Battle of Alam el Halfa

Battle of Alam el Halfa is an attack operation launched by the Axis in North Africa. It had been only one month from the end of the First Battle of El Alamein to this battle. This is the last major offensive of the Axis powers for defeating the British in Egypt. Due to the large strength gap between the two sides, as well as cautious command of Montgomery, the new commander of the British, the Axis forces’ offensive operations failed.

In July 1942, the Axis forces followed up the victory and launched the First Battle of El Alamein. The British troops used a large number of reserved troops to fight against the Axis forces that had continuously fought and suffered extreme fatigue. Finally, the Axis offensive was contained by the British army and front lines of both sides remained at El Alamein. After that, the supreme commander of the British forces in the Middle East Auchinleck was sacked. The main reason that he was dismissed was ineffective performance of the troops over the past several months, so that the British with a strength advantage suffered a major defeat. Harold Alexander took over his duties, and Montgomery because of the accidental death of William Gott became the 8th Army commander. At this time, the United States had been involved in the war for eight months and a large number of war materials were handed over to the Allies, thus the gap between the Axis and the Allies in the north was growing. Therefore, Rommel reckoned that they must launch offensives again as soon as possible and beat the Allies before they became particularly stronger. But in fact, the Allies had already held a great advantage and the Axis’ attacks had little chance of winning. The Allies troops fought in the first Battle of El Alamein, the Australian 9th Division, New Zealand 2nd Division, Indian 5th Infantry Division, continued to participate in this battle. In addition, the British also added new fighting forces, 44th Infantry Division and the 10th Armored Division. The Allies were equipped with various types of tanks of about 700 in total. The Germans also added two combat troops, 164 Infantry Division and Ramcke Parachute Brigade. 164th Infantry Division was originally deployed in Greece and at this time was transferred to North Africa for reinforcements. Ramcke Parachute Brigade was originally used to attack the island of Malta, but the plan was canceled and the force was also used to reinforce North Africa. After a month of trimming and supplement, the number of tanks of the Axis forces restored to 500, but more than half of which were poor-performance Italian tanks. For the Axis, the most serious problem remained lack of fuel and ammunition. Although a few months ago they occupied an important port Tobruk, a lot of the transport vessels sailing to the port were sunk by the Allies. Therefore, overall strengths of both sides had increased compared with in the last battle, but the Allies’ strength was improved more.

The battle place was still located near El Alamein. Rommel wanted to find a defensive weakness in the British lines to break through and then cut off the British supply lines and surrounded and annihilated the British. The forces used by Rommel for the main attacks were still three German divisions he got, 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions, 90th Light Division. The newly arrived German troops were used to support the Italian Army. As to the British troops, Australian 9th Infantry Division, South Africa 1st Infantry Division and Indian 5th Infantry Division were still used for defending the right wing, which was near the coast. New Zealand 2nd Division and 7th Armored Division troops were deployed in the south of those troops. The newly arrived 44th Infantry Division and 10th Armored Division were deployed on the second line of defense.

The battle began in the evening of August 30. Rommel’s attacks focused on the south, namely the area defended by New Zealand 2nd Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Division. The German offensive suffered a serious problem from the beginning. The Royal Air Force’s attacks brought some losses. Even Walther Nehring, the commander of Deutsches Afrika Korps, was seriously injured due to air strikes and had to be replaced. Nehring had served this role before and had commanded three German divisions with the most powerful strength of the Axis forces. 21st Panzer Division’s commander Georg von Bismarck was killed by a mine. After passing through the mine area, the Germans started to attack from the morning of the second day. Because Rommel had used similar tactics to attack the British for several times before, so the British strengthened its flank defense. After a fierce battle, Rommel’s armored forces failed to break through the British lines and British forces’ continuing air strikes on the supply lines led to fuel even more scarce. Till September 2, the subordinate troops of 7th Armored Division cut off the supply lines of the Axis and Rommel decided to retreat. Since then, the British began to launch counterattacks. But like previous attacks, such offensives were quickly defeated by the Germans. Montgomery decided to stop the attack in order to reduce losses. Until September 5, the Axis forces returned to its starting place.

The battle eventually ended with failure of the Axis forces. The Axis forces lost more than 2,900 people while the British lost about 1,700 people. Each side lost dozens of tanks. Because this battle only lasted a few days, this casualty figure revealed that fighting was very intense. Because the British were defeated since the Axis forces inserted into the flank and back of the Allies forces for many times before, the British strengthened the defense, resulting in unsuccessful attacks of the opponent. Montgomery’ caution also reduced the loss of Allies operations. RAF air control was also an important factor for the British victory. After this battle, the Allies’ strength continued to grow rapidly. In the Second Battle of El Alamein broke out in November, the Allies overwhelmingly defeated the Axis forces and completely changed the situation in the North African battlefield.

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