Rather than the single, decisive clash of arms that many people imagine, the Battle of El-Alamein consisted of three savage bouts of mechanized warfare separated by relative lulls over a period of five months (July–Nov) in 1942. In the First Battle of El-Alamein, the German Afrika Korps’ advance was stymied by lack of fuel and munitions and stiff Allied resistance organized by General Auchinleck. Once resupplied, however, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was able to press the advantage with 88-millimetre cannons that outranged the Allies’ guns, as well as faster, better-armoured tanks, used with an élan that earned him the title “the Desert Fox”.

In August, General Bernard Montgomery (“Monty”) took over the Allied Eighth Army, vowing that it would retreat no further. He negated his army’s weaknesses by siting its tanks “hull down” in pits with only their gun turrets above ground, protecting them until the Panzers came within range. Aware that the Allies were being resupplied, Rommel attacked the Alam Halfa Ridge in the Second Battle of El-Alamein (Aug 31 to Sept 6). Repulsed with heavy losses and desperately short of fuel, the Afrika Korps withdrew behind a field of five hundred thousand landmines. Monty patiently reorganized his forces, resisting pressure from his superiors to attack until he had amassed one thousand tanks. A stage illusionist, Jasper Maskelyne, concealed them in the desert and constructed fake tank parks as part of an elaborate deception plan to mislead Rommel as to where and when the Eighth Army’s main offensive would occur.

Shortly after nightfall on October 23, Monty launched the Third Battle of El-Alamein with a barrage of 744 guns that was heard in Alexandria. Having cracked the Nazi Enigma code, the Allies knew that Rommel was convalescing in Italy; when the Eighth Army punched a corridor through the minefields of the central front, the Germans were taken unawares. Rommel managed to return two days later, but was obliged to concentrate his mobile units further north, stranding four Italian divisions in the south. The Allies had established a commanding position at Kidney Ridge, from where Monty launched the decisive strike on November 2, leaving Rommel with only 35 operational tanks by the end of the day. On November 5 the Eighth Army broke out and surged westwards; the Afrika Korps fought rearguard actions back through Libya until its inevitable surrender in Tunisia six months later.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Egypt features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Middle East and North Africa: 10 spectacular sights off the beaten track

Middle East and North Africa: 10 spectacular sights off the beaten track

The Middle East and North Africa have plenty of world-famous attractions – Petra and the Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings and the souks of Marrakesh, the mi…

27 Mar 2018 • Gavin Thomas
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs