Western Desert Campaign

The Western Desert Campaign was the first phase of the North African Campaign that took place during World War II. It was fiercely fought between the Allied forces and the Axis armies, in Libya and Egypt, from September 1940 to February 1943. Although the Italian forces stationed in Libya and the British and Commonwealth forces deployed in Egypt had begun a series of raids on each other in June 1940, the Western Desert Campaign started on September 9, 1940, when the Italian 10th Army, commanded by General Rodolfo Graziani, invaded Egypt from their base in Cyrenaica, Libya. From then on, this desert military campaign was a constant back-and-forth offensives launched on each other by both sides.

By December 1940, the advance of the Italian units in Egyptian territory, initiated in September, had ground to a halt as the British commander, General Archival Wavell, launched Operation Compass, which was the first major Allied military operation of the Western Desert Campaign. This British counter-offensive was a complete success as the Allied forces advanced from inside Egypt to central Libya, captured 115,000 Italian prisoners. As a result, Germany decided to shore up the weakened Italian forces in North Africa by providing Wehrmacht ground units and Luftwaffe wings to prevent a total collapse; this was done through Operation Sonnenblume.

Under the command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Axis forces would launch large-scale attacks on the Allied positions. Twice, the Afrika Korps drove the Allied forces back into Egypt; the first time the Italian-German troops besieged the Australians at Tobruk, but they were relieved by the newly formed British 8th Army, ending the siege. Although on the second Axis offensive, the Allies were again driven far back into Egypt, they recovered at the Battle of El Alamein (October-November 1942), defeating the Germans, that began to fall back. Then, in a renewed counter-offensive, the British 8th Army pushed the Axis forces west and completely out of Libya, all the way into Tunisia, putting an end to the Western Desert Campaign.

Bernard Montgomery, British commander of the 8th Army that defeated the Germans at El Alamein.

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.