El Alamein Battle WW2
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Battle of El Alamein
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First Battle of El Alamein 1 - 27 July 1942.

The Allied Eighth Army under General Claude Auchinleck had retreated from Mersa Matruh to the Alamein Line, a forty mile gap between El Alamein and the Qattara Depression, in Egypt.

On July 1 the German-Italian Afrika Korps led by Erwin Rommel attacked. The Allied line near El Alamein was not overrun until the evening and this hold up stalled the Axis advance.

On July 2 Rommel concentrated his forces in the north, intending to break through around El Alamein. Auchinleck ordered a counter-attack at the centre of the Axis line but the attack failed. The Allies also attacked in the south and were more successful against the Italians. As a result of the Allied resistance, Rommel decided to regroup and defend the line reached.

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Auchinleck attacked again on July 10 at Tel el Eisa in the north and over one thousand prisoners were taken. Rommel's counter at Tel el Eisa achieved little. Auchinleck then attacked again in the centre at the Ruweisat Ridge in two battles - the First and Second Battles of Ruweisat on July 14 and July 21. Neither battle was succcessful and the failure of armour to reach the infantry in time at the Second Battle led to the loss of 700 men. Despite this another two attacks were launched on July 27. One in the north at Tel el Eisa was a moderate failure. The other at Miteiriya was more calamatous, as the minefields were not cleared and the infantry were left without armour support when faced with a German counter-attack.

The Eighth Army was exhausted, and by July 31 Auchinleck ordered an end to offensive operations and the strengthening of the defences to meet a major counter-offensive.

The battle was a stalemate, but the Axis advance on Alexandria (and then Cairo) was halted.

Second Battle of El Alamein

Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle that lasted from October 23 to November 3 1942 during World War II. Following the First Battle of El Alamein, which had stalled the Axis advance, British general Bernard Montgomery took command of the Eighth Army from Claude Auchinleck in August 1942. Success in the battle turned the tide in the North African campaign.


Table of contents
1 The Situation
2 The British Plan
3 The Battle



The Situation
By July 1942 the German Afrika Korps under General Erwin Rommel had struck deep into Egypt, threatening the vital British supply line across the Suez Canal. Faced with overextended supply lines and lack of reinforcements while being aware of massive British reinforcements arriving, Rommel decided to strike at the British while their build-up was still not complete. This attack on 30 August 1942 at Alam Halfa failed, and expecting a counterattack by Montgomery?s 8th Army, the Afrika Korps dug in. After six more weeks of building up forces the British 8th Army was ready to strike. 200,000 men and 1,000 tanks under Montgomery made their move against the 100,000 men and 500 tanks of the Afrika Korps.


The British Plan
With Operation Lightfoot, Montgomery hoped to cut two corridors through the Axis minefields in the north. Armour would then pass through and defeat the German armour. Diversionary attacks in the south would keep the rest of the Axis forces from moving northwards. Montgomery expected a twelve-day battle in three stages - "The break-in, the dog-fight and the final break of the enemy."

The British practised a number of deceptions in the months prior to the battle to wrong-foot the Axis command, not only as to the exact whereabouts of the forthcoming battle, but as to when the battle was likely to occur. This operation was codenamed "Operation Bertram". A dummy pipeline was built, stage by stage, the construction of which would lead the Axis to believe the attack would occur much later than it in fact did, and much further south. To further the illusion, dummy tanks made of plywood frames placed over jeeps were constructed and deployed in the south. In a reverse feint, the tanks for battle in the north were disguised as supply lorries by placing a removable plywood superstructure over them.

The Axis were dug-in along two lines, called by the Allies the Oxalic Line and the Pierson Line. They had laid around half a million mines, mainly anti-tank.


The Battle
The battle opened at 2140 hours on October 23 with an sustained artillery barrage. The initial objective was the Oxalic Line with the armour intending to advance over this and on to the Pierson Line. However the minefields were not yet fully cleared when the assault began.

On the first day, the assault to create the northern corridor fell three miles short of the Pierson line. While further south they had made better progress but were stalled at the Miteirya Ridge.

On October 24 the Axis commander, General Stumme (Rommel was on sick leave in Austria), died of a heart-attack and General Ritter von Thoma took command of the Axis forces, while Rommel was ordered to return to Africa, arriving on October 25.

For the Allies in the south, after another abortive assault on the Miteirya Ridge, the attack was abandoned. Montgomery switched the focus of the attack to the north. There was a successful night attack over the 25-26th. Rommel?s immediate counter-attack was without success. The Allies had lost 6,200 men against Axis losses of 2,500, but while Rommel had only 370 tanks fit for action Montgomery still had over 900.

Montgomery felt that the offensive was losing momentum and decided to regroup. There were a number of small actions but, by October 29, the Axis line was still intact. Montgomery was still confident and prepared his forces for Operation Supercharge. The endless small operations and the attrition by the Allied airforce had by then reduced Rommel's effective tank strength to only 102.

The second major Allied offensive of the battle was along the coast, initially to capture the Rahman Track and then take the high ground at Tel el Aqqaqir. The attack began on November 2 1942. By the 3rd Rommel had only 35 tanks fit for action. Despite containing the British advance, the pressure on his forces made a retreat necessary. However the same day Rommel received a "Victory or Death" message from Adolf Hitler, halting the withdrawal. But the Allied pressure was too great, and the German forces had to withdraw on the night of November 3-4. By November 6 the Axis forces were in full retreat and over 30,000 soldiers had surrendered.

Winston Churchill famously summed up the battle on 10 November, 1942 with the words "now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

The battle was Montgomery's greatest triumph. He took the name "Lord Montgomery of Alamein" when he was raised to the peerage. The success of his plan led Montgomery to prefer overwhelming superiority in all his subsequent battles, leading to a reputation, with some, for being overcautious.

The Torch landings in Morocco later that month marked the effective end of the Axis threat in North Africa.

Text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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