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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

General Situation

General Situation

In the desert towards the end of July it was clear that the initiative had been wrenched away from the enemy by what General page 348 Auchinleck described as ‘sheer guts and hard fighting’ and that the Axis was on the defensive. In the north on 26 July Eighth Army made another major attack from the Tell el Eisa salient which had previously been established by the Australians. Here, again, the infantry was forced to withdraw from hard-won ground when the supporting armour did not get through.

It was then evident that neither side was sufficiently strong to deliver a knockout blow to the other and that each required a breathing spell in order to accumulate the men, material, and supplies necessary for the resumption of full-scale operations. The full resources of the Eighth Army had been occupied in holding the extended front, and it had been impossible to form a real reserve and so allow troops to be rested, re-formed, and trained for fresh assaults. New formations were beginning to arrive in Egypt, but these had to be trained and would not be ready for some time. It was decided, therefore, to discontinue further offensive operations and to prepare for a new and decisive effort later.

The Eighth Army's casualties in battle during July were about 750 officers and 12,500 men; of these some 4000 belonged to the New Zealand Division—severe losses which testified to the bitterness of the fighting to stabilise the line.