The Battle of El Alamein: 70 years on

English: El Alamein 1942: British infantry adv...

El Alamein 1942: British infantry advances through the dust and smoke of the battle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Second Battle of El Alamein, frequently cited as the turning point of the war in North Africa, began 70 years ago today. Whilst at the time it was no doubt a great morale boost for a victory-bereft British public, who had only seen defeat since 1939. History would suggest however that the Second World War was, for the most part, won and lost on the Eastern Front, given the vastly larger number of troops in action in that theatre. Given the perilous state of the country’s armed forces between 1940 and 1942, and given that for a large part of that time Britain was standing alone, a limited campaign in North Africa was probably all that the Army was capable of fighting at the time.

Alamein did once and for all prevent the Germans from breaking through to the Suez Canal, and the oilfields of the Middle East. My Grandad was in Iraq at the time, but ‘missed out’ on Alamein. Of course, it couldĀ  said that the Battle of Alam Halfa earlier in 1942 probably ended Rommel’s last chance of winning the war in North Africa. However, Alamein did also mark the rise of Montgomery in public consciousness as a senior commander who won battles.

On the subject of El Alamein, the guys at Philosophy Football have released a special El Alamein 70th anniversary t-shirt, with a Desert Rat artwork and in a nice sandy colour. Check out Philosophy Football’s website here.

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3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized, World War Two

3 responses to “The Battle of El Alamein: 70 years on

  1. While the Eastern Front was a huge meat grinder, there was a great deal of value to victories in North Africa. If nothing else, it kept the US (and its’ huge manufacturing abilities) interested in the European Theatre Of Operations. Otherwise, we might very well have concentrated on the Pacific Theatre, which would have deprived both Britain and Russia of the output of our factories. (And the Russians LOVED their P-39s, even if US aircrews thought them huge turkeys! :D )

  2. I agree that the Eastern Front was pivotal, but if Rommel had broken through at First Alamein or Alam Halfa, he could have easily rolled over the entire Middle East, depriving Britain of a vital supply of oil and refined petroleum products from the Kirkuk and Persian oilfields and the huge refinery at Abadan. A Rommel breakthrough could also have endangered Churchill’s government (which was rocked to some extent by Rommel’s capture of Tobruk in June ’42, requiring the government to undergo a vote of confidence). A new British government might have been open to negotiating a separate peace with the Axis powers. The US needed to keep Britain in the war in order to have a proper base from which to launch an invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. Finally, British war morale badly needed the boost of the victory at Second Alamein, given the disastrous defeats at Singapore, Benghazi, Gazala and Tobruk earlier in 1942. So while the Eastern Front, especially Stalingrad, was critical to the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany, the other Allies’ war effort would have been crippled if Rommel had not been stopped and defeated at El Alamein.

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