Information concerning the type, layout, and marking of enemy minefields in the El Alamein
area has become available from British sources. There is as yet no information as to whether
this general method of mine laying was also followed in the Axis retreat from El Alamein.
a. Pattern and Spacing
The minefields were laid in belts, each belt consisting of two to eight rows of mines. Shallow
minefields might have only a single belt of mines consisting of from two to four rows; deep
fields might have several belts of mines with considerable distance between belts.
The belts themselves might be anything up to 200 yards deep, with an additional danger area
consisting of widely scattered mines up to 250 yards in front of the belt. The back of the
belt was usually marked with a fence; the distance from this fence to the front fence (if
any existed) was anywhere from 100 to 800 yards.
No standard pattern for laying mines in the belts appeared to be used. However, from the
mass of data that was available, it was found possible to classify the patterns broadly
(1) Regular Pattern
This is the most common. Mines in a given row are spaced at equal distances; there is an
equal distance between rows; and the mines of one row are equally spaced between the mines
of the previous row. A variation in this method is to vary the distances between rows. In
no reported case, except for scattered mines, has the distance between mines in a row
(2) Regular Pattern Offset
By a system of pacing, a certain variety is introduced into the regular pattern. The
distance between mines in any one row is equal, but one row is slightly offset from
the previous row, and the next row is again offset by a different distance. Once a few
mines have been located, the pattern soon becomes apparent and mines will be found
(3) Random Mines
In front of most regular minefield belts, and particularly in front of gaps, there may
be found mines scattered at random and unmarked. These are either continuous, with very
wide and irregular spacing, or in clumps more closely spaced but laid to no pattern
inside each clump.
The above patterns usually resulted in a density of a little less than 1 mine per yard
of front. Densities up to 2 mines per yard were generally not found except when blocking
roads, trails, or defiles.
The spacing between the mines in a given row is from 3 to 10 yards, with the average
spacing being 6 yards. As noted in (1) above, in no reported case, except for scattered
mines, has the distance between mines in a row been unequal.
The most common spacing between the rows themselves is reported to be usually
about 5 yards or 10 yards.
b. Marking of Field
The front edge of forward minefields is often not marked. The rear edge normally is
marked, usually with a trip wire on short stakes, though cattle-fence, concertina
wire, and stone cairns are sometimes used. Cases have been reported of the rear edge
A common marking is a single row of concertina wire running along the center of a
field parallel to the rows of mines. in a large minefield there may be several rows
of mines in front unmarked, then a row of concertina wire, more mines, then concertina
wire, and so on, finishing up with a row of concertina wire on the rear edge.
The marking of fields by furrows, commonly used at Tobruk, has only once been
reported at El Alamein, and in that case the field was a dummy one.
Only one case has been reported of continuous wire running irregularly within a
field. It is believed that skull and crossbones indicate the presence of
antitank mines or booby traps.
In the rear areas, enemy minefields may be expected to be well marked with
cattle-fences and warning notices in German and/or Italian.
c. Marking of Gaps
Little information is available about gaps through minefield; but the following
data have been reported.
10 yards in one case, and in another.
(2) Method of Closing
Usually two or three rows of Tellermines (antitank) with boards placed on one or
all of the rows to insure detonation of mines if a vehicle attempts to pass
through the gap over the boards, which are normally concealed by a shallow
cover of soil.
In the northern sector, two types of gap markers have been found:
(a) Painted signs, as in sketch, on either side of the gap.
(b) Luminous tubes 1 inch long placed on the tops of mines to mark a route
for patrols. These tubes are visible 3 yards away.
It is reported that gaps are a favorite place for laying Tellermines without
any marking wire or signs. Gaps are sometimes covered by groups of scattered
mines laid up to 2,000 yards in front of the gap, and unmarked.
d. Types of Mines
German, Italian, French, and British mines were all used by the enemy at
El Alamein. Relatively few booby traps were found in the minefields, and
the traps found were almost invariably attached to German Tellermines. Antipersonnel
mines (usually Italian B4's) were found at times, generally as a single row
laid in front of the outer wire of a minefield. The antipersonnel mines were
spaced from 7 to 10 yards apart, with wooden pegs driven between the mines, these
pegs being used to attach the trip wiring from the mines on each side of the pegs.
e. Tactical Siting
One report states that the minefield is usually 200 to 300 yards in
front of the MLR, and covered by fire and listening posts. In another report
the distance from the MLR to the main minefield is given as varying from 200
to 1,000 yards. A listening post was also located by a patrol 100 to 150 yards
behind a minefield. It can be definitely stated that it is the enemy's practice
by day to cover all main minefields with small-arms fire from close range, and
by night to maintain antilifting patrols, as well as listening posts often
located within the minefield itself.
Comment: It should be realized that the above information applies to
the enemy mine tactics at El Alamein. It is to be expected that his tactics
will change from time to time as a result of experience, expediency, change
in terrain, or change in command personnel.