British Eighth Army

British Eighth Army Emblem

British Eighth Army Emblem

Summary: British Eight Army is one of the most famous British army during World War II. It participated in a series of major battles. In the last period of the Battle of France, Mussolini realized the Allies would be defeated in the mainland, he declared a war against Britain and France, hoping to get rich war trophies with a minimum cost. After the declaration of the war by Italy, its main goal in North Africa was to win in the British-controlled Egypt and connected North Africa and the East African colonies of Italy together into area. Although Italy had a overwhelming numerical superiority, it still in the initial attack of Egyptian campaign was almost annihilated. German reinforcements were sent to support the Italian army in North Africa and started a long-term fight with the British. At this time, the British army integrated and reorganized its troops in North Africa as British Eighth Army, which included the British army forces and its allies, such as Britain, France, Greece, Poland, and the British dominions New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and other places. In the ensuing war, the Eighth Army in North Africa defeated Germany and Italy allied forces, successfully repulsed the Axis forces to Tunisia, and then cooperated with reinforcements landed from the torch action to destroy all the Axis forces in North Africa. Then Eighth Army participated in the Italian campaign and, together with allied forces together to capture Sicily. Since then King of Italy imprisoned Mussolini, organized the new government and jointed the Allies. But the Germans occupied northern Italy, to prevent the Allies from advancing to Germany. After fierce fighting, the Eighth Army slowly advanced northward, and finally in 1945 defeated the Axis forces of Italy region with friendly forces.

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The British Eighth Army (the Eighth Army) is one of the most famous formations of World War II, having fought in North African Campaign (the Desert War) and Italian campaigns.

It was a British unit and was still commanded by British officers and Montgomery, but the units composing it came from the whole of the British Empire and BritishCommonwealth  and European countries occupied by Nazi.

It included units from South Africa, Australia, Canada, the Free France, India, New Zealand, Poland, Rhodesia and the United Kingdom. Among the units which served in the 8th Army include: the 1st Canadian Corps, the British V Corps, the British X Corps, the British XIII Corps, the British XXX Corps, the 2nd New Zealand infantry division, the Polish II Corps and among the smaller units, the British 7th Armored Division (the “Desert Rats”), the 51st Highland Infantry Division and the French Forces of the Western Desert.

This army was opposed to the Italian army and German expeditionary force in Libya during the desert war. The fate of Egypt rested on the shoulders of the General of the Eighth Army, when Rommel, the Desert Fox approached him twice.

The Eighth Army was formed from the Western Desert Force in September 1941 and was placed under the command of General Sir Lieutenant Alan Cunningham.

County of London Yeomanry tank of the 8th army

County of London Yeomanry tank of the 8th army

It had its first engagement on 17 November, 1941 when it crossed the border of Cyrenaica to go to meet with the Afrika Korps. The commander for the Middle East, General Sir Claude Auchinleck, replaced Cunningham with Major General Neil Ritchie. Ritchie failed to halt Rommel and was in turn replaced by Auchinleck, who took direct command.

The Afrika Korps was finally stopped at the First Battle of El Alamein. Auchinleck was unable to capitalize on this success and was in turn replaced as commander in chief for the Middle East by Lieutenant General Alexander and as Eighth Army commander by Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery.

Montgomery added the XIII Corps and XXX Corps.

Montgomery defeated Rommel’s troops decisively during the Second Battle of El Alamein, pursued through Libya, Tunisia up until their surrender in May 1943.

The Seventh Army participated in the invasion of Sicily and mainland Italy campaign.  This unit landed at the end of the “boot” as part of Operation Baytown and then participated, on the eastern flank of the allied forces fighting in up north.

At the end of 1943, Montgomery was transferred to Great Britain to prepare for the Normandy landings. Lieutenant General Oliver Leese took command of the Eighth Army.

During the fighting on unproductive Gustav Line in early 1944, it was, with the exception of V Corps, transferred from the Adriatic coast to the front of the Apennines in order to break through to Rome. This is the Second Polish Corps, incorporated into the Eighth Army, which finally took the monastery of Monte Cassino.

Battle of Monte Cassino

Battle of Monte Cassino

After the capture of Rome, the Eighth Army was transferred back on the Adriatic coast. At the end of the summer, the Allies had a new line of German defenses, the Gothic Line. It was not enforced until the fall of 1944, not allowing the Allies to lead in the plain of Po before the winter. In October, Leese was reassigned to the head of the allied ground forces to South Asia-East, the new name of the 11th Army Group, and Lieutenant General Sir Richard McCreery succeeded him.

In spring 1945, the Eighth Army resumed its offensive. The Eighth Army isolated and destroyed large units of the Army Group C in April and then advanced rapidly through the north-eastern Italy and Austria.

Difficulties arose when the British forces met with the Yugoslav. The troops of Tito planned to take control of Venezia Giulia. Arrived before the British forces, they were very active in preventing the establishment of a military government, as was done in the rest of Italy. The Eighth Army even managed to limit the transit of supplies through the British zone occupied in Austria and also attempted to take control of the areas in Austria.

If the Eighth Army didn’t have experienced setbacks in its infancy, it would no long have defeat after the Second Battle of El Alamein. Its advance from El Alamein to Tunisia was one of the most successful military logistics of all time. Eighth Army also excelled in fighting in harsh conditions during the Italian Campaign. It ended her term as British Forces in Austria.

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One Response to “British Eighth Army”

  1. Janet Hepher says:

    My father William Frederick Hepher was a member of the 8th Army, Served in the Desert in Africa, through Sicily to Monte Casino, then Rome. he arrive in Glasgow, demobed and turned up in Bradford to propose to his penfriend, Irene, my mother. He arrive in Bradford Yorkshire on D Day.
    My grandmother who usually locked the front door, forgot that night, and arriving in the middle of the night, having taken the train from Clydebank to Bradford and walking up Manchester Road to Irene’s home in West Bowling. He quietly went into the house, slept on the sofa in the front room and was found there by my grandmother early in the morning.
    Grandmother called her daughter downstairs and was followed by her younger sister Doreen….and the rest they say is history.
    They lived very happily together, had three children and continued to live with the extended family in West Bowling, Bradford.

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