The Western Desert Campaign (Desert War) was a theatre in the North African Campaign during the Second World War and took place in Libya and the Western Desert of Egypt. The campaign began in September 1940, with the Italian invasion of Egypt. The Italians halted to bring up supplies, and Operation Compass, a five-day British raid in December 1940, led to the destruction of the Italian 10th Army. Benito Mussolini sought help from Hitler and a small German blocking detachment (Sperrverband) was sent to Tripoli under Directive 22 (11 January). The German detachment, under the command of Colonel General Erwin Rommel, were the first units of what was to become the Afrika Korps. The detachment was under nominal Italian command but Italian dependency on Nazi Germany made it the dominant partner.
In the Spring of 1941 Axis forces under Rommel pushed the British-led allied forces back and reached Tobruk which was then besieged. The allied force held out and was relieved during Operation Crusader, and then pushed the Axis forces back to where they had started by the end of the year.
In 1942 Axis forces drove the Allies back, capturing Tobruk but failed to gain a decisive victory. On the final Axis push to Egypt the Allies retreated to El Alamein, where at the Second Battle of El Alamein the Eighth Army defeated the Axis forces, which never recovered and were driven out of Libya to Tunisia, where they were defeated in the Tunisia Campaign.
After the British defeats in the Balkan Campaign, the Western Desert Campaign had become more important to British strategy. For Adolf Hitler the Eastern Front dwarfed the desert war, which was a holding action of secondary importance. The Axis forces never had sufficient resources or the means to defeat the British, who in their turn missed several opportunities to finish the campaign by diverting resources to Greece and the Levant in 1941 and the Far East in 1942.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, The Rand Light Infantry was mobilised on the 4 August 1914 as part of the expeditionary force to seize control of the German Imperial Colony of South West Africa.Read more
The Western Desert Campaign (Desert War) was a theatre in the North African Campaign during the Second World War and took place in Libya and the Western Desert of Egypt.Read more
The Battle of Bardia was fought over three days in the city of Bardia in Libya from 3-5 January 1941, as part of Operation Compass, the first military operation of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War.Read more
The Battle of Gazala (near the modern town of Ayn al Ghazālah) was fought during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, around the port of
The First Battle of El Alamein was fought during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, around the town of El Alamein in Egypt from 1–27 July 1942.Read more
The Second Battle of El Alamein was fought during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, around the town of El Alamein in Egypt from 23 October – 11 November 1942.Read more