Colonel Barclay attended a briefing conducted by General Montgomery outlining Operation Lightfoot.

On October 21 the Bays moved forward to take their positions ready for the coming battle.

The Battle

At 2140 hours, October 23, a massive barrage open-up on the axis positions signalling the start of the battle. The initial objective was the Oxalic Line; the armoured units were then to advance over this and on to the Pierson line.

The Bays, along side the 10th Hussars, lead the way through the northern corridor. At 2130 hours the regiment moved off towards the lines. At midnight they stopped at El Alamein station to refuel before advancing through the allied minefields, the reached the first Axis mines at 04.00, October 24. The first minefield was negotiated successfully and they moved on to their next obstacle.

On reaching the second Axis minefield three Shermans lost tracks to mines, but the Bays were able to get through and headed for the third line of mines. Unfortunately the infantry had been held-up in front of their objective, and were 3,000 yards short.

'Bays' cap badge
10th Hussar Crewmen

With first light an Axis anti-tank gun opened up destroying a Scout car, but was quickly silenced by a troop of Shermans from ‘B’ Squadron. The Shermans of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadron deployed into line ready to exchange fire with the Axis positions, but lost a further two Shermans to mines in the process. The Squadrons were flanked by Australians to the north and Gordon Highlanders to the south with ‘A’ Squadron and the 10th Hussars to the rear.

They immediately engaged the axis anti-tank positions. The enemy anti-tank guns were supported by 20 or so tanks and a raging tank exchange erupted. The new Shermans proved more than a match for the axis tanks and by 0830 hours the Bays had knocked out 10 tanks. ‘A’ Squadrons Crusaders soon joined them in the front line.

By the afternoon of October 24 the Sappers had finally cleared their way through the third minefield and the way was clear for the Bays to advance on to their final objective, Point 33.

On reaching their objective they were meet with a hail of heavy anti-tank fire. Two Shermans of ‘B’ and two Crusaders of ‘A’ Squadron were immobilised. Following on the heels of the gun fire was a counter-attacking force of German and Italian tanks, after a short exchange the Bays withdrew under the cover of smoke to the south where they joined the 9th Lancers. The two regiments fought together until nightfall, successfully beating off the Axis counter-attack. Scattered around the Bays and 9th Lancers were 26 knocked-out Axis tanks. 

Surrounded by mines both tank regiments laagered up for the night. The Bays, even after the heroic work of the repair crews, had only 12 of their original 29 Shermans left.

On October 25 the Bays were once more ordered to attack Point 33. ‘A’ Squadron’s Crusaders joined ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadron. They once again encountered heavy anti-tank fire, this time the Germans had brought forward their guns and positioned them behind burnt out tanks. 

Sherman II
Crusader IIIs Five Shermans were quickly lost and the Bays retreated to hull down positions to engage the guns. The Bays were once more attacked by during the afternoon by a force of Axis tanks, both the Bays and the adjacent Australian infantry fought them off, destroying 18 tanks between them.

At 5.30 the 10th Hussars attacked Point 33, but were also beaten off by the anti-tank guns, losing eight Shermans in the process.

By the October 26 it was the turn of the 7th Motor Brigade to take Point 33, but that’s another story! Outpost Snipe…

On the same day eleven replacement Shermans and five Crusaders arrived, giving the Bays a total of eleven Shermans and sixteen Crusaders. During the defence of Outpost Snipe the Bays’ recon troop and a troop from ‘A’ Squadron worked their way into the position but were forced to withdraw by intense enemy anti-tank fire. A second attack petered out and the Bays lagaared up for the night with the 9th Lancers once more.

‘The Bays’ in Flames of War 

Shermans take on the Panzers

B’ Squadron, The Bays
Sherman Armoured Squadron
(page 25 of Armoured Fist)

Sherman Armoured Squadron HQ (MB131)
2x Sherman (75mm)

18 points
Sherman Armoured Troop (MB132)
3x Sherman (75mm)

27 points
Sherman Armoured Troop (MB132)
3x Sherman (75mm)

27 points
Sherman Armoured Troop (MB132)
3x Sherman (75mm)

27 points
Crusader II & III Armoured Troop (MB105)(‘A’ Squadron, The Bays)
1x Crusader II (2 pdr),
2x Crusader III (6 pdr)

7 points
106 points
Axis Defending Force
Panzer II Tank Company

(page 17 of Afrika Korps) 

Panzer III Tank Company HQ (MG101)
2x Panzer III (short 5cm)

10 points
Panzer III Tank Platoon (MG104)
3x Panzer III (long 5cm)

21 points
Panzer III Tank Platoon (MG104)
3x Panzer III (long 5cm)

21 points
Italian M14/41 Tank Platoon (MI102)
5x M14/41 (47mm)

12 points
Support Platoons  
Italian Besaglieri Rifle Platoon (MI108)
9x Breda MG & Carano rifle team

9 points
5cm Tank-hunter Platoon (MG114)
3x 5cm gun

12 points
7.62cm Tank-hunter Platoon (MG125)
3x 7.62cm gun

14 points
99 points
Game Map

Axis Forces

The forces faced by The Bays consisted of elements of the 15th Panzer Division and Italian Littorio Armoured Division.

Fighting Operation Lightfoot

The Bays’ progress through lines and encounter with the Axis positions makes a great game using the No Retreat mission.

The best place to start the game is once The Bays have passed through the first two lines of Axis minefields, starting with The Bays crossing through the gapped mines to engage the Axis gun line.

You can use the suggested layout (see map) or you can design a table of your own, but remember to leave a gap to represent the gapped minefield cleared by the British engineers.

Last Updated On Tuesday, January 11, 2022 by Wayne at Battlefront