The North African Campaign Of World War II

Erwin Rommel

Rommel With the 15th panzer Division.

Field Marshal Rommel is famous for his blitzkrieg tactics in France and the at Gazala, whilst commanding the Afrika Corps where his tactical awareness and his natural flair in mobile warfare, turned possible defeat into a stunning victory. He has been crowned as a tactical genius by history, and there is certainly no doubt as to his ability when his battles are analysed, but can it be said that he was particulary talented to the extent where it made his presence in Africa a decisive factor in the Axis powers favour. I believe he was, but it also worth mentioning that his presence did not effect the outcome of the Desert War because supplies and Hitlers interference reduced his ability to defeat the Allies in North Africa. There is no doubt in my mind that Rommel, if supplied more effectively and not had Hitler interfering, he would have defeated the Eighth Army well before Montgomery's arrival. Therefore Field Marshal Montgomery had the potential to directly effect the outcome of the North African Campaign in the Axis favour, but didn`t because of other factors that restrained him.

Erwin Rommel was born on November 15, 1891 and joined the 124th Wurttemburg Infantry Regiment, and participated in the First World War (Also known as the 'Great War' or 'The War To End All Wars') as a Lieutenant. As a War College instructor after the war, Rommel began to forge links with the Nazi Party. By 1939 Rommel was a Brigadier General and was at Hitlers H.Q during the Polish Campaign, but in the spring of 1940 Rommel took command of the 7th panzer Division and gained much respect for his abilities in using Blitzkrieg.

When Rommel was required to command the Afrika Korps in Northern Africa to aid the Italians who had been defeated by the 'Western Desert Force' (which later became the Eighth Army), the Allies knew that holding onto Northern Africa had just become a much harder objective to achieve. Rommel utilised the mobility of his Panzer Divisions and the superiority of his tanks and anti-tank guns to defeat the Allies on several occasions. Rommels finest battle in North Africa is said to have been Gazala in May 1942, where his superb improvisational skills and mastery of mobile warfare, struck an almost fatal blow to the Allies. All this time Rommel suffered from appalling supply problems that forced him to ration ammunition and fuel. Fuel was the main problem in a conflict that was fought over hundreds of miles of open desert and neccessitated mobile warfare on a grand scale.

After the battle of Alam Halfa in which Rommel was forced to attack, because the Allies were soon to achieve numerical superiority, the Afrika Korps days were numbered. His supply situation grew incresingly worse and Hitler began to over-rule his tactical decisions. Rommel, although severely lacking supplies and equipment, held out in Tunisia and had the chance to defeat the Allies, but was denied by the Italian High Command over-ruling his proposed attack. One couldn`t help feeling a little sorry for the man at this time. He had shown himself a brilliant fighter in the desert; three times he had escaped Montgomery`s efforts to surround his panzer army; he had been consistently starved of supplies and equipment.1 There is no denying that Rommel was a dynamic factor in the North African Campaign and if it was not for the fact that he received insufficient supplies, I believe he would have won the Desert War.

1 F.W Winterbotham, The Ultra Secret page 101


Diverted and Committed Troops

Intelligence in North Africa

Weapons In North Africa

Commanders and their tactics

High Command Disputes And Interference

Concluding thoughts on the North African Campaign

Back to the Start

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