Battle of Medenine

Battle of Medenine is a part of the Tunisia Campaign. The Germans in this battle launched a counter attack against the British 8th Army, but failed to achieve any results.

The British 8th Army led by Montgomery after making a victory in the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942, chased the Axis forces led by Rommel all the way and in January 1943 fully occupied Libya. Rommel led his troops to retreat back into Tunisia and joined reinforcements sent from Europe to defend against attacks from the Allies. When the Axis forces retreated, it destroyed port transportation facilities in order to extend the time for the Allied forces to prepare to attack. When the 8th Army prepared for the attack, the Axis forces attacked in February 1943 the Allied forces in western Tunisia, wishing to change the passive situation. Finally, the Axis forces made only a limited victory. Despite of the great loss caused to the Allied, it failed to change the situation in the battlefield. After that, the Axis forces turned to east and hoped to launch an offensive against the Eighth Army. However, the 8th Army was commanded by the cautious Montgomery and his subordinated forces had a lot of combat experience with plenty of weapons and equipment. Therefore, compared to the west, the chance for the Axis powers to win was smaller.

At this point, the Axis forces confronting the 8th Army laid defense along the Mareth Line, which was originally built by the French to prevent Italy’s attack. This line of defense was eventually employed by the Axis for guarding against offensive of the Allied. Rommel’s practice was as usual.  He deployed the Italian troops on the defense line to defend and used the German troops as offensive spearhead. Rommel’s forces for attacking this time were still 15th and 21st Panzerdivisions as well as 90th and 164th Light Infantry Divisions in addition to newly reinforced 10th Armored Division. Many of these troops had followed Rommel as early as in 1941 to fight in North Africa and had experienced many times of victory and defeat. And the British they faced were opponents they had fought for several times. The British 7th Armored Division, New Zealand 2nd Division had fought for a long term with these German forces.

The battle started at 6:00 on March 6. The Germans began with tanks for the pilot, followed by infantries to attack. But the British had well prepared for the defense. The Germans launched several offensives on the same day in a row and were repulsed every time with the loss of more than 50 tanks. The Germans finally realized that they could not win the battle and gave up the attack. In fact, the final outcome of the battle was already doomed before it started. Montgomery’s forces had the advantage in strength and were equipped with a large number of anti-tank guns with well-organized defense. With a very limited power of the Axis forces, it was unlikely to break through the British defenses. When the difference in strength between the warring sides was big, it had been already difficult for the disadvantaged side to win. If, besides, the commander of the dominant side was very discreet, then there would be almost no possibility for the battle result to be reversed at all.

Montgomery after the battle ended, was quite satisfied with the combat results. Because the German attack had consumed their few left tanks and other equipment, making the odds of the British to eventually win grow. After the battle ended, Rommel was also transferred back to Europe and sadly ended his career fighting in North Africa for up to two years.

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