Battle of Alam el Halfa

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Battle of Alam el Halfa
Part of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War
Karte - Schlacht bei Alam Halfa (1942).png
Map of the battlefield (in German)
Date30 August – 5 September 1942
Location
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Sir Harold Alexander
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Bernard Montgomery
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg Ettore Bastico
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Erwin Rommel
Strength
XIII Corps (Eighth Army):
4 divisions
Panzer Army Africa:
6 divisions
Casualties and losses
1,750 killed, wounded or captured [1]
68 tanks [1]
67 aircraft [2]
2,900 killed, wounded or captured [1]
49 tanks [1]
36 aircraft
60 guns [1]
400 transport vehicles [1]

The Battle of Alam el Halfa took place between 30 August and 5 September 1942 south of El Alamein during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. Panzerarmee Afrika ( Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel), attempted an envelopment of the British Eighth Army (Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery). In Unternehmen Brandung (Operation Surf), the last big Axis offensive of the Western Desert Campaign, Rommel intended to defeat the Eighth Army before Allied reinforcements arrived.

El Alamein City in Matrouh, Egypt

El Alamein is a town in the northern Matrouh Governorate of Egypt. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, it lies 106 kilometres (66 mi) west of Alexandria and 240 kilometres (149 mi) northwest of Cairo. As of 2007, it had a population of 7,397 inhabitants.

As the number of German troops committed to the North African Campaign of World War II grew from the initial commitment of a small corps the Germans developed a more elaborate command structure and placed the enlarged Afrika Korps, with Italian units under this new German command and a succession of commands were created to manage Axis forces in Africa:

Generalfeldmarschall was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire (Reichsgeneralfeldmarschall); in the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary, the rank Feldmarschall was used. The rank was the equivalent to Großadmiral in the Kaiserliche Marine and Kriegsmarine, a five-star rank, comparable to OF-10 in today's NATO naval forces.

Contents

Montgomery knew of Axis intentions through Ultra signals intercepts and left a gap in the southern sector of the front, knowing that Rommel planned to attack there and deployed the bulk of his armour and artillery around Alam el Halfa Ridge, 20 miles (32 km) behind the front. The tanks were to be used as anti-tank guns, remaining in their defensive positions on the ridge. When Axis attacks on the ridge failed and short on supplies, Rommel ordered a withdrawal. The 2nd New Zealand Division conducted Operation Beresford against Italian positions, which was a costly failure.

The 2nd New Zealand Division, initially the New Zealand Division, was an infantry division of the New Zealand Military Forces during the Second World War. The division was commanded for most of its existence by Lieutenant-General Bernard C. Freyberg. It fought in Greece, Crete, the Western Desert and Italy. In the Western Desert Campaign, the division played a prominent role in the defeat of German and Italian forces in the Second Battle of El Alamein and the British Eighth Army's advance to Tunisia.

Montgomery chose not to exploit his defensive victory, preferring to continue the methodical build up of strength for his autumn offensive, the Second Battle of El Alamein. Rommel claimed that British air superiority determined the result, being unaware of British Ultra intelligence. Rommel adapted to the increasing Allied dominance in the air by keeping his forces dispersed. With the failure at Alam Halfa failure, the Axis forces in Africa lost the initiative and Axis strategic aims in Africa were no longer possible.

Second Battle of El Alamein major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

The Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.

Background

A lull followed the Axis failure in the First Battle of El Alamein and the counterattacks by the Eighth Army (General Sir Claude Auchinleck) in July 1942. At Alamein, the Axis supply position was precarious because the main supply ports of Benghazi and Tobruk were 800 mi (1,300 km) and 400 mi (640 km) from the front and Tripoli—1,200 mi (1,900 km) away—was almost redundant because of its distance from the front. [3] The original Axis plan for the Battle of Gazala in June had been to capture Tobruk then pause for six weeks on the Egyptian frontier to prepare an invasion of Egypt. The magnitude of the Axis victory at Gazala led Rommel to pursue the Eighth Army to deny the Allies time to organise another defensive front west of Cairo and the Suez Canal. Axis air forces which had been allocated to Operation Mercury an attack on Malta were diverted the improvised pursuit into Egypt. [4]

First Battle of El Alamein battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

The First Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought in Egypt between Axis forces of the Panzer Army Africa and Allied forces of the Eighth Army.

Counterattack tactic employed in response to an attack

A counterattack is a tactic employed in response to an attack, with the term originating in "war games". The general objective is to negate or thwart the advantage gained by the enemy during attack, while the specific objectives typically seek to regain lost ground or destroy the attacking enemy.

General is the highest rank currently achievable by serving officers of the British Army. The rank can also be held by Royal Marines officers in tri-service posts, for example, General Sir Gordon Messenger the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. It ranks above lieutenant-general and, in the Army, is subordinate to the rank of field marshal, which is now only awarded as an honorary rank. The rank of general has a NATO-code of OF-9, and is a four-star rank. It is equivalent to a full admiral in the Royal Navy or an air chief marshal in the Royal Air Force.

The British in Malta were able to rebuild their strength to resume attacks on Axis supply convoys to North Africa. From mid-August there was a big increase in Axis losses at sea, notably from a reinforced Mediterranean submarine force. [5] At the end of August, the Axis forces had been reinforced by troops flown from Crete but were short supplies, notably ammunition and petrol. [6] [7] There was a recovery in the armoured strength of Panzerarmee Afrika in August, German tank strength rising from 133 "runners" to 234 and the number of Italian runners increased from 96 to 281 (of which 234 were medium tanks). [8] Luftwaffe strength increased to 298 aircraft from 210 before the Battle of Gazala and the Italian number rising to 460 aircraft. [8]

<i>Luftwaffe</i> Aerial warfare branch of the German military forces during World War II

The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht military forces during World War II. Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkräfte of the Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.

General Sir Harold Alexander—the new Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Middle East Command—had only a short distance from the supply bases and ports in Egypt to the front line but supplies to Britain, the Commonwealth and the United States still took a long time to arrive. By the summer of 1942, equipment receipts began to increase, notably of new Sherman tanks and six-pounder anti-tank guns to supplement obsolete two-pounders. The British and Commonwealth air forces supported by new American squadrons maintained a considerable degree of air superiority. [7] Sources of military intelligence were integrated and by mid August, British and Commonwealth forces were benefiting from information of tactical value. [9]

Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis British military commander and field marshal; Governor General of Canada

Field Marshal Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis,, was a senior British Army officer who served with distinction in both the First World War and the Second World War and, afterwards, as Governor General of Canada, the 17th since Canadian Confederation.

Commander-in-chief supreme commanding authority of a military

A Commander-in-Chief, sometimes also called Supreme Commander, is the person that exercises supreme command and control over an armed forces or a military branch. As a technical term, it refers to military competencies that reside in a country's executive leadership – a head of state or a head of government.

Middle East Command

Middle East Command, later Middle East Land Forces, was a British Army Command established prior to the Second World War in Egypt. Its primary role was to command British land forces and co-ordinate with the relevant naval and air commands to defend British interests in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region.

German intelligence had warned Rommel of the arrival of a 100,000 long ton s (100,000  t ) Allied convoy bringing new vehicles for the Allies in Egypt; reinforcements for the British would tilt the balance of advantage against the Axis. [10] [11] Rommel demanded from the Italian Comando Supremo in Rome that he would need 6,000 short tons (5,400 t) of fuel and 2,500 short tons (2,300 t) of ammunition before attacking at the end of the month but by 29 August, over 50 percent of the supply ships from Italy had been sunk and only 1,500 short tons (1,400 t) of fuel had arrived at Tobruk. Rommel had to gamble on a quick victory before the increasing power of the Eighth Army made defeat inevitable. After Albert Kesselring had agreed to lend some Luftwaffe fuel, Rommel had enough for 150 mi (240 km) per vehicle with the troops and 250 mi (400 km) for other vehicles. [12]

Prelude

Plan

Italian XX Motorised Corps (XX Corpo d'Armata, General De Stefanis). Italian column moving towards Alam el Halfa.jpg
Italian XX Motorised Corps (XX Corpo d'Armata, General De Stefanis).

At El Alamein an attack would have to pass between the coast and the Qattara Depression, impassable for tanks, about 40 mi (64 km) to the south. The British defences were quite strong but Rommel believed that the southern end, between Munassib and Qaret El Himeimat, was lightly held and not extensively mined. [13] One account indicated the northern and central sectors of the front were so strongly fortified that the southern stretch of 15 mi (24 km)—between the New Zealanders "box" on the Alam Nayil Ridge and the Qattara Depression—was the only part of the front where an attack could quickly succeed. Since surprise in location was impossible, Rommel had to depend on achieving surprise by time and speed. By rapidly breaking through in the south, Axis forces might get astride the supply lines of the Eighth Army, throw the British off balance and disorganise its defences. [14]

Rommel planned a night attack through the minefields and be well beyond before sunrise. In the north, Rommel had the Italian infantry divisions—supported by the Ramcke Parachute Brigade and the German 164th Infantry Division—conduct a frontal demonstration to fix the British defenders, while the main attack in the south turned north. [14] Allied units would be surrounded and destroyed, leaving Egypt and the Suez Canal to be occupied by a promenade. [15] This main attack was to be led by the 15th Panzer Divison and the 21st Panzer Division and the 90th Light Division; the Italian XX Motorised Corps (XX Corpo d'Armata, Generale De Stefanis) comprising the Trento and Bologna Infantry Divisions, the 31st Guastadori Battalion and the German 164th Light Division and elements of the Ramcke Parachute Brigade was to hold the northern sector. [16]

Allied defences

Alam el Halfa battlefield August 1942 Alamein1st1942 07.svg
Alam el Halfa battlefield August 1942

British Ultra decrypts had anticipated an Axis attack and Auchinleck set out the basic defensive plan with several contingencies for defensive works around Alexandria and Cairo in case Axis armour broke through. On 13 August, command of the Eighth Army passed to Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery. After visiting the front, Montgomery ordered that the contingency plans be destroyed and emphasised his intention to hold the ground around Alamein at all costs. [17] In the northern sector, just south of Ruweisat Ridge to the coast, XXX Corps (Lieutenant-General William Ramsden) comprising the 9th Australian Division, the 1st South African Infantry Division and the 5th Indian Infantry Division with the 23rd Armoured Brigade in reserve was deployed behind minefields. [18] [19]

XIII Corps (Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks) held the ground south of Ruweisat Ridge. The 2nd New Zealand Division was deployed on a 5 mi (8.0 km) front south of the ridge in the New Zealand Box, which formed a corner to the main defences with its hinge of the higher ground at Alam Nayil. Since the featureless southern sector was hard to defend against an armoured attack, Montgomery chose to hold lightly the 12 mi (19 km) front from the New Zealand Box to Qaret el Himeimat on the edge of the Qattara Depression, to encourage Rommel to take the bait and attack there. This gap would be mined and wired; the 7th Motor Brigade Group and 4th Light Armoured Brigade (7th Armoured Division) would cover the minefields but withdraw when necessary. [20]

The attackers would meet the main defensive positions when they swung north and approached the Alam El Halfa ridge, behind the Eighth Army front. The bulk of the British medium tanks (in 22nd Armoured Brigade) and anti-tank units were dug in to wait for the Axis attack. Behind the British armour, on the high ground to the north east would be two infantry brigades of the 44th (Home Counties) Division and concentrations of divisional and corps artillery. [21] The 10th Armoured Division had been refitting in the Nile Delta with General Grant tanks with the effective 75 millimetres (2.95 in) main gun and would reinforce the Alam El Halfa position when available. Most of the 8th Armoured Brigade had arrived by 30 August and took post to manoeuvre on the left of 22nd Armoured Brigade and on the flank of the enemy's expected advance. [22] [18] Once Montgomery had seen the Axis dispositions after the initial advance, he released the 23rd Armoured Brigade, in XXX Corps reserve at the eastern end of Ruweisat Ridge, to XIII Corps, attached to the 10th Armoured Division. By 13:00 on 31 August, 100 Valentine tanks had moved to fill the gap between 22nd Armoured Brigade and the New Zealanders. [23]

Battle

The attack

The attack started on the night of 30 August, taking advantage of a full moon. From the start, things went wrong for Rommel; the RAF spotted the Axis vehicle concentrations and unleashed several air attacks on them. Fairey Albacores of the Royal Navy dropped flares to illuminate targets for Vickers Wellington medium bombers and for the artillery; [24] also, the minefields that were thought to be thin turned out to be deep. The British units covering the minefields were the two brigades of the 7th Armoured Division (7th Motor and 4th Armoured), whose orders were to inflict maximum casualties before retiring. This they did, and the Axis losses began to rise. They included General Walther Nehring, the Afrika Korps commander, wounded in an air raid, and General Georg von Bismarck, commander of the 21st Panzer Division, killed by a mine explosion. [25]

Despite these difficulties, Rommel's forces were through the minefields by midday the next day and had wheeled left and were drawn up ready to make the main attack originally scheduled for 06:00. [26] The late running of the planned schedule and the continued harassing flank attacks from the 7th Armoured Division had forced them to turn north into Montgomery's flank further west than originally planned and directly toward the prepared defences on Alam el Halfa. At 13:00, the 15th Panzer Division set off, followed an hour later by 21st Panzer. The Allied units holding the ridge were the British 22nd Armoured Brigade with 92 Grants and 74 light tanks, supported by anti-tank units with six-pounder guns and the artillery of the 44th (Home Counties) Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division. [27]

The Axis forces had approximately 200 gun-armed tanks in the two Panzer divisions and 240 in the two Italian armoured divisions. The Italian tanks were mostly obsolete models, with the exception of the Semovente da 75/18, which could defeat Allied medium tanks using HEAT ammunition, which could penetrate 70 mm of armour at 50 meters. [28] The Germans had 74 up-armoured Panzer IIIs with long-barrelled 50 mm (1.97 in) guns (Pz.Kpfw III Ausf.L) and 27 Panzer IVs with long 75 mm guns (Pz.Kpfw IV Ausf.F2). [29] The British had 700 tanks at the front, of which 160 were Grants. Only 500 of the British tanks were engaged in the armoured battle, which was brief. [30]

As the Panzer divisions approached the ridge, the Panzer IV F2 tanks opened fire at long range and destroyed several British tanks. The British Grants were handicapped by their hull-mounted guns that prevented them from firing from hull-down positions. When the Germans came into range, they were exposed to the fire of the brigade and their tanks were hard hit. An attempt to outflank the British was thwarted by anti-tank gun and with night beginning to fall and fuel running short because of the delays and heavy consumption over the bad 'going', General Gustav von Vaerst, the Afrika Korps commander, ordered the Panzers to pull back. During this engagement, the Germans lost 22 tanks and the British 21. [31]

British fighter brought down by Italian anti-aircraft fire during the battle. Destroyed British plane.jpg
British fighter brought down by Italian anti-aircraft fire during the battle.

There had also been hard infantry fighting. In the central sector, the Italians of the 25th Infantry Division Bologna and German 433rd Infantry Regiment attacked several Indian, South African and New Zealand units on Ruweisat Ridge, and managed to capture Point 211 but were later driven off by a counter-attack. [32] Although the Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939–45 refers to the Italo-German infantry action as simply 'feints', [33] Captain Cyril Falls, a British military historian, wrote that it was a strong counter-attack requiring an equal response. [Note 1]

The night brought no respite for the Axis forces, as the Albacore and Wellington bombers returned to the attack, concentrating on the Axis supply lines. This added to Rommel's logistic difficulties as Allied action had sunk over 50 percent of the 5,000 long tons (5,100 t) of petrol promised to him by Mussolini. [35] Accordingly, on the following day (1 September), the 21st Panzer Division was inactive (probably because of a lack of fuel) and operations were limited to an attack by the 15th Panzer Division toward the eastern flank of the 22nd Armoured Brigade. [23] Their attack started at dawn but was quickly stopped by a flank attack from the Eighth Armoured Brigade. The Germans suffered little, as the British were under orders to spare their tanks for the coming offensive but they could make no headway either and were heavily shelled. [36]

Meanwhile two Italian tank formations, 133rd Armoured Division Littorio and 132nd Armoured Division Ariete had moved up on the left of the Afrika Korps and the 90th Light Division and elements of Italian X Corps had drawn up to face the southern flank of the New Zealand box. [23]

Air raids continued throughout the day and night and on the morning of 2 September, realising his offensive had failed and that staying in the salient would only add to his losses, Rommel decided to withdraw. [37]

Axis withdrawal

RAF Baltimore day bomber Martin A-30A.jpg
RAF Baltimore day bomber

In a message to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), Rommel justified his decision to abandon the offensive by the lack of fuel, Allied air superiority and the loss of surprise. [38] On 2 September, Armoured cars of the 4/8th Hussars (4th Armoured Brigade) attacked 300 Axis supply lorries near Himeimat, destroying 57 and Italian armoured units had to be moved to protect the supply lines. In the air the Desert Air Force (DAF) flew 167 bomber and 501 fighter sorties. [37] Montgomery realised the Afrika Korps was about to withdraw and planned attacks by the 7th Armoured Division and the 2nd New Zealand Division (Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg) under the proviso that they would avoid excessive losses. The 7th Armoured Division managed harassment raids but the New Zealand Division attacked with the experienced 5th New Zealand Brigade, the new 132nd Infantry Brigade (Brigadier C. B. Robertson) of the 44th (Home Counties) Division under command and tank support from the 46th Royal Tank regiment (46th RTR, 23rd Army Tank Brigade). [39]

A British Valentine tank in North Africa. Valentine tank Mk3 desert.jpg
A British Valentine tank in North Africa.

Operation Beresford began at 22:30 on 3 September. The 5th New Zealand Brigade on the left inflicted many casualties on the Italian defenders and defeated Axis counter-attacks the next morning. [40] The Axis defenders were alerted by diversionary raids by the 6th New Zealand Brigade (Brigadier George Clifton) on the right flank of the 132nd Infantry Brigade which was an hour late arriving on their start line. The attack was a costly failure; the Valentine tanks of the 46th RTR got lost in the dark and ran onto a minefield where twelve were knocked out. The 90th Light Division inflicted 697 casualties on the 132nd Infantry Brigade and 275 casualties on the New Zealanders. [41] Robertson was wounded and Clifton was captured by a patrol of the X Battalion of the Italian Folgore Division. [42]

The vigorous Axis defence suggested to Freyberg that another attack was unlikely to succeed and advised that the troops should be withdrawn from their very exposed positions and the operation called off. Montgomery and Horrocks agreed and the troops were withdrawn on the night of 4 September. [42] Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein wrote later,

An attack by our Luftwaffe against the 10th Indian Div [sic], which was in the assembly area for a counter attack against the centre of the front, caused the units which were assembled there to scatter to the winds. Also, all other attacks launched by other units against our flanks, especially the New Zealanders, were too weak to be able to effect a penetration—they could be repulsed. A night attack conducted against the X Italian Corps resulted in especially high losses for the British. Countless enemy dead lay on the battlefield and 200 prisoners were taken among whom was Gen (sic) Clifton, commanding general of the 6th New Zealand Brigade.

Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein [22]

The position north of the New Zealand Division was held by 5th Indian Infantry Division, relieved by the 4th Indian Infantry Division on 9 September. After this failure against the Folgore Division, the Afrika Korps retired unhindered, except for attacks by the DAF, which flew 957 sorties in 24 hours. [43] B y5 September, the Axis units were back almost on their starting positions and the battle was over.[ citation needed ]

Aftermath

A British soldier inspects the grave of a German tank crewman, killed when his PzKpfw III tank was knocked out in the battle, 29 September 1942. A British soldier inspects the grave of a German tank crewman, killed when his PzKpfw III tank was knocked out in the Western Desert, 29 September 1942. E17549.jpg
A British soldier inspects the grave of a German tank crewman, killed when his PzKpfw III tank was knocked out in the battle, 29 September 1942.

During the Battle of Alam el Halfa, the Allies suffered 1,750 casualties, compared to 2,930 for the Axis. The Allies lost more tanks than the Axis but for the first time in this campaign there was no great disproportion in tank losses. Constant harassment by the RAF cost the Panzerarmee Afrika many transport vehicles. [1] The battle was the last big offensive undertaken by the Axis in North Africa and the superior firepower of the Allies and their mastery of the skies brought them victory. [1] There has been criticism of Montgomery's leadership during the battle, especially his choice to avoid losses, which prevented the British tank formations from trying to finish off the Afrika Korps when it was strung out between the minefields and Alam Halfa. [44] Friedrich von Mellenthin in Panzer Battles painted a dramatic picture of Panzer divisions, paralysed by lack of fuel, under constant bombardment and awaiting a British onslaught. [45]

Montgomery pointed out that the Eighth Army was in a process of reformation with the arrival of new, untrained units and was not ready to take the offensive. Nor was his army yet prepared for a 1,600 mi (2,600 km) pursuit were they to break through, which had caused both sides to fail to end the desert campaign, after gaining tactical success. Montgomery did not want his tanks being wasted on futile attacks against Rommel's anti-tank screen, something that they had frequently done in the past, handing the initiative to the Axis forces. Rommel complained to Kesselring, "The swine isn't attacking!". [46] Montgomery's refusal kept his forces intact and the Eighth Army accumulated supplies for the offensive in October that came to be known as the Second Battle of El Alamein. [47]

See also

Footnotes

Footnotes
  1. "In the centre of the British front a good Italian division, the Bologna, delivered a strong attack on the Ruweisat Ridge, and a considerable counter-attack was required to expel it from the footing it gained." [34]
Citations
  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Watson (2007), p. 14
  2. Buffetaut pp. 90–91
  3. Playfair, 2004, p. 379
  4. Hinsley, pp. 418–419
  5. Hinsley, pp. 418–419
  6. Playfair, 2004, pp. 338, 379
  7. 1 2 Playfair, 2004, p. 392
  8. 1 2 Hinsley, p. 412
  9. Hinsley, pp. 410–411
  10. Carver p. 48
  11. Fraser p. 351
  12. Playfair, 2004, p. 382
  13. Watson p. 12
  14. 1 2 Fraser pp. 355–357
  15. Carver p. 49
  16. Stumpf 2001, p. 755.
  17. Watson p. 10
  18. 1 2 Playfair, 2004, p. 384
  19. Fraser p. 354
  20. Fraser pp. 354–355
  21. Walker 1967 p. 45
  22. 1 2 Roberts and Bayerlein Archived 2007-10-21 at the Wayback Machine
  23. 1 2 3 Playfair, 2004, p. 387
  24. Watson p. 13
  25. Lewin p. 157
  26. Playfair, 2004, p. 386
  27. Carver p. 58
  28. Cappellano, p. 35
  29. Jentz. Panzertruppen 1
  30. Liddell Hart 1970 p.
  31. Carver p. 62
  32. German Attack at El Alamein: August 31 – September 5, 1942" from Tactical and Technical Trends
  33. Murphy, W.E., p. 358
  34. Falls 1948, p. 262
  35. Lightbody, p. 142
  36. Fraser p. 359
  37. 1 2 Carver p. 67
  38. Playfair, 2004, p. 388
  39. Barr, pp. 245–246
  40. Barr, pp. 245–246
  41. Carver p. 70; Playfair, 2004, p. 389
  42. 1 2 Playfair, 2004, p. 389
  43. Buffetaut p. 90
  44. Carver p. 181
  45. Mellenthin 1956, p. 103.
  46. Walker, 1967, p. 180
  47. Fraser p. 360

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Battle of the Mareth Line

The Battle of the Mareth Line or the Battle of Mareth was an attack in the Second World War by the British Eighth Army in Tunisia, against the Mareth Line held by the Italo-German 1st Army. It was the first big operation by the Eighth Army since the Second Battle of El Alamein ​4 12 months previously. On 19 March 1943, Operation Pugilist, the first British attack, established a bridgehead but a break-out attempt was defeated by Axis counter-attacks. Pugilist established an alternative route of attack and Operation Supercharge II, an outflanking manoeuvre via the Tebaga Gap was planned. Montgomery reinforced the flanking attack, which from 26 to 31 March, forced the 1st Army to retreat to Wadi Akarit, another 40 mi (64 km) back in Tunisia.

Battle of Medenine World War II battle

The Battle of Medenine, also known as Operation Capri(Unternehmen Capri), was an Axis spoiling attack at Medenine in Tunisia on 6 March 1943. The operation was intended to delay an attack by the British Eighth Army on the Mareth Line. The British had been forewarned by Ultra decrypts of German wireless communications and rushed reinforcements from Tripoli and Benghazi before the Axis attack, which was a costly failure. General Erwin Rommel, the commander of Army Group Africa (Heeresgruppe Afrika), could not afford to lose forces needed for the defence of the Mareth Line and the effort was abandoned at dusk that day.

Brigadier John Cecil Currie was a British Army officer who fought in both World War I and World War II.

Battle of El Agheila

The Battle of El Agheila was a brief engagement of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. It took place in December 1942 between Allied forces of the Eighth Army and the Axis forces of the German-Italian Panzer Army, during the long Axis withdrawal from El Alamein to Tunis. It ended with the German-Italian Panzer Army resuming its retreat towards Tunisia, where the Tunisia Campaign had begun with Operation Torch (8–16 November 1942).

Battle of Mersa Matruh

The Battle of Mersa Matruh was fought from 26 to 29 June 1942, following the defeat of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Gazala and was part of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The combatants on the Axis side were the Panzerarmee Afrika, consisting of German and Italian units. The Allied forces of the Eighth Army comprised X Corps and XIII Corps. The battle developed as the Afrika Korps pursued the Eighth Army as it retreated into Egypt. Rommel intended to engage and destroy the Allied infantry formations in detail, before the British had a chance to regroup. The Axis cut off the line of retreat of X Corps and XIII Corps but his forces were too weak to stop them from breaking out. The fortress port of Mersa Matruh and 6,000 prisoners fell into his hands, along with a great deal of supplies and equipment but the Eighth Army survived.

133rd Armoured Division Littorio

133rd Armoured Division Littorio or 133° Divisione Corazzata Littorio (Italian) was an armoured division of the Italian Army during World War II. The division was formed in 1939 from the Infantry Division Littorio that had taken part in the Spanish Civil War. It was a reserve unit during the invasion of France when it attacked through the Little St Bernard Pass, which was halted by the French defenders. It then took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia, fighting at Mostar and Trebinje. It was sent to North Africa in the spring of 1942 where it fought until it was destroyed at the Second battle of El Alamein in November 1942.

Battle of Wadi Akarit

The Battle of Wadi Akarit was an Allied attack from 6–7 April 1943, to dislodge Axis forces from positions along the Wadi Akarit in Tunisia during the Tunisia Campaign of the Second World War. The Gabès Gap, north of the towns of Gabès and El Hamma, is a passage between the sea and impassable salt marshes. The 51st (Highland) Infantry Division breached the defences and held a bridgehead, allowing the passage of their main force to roll up the Axis defences. After several determined counter-attacks, the Axis forces withdrew and the Eighth Army, under General Bernard Montgomery, pursued toward Tunis, until reaching Axis defensive positions at Enfidaville.

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