North African Campaign

The North African Campaign of the Second World War took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch), as well as Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign).

The campaign was fought between the Allies, many of whom had colonial interests in Africa dating from the late 19th century, and the Axis Powers.[12][13] The Allied war effort was dominated by the British Commonwealth and exiles from German-occupied Europe. The United States officially entered the war in December 1941 and began direct military assistance in North Africa on 11 May 1942.

Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army's 11th Hussars (assisted by elements of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 1st RTR) crossed the border from Egypt into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. This was followed by an Italian counter-offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940 and again in December 1940 following a British Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian 10th Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps—commanded by Erwin Rommel, who later became known as "The Desert Fox"—was dispatched to North Africa in February 1941 during Operation Sonnenblume to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.

A fluctuating series of battles for control of Libya and regions of Egypt followed, reaching a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery inflicted a decisive defeat on Rommel's Afrika Korps and forced its remnants into Tunisia. After the Anglo-American landings (Operation Torch) in North-West Africa in November 1942, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides), the Allies encircled several hundred thousand German and Italian personnel in northern Tunisia and finally forced their surrender in May 1943.

Operation Torch in November 1942 was a compromise operation that met the British objective of securing victory in North Africa while allowing American armed forces the opportunity to engage in the fight against Nazi Germany on a limited scale.[14] In addition, as Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, had long been pleading for a second front to be opened to engage the Wehrmacht and relieve pressure on the Red Army, it provided some degree of relief for the Red Army on the Eastern Front by diverting Axis forces to the North African theatre. Over half the German Ju 52 transport planes that were needed to supply the encircled German and Romanian forces at Stalingrad were tied up supplying Axis forces in North Africa.[15]

Information gleaned via British Ultra code-breaking intelligence proved critical to Allied success in North Africa. Victory for the Allies in this campaign immediately led to the Italian Campaign, which culminated in the downfall of the fascist government in Italy and the elimination of Germany's main European ally.

Western Desert Campaign

Italian empire 1942
The Italian Empire in November 1942

On 10 May 1940, the Wehrmacht had started the Battle of France (or Westfeldzug). One month later, it was plain to see that France would have to surrender within two weeks (the Armistice at Compiègne took place on 22 June 1940).

On 10 June 1940, the Kingdom of Italy aligned itself with Nazi Germany and declared war upon France and the United Kingdom.[16] British forces (along with Indian and Rhodesian troops) based in Egypt were ordered to undertake defensive measures, but to act as non-provocatively as possible.[17] However, on 11 June they began a series of raids against Italian positions in Libya.[18] Following the defeat of France on 25 June, Italian forces in Tripolitania—facing French troops based in Tunisia—redeployed to Cyrenaica to reinforce the Italian Tenth Army.[19] This, coupled with the steadily degrading equipment of the British forces led General Archibald Wavell to order an end to raiding and placed the defence of the Egyptian border on a small screening force.[20]

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini ordered the Tenth Army to invade Egypt by 8 August. Two days later, no invasion having been launched, Mussolini ordered Marshal Graziani that, the moment German forces launched Operation Sea Lion, he was to attack.[21] On 8 September, the Italians—hampered by the lack of transport and enfeebled by the low level of training among officers and weakened by the state of its supporting arms[19] – were ordered to invade Egypt the following day. The battle plan was to advance along the coastal road, while limited armoured forces operated on the desert flank.[20] To counter the Italian advance, Wavell ordered his screening forces to harass the advancing Italians, falling back towards Mersa Matruh, where the main British infantry force was based. Positioned on the desert flank was the 7th Armoured Division, which would strike the flank of the Italian force.[22][23]

By 16 September, the Italian force had advanced to Maktila, around 80 mi (130 km) west of Mersa Matruh, where they halted due to supply problems.[24] Despite Mussolini urging that the advance carry on, Graziani ordered his force to dig in around Sidi Barrani, and fortified camps were established in forward locations; additional troops were also positioned behind the main force.[25] In response to the dispersed Italian camps, the British planned a limited five-day attack, Operation Compass, to strike at these fortified camps one by one.[26][27] The British Commonwealth force, totalling 36,000 men,[28] attacked the forward elements of the 10-division-strong Italian army on 9 December.[29] Following their initial success, the forces of Operation Compass[30] pursued the retreating Italian forces.[31] In January, the small port at Bardia was taken,[32] soon followed by the seizure of the fortified port of Tobruk.[33] Some 40,000 Italians were captured in and around the two ports, with the remainder of the Tenth Army retreating along the coast road back to El Agheila. Richard O'Connor sent the 7th Armoured Division across the desert, with a small reconnaissance group reaching Beda Fomm some ninety minutes before the Italians, cutting off their retreat. Although desperate attempts were made to overcome the British force at the Battle of Beda Fomm, the Italians were unable to break through, and the remnants of the retreating army surrendered. Thus, over the course of 10 weeks Allied forces had destroyed the Italian Tenth Army and reached El Agheila, taking 130,000 prisoners of war in the process.[34][35][36]

A British Matilda Mk II named "Glenorchy" of Maj K.P. Harris, MC, commander of 'D' Squadron, 7th Royal Tank Regiment during Operation Compass displaying an Italian flag captured at Tobruk, 24 January 1941

Mussolini requested help from his German ally while the Italian Commando Supremo speedily sent several large motorized and armoured forces to protect their colonies in North Africa.[37] This greatly expanded reinforcement included the soon to be renowned Ariete Armoured division under General Ettore Baldassarre.[38] Meanwhile, the Germans hastily assembled a motorized force, whose lead elements arrived in Tripoli in February. This relatively small expeditionary force, termed the Afrika Korps by Hitler, was placed under the command of Erwin Rommel. His orders were to reinforce the Italians and block Allied attempts to drive them out of the region.[39][40] However, the initial commitment of only one panzer division and subsequently, no more than two panzer and one motorized divisions, indicated the limited extent of German involvement and commitment in this theater of operations.[38] The bulk of the reinforcements were Italian and therefore it was up to the Italians to do the bulk of the fighting. The forward Allied force—now named XIII Corps—adopted a defensive posture and over the coming months was built up, before having most of its veteran forces redeployed to Greece. In addition, the 7th Armoured Division was withdrawn to the Nile delta.[41][42][43] The veteran forces were replaced by inexperienced forces, ill-equipped to face German armour.[44]

Il capo di stato maggiore Ugo Cavallero con i generali Ettore Bastico e Curio Barbasetti di Prun in un campo di aviazione nell'estate 1942
Italian generals Ugo Cavallero and Ettore Bastico discussing the war at an Italian air base in Libya 1942
British Crusader tanks moving to forward positions during Operation Crusader, 26 November 1941

Although Rommel had been ordered to simply hold the line, an armoured reconnaissance soon became a full-fledged offensive from El Agheila in March 1941.[39][40] In March–April, the Allied forces were forced back [45] and leading general officers captured. The Australian 9th Infantry Division fell back to the fortress port of Tobruk,[46] and the remaining British and Commonwealth forces withdrew a further 100 mi (160 km) east to the Libyan–Egyptian border.[47] With Tobruk under siege from the main Italian-German force, a small battlegroup continued to press eastwards. Capturing Fort Capuzzo and Bardia in passing, it then advanced into Egypt, and by the end of April had taken Sollum and the tactically important Halfaya Pass. Rommel garrisoned these positions, reinforcing the battle-group and ordering it onto the defensive.[48][49]

Though isolated by land, Tobruk's garrison continued to receive supplies and replacements, delivered by the Royal Navy at night. Rommel's forces did not have the strength or training to take the fortress. This created a supply problem for his forward units. His front-line positions at Sollum were at the end of an extended supply chain that stretched back to Tripoli and had to bypass the coast road at Tobruk. Further, he was constantly threatened by a breakout of the British forces at Tobruk.[50] Without Tobruk in Axis hands, further advances into Egypt were impractical.[51][52]

The Allies soon launched a small-scale counter-attack called Operation Brevity. This was an attempt to push the Axis forces off the key passes at the border, which gained some initial success, but the advanced position could not be held. Brevity was then followed up by a much larger-scale offensive, Operation Battleaxe. Intended to relieve the siege at Tobruk, this operation also failed.

Following the failure of Operation Battleaxe, Archibald Wavell was relieved of command and replaced by Claude Auchinleck. The Western Desert Force was reinforced with a second corps, XXX Corps, with the two corps forming the Eighth Army. Eighth Army was made up of army forces from the Commonwealth nations, including the British Army, the Australian Army, the British Indian Army, the New Zealand Army, the South African Army, and the Sudan Defence Force. There was also a brigade of Free French under Marie-Pierre Koenig. The new formation launched a new offensive, Operation Crusader, in November 1941. After a see-saw battle, the 70th Division garrisoning Tobruk was relieved and the Axis forces were forced to fall back. By January 1942, the front line was again at El Agheila.

Africa Settentrionale prigionieri del Commonwealth catturati nel novembre 1941 dall armata italo tedesca
Commonwealth prisoners captured by Italian and German forces in 1941.

After receiving supplies and reinforcements from Tripoli, the Axis attacked again, defeating the Allies at Gazala in June and capturing Tobruk. The Axis forces drove the Eighth Army back over the Egyptian border, but their advance was stopped in July only 90 mi (140 km) from Alexandria in the First Battle of El Alamein.

Of great significance, on 29 June reports of British military operations in North Africa sent to Washington by the US Military Attaché in Cairo Bonner Fellers stopped using the compromised "Black Code" which the Axis were reading, so ceasing the Axis learning of British "strengths, positions, losses, reinforcements, supply, situation, plans, morale etc" which they had enjoyed since 1940.

General Auchinleck, although he had checked Rommel's advance at the First Battle of El Alamein, was replaced by General Harold Alexander. Lieutenant-General William Gott was promoted from XIII Corps commander to take command of the entire Eighth Army, but he was killed when his aircraft was intercepted and shot down over Egypt. He was replaced by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery.

At the end of June, the Axis forces made a second attempt to break through the Allied defences at El Alamein at Alam Halfa, but were unsuccessful. After a lengthy period of build-up and training, the Eighth Army launched a major offensive, decisively defeating the Italian-German army during the Second Battle of El Alamein in late October 1942, driving the Axis forces westward and capturing Tripoli in mid-January 1943. By February, the Eighth Army was facing the Italian-German Panzer Army near the Mareth Line and came under command of General Harold Alexander's 18th Army Group for the concluding phase of the war in North Africa, the Tunisia Campaign.

Operation Torch

American troops on board a landing craft heading for the beaches at Oran in Algeria during Operation 'Torch', November 1942. A12661
American troops on board a Landing Craft Assault heading into Oran, November 1942

Operation Torch started on 8 November 1942, and finished on 11 November. In an attempt to pincer German and Italian forces, Allied forces (American and British Commonwealth), landed in Vichy-held French North Africa under the assumption that there would be little to no resistance. Nevertheless, Vichy French forces put up a strong and bloody resistance to the Allies in Oran and Morocco, but not in Algiers, where a coup d'état by the French resistance on 8 November succeeded in neutralizing the French XIX Corps before the landing and arresting the Vichy commanders. Consequently, the landings met no practical opposition in Algiers, and the city was captured on the first day along with the entire Vichy African command. After three days of talks and threats, Generals Mark Clark and Dwight Eisenhower compelled the Vichy Admiral François Darlan (and General Alphonse Juin) to order the cessation of armed resistance in Oran and Morocco by French forces on 10–11 November with the provision that Darlan would be head of a Free French administration. During Operation Torch, American, Vichy French and German navy vessels fought the Naval Battle of Casablanca, ending in an American victory.

The Allied landings prompted the Axis occupation of Vichy France (Case Anton). In addition, the French fleet was captured at Toulon by the Italians, something which did them little good as the main portion of the fleet had been scuttled to prevent their use by the Axis. The Vichy army in North Africa joined the Allies (see Free French Forces).[53]

Tunisian Campaign

Following the Operation Torch landings, (from early November 1942), the Germans and Italians initiated a buildup of troops in Tunisia to fill the vacuum left by Vichy troops which had withdrawn. During this period of weakness, the Allies decided against a rapid advance into Tunisia while they wrestled with the Vichy authorities. Many of the Allied soldiers were tied up in garrison duties because of the uncertain status and intentions of the Vichy forces.

Tiger 712 of the 501st heavy tank battalion was surrendered to the US and subsequently transferred to the United States Army Armor & Cavalry Museum[54]

By mid-November, the Allies were able to advance into Tunisia but only in single division strength. By early December, the Eastern Task Force—which had been redesignated as the British First Army under Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson—was composed of the British 78th Infantry Division, British 6th Armoured Division, 1st Parachute Brigade, No. 6 Commando and elements of US 1st Armored Division. But by this time, one German and five Italian divisions had been shipped from Europe and the remoteness of Allied airfields from the front line gave the Axis clear air superiority over the battlefield. The Allies were halted and pushed back having advanced eastwards to within 30 kilometres (19 mi) of Tunis.

During the winter, there followed a period of stalemate during which time both sides continued to build up their forces. By the new year, the British First Army had one British, one US and one French Corps (a second British Corps headquarters was activated in April). In the second half of February, in eastern Tunisia, Rommel and von Arnim had some successes against the mainly inexperienced French and US troops, most notably in routing the US II Corps commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredendall at the Battle of Kasserine Pass.

By the beginning of March, the British Eighth Army—advancing westward along the North African coast—had reached the Tunisian border. Rommel and von Arnim found themselves in an Allied "two army" pincer. They were outflanked, outmanned and outgunned. The British Eighth Army bypassed the Axis defence on the Mareth Line in late March and First Army in central Tunisia launched their main offensive in mid-April to squeeze the Axis forces until their resistance in Africa collapsed. The Axis forces surrendered on 13 May 1943 yielding over 275,000 prisoners of war. The last Axis force to surrender in North Africa was the 1st Italian Army.[55] This huge loss of experienced troops greatly reduced the military capacity of the Axis powers, although the largest percentage of Axis troops escaped Tunisia. This defeat in Africa led to all Italian colonies in Africa being captured.



Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-443-1575-19A, Nordafrika, Schützenpanzer
A German Signals reception unit in the desert

The Axis had considerable success in intelligence gathering through radio communication intercepts and monitoring unit radio traffic. The most important success came through intercepting the reports of Colonel Bonner Fellers, the US military attaché in Egypt. He had been tasked by General George Marshall with providing detailed reports on the military situation in Africa.[56] Fellers talked with British military and civilian headquarters personnel, read documents and visited the battlefront. Known to the Germans as "die gute Quelle" (the good source) or more jokingly as 'the little fellow', he transmitted his reports back to Washington using the "Black Code" of the US State Department. However, in September 1941, the Italians had stolen a code book containing the Black Code, photographed it and returned it to the US embassy in Rome.[57] The Italians shared parts of their intercepts with their German allies. In addition the "Chiffrierabteilung" (German military cipher branch) were soon able to break the code. Fellers' reports were very detailed and played a significant role in informing the Germans of allied strength and intentions between January and June 1942.

Il maggiore Alessandro Menchiori chiede notizie ad un carrista dell Ariete nell utunno inverno 1941
An Italian M13/40 tank belonging to the Ariete Armoured Division

In addition, the Italian Servizio Informazioni Segrete or SIS code-breakers were able to successfully intercept much radio encrypted signals intelligence (SIGINT) from British aircraft traffic as well as first-class ciphers from British vessels and land bases, providing Supermarina (Regia Marina) with timely warnings of Allied intentions in the Mediterranean.[58] Indeed, so successful was the Italian SIS in handling the bulk of Axis naval intelligence in the Mediterranean, that "Britain's offensive use of SIGINT was largely negated by Italy's defensive SIGINT."[59]

The Afrika Korps had the intelligence services of the 621st Signals Battalion mobile monitoring element which arrived in North Africa in late April 1941,[60] commanded by Hauptmann Alfred Seeböhm. The 621st Signals Battalion monitored radio communications among British units.[56] Unfortunately for the Allies, the British not only failed to change their codes with any frequency, they were also prone to poor radio discipline in combat. Their officers made frequent open, uncoded transmissions to their commands, allowing the Germans to more easily identify British units and deployments.[56] The situation changed after a counterattack during the Battle of Gazala resulted in the 621st Signals Battalion being overrun and destroyed, and a number of their documents captured, alerting British intelligence to the problem.[61] The British responded by instituting an improved call signal procedure, introducing radiotelephonic codes, imposing rigid wireless silence on reserve formations, padding out real messages with dummy traffic, tightening up on their radio discipline in combat and creating an entire fake signals network in the southern sector.[61]


Colossus Mark II computer at Bletchley Park

Allied codebreakers read much enciphered German message traffic, especially that encrypted with the Enigma machine. The Allies' Ultra programme was initially of limited value, as it took too long to get the information to the commanders in the field, and at times provided information that was less than helpful.[62] In terms of anticipating the next move the Germans would make, reliance on Ultra sometimes backfired. Part of the reason the initial German attacks in March 1941 were so successful was that Ultra intercepts had informed Wavell that OKW had clearly directed Rommel not to take any offensive action, but to wait until he was further reinforced with the 15th Panzer Division in May.[63] Rommel received this information, but placed more value on his own assessment of the situation. Trusting that the Germans had no intention of taking major action, the British command did not respond until it was too late.[64] Furthermore, Rommel did not generally provide OKW or the Italian Comando Supremo details of his planned operations, for he thought the Italians too prone to leak the information. Thus on 21 January 1942, when Rommel struck out on his second offensive from El Agheila, Commando Supremo was just as surprised to learn of it as the British were.[65] Ultra intercepts provided the British with such information as the name of the new German commander, his time of arrival, and the numbers and condition of the Axis forces, but they might not correctly reveal Rommel's intentions.

The primary benefit of Ultra intercepts to the effort in North Africa was to aid in cutting the Axis supply line to Tunisia. Ultra intercepts provided valuable information about the times and routes of Axis supply shipments across the Mediterranean. This was critical in providing the British with the opportunity to intercept and destroy them. During the time when Malta was under heavy air attack, the ability to act on this information was limited, but as Allied air and naval strength improved, the information became instrumental to Allied success. It is estimated that 40% to 60% of Axis supply shipping was located and destroyed due to decrypted information.[66][67] However, this claim is strongly disputed by the authors Vincent P. O'Hara and Enrico Cernuschi (2013) who claim that authors like F.H. Hinsley have greatly exaggerated the effects of ULTRA. For example, they claim that intelligence provided by ULTRA had little impact in stopping Italian convoys reaching North Africa. Of the 2.67 million tons of materiel, fuel, and munitions shipped to Africa — nearly all in Italian vessels and under Italian escort — 2.24 million tons managed to arrive despite the best efforts of ULTRA and the British Navy to prevent it.[68] In effect, "Ultra did not deny the Axis armies the supplies they needed to reach the Nile." [59]

Heavy losses of German paratroopers in Crete, made possible by Ultra warnings of the drop times and locations, meant that Hitler hesitated in attacking Malta,[69] which aided the British in gaining control of the Mediterranean, as did the losses of the Italian Navy at the Battle of Cape Matapan.[70] To conceal the fact that German coded messages were being read, a fact critical to the overall Allied war effort, British command required a flyover mission be carried out before a convoy could be attacked in order to give the appearance that a reconnaissance flight had discovered the target.


Wehrmacht fuel barrel in Tunesia
Wehrmacht fuel barrel in Tunisia, 2010

After victory by the Allies in the North African Campaign, the stage was set for the Italian Campaign to begin. The invasion of Sicily followed two months later. Nearly 400,000 Axis and Allied troops were either lost, injured, or died of disease by the end of the North African Campaign.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d 1942–43.
  2. ^ a b c d 8–11 November 1942. Vichy officially pursued a policy of armed neutrality and conducted military actions against armed incursions from Axis and Allied belligerents. The pledging of allegiance of the Vichy troops in French North Africa to the Allies convinced the Axis that Vichy could not be trusted to continue this policy, so they invaded and occupied the French rump state (Case Anton)
  3. ^ a b Darlan joined the Allies in November 1942, ordering the French Army of Africa to cease fire and unite with the Free French, and became High Civilian and Military Commissioner in French North Africa. He was assassinated on 24 December 1942.
  4. ^ Historian Giorgio Rochat wrote:

    Sono circa 400.000 i prigionieri fatti dagli inglesi in Etiopia e in Africa settentrionale, 125.000 presi dagli americani in Tunisia e in Sicilia, 40.000 lasciati ai francesi in Tunisia ("There were about 400,000 prisoners made by the British in North Africa and in Ethiopia, 125,000 taken by the Americans in Tunisia and Sicily, 40,000 by the French in Tunisia")[8]

    Considering that about 100,000 Italian prisoners were taken in East Africa and that prisoners taken by the Americans were mainly in Sicily, the total is around 340,000–350,000.
  5. ^ During Operation Torch only (8–16 November 1942).


  1. ^ Zabecki, North Africa
  2. ^ Carell, p. 597
  3. ^ Cartier, Raymond. La Seconde Guerre Mondiale, vol4: 1943-Juin1944 [The Second World War, vol4: 1943-June1944]. Press Pocket. p. 40.
  4. ^ Playfair, Volume IV, p. 460. United States losses from 12 November 1942
  5. ^ Atkinson, p. 536
  6. ^ Roma: Instituto Centrale Statistica' Morti E Dispersi Per Cause Belliche Negli Anni 1940–45 Roma 1957
  7. ^ Colin F. Baxter. "The War in North Africa, 1940–1943: A Selected Bibliography". 1996. Page 38. 500,000 prisoners are listed as being taken in North Africa, East Africa, and Sicily; as 150,000 POWs were taken in the Allied invasion of Sicily, and about 100,000 in East Africa, this would leave ~250,000 to be taken in North Africa; 130,000 during Operation Compass, and 120,000 afterwards.
  8. ^ Rochat, Giorgio. Le guerre italiane 1935–1943. Dall'impero d'Etiopia alla disfatta [The Italian Wars 1935–1943. From the Ethiopian Empire until defeat]. Einaudi. p. 446.
  9. ^ Carell, p. 596
  10. ^ Barclay, Mediterranean Operations
  11. ^ Porch, Douglas: "The Path to Victory: The Mediterranean Theater in World War II", 2004, p. 415.
  12. ^ "Military Operations in North Africa". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  13. ^ Boundless (2017-01-12). "The North African Front". Boundless.
  14. ^ Wilmott, H.P. p.
  15. ^ Joel S.A. Hayward, Stopped at Stalingrad; The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942–1943, University Press of Kansas, 1998, p. 248; see also the effect on German bomber strength at Stalingrad, p. 219.
  16. ^ Playfair, p. 109
  17. ^ Playfair, p. 41
  18. ^ Churchill, p. 371
  19. ^ a b Macksey, p. 25
  20. ^ a b Macksey, p. 38
  21. ^ Macksey, p. 35
  22. ^ Macksey, p. 40
  23. ^ Playfair (2004), pp.209–210
  24. ^ Macksey, p. 47
  25. ^ Macksey, p. 68
  26. ^ Wavell "No. 37628". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 25 June 1946. p. 3261.
  27. ^ Playfair pp. 260–261, 264
  28. ^ Bauer (2000), p.95
  29. ^ Playfair p. 267
  30. ^ Mead, p. 331
  31. ^ Playfair p 271
  32. ^ Playfair, pp. 286–287
  33. ^ Dunn, Jimmy. "World War II's Opening Salvoes in North Africa". Tour Egypt.
  34. ^ Playfair, p. 358
  35. ^ "Fall of Bengasi". Time Magazine (17 February 1941). 17 February 1941. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  36. ^ Wavell in "No. 37628". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 25 June 1946. p. 3268.
  37. ^ Bauer, p.121
  38. ^ a b Walker, Ian W. (2003). Iron Hulls Iron Hearts. Trowbridge: The Crowood Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-1-86126-646-0.
  39. ^ a b Jentz, p. 82
  40. ^ a b Rommel, p. 109
  41. ^ Playfair (1954), p. 289
  42. ^ Playfair (1956), p. 2
  43. ^ Jentz, p. 85
  44. ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 2–5
  45. ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 19–40
  46. ^ Latimer, pp. 43–45
  47. ^ Playfair (1956), pp. 33–35
  48. ^ Playfair (1956), p. 160
  49. ^ Jentz, pp. 128–129, 131
  50. ^ Latimer, pp. 48–64
  51. ^ Playfair (1956), p. 41
  52. ^ Jentz, p. 128
  53. ^ See Operation Torch#Resistance and coup
  54. ^ "AFTA Tiger I Page". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  55. ^ Walker 2006, p. 193
  56. ^ a b c Wil Deac (12 June 2006). "Intercepted Communications for Field Marshal Erwin Rommel". World War II Magazine.
  57. ^ Lewin p. 251
  58. ^ Vincent P. O'Hara and Enrico Cernuschi, 2013, p.119.
  59. ^ a b Vincent P. O'Hara and Enrico Cernuschi, 2013, p.135
  60. ^ Forty 1998, pp. 97 and 148.
  61. ^ a b Lewin p. 252
  62. ^ "Intelligence in North Africa" Quote:Protection of the top secret Ultra source meant that the distribution of Ultra was extremely slow and by the time it had reached the relevant commander it was often out of date and therefore at best useless and at worst dangerously mis-leading.
  63. ^ Verlauf März 1941. In: Der Feldzug in Afrika 1941–1943 ( Abgerufen am 24. November 2009. Quote: Schuld an dieser Einschätzung sind die Enigma Berichte, aus denen Wavell ersehen kann, dass Rommel lediglich den Auftrag hat, die Syrte-Front zu stabilisieren, und dass sein wichtigster Verband, die 15. Panzerdivision, noch nicht in Afrika eingetroffen ist. Translated: The responsibility for this assessment are the Enigma reports, which can be seen from Wavell that Rommel only has a mandate to stabilize the Sirte front, and that his most important unit, the 15th Panzer Division, has not yet arrived in Africa.
  64. ^ Lewin p. 33 Quote: On 30 March Wavell signalled, 'I do not believe he can make any big effort for another month.'
  65. ^ Lewin pp. 99–101 Quote from Rommel's diary: I had maintained secrecy over the Panzer Group's forthcoming attack eastwards from Mersa el Brega and informed neither the Italian nor the German High Command. We knew from experience that Italian Headquarters cannot keep things to themselves and that everything they wireless to Rome gets round to British ears. However, I had arranged with the Quartermaster for the Panzer Group's order to be posted in every Cantoniera in Tripolitinia on 21 January ...
  66. ^ Kingsly, Sir Harry "The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War" Archived 22 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  67. ^ Hinsley, Francis Harry (1993), British intelligence in the Second World War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-44304-3
  68. ^ Vincent P. O'Hara and Enrico Cernuschi, 2013. p.118
  69. ^ ""Intelligence in North Africa"". Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  70. ^ Hinsley, F.H.; Stripp, Alan, eds. (1993), Codebreakers: The inside story of Bletchley Park (OU Press paperback ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-280132-6 p 3


  • Atkinson, Rick (2004) [2002]. An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942–1943. Abacus. ISBN 0-349-11636-9.
  • Barclay, Brigadier C. N. "Mediterranean Operations". GI – World War II Commemoration. Archived from the original on 21 January 1997. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  • Bauer, Eddy (2000) [1984]. The history of World War II (Revised and updated ed.). Great Britain: Silverdale. ISBN 978-1-85605-552-9.
  • Carell, Paul (1960). Le volpi del deserto. 1941–1943: le armate italo-tedesche in Africa settentrionale [The wolves of the desert. 1941 – 1943: the Italo-German armies in North Africa]. New York: Bantam.
  • Forty, George (1998). The Armies of Rommel. London: Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 978-1-85409-379-0.
  • Jentz, Thomas L. (1998). Tank Combat In North Africa: The Opening Rounds, Operations Sonnenblume, Brevity, Skorpion and Battleaxe, February 1941 – June 1941. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0226-4.
  • Keegan, John (2001). Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280666-1.
  • Lewin, Ronald (1998) [1968]. Rommel As Military Commander. New York: B&N Books. ISBN 978-0-7607-0861-3.
  • O'Hara, Vincent; Cernushi, Enrico (Summer 2013). "The Other Ultra: Signal Intelligence and the Battle to Supply Rommel's Attack toward Suez". Naval War College Review. 66 (3): 117–138.
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; and Molony, Brigadier C.J.C.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C. & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1966]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume IV: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-068-8.
  • Walker, Ian (2006). Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts: Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa. Ramsbury: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-839-4.
  • Willmott, H.P. (1984). June, 1944. Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1446-8.
  • Zabecki, David T. (2007). "North Africa (1940–1943)". The War. PBS. Retrieved 8 September 2010.

External links

Dar el Koudia Airfield

Dar el Koudia Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield in Tunisia, in the vicinity of Bizerte. It was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign. The airfield was used by the 310th Bombardment Group, flying B-25 Mitchells from the field between 6 June and 5 August 1943.

Today, the location of the airfield is undetermined, as urban expansion in the Bizerte area has erased evidence of the field.

Depienne Airfield

Depienne Airfield is a World War II airfield in Tunisia, located approximately 12 km northeast of El Fahs, and 53 km southwest of Tunis. The airfield was first used by the German Luftwaffe in 1941 and 1942, and was captured by the British Army by a parachute attack on 3 December 1942. It was later used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber airfield during the North African Campaign.

HQ 5th Bombardment Wing, August–December 1943

97th Bombardment Group, 15 August-20 December 1943, B-17 Flying FortressIn aerial imagery, the airfield looks almost like it did in 1943 and is probably the most well-preserved wartime bomber field in Tunisia. The runway, although deteriorated, along with all of the taxiways and aircraft hardstands are very much in evidence. It is unclear what the current use of the facility is.

Desert Commandos

Desert Commandos (Italian: Attentato ai tre grandi) is a 1967 war film set during World War II in Morocco where it was filmed. The Italian title (Attack on the Big Three) refers to a German commando group with a mission to assassinate Churchill, Roosevelt and de Gaulle at the Casablanca Conference.

The film is a character-based drama that focuses on the German soldiers' various drives and conflicts during encounters with Tuareg nomads, and French and American soldiers.

Djilma Airfield

Djilma Airfield is an abandoned military airfield in Tunisia, located about 2 km north of Jilma (Sidi Bu Zayd); approximately 180 km west-southwest of Tunis.

The airfield was built during World War II as a temporary field which was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force 31st Fighter Group during the North African Campaign against the German Afrika Korps.

The 31st Fighter Group based three squadrons (307th, 308th, 309th) of Supermarine Spitfires at the airfield from 7 to 12 April 1943. It then moved to Korba Airfield and afterwards, engineers came to the field and dismantled the facility.

Today there are little or no remains of the airfield, except the remains of a runway in the desert just north of the town of Jilma, visible from satellite imagery.

El Bathan Airfield

El Bathan Airfield is an abandoned military airfield in Ariana province, Tunisia, located approximately 15 km south of El Battan, and 30 km west of Tunis. It is now an agricultural area, with little or no visible remains. A light scar on the landscape indicates where its main runway was located. During World War II it was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign.

Enfidaville Airfield

Enfidaville Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield in Tunisia, located approximately 13 km north-northwest of Harqalah; approximately 90 km southwest of Tunis. It was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber ant troop carrier base. Known units assigned were:

316th Troop Carrier Group, 21 June-3 September 1943, C-47 Skytrain

376th Bombardment Group, 26 September-17 November 1943, B-17 Flying FortressThe 376th Bomber Group was composed of B-24 "Liberator" heavy bombers. Aircrew and support personnel began arriving in late August, 1943. The first mission carried out by the 376th was on 1Oct43 against the aircraft factory at Wiener Neustadt in Austria.

When the Americans moved to Italy, the airfield was dismantled and abandoned. For many years the airfield had almost completely returned to its natural state, with only the outlines of the main runway and what appeared to be taxiways faintly visible in aerial photography. Today it is the location of the Enfidha – Hammamet International Airport that was built in its place and opened in 2009.

Fiat M14/41

The Fiat M 14/41 was a four-person medium tank that served from 1941 in the Royal Italian Army. The official Italian designation was Carro Armato M 14/41. The tank was first employed in the North African Campaign where its shortcomings quickly became apparent.

Goubrine Airfield

Goubrine Airfield is an abandoned military airfield in Tunisia, about 10 km south of Manzil Kāmil; 145 km south-southeast of Tunis. Its last known use was by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force in 1943 during the North African Campaign against the German Afrika Korps. It was used by the following units:

HQ 51st Troop Carrier Wing, 24 July-29 August 1943

4th Troop Carrier Squadron (62d Troop Carrier Group), 25 June-7 September 1943, C-47 Skytrain

7th Troop Carrier Squadron (62d Troop Carrier Group), 26 July-6 September 1943, C-47 Skytrain

8th Troop Carrier Squadron (62d Troop Carrier Group), 28 July-7 September 1943, C-47 Skytrain

51st Troop Carrier Squadron (62d Troop Carrier Group), 2 July-6 September 1943, C-47 SkytrainAfter the Americans moved out, the airfield was dismantled and abandoned. Today, the precise location of the field can not be determined, as agricultural use has erased all evidence of its existence.

Grombalia Airfield

Grombalia Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield in Tunisia, which is located approximately 112 kilometres (70 mi) east-southeast of Hammam-Lif, about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) southeast of Tunis. It was a temporary airfield constructed by Army Engineers using Pierced Steel Planking (PSP) for its runway, parking and dispersal areas, not designed for heavy aircraft or for long-term use.

It was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force 82d Fighter Group during the North African Campaign, flying P-38 Lightnings from the airfield between August and October 1943.

After the Americans moved east in October, the airfield was closed and dismantled. Today, the former main runway is visible in aerial photography, however no buildings or physical features remain.

Military operations in North Africa during World War I

Conflicts took place in North Africa during World War I (1914–1918), between the Entente and the Central powers. The Senussi of Libya sided with the Ottoman Empire against the British Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. On 14 November 1914, the Ottoman Sultan proclaimed Jihad and sought to create a diversion to draw British troops from the Sinai and Palestine Campaign. The Italian state wished to preserve the gains made in the Italo-Turkish War. The Senussi Campaign took place in north Africa, from 23 November 1915 – February 1917.

In the summer of 1915, the Ottoman Empire persuaded the Grand Senussi Ahmed Sharif to attack British-occupied Egypt from the west, raise jihad and encourage an insurrection in support of an Ottoman offensive against the Suez Canal from the east. The Senussi crossed the Libyan–Egyptian border at the coast in November 1915. British Empire forces withdrew at first and then defeated the Senussi in several engagements, including the Action of Agagia. The British re-captured the territory along the coast by March 1916, with the Western Frontier Force of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, which included the 1st South African Infantry Brigade.

Further west, the inhabitants of areas recently conquered or seized by European powers from the Ottoman Empire, exploited the unsettled conditions caused by the war in Europe, to regain control of their lands. Uprisings took place in Morocco and Niger against the French colonialists, some of which lasted longer than the First World War. In Sudan, hostilities took place between the Anglo-Egyptians and the Sultan of Darfur, who was believed to have prepared an invasion of Egypt, to be synchronised with Senussi operations on the western frontier. Operations by the British were conducted by small numbers of men equipped with motor vehicles, aircraft and wireless, which multiplied their effectiveness and enabled them frequently to surprise their opponents by the speed of their manoeuvres.

No Time to Die

No Time to Die (US title Tank Force) is a 1958 film about an American sergeant in the British Army during the Second World War.

North African Campaign timeline

Timeline of the North African Campaign.

Oudna Airfield

Oudna Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield in Tunisia, which was located approximately 7 km southwest of La Mohammedia; about 14 km south-southwest of Tunis It was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force during the North African Campaign as a heavy B-17 Flying Fortress bomber airfield. Known units assigned were:

99th Bombardment Group, 4 August-11 December 1943, B-17 Flying Fortress (12AF/15AF after 1 November 193)

301st Bombardment Group, 6 August-7 December 1943, B-17 Flying Fortress (12AF/15AF after 1 November 193)Today the airfield is nearly indistinguishable from the agricultural fields in the area. A faint outline of dispersal pads and taxiways, along with a single-lane agricultural road which is the remnant of the main runway, are visible in aerial photography.

Panzer Army Africa

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

Panzer Group Africa, (Panzergruppe Afrika, Gruppo Corazzato Africa) August 1941 – January 1942; German-Italian force

Panzer Army Africa, (Panzerarmee Afrika, Armata Corazzata Africa) January–October 1942

German-Italian Panzer Army, (Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee, Armata Corazzata Italo-Tedesca) October 1942 – February 1943

Army Group Africa, (Heeresgruppe Afrika, Gruppo d'Armate Africa) February–May 1943

Play Dirty

Play Dirty is a 1969 British war film starring Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport, Nigel Green and Harry Andrews. It was director Andre DeToth's last film, based on a screenplay by Melvyn Bragg and Lotte Colin. The film's story is inspired by the exploits of units such as the Long Range Desert Group, Popski's Private Army and the SAS in North Africa during World War II.

Raid on Rommel

Raid on Rommel is an American B movie in Technicolor from 1971, directed by Henry Hathaway and set in North Africa during the Second World War. It stars Richard Burton as a British commando attempting to destroy German gun emplacements in Tobruk. Much of the action footage was reused from the 1967 film Tobruk, and the storyline is also largely the same.

Saint-Leu Airfield

Saint-Leu Airfield was a military airfield in Algeria, near the city of Bettioua, about 45 km northeast of Oran.

During World War II it was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force 319th Bombardment Group during the North African Campaign against the German Afrika Korps. The 319th flew B-26 Marauder medium bombers from the airfield between 11 and 18 November 1942.

Soliman Airfield

Soliman Airfield is an abandoned World War II military airfield in Tunisia, located approximately 12 km west-northwest of Manzil Bū Zalafah, and 39 km southeast of Tunis. It was a temporary airfield, not designed for heavy bomber or long-term use. During the North African Campaign, it was used by the United States Army Air Force Twelfth Air Force. Known units assigned were:

47th Bombardment Group, 1–21 July 1943, A-20 Havoc

321st Bombardment Group, 8 August–October 1943, B-25 Mitchell

325th Fighter Group, 4 November-11 December 1943, P-47 ThunderboltWhen the Americans moved out at the end of 1943, the airfield was abandoned. Today, the remains of the field are visible in aerial photography, with much of the runways, taxiways and dispersal pads in evidence.

Sonderkommando Blaich

The Sonderkommando Blaich (English: Special detail Blaich) was a German special unit consisting of one Heinkel He 111 medium bomber that -supported by an Italian Savoia SM.81- raided in January 1942 Free French–controlled Fort Lamy in the Chad region of French Equatorial Africa.The raid against a target located 1,250 mi (2,010 km) from the German-Italian bases in North Africa was a success but, on its return flight, the German plane ran out of fuel and had to make an emergency landing; both crew and plane were rescued a week later.

North African Campaign

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.