[O]n 1 November, two more [Axis] supply ships—the Tripolino and the Ostia—had been torpedoed and sunk from the air northwest of Tobruk. The shortage forced [Rommel] to rely increasingly on fuel flown in from Crete on the orders of Albert Kesselring, commander of German Army Command South (OB Süd), despite the restrictions imposed by heavy bombing of the airfields in Crete and the Desert Air Force's efforts to intercept the transport aircraft….
[Supercharge] began at 01:00 on 2 November…. The initial thrust of Supercharge was to be carried out by 2nd New Zealand Division. The division's commander—Freyberg—had tried to free them of this task, as they had lost 1,405 men in just three days, at El Ruweisat Ridge in July. However, in addition to its own 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade and 28th (Maori) Infantry Battalion, the division was to have had placed under its command 151st (Durham) Brigade from 50th Division, 152nd (Seaforth and Camerons) Brigade from 51st Division and the 133rd Royal Sussex Lorried Infantry Brigade. In addition, the division was to have British 9th Armoured Brigade under command.
As in Operation Lightfoot, it was planned that two infantry brigades (the 151st on the right and 152nd on the left) each this time supported by a regiment of tanks—the 8th and 50th Royal Tank Regiments—would advance and clear a path through the mines. Once they reached their objectives, 4,000 yd (3,700 m) distant, 9th Armoured Brigade would pass through supported by a heavy artillery barrage and break open a gap in the Axis defences on and around the Rahman track, some 2,000 yards (1,800 m) further forward, which the 1st Armoured Division, following behind, would pass through into the open to take on Rommel's armoured reserves.
Supercharge started with a seven hour aerial bombardment focused on Tel el Aqqaqir and Sidi Abd el Rahman, followed by a four and a half hour barrage of 360 guns firing 15,000 shells. The two assault brigades started their attack at 01:05 on 2 November and gained most of their objectives to schedule and with moderate losses. On the right of the main attack 28th (Maori) battalion captured positions to protect the right flank of the newly formed salient and 133rd Lorried Infantry did the same on the left. New Zealand engineers cleared five lines through the mines allowing the Royal Dragoons armoured car regiment to slip out into the open and spend the day raiding the Axis communications.
9th Armoured Brigade had started its approach march at 20:00 on 1 November from El Alamein railway station with around 130 tanks; it arrived at its start line with only 94 tanks fit for action. The brigade was to have started its attack towards Tel el Aqqaqir at 05:45 behind a barrage; however, the attack was postponed for 30 minutes while the brigade regrouped on Currie's orders. At 06:15, 30 minutes before dawn, the three regiments of the brigade advanced towards the gunline.
We all realise that for armour to attack a wall of guns sounds like another Balaclava, it is properly an infantry job. But there are no more infantry available. So our armour must do it. —Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg
Brigadier Currie had tried to get the brigade out of doing this job stating that he believed the brigade would be attacking on too wide a front with no reserves and that they would most likely take 50% losses. The reply came from Freyberg that Montgomery:
...was aware of the risk and has accepted the possibility of losing 100% casualties in 9th Armoured Brigade to make the break, but in view of the promise of immediate following through of 1st Armoured Division, the risk was not considered as great as all that.
The German and Italian anti-tank guns (mostly Pak38 and Italian 47 mm guns, along with 24 of the formidable 88 mm flak guns) opened fire upon the charging tanks silhouetted by the rising sun. German tanks, which had penetrated between the Warwickshire Yeomanry and Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry also caused many casualties. British tanks attacking the Folgore's sector were fought off with petrol bombs and mortar fire as well as with the obsolete Italian 47 mm cannons. The Axis gun screen started to inflict a steady amount of damage upon the advancing tanks but was unable to stop them; over the course of the next 30 minutes, around 35 guns were destroyed and several hundred prisoners taken.
9th Armoured Brigade had started the attack with 94 tanks and was reduced to only 24 runners (although many were recoverable) and of the 400 tank crew involved in the attack 230 were killed, wounded or captured.
If the British armour owed any debt to the infantry of the Eighth Army, the debt was paid on November 2 by 9th Armoured in heroism and blood. -- Bernard Montgomery, referring to the British Armour's mistakes during the First Battle of El Alamein
After the Brigade's action, Brigadier Gentry of 6th New Zealand Brigade went ahead to survey the scene. On seeing Brigadier Currie asleep on a stretcher, he approached him saying, "Sorry to wake you John, but I'd like to know where your tanks are?" Currie waved his hand at a group of tanks around him, replying "There they are". Gentry was puzzled. "I don't mean your headquarters tanks, I mean your armoured regiments. Where are they?" Currie waved his arm and again replied, "There are my armoured regiments, Bill".
The brigade had sacrificed itself upon the gun line and caused great damage but had failed to create the gap for the 1st Armoured Division to pass through; however, soon after dawn 1st Armoured Division started to deploy and the remains of 9th Armoured Brigade came under its command. 2nd Armoured Brigade came up behind the 9th, and by mid morning 8th Armoured Brigade had come up on its left, ordered to advance to the southwest. In heavy fighting during the day the British armour made little further progress. At 11:00 on 2 November, the remains of 15th Panzer, 21st Panzer and Littorio Armoured Divisions counterattacked 1st Armoured Division and the remains of 9th Armoured Brigade, which by that time had dug in with a screen of anti-tank guns and artillery together with intensive air support. The counter-attack failed under a blanket of shells and bombs, resulting in a loss of some 100 tanks.
Although X Corps had failed in its attempt to break out, it had succeeded in its objective of finding and destroying enemy tanks. Although tank losses were approximately equal, this represented only a portion of the total British armour, but most of Rommel's tanks; the Afrika Korps strength of tanks fit for battle fell by 70 while in addition to 9th Armoured Brigade's losses 2nd and 8th Armoured Brigades lost 14 tanks between them in the fighting with another 40 damaged or broken down. The fighting was later termed the "Hammering of the Panzers".
Meanwhile in the late afternoon and early evening, the 133rd Lorried and 151st Infantry Brigades—by this time back under command of 51st Infantry Division—attacked respectively the Snipe and Skinflint (about a mile west of Snipe) positions in order to form a base for future operations. The heavy artillery concentration which accompanied their advance suppressed the opposition from the Trieste Division and the operation succeeded with few casualties.
On the night of 2 November, Montgomery once again reshuffled his infantry in order to bring four brigades (5th Indian, 151st, 5th New Zealand and 154th) into reserve under XXX Corps to prepare for the next thrust. He also reinforced X Corps by moving 7th Armoured Division from army reserve and sending 4th Light Armoured Brigade from XIII Corps in the south. General von Thoma's report to Rommel that night said he would have at most 35 tanks available to fight the next day and his artillery and anti-tank weapons had been reduced to ⅓ of their strength at the start of the battle. Rommel concluded that to forestall a breakthrough and the resulting destruction of his whole army he must start withdrawing to the planned position at Fuka. He called up Ariete from the south to join the mobile Italian XX Corps around Tel el Aqqaqir. His mobile forces (XX Corps, Afrika Korps, 90th Light Division and 19th Flak Division) were ordered to make a fighting withdrawal while his other formations were to withdraw as best they could with the limited transport available.