Second Battle of El Alamein

Second Battle of El Alamein

Second Battle of El Alamein

This article is about a battle of Western Desert Campaign of North African Campaign during World War II.

The second battle of El Alamein took place between 23 October and 3 November, 1942, during the Desert War of North African Campaign of World War II. Following the first battle of El Alamein, which had blocked the advance of the forces of the Axis commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the British general Bernard Montgomery took command of the British 8th Army, which until then commanded by General Neil Ritchie, and after his exoneration, directly from the Commander in Chief of the Middle East General Claude Auchinleck in August 1942. The British success in this battle marked the turning point in the North Africa campaign, which would end in May 1943 with the surrender of the forces of Axis in Tunisia.

In July 1942, the Italian-German Armored Army commanded by Erwin Rommel, consisting of German Afrika Korps and two corps of Italian as a mechanized infantry and after the great victory of Gazala and forcing the garrison of Tobruk (33,000 men strong) to the capitulation had penetrated deep into Egypt, with the goal to cut the vital supply line of the British Suez Canal and occupy the oil fields of the Middle East.

Outnumbered, weakened by a supply chain too long and lack of reinforcements, and aware of the massive influx of new departments to British army, Rommel decided to strike while the reinforcement of British troops had not yet completed, addressing the troops following proclamation:

A M13/40 in North Africa in 1942

A M13/40 in North Africa in 1942

Between 13 and 14 September, the Allies had tried the operation Agreement, which aimed to disrupt the Axis supply system, which was terminated, however, is a resounding failure with heavy losses for the Allies. The Allied forces lost several ships, including the cruiser Coventry and fighters of the Sikh and Zulu Tribal class due to successful firing of the Italian coastal batteries, air strikes and more Italians. Even the units on the ground were thwarted and silenced by the troops present, in particular by the Fascists in the base of Tobruk.

The events on the field were influenced heavily by the command relationships within the Axis and Allies.

In the Axis, there were bad relations between Rommel and the Italian Supreme Command, and especially with marshals Cavallero, Chief of Staff General and Hector Bastico, governor of Libya (from Rommel, nicknamed “Bombastus”) whom reproached ineptitude and unwillingness to move closer to the front (in practice cowardice), in contrast to those charged to Rommel was a frequent inability to coordinate with other forces, which attributed the blame of his failures. In fact, they were long attributed to Italians, and in particular to the alleged traitors in the Royal Navy, the leaks that led to a number of sinkings in convoys of supplies, which in reality were the result of interception of Ultra communications between the German military attache in Rome, General Enno von Rintelen and OKW. With Deleasa, the delegation of the Supreme Command in North Africa, commanded by General Curio Barbasetti Prun, relations were distant, in fact, the only Italian was estimated by Rommel General Navarini Aeneas, who had replaced General Gaston Gambara the head of XXI Corps, until just before the advance to El Alamein.

Furthermore, even between Rommel and Kesselring, German commander of the Wehrmacht to the south (OKS – Oberkommando Süden), there was a bad personal relationship, as Rommel believed that these same usurping its functions. The latter, however, was concerned about the lack of control exercised by Rommel during the battle, as personally verified during a fight near Ain el Gazala, in which the same Kesselring had temporarily replaced the General Crüwell in command of Afrikakorps, noting how Rommel was impossible to reach by the units involved to achieve rapid operational orders.

British infantry advances through the dust and smoke of the battle

24 October 1942: Australian 9th Infantry Division in a posed attack

In the first battle of El Alamein, which delayed the progress of the Axis, the British Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery in August 1942 took command of the 8th Army from General Claude Auchinleck. Success in the battle turned the tide in the campaign.  Most historians believe that this battle, along with the Battle of Stalingrad, were the two victories that most contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

By July 1942, the German Afrika Korps led by Erwin Rommel with the Italian army invaded deep into Egypt, threatening an important British supply line across the Suez Canal. Having stretched supply lines and having meals, the prospect of large additions to the arrival of the Allies, Rommel decided to strike when the British positions were not sufficiently strengthened. Attack on 30 August, 1942 at Alam Halfa failed and a counterattack of the 8th Army Afrika Korps was dug up. After six more weeks, the 8th Army was ready to strike with 200,000 men and 1,000 tanks, directed against the 100,000 soldiers and 500 tanks, the Italians and the Afrika Korps.

In the Operation Lightfoot, Montgomery hoped to create two corridors through the Axis minefields in the north, for the armored force to be able to go that way. Diversionary attacks in the south would block the rest of the Axis forces from shifting to the north. Montgomery expected a 12-day battle in three stages – burglary, fight and the final breaking of the enemy.

The Allied forces have applied a series of maneuvers in the months preceding the battle, to deceive the Axis command, not only as to the exact place of the upcoming battle, but after its commencement. The former is called the Operation Bertram. False built pipeline, which was to convince the Germans that an attack took place much later and farther south. To enhance the effect, artificially constructed tanks made of plywood were placed and deployed in the south. Tanks for the battle in the north were disguised as trucks.

The Axis was dug along the two lines, called by the Allies the Oxalic Line and the Pierson Line, laid around half a million mines, mainly anti-tank, creating the so-called Devil’s Garden.

Shermans of the 8th Army will advance through the desert

Shermans of the 8th Army will advance through the desert

The battle began on 23 October at 21:40 from artillery barrage. The first objective was the Oxalic Line, and an armored attack was to take place at Pierson Line. However, when the assault began, minefields (despite massive use of Polish mine detector) were not yet fully cleared.

The first night of the assault  by the 2nd New Zealand division and other troops to create the northern corridor was located within 5 km from the Pierson Line. In the south, it had made better progress but was stalled at the back Miteirya.

On 24 October, the German commander, General Stumme (Rommel was on sick leave in Austria), died of a heart attack during the fire. After a period of confusion, he took over the command of General Ritter von Thoma. Hitler initially ordered Rommel to stay home and continue his convalescence, but the position of the German troops became critical, and asked him to return to Africa. Rommel left immediately and arrived at the scene on 25 October.

After the failed attack on the ridge of Miteirya, the Allied’s attack was abandoned – Montgomery focused on the attack in the north. Night attack from 25 to 26 October was successful, and immediate counterattack of Rommel was ineffective. The Allies lost 6,200 men (Axis losses amounted to 2,500 troops), but Rommel had only 370 tanks, Montgomery still had over 900.

Montgomery noted that the offensive was losing momentum, and decided to regroup.  Until 29 October, the Axis line was still intact. Montgomery prepared the forces for Operation Supercharge. Many small operations and air attacks against Rommel’s armored forces had decreased to only 102 tanks.

Another big offensive took place along the coast, initially to capture the Rahman track and then take the hill at Tel el Aqqaqir. The attack began on 2 November – Rommel had only 35 tanks fit for action. Despite the British advance, the pressure on his forces made the decision to withdraw. On the same day, Rommel received an order from Hitler of “victory or death”, halting the withdrawal. The Allied pressure was too great, and the German forces had to withdraw on the night of 3 to 4 November. Until 9 November, the Axis forces were in full retreat, and over 30,000 soldiers had surrendered.

Winston Churchill summed up the battle on 10 November, 1942, saying “now is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But this is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

The battle was Montgomery’s greatest triumph – adopted the name “Lord Montgomery of Alamein and was raised to the dignity of the pair of the British Empire.

The Operation Torch landings in launched on 8 November marked the effective end of the Axis threat in North Africa.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress