Outpost Snipe

Outpost Snipe

Outpost Snipe was the location of a famous Second World War defensive action during the desert campaign in Egypt. The defense of Outpost Snipe took place during the Second Battle of El Alamein. It is particularly noteworthy due to the tenacity of the troops involved and is an excellent example of a last stand.

On the night of 26/27th October 1942, the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade with support troops including 19 6-pounder anti-tank guns was ordered to take possession of a desert feature known as "Snipe" - a small depression in the otherwise featureless landscape suitable for setting up a defensible base. Once completed this point would be used to launch a further advance by a larger body of troops: the 24th Armoured Brigade.

The initial advance took the battalion to what they thought was the feature "Snipe". It was, in fact, a similar depression some 900 yards south of the intended target. Having established a base, scouts were sent out who discovered that a large group of mixed Italian and German tanks and infantry had laagered nearby. In fact, the Battalion were in the middle of a number of enemy armoured formations. Isolated firefights and skirmishes continued through the night.

In the early morning of 27 October two tank columns passed Outpost Snipe apparently unaware of the force that lay hidden there. The troops opened fire with their 6-pounder anti-tank guns, aiming at the thin side armour of the tanks, destroying 16 tanks with no loss. However, their position was now marked, and they started to receive artillery fire.

During the remainder of that day and the next, Outpost Snipe continued to receive fire and tank attacks, including a brief incident of friendly fire, the mistake being realized when observers note that the "enemy" were actually firing on the Germans. 24th Armoured Brigade attempted to advance and relieve the battalion but were repulsed.

Between 13:00 and 17:00 on 28 October the defenders of Snipe faced several attacks by enemy armour. By this time, the gunners were running short of ammunition and Lieutenant J. E. B. Toms made a mad jeep dash under fire to collect some more. He survived and brought in the ammunition but his vehicle was destroyed.

The order to withdraw was received at 23:00 that night. Only one working gun was brought back out of the outpost: the remainder were disabled before the troops withdrew.

The Battalion had suffered 72 casualties but had managed to destroy some 60 enemy vehicles. Lieutenant Colonel Victor Turner was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the battle.


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