North African Campaign
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|North African Campaign|
|Part of WW2|
It was quite a confusing campaign.
|Britain, Free France, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Poland, India, French Royalists and USA||France, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Romania|
|Wellington, Nelson, O'Connor, Wavell, Auckinleck, Cunningham||Napoleon, King Philipe II, Gadaffi|
|500,000 at one time||500,000 at one time|
“Before Alamein we never won a bloody thing. Well apart from the battle of the River Plate, the Madagascan War, sinking the Bismark, the Battle of Britain and the attack on Mers Al Kebir. After Alamein we never had a defeat, apart from Operation Epsom, Antwerp, the Burmese Campaign...forget it I'll write a shorter speech.”
The North African Campaign was one of the major campaigns in WW2. It was fought across the width of the Northern Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea between the two belligerants Britain, her Commonwealth, Greece, Poland and Free France against (Vichy) France. Other more minor players in the campaign included the Italians, Germans and the Americans. The campaign began on 10th June 1940 and ended on 13th May 1943 as a British, commonwealth and allies victory.
The Italian Invasion of Egypt
On 8th September 1940, after many months of Mussolini harrasing and blackmailing his generals, General Graziani finally moved his huge 10th Army a whole 50 miles across the Libyan-Egyptian border into Egypt. He captured key water oasises and sand dunes so that half the local population were left starving and died out. This was a huge victory for the Italians and Graziani erected a huge monument in the middle of the Saharan desert where all the camels and cactii could see to mark the extinction of the local tribes in that area. For some reason however the British didn't immediatly surrender as expected and weren't really very moved by the whole affair anyway as they had been previously ordered to slaughter the tribe with machine guns the next day so were quite glad the Italians did it for them.
The British Retalliation
Field Marshall Wavell was told by London that the Italians were actually at war with Britain and so he was not to take the kind Italian act as a favour but as an invasion instead. Wavell ordered the Western Desert Force (7th Armoured Division and 4th Indian Division) under the command of General O'Connor to strike back and give the Italians "the beating they deserve."
In a typical gallant act of bravery the 30,000 strong Western desert force attacked the 300,000 strong Italian army and smashed them. The Italians couldn't believe that this was possible however because of the inadequacy of the Italian tanks and the use of a stiff upper lip by the British the Italians withdrew back into Libya. This was to be the end of the Desert War.
The French switch sides
However just as the allies thought that the Desert War was won, France surrendered to the Germans and changed sides in the war. From this point on the Germans were no longer the enemy, it was the French. The British immediatly diverted the Royal Navy from defending Britain's coastline to sinking all the French ships that were moored up in the harbour. Admiral Nelson and admiral Cunningham scored a gallant victory there with no British ships being lost and all French ships destroyed while moored up along an African coastline. Some argue however that this was simply a re-enactment of the Battle of the Nile.
O'Connor, meanwhile, was ordered to advance into Algeria and Morrocco and take the two French colonies. The only trouble was that the Italians were in the way. No problem for O'Connor. He simply drove far enough into Libya and the Italians' geniously designed tanks began rolling backwards, all the way to Tripoli. The British followed in hot pursuit and after conquering the whole of Libya, the Italians hid away in Tripoli and the British turned their attention to grease as their tanks had become quite warn out from continuosly advancing so they needed to get the tanks working again.
The French attack
While the British were readying their tanks and drinking tea. The French reinforcement troops landed in the port of Tripoli. They were commanded by a German General, Erwin Rommel, who was to lead the elite units of the 5th Vichy Light Division and the 21st Vichy Char Division on a crusade across Africa and into Jerusalem. The French hopped over the boundary fence between Algeria and Libya and invaded the British occupied Libyan territory.
The French began amazingly pushing back all the British units that occupied the Sahara Desert. However most of these troops were colonial troops so in the British opinion this didn't count as the French beating the British.
General O'Connor rushed to the scene and landed admist the fury of battle. After killing three barbaric French warriors he was finally captured and remained as a prisoner for the rest of the war. With their General gone the British fled back to Egypt.
The British Thin Red Line
The British were pushed back until they reached their last defensive post 100 miles West of the River Nile. They rallied round attempting to find a competent General. Eventually they found one, Lord, Earl Wellington-Marlborough, Monty as he was affectionately known for his starring in Monty Python as an extra in the background of episode 5, scene 4. In what was to become known as the Battle of El Alamein Monty fought off heards of French Vichy troops, armed with giant, sharp-pointed baguettes, by using simple machine guns to wipe them out in the process.
The Battle was regarded by most military critics as a show of bravery and inginuity from both sides however the main cause for the British victory was put that it was their determination that saw them through it, that and the fact that if they fled they would have been shot in the back.
The End of the Campaign
The Americans realising that the French were defeated quickly entered the war. They attacked the already routing French in the back and the French were utterly annihilated. The campaign for ever after was remembered by the USA as a great victory of their country while the Brits completely forgot about the campaign because they thought history was boring.