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Victory in North Africa

North Africa

In the summer of 1942 it appeared that the British hold on Egypt and the Middle East was in jeopardy. The Germans and Italians, under the command of Erwin Rommel, were just 70 miles from the Nile Delta. Hurried plans were made to evacuate Egypt, with the possibility of also having to evacuate Palestine.

However, in August 1942 the 8th Army was successful in defending El Alamein and Alam Halfa. After the defensive action the army had a chance to rebuild its strength and morale under a new commander - Montgomery. On 23 October, after weeks of training, the 8th Army went into action. By 4 November Rommel had withdrawn his combined German and Italian force, and was retreating to the west.

On 8 November 1942 the British and Americans invaded French North Africa with the aim of occupying all hostile territory along the southern Mediterranean shore. Operation Torch was launched against French North Africa in July. Despite initial success, the operation slowed down in the face of the rapid German reinforcement of Tunisia. On 17 November the Allies were only 50 miles to the west of Tunisia. In February 1943 Rommel and the German forces (under General Von Arnim) combined in Tunisia. A combined attack by Rommel and Von Arnim succeeded in forcing US forces around the Kasserine Pass. Despite this, after a week of fighting the Germans were pushed back to their start line.

In late March the 8th Army breached the German eastern defensive line at Mareth and the final battles for Tunisia began. After very heavy fighting the Allied forces broke through German western defensives. On 6 May Allied forces had passed through the mountains and on to the plain surrounding Tunisia. There was little opposition left, and on 12 May the last Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered.