Middle East (Egypt and Libya) 1940-42
The war in the desert was a relentless series of battles, operations, sieges and raids across the scorching sands of Libya and Egypt.
You can find out more about the action behind each battle during this campaign by clicking on the appropriate link on the left-hand side of the timeline.
Battle of Sidi Barrani – 10-11 Dec 1940
The first battle of the British counter-offensive is assigned as ‘Operation Compass‘. The offensive is successful and the Italians forces are pushed out of Egypt.
First Siege of Tobruk – 10 Apr-10 Dec 1941
A beleaguered Allied garrison holds out for eight months against German and Italian attacks. The siege prevents Rommel from taking full advantage of his offensive into Egypt.
Operation Battleaxe – 15-17 Jun 1941
This is an unsuccessful British offensive that attempts to raise the First Siege of Tobruk. Attacks are made against Rommel’s strong defensive positions but the majority fail.
Battle of Gazala – 26 May-21 Jun 1942
Erwin Rommel launches a daring attack against strong British defensive positions on the Gazala Line. The German commander wins his most impressive victory and forces the Allies back into Egypt.
Battle of Mersa Matruh – 26-29 Jun 1942
This battle is Rommel’s last victory against the Eight Army when he takes the fortress port of Mersa Matruh and captures thousands of prisoners.
Second Battle of El Alamein – 23 Oct-11 Nov 1942
Montgomery launches a well-prepared offensive against Rommel’s Axis forces at El Alamein. Using great tactical flair, strategy and dogged courage, the Allied victory is decisive and Rommel is forced to abandon Egypt.
Battle of El Agheila – 11-18 Dec 1942
El Agheila is a rearguard action in the aftermath of El Alamein. Rommels abandons Cyrenaica and withdraws to a strong defensive position but Montgomery outflanks the Axis forces. Rommel is forced to retreat to the Mareth Line after this last significant stand in Libya.