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African Campaign

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THEME The def of Tobruk proved that even in a terrain as the desert a skilful comd could hold his en in defensive operations. Wavell had applied the concept of offensive def to meet the German onslaught. On the other hand Rommel has been criticised for his reckless push, little car-ing for the requisite log sp which becomes even more crucial in the inhospitable desert terrain. Carry out an analysis of the battle of Tobruk bringing out the strs and weaknesses of Wavell's concept of def and causes of Rommel's failure.

To analyse the Battle of Tobruk (April - may 1941) highlighting the strs and weaknesses of Wavell's concept of def and reasons for Rommel’s failure.

a. Background
b. Imp of Tobruk
c. Opposing forces
d. Wavell's concept of def
e. Strs and weaknesses of Wavell's concept.
f. Cause of Rommel's failure.

1. Between the summer of 1941 and that of 1942 the field of battle in the Libyan desert shifted to and fro with almost the regularity of a pendulum, or so it seemed. The extremes of the swing were from Mersa Brega in the west and Buq Buq to the east, except for the small stretch of Egyptian territory east of Sollum, the area between these two places covered the whole of Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya.
2. Although Tobruk itself, seventy miles west of the Egyptian frontier, is well to the east of the centre of this area, it remained the fulcrum about which the pendulum swung for clear reasons of geography. The first arose from the existence of the Gebel Akhdar, the area between Benghazi and the Gulf of Bomba. Any army that tried to hold its opponents here was liable to be cut of by an outflanking mov across the desert from the south. The irony of it was that the area, known as "The Bulge", was in fact one of the main objs of both sides. Its significance to the British was that, unless the airfds which it contained could be used, no aerial escort or protection could be given to ships trying to make the journey between Malta and Alexandria. Secondly, if "The Bulge" remained in Axis hands for long, as Crete, bounding the sea way to the north, already was, not only might Malta itself be brought to its knees, but even if that was not achieved, action by naval and air forces again the Axis lines of comm by sea and air across the Mediterranean would eventually be reduced to complete ineffectiveness.
3. From the time that the German, alarmed at the prospect of the collapse of Italian hold on the North African coast, intervened to help their allies at the very end of 1940, untill the Battle of EI Alamein determined the course of the north African campaign for good and all, the British government was concerned that con of this "Bulge" should never be lost for long. This clashed with the desire of successive comds - in - chief in Cairo that the task should not be attempted until they had available a force sufficient, not only to capture "The Bulge" but to retain it thereafter by securing the key to the western door at Metrsa Brega. This conflict of presure provided the backdrop to the drama that was to be enacted on the Cyrenaican stage.

Imp of Tobruk
4. Tobruk held a key possession in the struggle for possession of "The Bulge". As the only sheltered harbour, capable of taking any thing larger than a Caique, between Benghazi and Alexandria, it had great log value. Not that by any stretch of imagination could this village with its tiny quay be regarded as a port. Nevertheless quite sizable ships could shelter there and could be unloaded by lighter, while smaller ones could come alongside. Six hundred tons a day was about the limit of its capacity, although for short periods this was exceeded.
5. Rommel needed Tobruk for two good reasons. This grubby port was still the best harbour in Cyrenaica - in fact, in all North Africa. And it blocked out a twenty two mile stretch of the coastal highway, forcing his sup convoys mov fwd to the Egyptain frontier on to fifty mile inland detour along a desert trial of indescribable condition. With Tobruk in en hands even Rommel dared not resume his offensive toward Egypt and the Nile valley, because the Tobruk gar could lance down across his sup lines at any time.
Opposing Forces a. Allied. Gen Wavell (C-in-C) (1) Tobruk Forces (Gen Morshad (a) 9th australian Div (8 Inf Bns) (b) 1xMed MG Bn (c) 1xKing;s Dragoon Gd (Recce Regt) (d) 4xbritish Arty Regts (2) Outside the Perimeter (Brig Goth Sp Gp

Wavell's Concept of Def
6. When in April 1941 Gen Rommel opened his first campaign and drove his en back to the Egyptian frontier, Gen Archibald Wavell wisely held fast to Tobruk and so deprived his en of the only good sea port east of Benghazi. Though its, retention diminished Wavell's striking force in Egypt by two division, it put a stop to a further easterly adv of his adversary. It lengthened the en land comms and compelled him to invest Tobruk. Wavell decided to hold Tobruk in order to prevent the thousands of tons of sup accumulated there to falling into the en's hands, and also to deprive the en of the use of the port. It was a bold and wise decision, and because he could no longer attk, the next best thing was to strike at his en's mob by denying him a fwd base.
7. Wavell was fully aware of the imp of hanging into Tobruk and also of the need of maint an aggresive spirit in the conduct of the def battle. Gen wavell's concept had been to use the gar force to estb a strong hold at Tobruk and harass the en in the desert with mob force. The def org by Waell was executed by Major Gen Morshad who was the overall comd of the forces depl in Tobruk and many distinct mil features. There was hard flat desert floor slopping down to the coast in a series of steps with the gr deeply indented by ravines (deep narrow gorges). The tow and its thirty mile long perimeter were manned by British tks, arty and inf of the 9th Australian Div. The def formed a rough semi-circle eight to nine miles from the town and harbour, giving a perimeter of about thirty miles. It consisted of a double ring of concrete A tk and MG posts behind a barbed wire fence, all well concealed and with excellent FOF. An A tk ditch, though not everywhere complete, ran along the length of the front. Nearer the town, especially around the junc of Bardia and Al Adem rds and for some dist towards the forts Palistrino and Solario were other localities forming the inner def.

8. Phase-I

a. After the wdr of Allied forces from Cyrenaica as a result of Rommel’s adv, the British tps fell into Tobruk and manned it with 9th Div.

b. On 10th Apr Tobruk was contacted by Rommel’s forces and on the next day it was surrounded.

c. On 12 Apr 5 Panzer Regt attk Tobruk around El Adem but the attk was bluntly repulsed and German lost 7 tks while Allied lost 2.

d. German acs attk harbour but AA hy shot down 3 stukas.

e. On ni of 13 Apr German again attk east of El Adem and succeeded in estb a Br H of several hundred yds. At 0545 hrs on 14 Apr German 38 tks wanted to break out but were trapped and isolated from inf. In front were the 25 pr guns and A tk guns of an Australian Regt, towards lt and rt were mob A tk guns of 3rd Hussars Royal Arty and the tks in hull down posns.

f. The German suffered hy cas and were forced to wdr. Inf tried to join the tks but till 14 Apr no Inf and guns were able to join the tks. No further attempt to attk from south was made. Later Rommel ordered Italian to attk and it was also repulsed.

9. Phase II

a. Plan. In Apr 1941 attk with 15 Panzer Div on the lt and 5 lt Div on rt around hill 209 to estb initial foot hold, and then both the Divs to adv deep into en defs one on main axis and the other on sec axis in order to contact harbour.

b. Conduct

1) On ni 30 Apr attk unleashed with hy shelling and air raids around hill 209. German succeeded in estb Br H of 1 x 1 ½ miles. On 1st May German armr adv fwd using fire and mov tech. Near Acroma they met fire of 24 Aus attk coy. These tks kept mov fwd till they contacted mine fd between Red and Blue line. German lost 17 tks and were forced to wdr. Allied launched C attk to evict the en from hill 209 but failed. The battle cont till 3rd May but German retained hold of Br H and sec phase of battle ended. Germans were holding Br H of 3 miles frontage and two miles depth.

2) After phase-II, the Allied had to emp more tps to contain the Br H of Germans. At the same time Allied showed activities for capture of hill 209, they carried out intensified patrolling, raids and ambushes and thus inflicted hy cas on Germans. Rommel was forced to pull tps from Sollum area to meet the threat in the salient.
10. The army of Tobruk was solely main by the British navy and the merchant fleet. An attempt was made in landing Hurricanes at Tobruk airfd but these were shifted at once by the Germans and were shot down within a few mins of landing. No flare could be lit to bring in the ac at ni.
Relief of 9th Australian Div
11. As the siege of Tobruk prolonged, Gen Wavell successfully replaced the tried and worn out tps with fresh ones. Whole of the Ninth Australian Div was taken off Tobruk and replaced by two English bdes and bde of fighting Poles. The cas in the change over were almost nil. The Australians left their trucks and guns behind and the new tps were simply mov into the perimeter and took up the struggle. Though this mnvr lacked the excitement of the battle but still it had the imp of a victory.

Strs and Weaknesses of Wavell's Concept
12. Strs a. Flexibility in emp and depl of his forces. b. Max utilisation of existing and aval resources. c. Tobruk forced Rommel to split his forces to secure his lines of comm and put a stop to his further easterly adv. d. Britain Naval forces dominated the Mediterranean, and this advantage was exploited to its maximum by Wavell e. Induction of fresh troops to the gar of Tobruk added life to its def. f. The frequent ltd attks from Tobruk were a constant pick to the already bleeding German army.
13. Weaknesses a. Wavell was initially successful in forcing Rommel for committing a sizeable force against Tobruk, but later due to predictable British tac, Rommel was able to secure his line of comm with just 3000 tps. b. Maint of Tobruk army was costly in shipping and was a constant drain on naval resources. c. It diminished Wavell's striking force in Egypt by two div.
Causes of Rommel's Failure
14. The main causes of Rommel's failure in capturing Tobruk were:- a. Wrong Assessment Rommel was not expecting such a stiff resistance at Tobruk, therefore, did not emp sufficient resources for its capture initially. At first it did not dawn on Rommel that en intended to fight here to death. Until far into April 1941 he eagerly believed that the British were pulling out, and they had only escaped from Cyrenaica into this port to stage a second Dunkirk style evac. Rommel wasted many lives and much ammo before he realised his mistake. b. Unnecessary Delavs. Rommel had raced southward past Tobruk and reached Sollum, the fisrt town on Egyptian soil. But in the desert , as in the sea, dist count for little. What matters most in the desert is the destruction of the en's ironmongery - their tks and guns. Without them, in the desert, any en cannot fight. Rommel not only failed in the total destruction of British forces during his Cyrenaican offensive but also failed to reach Tobruk before the withdrawing British forces. As Rommel,s ops officer Major Ehlers had suggested in the corps diary that "if Rommel had not gone gallivanting across the desert to Mechili on 5 April, it might have been possible to reach Tobruk before the en. These forces were not only able to reinforce the gar but were also able to org a planned resistance against German onslaught . c Piecemeal Attks. Rommel violated the principle of conc of forces and emp his forces piecemeal during the siege of Tobruk. As Gen Paulus (Deputy Chief of Gen Staff) commented privately to Maj Gen Streich (Rommel’s Panzer Comd) “Can you give me one instance in history where a pen of en lines that was begun in the evening was ever successfully exploited on the fol morning ". As Streich had pointed out, the evening mov on 13th April by Col Ponath's 8th MG bn gave the en all the adv wng they needed to be on gd when the main push began. d. Unprepared Attks. Although Rommel would not admit his own fault and cont to put down the defeat down to this subordinate comds and other reasons, it was he himself who did not pay any head to the gr realities and valuable suggestions offered by his comds. There was a crises of confidence and they blamed him for burning good men rather than preparing the aslt properly. e. Inadequate Info. Germans did not know anything about the defs of Tobruk. Until late in April 1941 they never knew that Italians had built 128 inter connected strong pts all along the thirty mile long perimeter. Like the ditch guarding each str pt, the gangways were all covered in with wood and thin layer of sand to conceal them. They housed anti tk gun and machine gun posns and were all finished off flush to gd lvl to make them invisible to attackers until they were right on top f them. They were hy barbed wire entanglements around them. Little wonder that Rommel's attempts to rush to Tobruk had been repulsed so bloodily. f. Incomplete Siege. History shows that those sieges are usually repelled which are attempted on cities that can be reached with sup from the sea. Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Candia in Crete are two shining instance from former centuries. Because of ocean borne sp at Londoderry the army of James II failed in 1689, while the Truks required twenty four years (1645-1669) to subdue the capital of Crete. The same happened during the siege f Tobruk also. Rommel due to his weaknesses at sea was not able to stop the supplies of the gar and thus could not bring it down. g. Lack of Trg. The attk on the western perimeter of Tobruk at the end of April had revealed a lack of expertise in plain inf fighting among German tps. As Rommel commented himself "The high casualties suffered by my aslt forces were primarily caused by their lack of trg. It frequently happened that dash was used where caution was really needed and when boldness was required, the men were over cautious. The main problem for the German tps, specially the panzer crews, was that it had suddenly become an entirely different sort of war for them, for which they were not properly trained. h. Land Air Coop. Another problem with which Rommel had to grapple was his lack of authority over the Laftwaffe in Africa. Although Frohlich (Lauftwaffe comd) was amenable to suggestions, it was his choice whether his aircraft acted in close tactical sp of Rommel’s troops or in more wide ranging tasks of en harassment, and his choice did not always coincide with Rommel’s. j. Logs. Above all there was always the basic problem of supplies. As Gen Paulus had rubbed it in, "the fact was that Rommel's brilliant but undisciplined adv on Tobruk had failed to bring decisive victory but had added another 700 miles to his already extended lines of sup". For bare survival, the Afrika Korps at that time needed 24,000 tons of supplies each month. To stockpile for future offensive, it needed another 20,000 tons each month. But the German representatives in Rome could not find any way of providing Rommel with more than about 20,000 tons a month, even less than bare survival. Thus due to his rapid adv to Tobruk and relatively slower log build-up, Rommel was not able to assault the gar with his full str initially. But later, once the required log built-up was completed, the British forces had succeeded in organising an impregnable def of Tobruk.
15. Reasons of Allied Success a. Motivation/Morale. Inspite defeat of British tps in Greece and Crete the tps in the gar were highly motivated and well led and thus inspite of all the hardship fought fanatically and beat back all the German attks. b. Aggressive Def.. The Def of Tobruk was based on one of the principles of war i.e. Aggressiveness. The Garrison tps were very much hostile to the en and throughout their siege kept on threatening the German flank and refrained them from entering into Egypt. Intensive minor Ops were carried out and hy cas were inflicted to the German forces. c. Wel Coord Def. The Def of Tobruk was well coord and well knitted with the mine fds, wire obs & A tk ditch system thus effectively canalised the en attks. The mine fd in the depth also played a vital role in beating back en attks. On 30 Apr German attk with 21st and 5 Lt Div and after capturing hill 209 adv into the allied def but their adv was effectively checked by mine fds in the depth, effective fire con and coord fire of tks and A tk guns. d. Log Sp Through Sea.

e. Fixation. The Allied forces by their aggressiveness and deceptive measures fixed max of the Axis forces and forced them to increase the tps for their protection. They also staged deception by sending fake wireless msgs for attk and by showing conc of tps for breakout by moving fwd tks, trucks etc and then wdr quietly during ni hrs.
16. The def of Tobruk proved that even in a terrain as the desert, a skilful comd could hold his en in defensive operations, but the offensive spirit in def is essential for its success. Tactically the most interesting feature in this brief campaign was the problem of petrol sup in mechanised operations, and the imp of keeping that sup mobile and protected against air attks. Dumping though useful when conditions are static, if relied upon in a war of rapid movements, subordinates tactics to logs, and thereby deprives comds of liberty of action. Therefore, any offensive without sufficient log backup is likely to fail even when executed by some body as competent as Rommel.


MAR - NOV 1941


“ Advance upon Halfaya and destroy the en there” German Battle Orders, 17 Jun 1941

Events Ldg to OP BATTLEAXE

13. The British launched op BREVITY in the early hrs of 15 May 1941. It was a brief effort and was a total failure. The British were unable to ease the sit at Tobruk which the Germans were trying to invest. One British armd and one inf bde thrust up and along the escarpment above Sollum into the Capuzzo-Sidi Azeiz areas and after some initial success they were decisively repelled when Rommel sent a bn of tks i.e. 8 Panzer Regt. The British could only acquire con of Halfaya Pass. This was indeed invaluable, for Halfaya and Sollum were the only two pts where it was possible to ascend from the coastal strip and its low-lying eastern hinterland on to the great plateau of Cyrenaica. Even this key posn was surrendered on 26 May and the British were pushed back.
14. Meanwhile on 20 Apr 1941, Churchill, alerted by cfm from Wavell of the arrival at Tripoli of 15 Panzer Div, had instantly rushed through the Mediterranean the “Tiger Convoy”. On 10 May Tiger Convoy del at Alexandria, 234 tks and 43 Hurricane fighters. ULTRA also caught and de-coded the pessimistic recommendations by a German higher ranking official to Berlin. These were immediately comm to Churchill who at once realised that the Afrika Korps was in trouble. To repair British prestige in the Mediterranean, to get into action his Tiger cubs (as he called the new armd rft) and to hit Rommel quickly while his str seemed low, the Prime Minister pressed Wavell, urgently and insistently, against his C-in-C’s better judgment to launch a major offensive in the desert.

Opposing Forces

15. British a. 7 Armd Div. b. 4 Indian Div. 1) 11 Indian Bde. 2) 22 Guard Bde. c. 4 Armd Bde.

16. Germans

a. 5 Lt Div. b. 15 Panzer Div. c. Afrika Div (90 Lt Div).

Maj Wpns

17. British a. Tks (1) Cruiser -190 (2) Matilda Mk-II 200 b. Arty 1) 25 Pdr. 2) 130 mm gun. 18. Germans a. Tks (1) 5th Lt Div - 96 (Panzer Mk-III & IV) (2) 15 Panzer -100 (Panzer Mk-III & IV) b. 88 mm Flak (anti aircraft) gun. c. 37 and 50 mm A tk guns.

British Plan

19. The offensive, which Wavell pessimistically launched in Jun, was code named BATTLEAXE. British tac was marred by the discrepancy in speed between Crusader and Matilda tks, which prevented the effective use of all the armr en masse. BATTLEAXE was launched off balance as Montgomery said by a force neither sufficiently trained nor properly integrated. Everything was done in a rush. The British plan was to make a three pronged attk on the German front line. Pen the main def, while at the same time break out from Tobruk and attk the German rear, thereby forcing the Germans to wdr, and relieve Tobruk.

German Plan

20. The offensive was anticipated by Rommel. Afrika Korps had con of all the higher gr from the sea and to the south to Sidi Omar. This was actively dev as a def line, through which the British would have to pass if, they sought to relieve Tobruk. The emplacement of 88-mm AA guns in anti-tk role both str the line and guaranteed surprise. Careful attn was devoted to each indl post. However what Rommel could not achieve was a stock of sups. The chronic shortage of tpt meant that most locs only had enough sups for a few days only.
21. By 6 Jun, Rommel and his staff had aprc that Wavell was about to attk. 15 Panzer Div, under Maj Gen Neumann Silkow was moved fwd and made resp for the frontier def while 5 Light Div, under Maj Gen Von Ravenstein, lay back in mob res around EI Adem. The Div was therefore capable of assisting in the main battle or dealing with an attempt from Tobruk against the German rear. Through the intercept svc Rommel was able to decide on 14 Jun that the assault would start next day. All units were accordingly alerted.


1. The Allies launched the attk on 15 Jun. On the rt the 11 Indep Bde alongwith some elm of 4 Armd Bde mov towards Halfya Pass along the costal rd, where as in the centre, 22 Gds Bde with 4 Armd Bde mov towards Capuzzo fort. Some elms of 4 Armd Bde were also det for Halfaya Pass, which created serious imbal for armr ops. 2. All the attks on Halfaya Pass failed due to eff emp of 88 mm guns, however Capuzzo and Pt 206 were captured after hy armr and inf losses.
3. On 15 Jun, the adv of 7 Armd Bde towards Hafid Ridge was stopped at Pt-208– again due to eff fire of 88 mm AA guns, which was being used in A tk role. 7 Armd Div, which was providing flank protection on the extreme left, was successful in fulfilling this task but its endeavour to go in the rear of Hafid Ridge failed because of fierce fire of 88 mm guns.
4. In the afternoon the 15 Pz Div mov towards Capuzzo and expelled British conc in the fort. But in turn ctr offensive by British succeeded in regaining the maj portion of the fort.
5. On 16 Jun, 15 Pz Div renewed its attk on Capuzzo and they succeeded in throwing back the Britishers.
6. On 16 Jun 5th Lt Div reached Hafid Ridge and attk the flanks of 7 Armd Div and compelled them to wdr towards south of Hafid Ridge. Thereafter, by the evening it reached Sidi Omar in order to encircle the Britishers.
7. On 17 Jun 5th Lt Div mov towards Sidi Suleiman in order to link up with 15 Pz Div coming from Capuzzo to complete the encirclement of British in the pocket.
8. On 17 Jun 2nd Gd Bde and 4th Armd Bde decided on their own initiative to evac Capuzzo to avoid encirclement.
9. Losses. British lost 99 tks out of which 64 were Matildas where as German losses totalled only 12 Pz.

Results of the Battle

25. The results of the Sollum battle as op BATTLEAXE is also known cfm the suspicion which most Germans had in their minds, namely that they were no longer just not then the British would grow in strength and their offensive ops would become more numerous and hy. By Sep ptl activities gave no indication of a British build up for an offensive and secure in this knowledge Rommel inc the tempo of his prep to reduce Tobruk.

Causes of Failure

26. Forced Decision. The decision to launch Op BATTLEAXE was imposed by the British Prime Minsiter against the will of Wavell. On 10 May, Tiger Convoy del at Alexandria 234 tks and 43 Hurricans fighters. ULTRA also caught and decoded a pessimistic German transmission. It was immediately comm to Churchill. Who at once realized that the Afrika korps was in trouble. To repair British prestige, to get in to action his tiger cubs and to hit Rommel quickly while his str seemed low, the prime minister pressed Wavell, urgently and insistently, against the C-in-C better judgment to launch a maj offensive in the desert. Wavell launched the op with deep misgivings having signaled to London “I think it rt to info you that the measure of success which will attend this op is in my opinion doubtful”.
27. Comd and Con a. British. The fluid battle sits demand immediate solutions and comd and staff to be well fwd to con and dir op. The British Comd positioned himself so far back that he was unable to con and dir the op from that posn. At times decisions received, after confs, were too late. b. German. The presence of Gens, even at times of Rommel, on the B fd improved the morale of the tps. It helped dev espirit de corps. At times Rommel or senior Comds would take over the con of the regt and produce desired results.
28. Trg a. British. British did not get the opportunity to train the tps with new eqpt. On May 10, 1941, rft of 82 Cruiser tks, 135 Inf tks and 21 lt tks was received through sea. The British did not plan to train their tps on this newly received eqpt. They also did not plan for tac trg of their tps. Instead of giving imp to trg, they launched the op in great haste to exploit the German weaknesses. b. German. In the coastal region between Tobruk and frontier, both German Panzer Divs were put under intensive ex’s to perfect the coord of armr, A tk and conventional arty in mob ops. They streamlined their drills and procedures for desert fighting.
29. Armr a. Lack of Compatible Mob. The British Armr Bdes were equipped with Cruiser and Matilda MK-II inf tks. The two armd bdes were quite unsuited to sp each other, one fast with good range and other slow and restd to 40 miles radius of action. The pace and performance of Matilda inf tks held them loc apart from the swift Cruisers. But in Afrika Korps all mks of Panzer bred from one family were able to function together in relative harmony. This put the British to great disadvantage by preventing them from reacting quickly to Rommel’s fast moving armr. b. Quality of Tks. British used large no of Malilda tks, which were heavily protected against German, A tk wpns. However the gun which they carried was far too small and its range too short. They were sup with solid armr piercing rds and had no HE ammo to engage the opposing inf. Its quality was not equal to German 50 mm mounted in Panzer KW-III or the 75 mm in the Panzer KW-IV tks.
30. Non Aval of Air Sp. The British forces did not have adequate air sp for the op. Resultantly the land forces were at the mercy of Luftwaffe.
31. Shifting of Forces. When German attk was launched from north of Sidi Omer, Wavell was prevented by the slowness of his inf tks from shifting his main wt from Capuzzu to the pt of axis attk. There was nothing lt for him but a quick retreat, which he executed with the min of cas to the British forces.
33. Novel use of AA Guns. Africa Korps eff emp the 88 mm AA guns in A tk role. Rommel had emplaced his 88 mm AA guns in six dozen dug in strong pts which ran in a Curve from Halfaya pass south to the Hafid Ridge, six miles south west of Capuzzu. Their presence was a shattering surprise for the British. The British Comds seeing their tks so unexpectedly dml failed to aprc that the inst was the 88 mm AA Gun and not the guns of German armr.
34. German Tk Tac. The gen assumption of the 1930’s was that the prime purpose of tks was to destroy tks and then, having punched a hole, to pen and over run the rear areas of the en. Gradually but steadily the Africa Korps reversed this principle, estb the anti tk gun line as the killer on to which the en armr was drawn. The Panzers were thus freed to deal in relative safety with the British inf, fd arty and adm ech. The British failed to understand the emp of German armd fmns.
35. Surprise. The Afrika Korps demo a high degree of surprise. Germans planned to hold fire of Atk wpns until it seemed likely to be successful. Even if the 88-mm AA gun successfully opened fire, Pak 37 and 50 mm would remain silent in order to escape the attn of en tks. They would wait until the heaviest British tks were only a few hundred meters away before opening fire with the Pz gr 40.
36. Poor Planning. British although had superiority in armr with 400 tks but due to lack of thorough planning they had to face defeat. They emp their armr units in piece meal without proper sp. The fmns were re-org, thus breaking the cohesion and dynamism. Armd bde gps were formed from armd bde in armd div. Arty and engrs units were placed under comd. A tk guns were given to the fd arty regt. AA btys were disbanded and altd to each bde gp.
37. Conc of Effort. Rommel’s doctrine was that all arms – Inf, Arty and tks – should fight as a fully integrated force. Thereby be able to bring down max conc of effort on any chosen tgt within a shortest possible time. The tgt was merely the British armr whose destruction became the key to tac success for Germans.
38. Quick Decision. It is often possible to decide the issue of battle merely by making an unexpected shift of one’s main wt. Rommel was quick in decision and ordered 15 Panzer Div which made little progress at Capuzzo to disengage all its mob forces as quickly as possible and leaving only the essential min to hold the posn north of Capuzzo and to go fwd on the northern flank of Victorious 5 Lt Div.
39. Comd’s Knowledge. The British comd was so inexperienced in armr warfare that he did not understand its nomenclature. Brig Gathhouse, Comd 4 Armd Bde had arguments with Beresford – Peirse regarding the meaning of a “fwd rally” for tks. It is of course a place behind an obj, which tks and inf have seized together, to which tks rally once inf are firmly dug in with their A tk wpns and sp wpns. But Beresford – Peirse took it to be an area in front of the Captured posns. By insisting that tks rallied there, exposed them unnecessarily to en A tk fire and suffered useless losses.
40. Failure to Capture Halfaya Pass. The crucial posn in this op was Halfaya pass, which was held by the Germans and Italians through the heaviest fighting. Moreover, eff use of arty by the Italians also favoured them in preventing British to capture this pass. Had the British been able to capture this pass, as they had planned, the sit would have been different.
41. Hy Tk Losses. Wavell hoped that the attk would succeed in driving the en back west of Tobruk but by nightfall on the first day, almost half the British tks had been lost mainly in two of Rommel’s Atk traps. The British could not make up their losses and this ultimately contributed towards their defeat.
42. Cam and Clt. German gun posns and muzzle blast were so well cam that it was extremely difficult for British to loc and neutralize their guns.
43. Dummy Posns. Germans constr so many dummy posns that British could not in confidence assume that the en was occupying any one of them.
44. Day Discipline. Germans demo a high degree of discipline. No mov could be seen during the day lt hrs. The whole of the German territories appeared to be unoccupied.

Lessons Learnt

45. Fol lessons learnt from the Op BATTLEAXE, the same are still pertinent today:- a. Planning. Thorough planning is the key to success. Before launching any op careful attn must be given to all aspects. All the ctgys, in view of en reactions, must be catered for in order to achieve a victory. b. Comd and Con. The imp of eff comd and con in a maj battle can not be over emphasised. The decisions must be made promptly and in time. Due to the fluid sits in mob battles comd and con assumes addl imp. c. Log Sp. The impetus of the battle cannot be maint without log sp. Log planning must ensure replenishment of ammo, POL and sups. Altn plans must be made to sup fwd tps with nec reqs in case of all ctgys. d. Trg. Trg in peace/before op contributes significantly towards achievement of decisive victory. The trg of tps in the environment of the intended Bfd must be ensured. The tps must be familiar/accustomed to terrain, creature and tac to be emp. e. Use of Armr. Armr is the main striking punch of any army. The war of attrition against the en’s armr must therefore, be waged as far as possible by the tk destruction units. Own armr should only be used to deal final blow. f. Conc. Application of the principle of conc in correct dimension of time and space helps even numerically inferior forces to achieve relative cbt superiority at the pt of decision. Violation of this principle of war on the contrary will result into piecemeal annihilation of even numerically superior attacker. g. Offensive Action. Offensive action permits a comd to ex initiative and exploit the en’s weaknesses. Even being at def, judicious use of this principle of war allows a comd to turn the course of battle in his favour. Principle of offensive action must be applied during planning, prep and conduct stages of an op to achieve the favourable results. h. Speed. Speed of mov and org cohesion of one’s own forces are decisive factors and req particular attn. Forces with superior mob are at greater advantage as they reach at a pt of decision without giving any reaction time to the en. Favourable decisive results are therefore achieved. j. Surprise and Deception. Strat and tac surprise and deception are nec elms for success in any op. k. Sel of Obj. Due imp must be given for selection of pt of attk. Once selected, all aval resources must be emp for capture of this pt. l. Air Sp. Aval of close air sp during land ops is extremely nec for success of any op.


46. The purpose of op BATTLEAXE was to gain a decisive victory in North Africa, while destroying Rommel’s forces in the process. However it failed and proved to be a sorry set back for the British. This three – day battle ended in a complete victory for Germans. Germans with their thorough planning, intensive trg and proper grouping of forces provided stubborn resistance to the numerically superior British forces and gained a decisive victory.
47. The op had been a confusion of noise and destruction. The Afrika Korps had not only won a clean cut victory; it had overthrown the opposing Commander in Chief. Moreover the swift success brought an immense accession of pride and self-confidence for the Africa Corps.

(18 NOV 41 TO 12 JAN 42)


1. Italy jumped into 2nd world war as the partner of Germany on 10 Jan 1940. She invaded Egypt to make herself the sole master of the South Mediterranean Coast, as well as to hold the Suez Canal and Red Sea. Initially they were successful, but in Feb 1941, things looked black for the Axis in NA, fol defeat after defeat in the hands of small British tk force but two months later all that had changed. Now the allied themselves lay in confusion and Axis pushed them back to the frontiers of Egypt. How it happened? Can Solely be attributed do FM Rommel’s dynamic Idrship. 2. On 17th Jun 1941, Wavell suffered another setback as a result of “Op Battle Axe”. Op crusader began on 18th of Nov 1941, to a great extent redeam the allied prestige and put halt though temp to Rommels unrelenting offensive. This compaign present a unique case for the tactician and strat analysts. It is in context, I intend presenting the Allied Ctr offensive on Cyrenaica Code named “Op Crusader” who’s aim is.


3. To analyse Op Crusader with spec emphasis on the fol:- a. Imp of through and purposeful prep. b. Detailed planning at all lvls. c. Boldness in exec to capitalise on fleeting opportunities 5. GM, I intend dealing with the op in the fol req:- a. Part – 1. Op environments. b. Part – II. Op Crusader. c. Part – III. Analysis. d. Part – IV. Lessons learnt/concl.

Op Environment

6. Theater of Op. The theater of op extends from the doors of Egypt to the border of Tripol. It was encompassed by the Mediterranean Sea in the north. Which skirted all along the front. In the west lay Tripolitania, in the east was Egypt and in the south was the vast endless desert. From EI Agheila upto Sidi Omar the frontier extended to about 300 350 miles.
7. Concl from Terrain and Weather. Funnel shape of the hinterland was such that the deeper one penetrates the wider would be the frontages, large forces would be req to fix any continuos line of defence. Terrain was suitable for large scale armr op But increased Adm problems to many folds such as extra wear and tear of men and material req 100% material res. Inadequate comm infrastructure restd strat as well as tac mob to trs. Terrain encompassing vast spaces and weather hazards, were likely to exert, decisive influence on the out come of op particularly with ref to duration of op and log sp. Vastness of the space could cause dilution of tps to space ratio.

Part II Op Crusader

8. Opposing Forces a. Allied Forces (1) Eight Army. (Gen Sir Alan Cunnigham) (a) 30 Corps. (Lt Gen C.W. M. Norrie) i. 7th Armd Div. ii. 4th Armd Bde Gp. iii. 1st SA Div. (b) 13th Corps. (Lt Gen A. R. Austin) i. NZ Div. ii. 4th Indian Div. iii. 1st Army Tk Bde. (c) Tobruk Gar. (Maj Gen R. M. Scobie) i. 70th Div. ii. Polish Carpathian Inf Bde Gp. (d) Misc Forces. (Brig D. W. Scobie) i. 29th Indian Inf Bde Gp. ii. 6th South African Armd Car Regt. (e) Army Res. 2nd South African Div. b. Axis Forces. North African Comd – Gen Erwin Rommel. (1) German Africa Corps. (Lt Gen Ludwing Cruwell) a) 15 Panzer Div. b) 21 Panzer Div. c) Africa Div (Later 90th Light Div). d) Savona Div (Italian). (2) Italian 21 Corps. (Gen Enea Navarrimi) a) Bologna Div. b) Brescia Div. c) Pavia Div. d) Trento Div. (3) Italian Mobile 20th Corps. (Gen Gastone Gambara) a) Ariete Armd Div. b) Trieste Motorized Div. 9. Opposing Aims a. Allied. To destroy all axis forces in that part of the Cyrenaica, which lay to the east of Tobruk. b. Axis. To consolidate the present FDLs along the frontier of Egypt, capture Tobruk and then further adv into Egypt. 10. Conduct a. The op started on 18 Nov 41. The British XXX Corps began a rt wheel towards Tobruk. 7th Armd Bde in the Centre, 4th Armd Bde Gp on the rt and 22nd Armd Bde on the lt. They reached astride Trigh el Abd by ni fall. b. On 19 Nov, two Regts of 7th armd Bde captured the air fd south of Sidi Rezegh and were held up due to the delay of Sp Gp till next morning. c. 22nd Armd Bde went to Bir el Gubi in the west and was struggling against Ariete Armd Div. On 20 Nov, 1st SA Div was also diverted in the west to asst 22nd Armd Bde. d. The XXX Corps was by now stretched around 50 miles frontage. 4th Armd Bde in the east was faced by 21 Panzer Div which was sent by Rommel to explore the sit. It was badly mauled and retreated back to Gabr Saleh. e. The ‘I’ tks of XIII Corps were only 7 miles away but they were not called to asst rather 22nd Armd Bde was sent eastward, instead of sending it to Sidi Rezegh as was previously intended. f. The breakout of Tobruk took place on 21 Nov. 7th Armd Bde was to make the link up. Rommel attk 7th Armd Bde in Sidi Rezegh with 15 & 21 Pz Divs. The 22nd Armd Bde was now diverted from Gabr Saleh towards Sidi Rezegh and its arrival saved 7th Armd Bde from complete annihilation. Tabruk gar forces broke out but could wedge for about five miles in the German – Italian invested posn. The break out op was then called off. g. On 22 Nov, 21 Pz Div regained the air fd and 15 Pz Div hit a hard blow to 4th Armd Bde. On XIII Corps front, NZ Div took Capuzzo and then pushed for Sidi Rezegh. h. On 23 Nov, a fierce armd battle took place near Sidi Azeiz area and fol no of tks were left by the end of the day:- (1) British. 10 Cruisers of the 7th Armd Bde, 40 Cruisers of the 22nd Armd Bde, 100 Honeys of the 4th Armd Bde of which only few were svcable. (2) German. Rommel’s two Pz regts were no longer up to their nominal str of 120 tks. There were not more than 75 tks each. After disastrous out come of the armd battle, Cunningham had thought of retreating over the frontier but was stopped by Auchin leck. j. On 24 Nov, the battle took another dramatic turn. Rommel now sought to exploit his success by a deep thrust. As per the new plan 15th Panzer Div was to destroy the Indian Div in Sidi Omar. 21st Panzer was to take on Halfaya. Italian XXI Motorised Corps was to deal with the remnants of XXX Corps. k. At about 1600 hrs, Rommel reached at Bir Sheferzen and sent a battle gp to the Halfaya Pass, to dominate 8th Army’s coastward route of retreat and sup. The same ni Rommel and Cruwell were stranded in the desert and remained away from their outfit for more than 12hrs. l. On 25 Nov, Rommel found that the 15 Pz Div had not reached the frontier and Ariete Div had come to a halt at the early stages. 21 Pz Div attk Sidi Omar by weak tk regt and suffered cas. This provided British with a chance to recover their breath and bal. m. On 26 Nov, Gen Ritchie took over comd of 8th Army. The British posn was still very precarious. However, it was fortunate for them that two big sup dumps south of Trigh el Abd on which they were largely dependent were still intact. n. The XXX Corps was so disrupted that it did nothing during the day to relieve the en’s threat to the rearward part of XIII Corps. However, XIII Corps cont to push on westward and link up with the Tobruk force in a double threat to Rommel’s rear. o. The Germans were also suffering from intercomm trouble due to loss of wrls link. Moreover, the disturbing calls from the Pz Gp HQ comb with fuel shortage in the fwd areas upset the cont of Rommel’s ctr stroke . p. On the evening Rommel reluctantly decided the return journey of 21 Pz Div towards Tobruk and next day he ordered 15 Pz Div to fol suit . That was the fade out finish of a ctr stroke that had opened so promisingly.
11. Imp of Thorough and Purposeful Prep. It is imperative for any army of the world to train vigorously, built themselves up in men, natural and should strain every nerve to pull in as much sup and reinforcement as possible Allied forces in operation “Crusader” were better placed in this regard. For almost completely, five month they prep them thoroughly in the fol fields. a. Estb of Various Commands. On assuming Comd Gen Auchinleck divided his comd into two main operational theatres, giving each theatre, a separate army with its own HW and an indep base and area. Western desert was marked out as the op theatre of. b. Administrative Re-Org. The western desert Railway was extended by 75 miles from its railhead at Matruh (railhead at Bir Bisheifa). Water pipe line was extended beyond Matruh. Wells were bored and hundreds of distribution pipes were laid. The road mileage was increased . Aerodromes and landing grounds were constructed. Many hospitals were estb and more camps were laid out. The sup system was overhauled to bring up the western theatre to gen state of readiness for Op Crusader. c. Trg and Eqpt. Combined trg centres was estb at Kabrit to lay spec emphasis on desert movements of mech columns. Cadet trg unit was org and expanded for importing specialist trg and system of giving eight weeks trg was introduced, The re-eqpt of units was carried out on a fairly elaborate scale. Vehs of all types arrived from Great British, Canada, Australia to South Africa, incl tks and trucks from united States. Thus between 1 July and 31 Oct, the western sector had received about 34,000 trucks, 2100 armd vehs, 600 field guns, 240 anti-aircraft guns, 900 mortars, 80,0000 rifles and vast qty of ammo and other eqpt. d. Reinforcement. 8th army responsible for OP Crusader was further str by adding the reinforcement of 3 armd bde. e. Relief of Tobruk Tps. The relieving up of the Torbruk tps were even accomplished before the commencement of Op Crusader i.e by 26 Oct 1941.
12. Axis Army. Axis army was gen not prep for the op, since no improvement was made in org, eqpt, trg and log duri8ng the lull period of 5 months i.e after the termination of Battle Axe, till the start of op-crusader. Resultantly, the prep fruit was tasted by the allied army.
13. Detailed Planning at All Lvls. Detail planning basically plays a fundamental role for successful execution. The allied forces were little better in ratio in the imp sectors. The planning for launching op crusader started immediately, once the Gen Auchinleck assumed the comd of western threater and it was due to the detail planning that afforded prep, and met the req of the plan. However, no contingency was planned, one classic example was of the 30 Corps, which when took off for Sidi Rezegh was seriously crushed by the Axis had no clue, what to do next. Axis army eas even worst., initially they were yet to plan an offensive, secondly when they planned to defeat the 8th Army comprehensively and once for all by driving wedge through the desert into the en rear, committed two vital mistakes:- a. Serving 15th and 21st panzer divs from the base had no improved comm infra-structure b. The details of the plan were never made understood at all .lvls. Therefore once Rommel and Cruewell disappeared from the scene for 12 hrs everything went wrong.

14. Boldness in Exec to Capitalise on Fleeting Opportunities. Victory in war is only blessed to a Comd/Army, who takes advantage of the rough and odd hrs and lastly do have faith in himself as well as his under comd. The Axis army very much lacked in this factor also. Rommel got the fleeting opportunity, when he initially crushed the 30th Corps moving for Sidi Rezegh, but moved to the frontier without destroying it completely 30th Corps at a later stage managed to re-org itself and created havoc for cutting the Axis mov westward. On the other hand, allied comd displayed boldness and capitalise the opportunities as their on the view fol:- a. Dispatching the Newzelender div towards Tobruk. b. Auchinleck decision of 24th Nov, to continue the offensive and refused to put off by Rommel’s dash towards frontier. c. Replacing Maj Gen Nail Ritchie with Chunningham as 8th Army comd on 26 Nov. d. Lastly the decision to bring in fresh tps against the diminishing resources of the Germans. If one more opportunity, which was offered by Rommel, while withdrawing from Gazala, had been capilasted by the Allied, it would have decided the fate of Axis Army once for all.


Reason for Early Failure

1. Except Comd 30 Corps none of the new comds had experience in handling tks and in op against armd forces. 2. Separation of Army of Both the Corps

3. Piecemeal Emp of Armr

4. Wrong Concept of Emp of Army. Till now British had been taught that the prime obj of armr is the destruction of the en’s armd force. But an armd force is not in itself suited to be an immediate obj. For it is a fluid force, not easily fixed as inf fmn can be. In trying to kill Rommel’s elusive panzer force in a too dir way, the British armr became stretched & scattered and had fallen into Rommel’s guns lined tk trap. 5. The British Comds were slow in their actions and no immediate step was taken to conc the three widely scattered armd bdes. 6. The NZ Div and the ‘I’ Tk Bde of XIII Corps was only 7 miles from 4 Armd Bde, but it was not called to take a hand in the armd battle, and 22nd Bde was mov from Bir ul Gubi to asst 4 Armd Bde.

Reason of Subsequent Rommel Failure

7. Lack of Res/Rft. The no of Bristish tks were much more than the German and they had the res/rft from where to make the deficiency where as Rommel had no res/rft.

8. Due to Rommel’s victories in the initial days he became ambitions and went for a deep lunge to Sollum-Bardia area with his Panzer Divs, without realizing that there was no rft and the present resources would not meet this mnvr.
9. On 24 Nov, Cunninghem had thought of a retreat due to Rommel’s deep mnvr but was stopped by Auchinleck to stay on.
10. Rommel alongwith Cruewell was stuck up in the desert for one day and was not in comm with his HQ, which resulted in the ambiguity about the future ops.
11. Rommel’s forces failed to destroy British sup dumps south of Trigh el Abd.
12. Germans were suffering from intercomm troubles, due to loss of wrls links, and it was not possible for them to cont with mob battle without wrls coord.
13. The threatened adv of XIII Corps to Panzer Gp HQ at El Adm, wrls break downs and fuel shortages in the fwd area forced Rommel to discont the counter stroke. Ritchie, was appt in such a circumstances that he was bound to cont the battle whatever the risks, and this turned out to be fortunate decision.
14. The bal of no was so heavily against Rommel from the outset that he was bound to be beaten up in a prolonged battle of attrition. Since Rommel was involved in prolonged battle, his armd tks were being destroyed slowly and gradually.

Part IV – Lessons Learnt.

15. Unity in Conception. Overall strategy must be single in conception from beginning to the end with variants to cater for all possible eventualities. Plan must be know all comds in .
16. Asticulation of Comd. An op can succeed only, if efficiently led and controlled.
17. Leadership. Only competent and genuine leadership can motivate and inspire the tps. The resultant high morale can be a battle winning factor.
18. Assessment of Enemy. Enemy’s factor must be thoroughly examined and operation based on his capabilities rather than intentions. Assumptions must be realistic to avoid being surprised.

19. Aims and Objectives. These should be realistic, clearly and compatible with the resources aval. . Political and military objs must be dev in mutual harmony.
20. Inter Services Coord. A well organised elaborate and efficient system of coord between three svcs for joint planning and conduct of ops in most vital for success in war.
21. Prep for Offensive Ops. It is needless to say that deliberate and realistic prep include adm., trg and re-org, re-eqpt can contribute substantially towards the success/victory


22. “Crusader” can be summed up as a hardly fought and costly victory won more by the bravery and tenacity of the British soldiers than by the tact8ical skill of their comds. At the same time it should be remembered that it was only Auchinleck's strong nerve and ability to read a battle that made the victory possible.


1. The British 8th Army, after their defeat at Gazala-Bir Hacheim Line, was apparently left with little choice but to withdraw to Egypt. The second half of June 1942 saw the British retreat to El Alamein with the Axis in hot pursuit.
2. Analyse the Battle of Gazala with emphasis on causes of 8th Army’s defeat after repulsing initial German attacks.


1. Italian dictator Mussolini, in order to restore his military credibility after abortive attack on France in June 1940, resolved to over run British held Egypt from his North African colonies. To this end, Marshal Graziani launched his attack on 13 September 1940 and pushed back General Wavell’s small contingent of about 36,000 men to Sidi Barrani. Having been suitably reinforced, the British forces counter attacked in December and pushed Italians 900 Kilometers to Benghazi in eight weeks. Hitler was now compelled to bail out his Italian allies and in early 1941 authorised the despatch of Panzer formations to Libya. The German troops arrived Tripoli in February 1941 and to everyone’s surprise commenced advance in March 1941.
2. The ensuing campaigns did not achieve a decisive victory for either side and desert frontier shifted back and forth for about two years. As a result of British offensive during November 1941 to January 1942, Axis Forces were pushed back to A1 Aghelia. It was expected that they will be unable to react for sometime, therefore the allied units were dispersed to refit. The Axis Forces, however, reacted in a most unpredictable manner, when Rommel suddenly decided to commence his advance on 21st January 1942. The Axis Forces turned the table on Allies and advanced relentlessly for two weeks over 350 miles across the desert to halt west of the 8th Army’s defences at Gazala. The 8th Army stopped thirty miles west of Tobruk.
3. Due to overall strategic issues confronting the belligerents such as fall of Singapore, retreat from Burma, set backs during Operation Barbarossa (Invasion of Russia) and Allied threat to Malta, a relative lull prevailed till May 1942 during which both sides continued to workout plans for an offensive.
4. On 26 May 1942, Axis Forces began the dramatic offensive towards Gazala, which was to eventually carry them to within sixty miles of the Nile.
5. The area of operations represents inverted triangle with sufficient space for manoeuvre. The Gazala - Bir Hacheim Line is approximately 70 miles wide. The area is devoid of any natural obstacles and required enormous work in construction of artificial obstacles. Holding of this Line with strong forces effectively checked any movement towards Tobruk. This Line had to be cleared before reaching Tobruk. Wide frontages required close co-ordination at all levels. The area of operations was typical desert like and offensive forces, if over--stretched, could face precarious supply problems.
Opposing Forces
6. British 8th Army. Commander - General Ritchie a. 13th Corps. Commander - Lieutenant General W.H.E. Gott (1) 50 Division. Commander - Major General W.H.C Ramsden. Subordinate formations were 64th, 150th and 155th Infantry Brigade Groups (2) Ist South African Division. Commander - Major General D.H. Piennar. It consisted of Ist, 2nd and 3rd South African Infantry Brigade Groups. (3) 2nd South African Division. Commander - Major General H.B. Klopper. It had:- (a) 4th and 6th South African Infantry Brigade Groups. c) 9th Indian Independent Brigade Group ex 5th Indian Division (Army Reserve). (4) Ist Army Tk bde (5) 32 nd Army Tk Bde b. 30 Corps. Commander - Lieutenant General C.W.M. Norrie (1) Ist Armoured Division. Commander - Major General H. Lumsden. The division consisted of:- (a) 2nd and 22nd Armoured Brigade Groups. (b) 201 Guards (Motor) Brigade, (2) 7th Armoured Division. Commander - Major General F.W. Messervy. Its subordinate formation were:- (a) 4th Armoured Brigade Group. (b) 7th Motor Brigade Group. (c) 3rd Indian Motorised Brigade Group. (d) 29th Indian Infantry Brigade Group ex 5 Indian Division. (e) Ist Free French Brigade Group. c. Army Command (1) 5th Indian Division. Commander - Major General H.R. Briggs. (a) 10th Indian Infantry Brigade Group. (b) 2nd Free French Brigade Group.
7. Axis Forces. Commander - General Erwin Rommel. a. Italian Forces (1) Italian 10th Corps (Brescia and Pavia Divs) (2) Italian 20th Corps (Ariete Armd Div and Trieste Mot Div) (3) Italian 21st Corps (Sabratha and Mot Divs)

b. German Forces (1) 15th Panzer Division (2) 21st Panzer Division (3) 90th Light Division

Opposing Plans
8. Details of opposing plans are as under:- a. Allied Plan (1) The Allied Higher Command appreciated that following options were open to the Axis:- (a) Option 1. Axis forces might try to envelope the southern flank and manoeuvre towards Tobruk. (b) Option 2. Break through the centre on a narrow front, widen the gap and then thrust at Tobruk. Accompanied by a feint towards south to draw the Allied armour in that direction. (2) Plan. Allied Outline Plan is at Annex P. Main defensive Line Ghazala - Bir Hachiem was to be held by seven brigades. Behind the main line, defined tracks and centres of communication were held in strength as pivots of manoeuvre for mobile forces disposed at Common Wealth Keep, Acroma, Knightsbridge and EI Adem. The Allied Forces had constructed a line south of Gazala which consisted of a whole series of fortified boxes for infantry. These were densely mined. Armour was kept in reserve towards the rear. The southern end of this Line rested on Bir Hechiem Fort. The plan envisaged a resolute defence and local counter attacks in each formation area. Both armoured division were dispersed astride Trigh Capuzzo and Trigh el Abd to meet the threat from the centre and south.

b. Axis Plan (1) Rommel’s plan relied on boldness and speed. It envisaged a deeper manoeuvre by the armour formations from the south, skirting around Bir Al Hachiem and turning the Allied defences from the rear. (2) Plan (a) Heavy attack between the Mediterranean Sea and the Trigh Capuzzo by Italian X and XXI Corps. (b) Mobile force, led by Rommel, to manoeuvre from south in order to sweep through Bir Hacheim with the Italian XX Corps (Ariete Armoured and Trieste Motorized Divisions) on inside of the wheel and 90th Light Division and 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions on the outside. (c) Italian XXth Corps was to destory 3rd Indian Motorized Brigade and take Bir Hachiem. (d) Panzer divisions were then to turn north towards Acroma and get in the rear of British 13th Corps. (e) 90th Light Division was planned to manoeuvre further east and attack EI Adem.. (f) Ist South African and 50th Division were then to be attacked from both east and west and their communication with Tobruk to be severed by a force (Hecker Group) landed from the Sea.
9. The Battle of Gazala commenced on 26 May 1942. Conduct of the Battle is briefly shown at Annex Q.
10. Gist of conduct is as under:- a. Cruwell Group comprising Italian X and XXI Corps advanced towards the British positions between Gazala and Sidi Muftah. DAK (15th and 12th Panzer Divisions), Ariete Division and 90th Light Division manoeuvred from the south and swept around Bir Hacheim. b. On 27 May, 90th Light Division attacked 7th Motorised Brigade which withdrew to Bir-el-Gubi. Similarly, 4th Armoured Brigade and 3rd Indian Motorised Brigades withdrew in the wake of DAK’s advance. c. By 27th May Panzer Divisions advanced upto Bir Lefa and Maabus er Rigel but had lost one third of their tanks. 15th Panzer was already short of fuel and ammunition. 90th Light Division was out of touch south of EI Adem. Ariete Division had failed to capture Bir Hacheim. d. On 28th May, 21st Panzer captured Commonwealth Keep, 209 after overcoming stubborn resistance. e. On 29 May, Germans began to close in to the west and SW of Knightsbridge. f. During evening 28th May, 150 Infantry Brigade, stretched from Trigh Capuzzo to Trigh el Abd, felt threatened from the east. Southern battalion was pulled back and brigade prepared for all round defence. g. On 30 May, strong detachments of DAK including five Panzer regiments were sent to open up a supply route to the west of Sidi Muftah. Operation failed and was called off. Ground between the desert tracks, Trigh Capuzzo and Trigh el Abd was well fortified and held by strong forces including Matildas tanks. h. Rommel now abandoned his plan of driving on the sea at Tobruk and decided to break through the British minefds between Sidi Muftah and Bir Hachiem from the east of British side in order to shorten his comm, and pulled his army back into a br H inside British mine fds, which was Known as ‘The Cauldron’ j. On Ist June, Rommel overwhelmed the isolated ‘box’ at Sidi Muftah held by 150 Inf Bde and cleared a passage through the minefd for his sup. He then sent off a German battle gp and the Trieste Div to attk the still more isolated ‘box’ at Bir Hacheim on the southern flank, held by Ist Free French Bde. k. British thought Rommel to be defeated and planned a C attk ‘Op Aberdeen’. It had taken eighth army four days to think up Aberdeen; ‘it took Rommel half a day to plan and launch a ctr–stroke against Aberdeen’s It flank, wlhich rested on an uncovered minefd. This German attk routed the British aslt forces. l. Rommel then turned south to eliminate the terminal def of the Gazala line: Bir Hacheim box, which was reduced on the ni 10/11 Jun. On 11th Jun Rommel started a fan shaped adv across the eighth Army’s flank, which took him to El adem by the evening. By 13th Jun the Gds at the “Knightsbridge” vacated the box. m. On 14th Jun Gen. Ritchie announced his decision to pull out from Gazala and occupy the frontier defs, along the line of the Trigh Capuzzo, which meant accepting the investment of Tobruk. Rommel after smashing 29 Indian bde and 4th Armd Bde on 16 th e Jun invested Tobruk. It took him just 24 hours to shatter the defs to Tobruk.
11. General. General Rommel, by early 1942, had correctly realised that the British Eight Army’s recent reinforcement strongly indicated an offensive in near future. He was also aware that Hitler was now pre-occupied with the War in Russia. These two facts led him to believe that this was his last chance to take Cairo and the Suez Canal, failing which expulsion of the Axis from North Africa was inevitable. Therefore, despite logistic constraints and short fall in fighting strength and equipment, he decided to continue with his offensive.
12. Employment of Armour. The Allied employed armour in penny packets where-as Axis excelled in employment of armour. They achieved concentration and were also able to manoeuvre armour to position of advantage. Rommel’s enveloping manoeuvre of 26 May demonstrates application of these concepts which contributed to Axis success.
13. Time and Space. Rommel appreciated that operation will last for only four days. In the event, Rommel found himself fighting almost continuously for six weeks, with the result that when his advance was finally brought to a halt in general area EI-Alamein, in early July, he was precariously under strength in armour and short in supplies.
14. Logistic Support. Axis forces abandoned plan of pressing on towards north and cancelled the landing from the Sea primarily due to logistic considerations. Axis had erred by not ensuring the early capture of Bir Hacheim which stretched their supply lines unnecessorily.
Reasons of British Failure
15. Pattern of British Defences. The defence consisted of series of heavily fortified boxes for infantry. In the rear and slightly towards south, armour was kept in reserve. Allies intended to combine fixed points of defence with a mobile armoured element. But the battle developed in such a way that they eventually suffered from the disadvantages of a fixed defence. Also, since the Allied troops were firmly enterched, they anticipated that fighting would follow the same static pattern as that in World War I.
16. Employment of Armour. The British armoured units were sent in one by one to attack the Africa Korps, thus eroding the overall British superiority until it was non-existent. Allied could have held back their armour for concentrated employment in counter attack against the weakened German positions.
17. Assessment of Situation. General Auchinleck appreciated Axis attack from the centre as more likely capability. Although on 26 May, Rommel’s outflanking move (1000 vehicles) was spotted and reported before dark and again at dawn, as it swept round Bir Hacheim, yet British senior commanders still thought that the Axis’ main attack would come in the centre subsequently.
18. Attack on Cauldron. Axis forces remained intact in the bridge head called as Cauldron, and reorganised forces for another attack on Tobruk. The Allies delayed their counter attack on Cauldron due to lack of consensus and when finally attacked on 5th June, Rommel’s dispositions were already complete and strengthened. The operation of 5th June to crush Germans in “Cauldron” lacked the unity of command. In the first place, no single commander below the Army Commander was made responsible for co-ordinating this attack.

Repercussions of Rommel’s drive to Gazala

19. Al Gazala not only had maj impact on Allied and Axis plans but changed the whole course of the campaign. 20. Impacton Allied Plan a. Change of comd. Gen Ritchi, after the disastrous decision of wdr to Mersa Matru in search of finding better def lime and leaving a token force at Tobruk, was removed from the comd of Eighth Army and Gen Auchinleck took over. b. Drain on Resources. During the battle of Gazala allied suffered hy losses and could not cover from this loss until the start of El Alemein. They could not think of launching distanced offensive to offset Rommel’s adv towards Cairo. Allied losses were as under:- 1) Tks = 115 (newly arrived Matildas) 2) Guns = one complete regt 3) Complete 7th and 3rd mot bdes. 4) PWs = 25000 c. USA’s Concern. The news that Rommel had breached Gazala line and struck Tobruk reached Churchill when he was with president Roosevelt. To gd against Hitler’s strat design, president decided to immediately send 300 Sherman tks and 100 SP guns. d. Allied wdr to Mersa Matrn. After getting completely destroyed at Gazala front Eighth Army was in complete disarray. Only the scattered remains of British armr and some irf elms stood between Rommel and Egyptian frontier, which failed to stop Rommel’s adv. e. Roval Navy. After capture of Tobruk Rommel ensured complete destruction of Tobruk port. Due to crippling loss at sea and in particular at Tobruk, Royal Navy could not sp any land ops west of El Alemein. The British mainly relied on air sp until recapture of Tobruk and Benghazi ports in Dec 42. e. Morale. “Mental force do not win a war, moral forces do not win a war, phy forces do not win a war, but what does win a war is the highest comb of three forces acting as one force.”

f. Unfortunate mil disaster started with the wdr of Eighth Army to Mersa Matru line. It took the shape of a dilemma resulting into failure of orders and reports to get through., Bn comds had lost confidence in their comds and sp bns. An air of distrust spread amongst armr, inf, arty and engr, and they all wdr into world of thheir own. All those who worked willingly and risked their life indeed started thinking that they were probably being exploited by their comds, eventually they all wdr the loyalties and obedience from ldrs who were in their eyes unworly of their sacred trust. g. Imp of Malta. After the fall of Gazala and Tobruk, Allied abandon every hope to make Malta as a base of ops for North African Theatre anymore. Thus pulling out their, airforce and navy incl submarine”Flotilla”. This gave Axis a chance to capture Mala by Op Hercules. 22. Impact on Axis a. Ambitious Planning. Despite clear instrs from Kesselring Rommel decided to adv. Every inch Rommel mov westwards he pulled himself towards utter disaster. Despite having been defeated in 1941 mainly due to long L of C, he repeated the same mistake. b. Capture of Tobruk. Rommel captured large qtys of sup, POL and ammo from Tobruk. Instead getting contended, he got excited and decided to reach Nile Delta ASP. Without realizing that the campaign in Russia would not allow any further rfts to North African theatre. Had he secured Gazala and Tobruk line firmly he might have stayed longer in the desert. c. Exhaustive Men and Material. Although Rommel reached the doors of Alexandria, but at the cost of losing men and tks. Rommel was left with only few tks and guns of face Eighth Army at El Alemin. This resulted in the ultimate defeat of Rommel at the hands of Montgomery.
21. The Battle of Gazala ended with the capture of Tobruk on 20 June 1942. Indeed a high moment of Rommel’s career. Allied 8th Army retreated to El Alamein, a mere 70 miles from Alexendria.

Back gr
1. Tobruk had been one of the strongest fortres in North Africa in 1940. Although by 1942 the def on landward side had been allowed to run down, it was still a hard nut to crack. In 1941 it has presented Rommel with immense difficulties. Often the battle had raged one sq yd at a time.
1a. The retreat of Axis force to El Agheila during Dec 41 resulted into the over extension of British forces. A maj sup convoy for Axis force arrived on 5 Jan 42. The 8th Army at this time, in contrast, was under sup and off bal. Sensing its weakness Rommel went for ctr offensive on 21 Jan.
1b. The victory in Gazala battle on 15 Jun 42 battle enhanced the morale of German tps and they dashed towards Tobruk which could not be cleared by the Axis forces during 1941 campaign. This time Axis tps were more optimistic due to the comprehensive defeat of Allied in Gazala.


2. Tobruk was hemmed in on its eastern and western sides by rocky and trless country which extended out to the south in a flat and sandy plain. It had been extremely well fortified by the Italians under Balbo, and a full had been taken of the most modern wpns for the reduction of fortification. The numerous def posns running in a belt rd the fortress were sunk in the gr in such a manner that they could only be loc from the air.
3. British Forces-(About 2500 tps) a. Inside Tobruk (1) 2 x Inf Bde of SA Div (2) 2 x Bns of 20 Ist Gds Bde (3) 11th Ind Bde (4) 2 x Bns of 32nd Tk Bde (Inf Tks) (5) 4th AA Bde b. Outside Tobruk (1) 5 x Inf Divs (2) 2 x Armd Divs (Very Week)
Def Pattern/Layout of British Posn
4. Each def posn had consisted of an under gr tunnel system ldg into machine and A tk Guns nests. These nets could wait until the moment of greatest danger before throwing off their cam and pouring a murderous fire into attk tps. Each separate posn was surrounded by an A tk ditch and deep wire entanglements. In addn each fortified zone was surrounded at all pts vuln to tks by a deep A tk ditch. Behind the outer line or belt of fortification, often in depth, stood powerful arty conc, fd posns and a no of forts. These impresive def works were protected by deep minefds.
5. The attk started at 0520 hrs on 20 Jun 42. Several hundred ac hammered down their bombs on the break in pt south east of the fortres. As the ac left off, the inf of Afrika Korp (15th Rifle Bde) and XX Italian Corps mov fwd to the aslt. The lanes had been cleared the ni before. The ditch was bridged. Ariete and Trieste divs fol the Africa Korp through pen. By midday the Germans had reached the cross rd (Sidi Mahmud). Some resistance was experienced from Fort Pilastrino and Jebel descent but it was overcome . By ni fall two-third of the fortres lay in German hands.
Reason for Early Victory/Lost of Tobruk
6. Fol factors attributed to an early victory to the Germans:- a. The bulk of tps had already given up the battle and were tired and dispirited. b. The British Comd was not very quick to reorg def. c. Germans gave no time to the British to build up its def machine d. No single seat fighter was aval to drive off the bombers and dive - bombers. e. Inferior tks and wpns of British to German . f. Poor Genship on part of British.



1. El Alamein is a railway station which virtually gave name to this battle. After capturing Mersa Matruh, Rommel was overwhelmed over his rapid successes and was aiming to capture Alexandria and Cairo in the same thrust. It was this place which decided the fate of Rommel’s offensive in North Africa. Though Rommel was finally driven out of the North Africa after defeat in Second battle of El Alamein, yet the first battle of El Alamein fought in July between Rommel and Auchinleck, is of almost more decisive significance. First battle of El Alamein is a series of battles which were fought in the month of Jul 42. For the first three days of the battle, Rommel had initiative, attacking here and there, hoping to implement his plan. After 4 July the initiative hung in the balance, with a series of British counter attacks designed to turn Rommel’s own flank and drive him off. Then for the next three weeks, both sides attacked and counter attacked with ever decreasing effect. By the end of July, after one final British attempt to break through Rommel’s front, the battle subsided in situation of stalemate. It may have been a tactical stalemate, but it was a strategic defeat, Rommel was to advance no more.
2. It had two of the indispensable ingredients for conducting a proper defensive battle; the first was observation and second was depth with all speed. The uniqueness of the El Alamein position was of course that it was the only line in the desert with the top and the bottom. About 40 miles across, the sea in the north and the Qattara depression in the south flanked it. The El Alamein was naturally strong defensive position which foresight and preparation made into formidable one. The Rommel would have to come through this line to reach Alexandria.
3. There were really three approaches to be made from the west by a mechanized Army. In the north an avenue between Ruweisat Ridge and the railway. In the center north of Qaret El Abd and subsequently eastwards between Ruweisat Ridge and Alam el Halfa. In the south an approach to the north of Gebel Kalakh, Himeimat and Samaket Gaballa.
Opposing Plans
4. British Plan. The British had taken position in four boxes, which had been laid out in the thirty five miles stretch between the coast and the steep drop into the great Qattara depression. The largest and strongest lay on the coast at EL Alamein and was occupied by Ist SA Div. Next at Deir el Shein, occupied by 18th Ind Bde. Third was Bab el Qattara box which was occupied by 6th NZ Bde. Fourth one was at Naqb el Dweis held by a Bde of the 5th Ind Div. The intervals between these boxes were covered by a chain of small mobile columns, formed from these three divisions.
5. German Plan. Rommel had reckoned that the British army would be positioned in the south and he planned a pinning attack in the south, followed by a quick switch northward of the Afrika Korps for a break through thrust in the stretch between El Alamein and Bab el Qattara.

6. Opposing Forces

a. Allies

XIII Corps

a) 5 Ind Div b) 1 NZ Div c) 7 Armd Div (2) XXX Corps a) 1 Ind Div b) 1 SA div c) 1 Armd Div d) 9th Aus Div (Reinforced on 8th Jul) b. Axis (1) Afrika Corps (a) 15 Pz Div (Approx 20 tks each). (b) 20 Pz Div (Approx 20 tks each). (c) 90th Lt Mot Div. (2) X Ita Corps. 3) XX Ita Corps. 4) XXI Ita Corps.
7. 1 Β 5 Jul. The attack was launched on 1st Jul. Afrika Korps was held up at Deir el Shein Box till it was captured in the evening. The British armour, however, managed to check the further pen. Rommel continued his attack on 2 Jul but the strength of Afrika Korps was only forty tanks left fit for action. They managed to get through in the afternoon but were then halted after sighting a large column of British armour. Rommel made another effort on 3rd Jul, with only 26 tanks, and managed to advance for about nine miles before it was halted. A converging advance by the Ariete Division was also repelled. On 4th Jul Auchinleck launched a counter attack but could not succeed and on 5th Jul both sides came to a stalemate resulting into lull period. 8. 8-11 Jul a. Forces on 8 Jul German had fifty tanks and 2000 inf. Italian had 54 tanks and 4000 inf. (Seven Div) British had now about 200 tanks. b. 8 Β 11 Jul (1) German attacked in the south on Bab el Qattara and caused retreat of NZ Brigade. German captured the Box but it was a vacant possession. (2) 9 Aus Division attacked westward along the coast and speedily overran the Italian division holding that sector. However, They were checked and some lost ground regained. (3) This development forced the Germans to stop the southern thrust. c. 21 Β 26 Jul a. Auchinleck planned to burst through Axis centre by a wideΒfronted night attack with infantry Β the 5th Ind Div - advancing strait along the Ruweisat Ridge, and the valley south of it, after the resistance had been lowered by a northward sweeping flank attack by of the NZ Division. Next morning, 23rd Armoured Brigade was to drive through to the El Mireir end of the valley, and the 2nd Armoured Bridgae would then pass to carry on the exploiting drive. b. The attack was launched on night 21 Jul, and the NZ Division arrived on the objective. German tanks came up and counter attacked them. At daylight they smashed the NZ Division as the 22nd Armoured Brigade which was to protect the flank had not appeared on the scene. c. 5th Ind Division failed to reach the objective and also failed to clear the mines through which 23rd Armoured Brigade was to fol. This caused almost the complete annihilation of the Armoured Brigade. d. Result/Losses. British lost around 118 tanks and German only lost three. e. After a four days interval one further attempt at Miteiriya Ridge was made to break through German front. 9th Aus Division and 50th Division were employed but this thrust also could not succeed duly to delayed move by Ist Armoured Div.


Reason of Axis Failure
9. Following were the reasons for Rommel’s failure to achieve the breakthrough:-. a. No Open Flank. From military point of view the EI Alamein line was unique. It was the only area of the desert battle ground where there were two secure flanks. As elsewhere there was the sea flank in the north. But also thirty-eight miles north of the coast, there was Qattara depression. b. Faulty Reconnaissance. The success of an offensive much depends upon the intelligence acquired about enemy’s defenses. The reconnaissance of Rommel proved faulty and he did not know the Box at Deir- el- Shein. The information about the enemy’s minefields were also sketchy. c. Poor Logistics. Sound logistic arrangements are necessary to sustain the impetus of an offensive. The administrative difficulties were not confined to shortage of ordinary supplies such as ration and petrol. Equally important was the difficulty maintaining the efficiency of transport. d. Exhausted Army. The Rommel’s Army under took an advance of 800 miles in 15 days, that really exhausted his men. This also weakened the army in morale and material. e. Long Administrative Tail. By the end of July 1942 Auchinleck switched the main weight of his air offensive from the forward positions to the ports of Mersa Matruh and Tobruk, which left Rommel with Benghazi 680 miles away as his nearest secure base of supplies. f. Enemy’s Air Superiority. The Army and RAF staffs got excellent practice in wielding the very formidable air power that was now available for the support of 8th Army. g. Sickness of Commander. The sickness of Rommel himself was perhaps the greatest handicap of all. Because Rommel relied much more on his personal observation and judgement during the progress of a battle than on preconceived plans.
British Failure to Exploit Success
10. Extra Cautiousness of Commander. It was instinctive cautiousness of Montgomery, which enabled the Rommel’s forces to avoid a complete annihilation. Montgomery's principal aim was not to annihilate a completely disorganized dream target but to capture Tobruk and Benghazi as eventual supply bases.
11. Inadequate Supplies. As Allam Moore head observes that ‘Nine tenth of desert warfare is the battle of supply. It is almost incomprehensible why, long before the battle of El Alamein was fought, an efficient air transport service had not been established in Egypt.
12. Delayed Passage of Info and Oreders. 8th Army HQ was about 20 miles behind the front where as the Panzerarmee HQ was only 6 miles from the front. This caused delay in passage of information and timely execution by the subordinates.
13. Lack of Coord between the Commanders. Auchinleck’s expected a vigorous execution of his by his subordinate commanders but they lacked initiative and failed to exploit the weaknesses and opportunities offered by the Axis at different stages of the battle.
14. Reluctance of British Armour. 22 Armoured Brigade was to protect the flank of NZ Division in its attack in area south of Ruweisat Ridge. They were reluctant to op at night which attributed to the smashing of NZ Brigade by the German counter attack.
Lessons Learnt
15. .Following lessons are learnt form the Battle of El Alamein :- a. The armour is the core of the motorized army. Everything turns to it, and other formations are mere auxiliaries. The war of attrition against the enemy’s armour must, therefore, be waged as far as possible by the tank destruction units. One’s own armour should only be used to deal final blow. b. Speed of movement and the organizational cohesion of one’s own forces are decisive factors and require particular attention. c. The infantry serves only to occupy and hold position designed either to prevent the en from particular ops, or to force him into other ones. Once this objective has been achieved the infantry must be able to get away quickly for employment elsewhere. It must therefore be mob and equipped to enable it rapidly to take up defensive positions in the open at tactically important points on the battle field. d. Log has a major bearing on the conduct of operations specially in desert, because it governs the size of the force that can be effectively employed.

1. The Battle of El-Alamein was one of the decisive battle of World War II. It initiated the Axis decline and saved the Suez Canal.
2. Critically analyse the Battle of El-Alamein and highlight reasons of British success and Axis defeat.


1. Background. The North African Campaign opened in September 1940, when the Italian 10th Army, under Marshal Rodolph invaded British held Egypt and advanced upto Sidi Barrani. However, they failed to capitalise on the gains and allowed British troops to refit and reorganise. Suitably reinforced, the British undertook offensive, pushed back the Italians and secured area upto El Agheila, by February 1941.
2. To keep Italy in the Axis camp, Hitler decided to reinforce Axis effort in North African Theatre. To this end, the Afrika Korps, with General Erwin Rommel in command, was despatched to Tunis in February 1941. Rommel’s historical offensive in North Africa started on 24th March and by end of April 1941, Axis had swept across Cyrenacia and into Egypt. To relieve pressure, the Allies mounted Operation Crusader in November 1941 and pushed Rommel back to El Agheila. The Allies did not follow up this important victory because reinforcement had to be diverted to Far East against Japan. None-the-less, the British estimated that Axis Army would not be able to react for sometime and thus they dispersed their units to refit.
3. The Axis Forces however, reacted in a most unpredictable manner and upon being suitably reinforced, commenced advance on 21st January 1942. They turned the tables on Allies and advanced relentlessly for two weeks over 350 miles across the desert to halt west of Gazala. By mid June Tobruk had fallen. Axis forces, under the leadership of General Rommel continued their advance upto El-Alamein, however they were stretched out too far in the desert. By then the logistic constraints and much awaited reinforcements forced them to take up defenses at El Alamein. On the other hand, Allies were comfortably entrenched in the defensible terrain of El-Alamein with the impassable Qattara Depression to the south and Mediterranean Sea to the north. The stage was thus set for a decisive action.
4. El Alamein sec is a 45 mile stretch with Sea in the north and Qattara Depresrion in the south. The area favours the def with both secure flanks ie Mediterranean sea in the north and Qattara Depression in the south, which is a impassable marshy low gr. The main rd runs along the coastal strip and is the prime source of comm. El Alamein is a rly sta which lies on the coastline and bears strat significance .The prominent and dominating lines of ridges such as Miteiriya Ridge, Ruweisat Ridge, Deir el Munasib and El Taqa were loc south of El Alamein. Kidney Ridge and Tell el Eisa were loc west and northwest of El Alamein. Sidi Abd el Rehman was loc on Coastal rd about 25 miles north west of El Alamein. Large scale armr mnvr were not possible in the area
Opposing Forces
5. Allied Forces British 8th Army, Commanded by General Montgomery :- a. 10 Corps (1) 1st Armoured Division (2nd and 8th Brigades). (2) 10th Armoured Division. b. 13 Corps (1) 7th Armoured Division (1st and 2nd Free French Brigade Groups under command). (2) 44th Infantry Division. (3) 50th Infantry Division (1st Greek or Durham Brigade under command). c. 30 Corps (1) 51st (Highland) Infantry Division. (2) 2nd New Zealand Infantry Division (9th British Armoured Brigade under command). (3) 9th Australian Infantry Division. (4) 4th Indian Infantry Division. (5) Ist South African Infantry Division. (6) 23rd Armoured Brigade Group.
6. Axis Forces. Panzer Army Afrika (Italian /German Forces). Commanded by FM Erwin Rommel):- a. German Army (German Afrika Korps) (1) 15th Panzer Division. (2) 21st Panzer Division. (3) 90th Light Division. (4) 164th Light Division. (5) Ramcke (Parachute) Brigade. b. Italian Army (1) 10 Corps (a) Brescia Infantry Division. (b) Folgore Infantry Division. (c) Pavia Infantry Division. (2) 20 Corps (a) Ariete Armoured Division. (b) Littorion Armoured Division. (c) Trieste Motorized Division. (3) 21 Corps (a) Trento Infantry Division (b) Bologna Infantry Division.
Opposing Plans
7. Axis Plan. General Outline at Annex P. The German-Italian Army had planned to defend the area from including Sidi Abdel Rehman to including EI Taqa Plateau, which had a frontage of about 45 miles (72 kilometers), with the following forces:- a. 21 Corps. (Northern Sector) (1) Bologna Infantry Division alongwith a battalion of Ramcke (Parachute) Brigade was holding the Line from Ruiweisat Ridge inclusive to Miterya Ridge. (2) Trento Infantry Division was defending area on the Miterya Ridge. (3) 164th Light Division ex German Africa Korps was holding the Line north of Miterya Ridge upto Coastline. b. 10 Corps (Southern Sector) (1) Brescia Infantry Division alongwith two battalions ex Ramcke (Parachute) Brigade were defending the area north of Munassib Ridge. (2) Folgore and Pavia Infantry Division alongwith a battalion of Ramcke (Parachute)Bridge were deployed south of Munassib Ridge. c. 20 Corps and rest of the German African Korps was kept in reserve at three places behind the defensive line.
8. Allied Plan. Outline Plan of Attack is at Annex P. a. 30 Corps. Was to launch an attack in the Northern Sector to secure two passages through the mine field and Axis defences as under:- (1) From north to south, 9th Australian, 51st Highland, 2nd New Zealand and Ist South African Divisions were to attack simultaneously on a front of six miles between the Tel el Eisa and Miterya ridges. (2) Further south, 4th Indian Division was tasked to launch diversionary attacks in the same time frame. b. 10 Corps. After break-in, 10 Corps, comprising Ist and 10th Armoured Divisions, was to sweep through and establish itself near Tel el Aqqaqir for dealing with the expected counter attack by the Panzer Army. c. 30 Corps. Simultaneously with main attack in the Northern Sector by 30 Corps, 13 Corps which included 7th Armoured Division was to attack in the Southern Sector. The purpose of attack was to keep the Axis guessing with regard to the direction of main attack and to pin his reserves.
9. Conduct a. 30th Corps attacked in the North on the night of 23 October to secure passage through the minefield. By 25th October the Corps had driven a short “wedge” through the minefield but its front was extremely narrow. b. In the south the Secondary Attack by 13th Corps had been abandoned by 25th October due to reversal. c. Due to the narrow wedge in the def, the attempt to push fwd was checked and the chances of break through faded . d. Due to insufficient progress of op, a new plan was devised named ‘Op Super Charge’. For this op 7 Armd Div was brought north as a rft. However, Rommel also aval the opportunity and mov 21 Pz Div to the north fol by Ariete Div. e. ‘Op Supercharge’ was launched on the ni of 28 Oct with the aim of reaching to the coast and encircle Axis forces and then mov westwards. 9 Aus Div Started a northward thrust towards the coast from the wedge, already driven into Axis front. This thrust became hung up in the minfd and its prospect waned with Rommel’s quick ctr mov in switching the 90th Lt Div to its flank. f. After the failure of Coastal threat Montgomery reverted to his original line of thrust and attk once more through the wedge on 2nd Nov. Rommel C attk with his armr and considerably reduced Allied armr but in the process lost his own as well. Allied, however, managed to reach just beyond the Rahman Tr. g. On3 Nov, Rommel planned a wdr to Fuka posn but ordered by Hitler to stay on. h. On 4 Nov, the front was broken and three Armd Divs passed through the breach and depl. Rommel ordered immediate retreat. j. Due to exceptional caution on part of the Allied commanders the Axis forces withdrew in relatively good order to Daba by 5th November and to Fuka by 6th November. Thereafter heavy rain assisted Rommel’s withdrawal. k. The Battle of El Alamein thus ended with Allies loosing an opportunity to cut off and destroy the entire Axis Army.
10. Reasons of British Success a. Relative Strength. The Allies started the battle with a 6:1 superiority in tanks, 3:1 in fighting strength, and 5:1 in the air, and a much greater capacity to make up their looses. The Allied Air Force enjoyed air superiority and contributed significantly towards the outcome of the Battle. b. Superior Quality of Allied Tks. The 8th Army had more then 500 Sherman and Grant tks while Rommel had only 30 of new Pz IV (with 75 mm guns) that could match these tks. These American tks were provided with high explosive shells that enabled them to knock out opposing A tk guns at long range. c. Air Superiority. The Allied enjoyed a greater superiority. Air C-in-C in middle east had 96 op sqns at his disposal. There were around 1200 svcable ac based in Egypt and Palestine, ready to aid the 8th Army’s attk. On the comparison the Axis had only 350 svcable ac in Africa to sp the Panzerarmee. d. Allied Navy. One third of Axis sup were sunk by the British Navy submarine. In Oct it further deteriorated and only half of the despatched rft could reach the Axis forces. b. Tactics. The unconventional tank warfare i.e using tanks in defensive as well, was one of the reasons of success as this tactics was least expected by the Axis c. Training. General Montgomery, upon assuming the command of Eighth Army, placed maximum emphasis on training his troops, as he found this to be one of the weak areas. He made his troops carryout rehearsals in the similar environment and the identical terrain on which actual operations were to be conducted. The training area was 50 miles away from the battle-field. d. Creation of Reserve. During the intensive training, Montgomery focused on creating an army reserve, and thus raised the 10th Corps which was employed during the breakout battle. e. Surprise and Deception. To mislead the Axis about the direction of main attack, a deception was staged which was based on maintaining a constant density of vehicular traffic throughout the area of operations and laying of dummy water supply scheme in the south. f. Morale. General Montgomery emphasized that, “soldiers should go into battle having been worked up into a great state of enthusiasm, and realizing fully what was expected of them”. He had personally explained to every commander in the army down to the rank of lieutenant colonel how he intended to fight the battle. This direct talk with the subordinates and troops boosted the morale of his Army. g. Close Integration of Arms. Allied armour, infantry and artillery were closely knit and operated as one combined team. h. Superior Equipment. Allied had superior tanks e.g. Grants and Sherman, which not only out gunned the German/Italian tanks but also had better mobility, armour protection and weapon system. j. Fake Radio Net. Fake radio net showing maj mov of tps in the south, thereby, concealing the northern force. k. Flexibility of British Plan. Montegomry was very flexible in his plans and changed it as per the need of the battle and to strike to aval opportunity. l. Shortage of Fuel. There were only three issue of fuel, thirty issues considered min res req, in hand when the war opened.
11. Reasons of Axis Defeat. Some of the significant causes of Axis defeat were:- a. Design of Defensive Battle. Axis defence consisted of a line of fixed defensive positions fortified by enormous minefields stretching from the Coast to Qattara Depression. Panzer and Italian armoured divisions were kept in reserve at two different locations, separated from each other by 25 miles. The splitting of armour, though allowed the capability for instant counter attacks against any penetration but the effort dissipated for employment against breakout by the Allied 10th Corps. b. Logistic Support. Rommel had to prefer positional defense over mobile defense primarily due to acute shortage of POL. Besides, all other elements of logistic support were virtually non-existent which was a major reason of Axis reversal in this Battle. c. Inferior Equipment. The Axis forces were equipped with tanks of German as well as Italian origin. The Italian tanks were inferior to American made Grants and Shermans. d. Lines of Communication. The Axis forces were stretched out too far in the desert with inadequate and insecure lines of communication. e. Miscellaneous. Inferior relative strength ratio, overwhelming Allied air superiority, Hitler’s specific orders disallowing withdrawal on 2nd November were amongst some of the other reasons responsible for Axis defeat.


12. The Battle of EI-Alamein was undoubtedly one of the decisive battles of World War II, as it marked the turning point for the Allies who were desperate for their first victory.

1. The British would land at Algiers and Oran. Americans were resp for Casablanca.
2. Eisenhower was the incharge of op. The date for the op was 8 Nov 42.
3. The mov of sea armada was kept secret from Germans by certain key pieces of misldg info by British agents.
4. Plan/Obj. The occupation of Algeria and French Morocco by comb British and America forces with a view to the early occupation of Tunisia.
5. Forces a. Air Force (1) Allied. Eastern Air Comd comprising the area east of Cape Tenez (330 miles east of Gibralter) under Air Marshal Sir Willain Welsh. The western Air Comd - the area west of Cape Tenez under Maj Gen Doolittle (12 US Air Force). Air Marshal Walsh Gen Doolittle Gibralter Algiers Oran Casablanca Total

Catlians 24 - - - 24

Hudsans 20 20 - - 40

Bombers - 72 57 114 243

Fighters - 162 320 240 722

PRU 6 6 - - 12

1,041 2) Axis Luftwaff Italy Total Vichy

Sicily Sicily, Tripoli, Sardinia North Africa

Bombers 106 134 240 185

Fighter 36 195 231 218

Recce 27 102 129 83 600 486 b. Allied Military Forces The aslt forces to be landed to capture the three ports numbered approx 70,000 : 1) Eastern (Algiers) Taks Aslt Force under Maj Gen Ryder, U.S Army.

Two U.S Cbt Teams, 39th and 168th 9,000

Two British Bde Gp, 11th and 36th 9,000 Two Allied Comdos, 1 and VI 2,000 20,000 The landing at Algiers was to be fol up by the British First Army under Lt Gen K.A.N. Anderson. (2) Centre (Oran) Task Aslt force under Maj Gen Lloyd R.Fredendall, U.S. Army. Three U.S Regt Cbt Teams, 13,500 16th, 18th and 26th One Armd Cbt Comd 4,500 (Plus 180 tks) First Ranger Bn 500 18,500 This landing was to be fol up by an American Force. (3) Western (Casablanca) Task Aslt Force under Maj Gen S.Patton, U.S Army. This was to sail dir from the United States and planning had nec to be carried out in Washington. Five U.S Regt Cbt Team 22,500 7th, 15th, 30th, 47th and 60th One Armd Cbt Comd 4,500 One Regt 2,000 One Armd Cbt Team (2 Bns) 2,000 31,000 f. Naval Forces. The great assy of British naval forces was under the comd of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, Bart as N.C.E.F (Naval Comd Expeditionary Force) withComdore R. M. Dick as his Chief of Staff. It was rendered possible only by reducing convoy forces in the Atlantic to the narrowest possible limits. The Naval Task Force were constituted as follows :- Eastern Naval Task Force (Algiers) - E. N. T. F. Centre Naval Task Force (Oran) - C. N. T. F. Western Naval Task Force (Casablanca)- W. N. T. F. Force H Force R Force Q

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