British forces take Bardia, along with 8,000 Axis prisoners.
Rommel's battered forces reach the Tripolitanian frontier having evaded all British attempts to cut them off.
British capture Sollum.
The last German garrison at Halfaya in Cyrenaica surrenders, with about 5,500 prisoners taken.
Two Axis transports, the Mongevino and Ankara land 45 German tanks at Benghazi as reinforcement, while axis forces evacuate the city.
British troops capture Benghazi.
Without consulting higher authority, Rommel launches a counter-offensive against the 8th Army. The 21st Panzer Division quickly seizes Mersa Brega, while the 15th Panzer Division advances to Wadi Faregh and swings north towards Agedabia, brushing aside the attempts by the 1st Armoured Division to stop them.
Rommels command is redesignated as Panzer Army Afrika. German panzers capture Agedabia and trap part of the British 1st Armoured Division in the Antelat - Sannu area, destroying about 70 of its tanks.
General Cavallero, C in C, Italian High Command and Field Marshall Albert Kesselring, German C in C, South, fly to Rommel's advanced HQ. The Italians want Rommel to stop his offensive and withdraw to his start line, but Rommel rejects this demand. The Italians therefore refuse to allow their troops to advance any further east, but undeterred, Rommel presses on with just the Afrika Korps.
German troops capture Msus, which threatens the 4th Indian Divisions position at Benghazi. Lieutenant General Ritchie, orders the 4th Indian Division to withdraw to a line running from Derna to Mechili, but this order is countermanded by General Auchinleck who wanted the 8th Army to counter-attack. However, the 8th Army was to widely dispersed and Rommels forces were advancing too quickly.
German troops launch a feint attack from Msus, towards Mechili. This successfully deceives the British in to believing that the Germans will attempt cut the coast road far to the east of Benghazi and so they begin to hurriedly evacuate the 4th Indian Division from Benghazi along the coast road.
German forces capture Benghazi, along with a large quantity of supplies.
The 4th Indian Division continues to withdraw along the coast road towards Derna.
The commander of the British XIII Corps, Godwin-Austen, resigns as a result of Lieutenant General Ritchie bypassing him and dealing direct with his divisional commanders.
The Afrika Korps recaptures Derna. Hahas Pasha forms a new Egyptian Cabinet, becomes the Military Governor and dissolves Parliament the next day.
After just over 2 weeks of frenetic action, Rommel's counter-offensive comes to a halt in front of the Gazala line, a series of self supporting fortified boxes running south from Gazala for a 100 miles to Bir Hacheim. Although not complete, it presents too much of an obstacle for the Afrika Korps who by this time are running low on fuel and reserves.
Churchill exhorts General Auchinleck to launch an offensive against the German and Italian forces that are gathering in front of the Gazala line. He reminds Auchinleck that the longer he waits, the more time Rommel will have to rebuild his strength. To this General Auchinleck reply's that his intention is to first build up an armoured striking force as quickly as possible and strengthen the defenses of the Gazala line. Only then would he mount a major offensive, which he advised Churchill would be in early June.
Axis bombers attack the port of Alexandria in Egypt.
British forces land at Diego Suarez and Antsirene on Vichy French held Madagascar in an pre-emptive strike to stop the Japanese from using it as an advanced base.
Vichy French resistance ends in Madagascar.
The battle for the Gazala line begins (Operation Venezia), as the Afrika Korps thrusts south with 560 tanks and around the southern end of the Eighth Army's defensive positions towards Tobruk. However the Free French forces at Bir Hacheim manage hold up this advance.
The Afrika Korps, having pushed round the British defenses, move northeast. They are engaged by elements of the British 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions. Many tank losses were taken by both sides, although as the battle went on the British armour became increasingly scattered. The Italian Ariete Armoured Division continued to meet stiff resistance from the Free French at Bir Hacheim, while the Italian Trieste Motorised Division further north, found itself grinding through minefields under heavy fire as a result of a navigation error.
Heavy fighting continues at the southern end of the Gazala line, although by now Rommel's forces are beginning to run out of fuel and his tanks are becoming scattered. In order to shorten his supply lines he decides to punch a hole through the Gazala line.
The Afrika Korps take up defensive positions in the 'Cauldron' in readiness for their attempt to punch through the Gazala line.
The battle of the 'Cauldron' begins as Rommel attacks the fortified box in the Gazala line that is held by the 150th Brigade of the British 50th Division. The Italians attack from the west as elements of the Afrika Korps attack from the east. Meanwhile Rommel's anti-tank gunners, repulse a number of British armoured counter-attacks against his position in the 'Cauldron'. However, Lieutenant General Ritchie is hampered by his inability to concentrate his armour and so is unable to relieve the 150th Brigade.
Rommel takes the fortified ‘box’ that is held by the British 150th Brigade in the Gazala defensive line and secures the 'Cauldron'. This enables him to get much needed supplies flowing. Rommel now turns the German 90th Light Division and the Italian Ariete Armoured Division against Bir Hacheim in an attempt to wipe out the Free French garrison which still holds out. He also distracts the British by sending the 21st Panzer Division northeast to operate nearer to Tobruk.
The Eighth Army launches a counter-attack against the Afrika Korps forces that are inside the 'Cauldron. This is codenamed 'Aberdeen', but went disastrously wrong from the start, with an infantry tank brigade being destroyed in minefields and an Indian infantry brigade attacking the wrong positions. This left the remainder of the force, the 22nd Armoured Brigade to be repulsed easily by the untouched German defenses. British losses for this operation were 150 tanks, 133 guns and 6,000 troops. At this point in the battle, the British forces in the northern part of the Gazala line (1st South African and the remainder of the British 50th Division), were still in a strong position and so General Auchinleck and Lieutenant General Ritchie decide to hold the line facing south from the Knightsbridge defensive box to El Adem with the remainder of their infantry and tank forces and wait for Rommel's next move.
German and Italian troops finally captures Bir Hacheim from the Free French, which had been totally cut off since the 26th May 1942.
Rommel, having now brought up tank reserves, could now muster 124 tanks against the 248 British tanks. He therefore attacked the British positions between Knightsbridge and El Adem, trapping much of the British armour.
German tanks and anti-tank batteries destroy 138 British tanks in and around the Knightsbridge pocket. This left the Eighth Army with only 75 armoured vehicles operational and threatened the main British supply route along the Trigh Capuzzo, which in turn threatened the 1st South African and British 50th Division which were still defending the northern part of the Gazala line. Lieutenant General Ritchie, without informing General Auchinleck, who wanted to hold west of Tobruk, ordered these two divisions to pull back towards Tobruk.
Auchinleck tells Ritchie that Tobruk must be held, a fact that Churchill reiterates to him. The Eighth Army now holds a line directly in front of Tobruk, running from the coast to Acroma, then southeast to El Adem and then directly south to Bir El Gobi.
Rommel launches an attack against Eighth Army's new defensive line, but is repulsed. However, General Norrie was worried that XXX Corps lacked sufficient tanks to defend this line for very long.
Lieutenant General Ritchie gives General Norrie permission to withdraw XXX Corps past Tobruk and as far as Mersa Matruh to re-equip. General Gott's XIII is ordered to take up defensive positions on the Egyptian frontier. This left the city exposed to another siege, for which its defenses were inadequate, having been allowed to deteriorate during the winter.
The Eighth Army's withdrawal reaches the Egyptian frontier, leaving behind the 2nd South African Division to form the basis of a 30,000 strong garrison at Tobruk.
Rommel isolates Tobruk by cutting the coast road at Gambut. The cities position is made worse after the desert air force loses its forward airfields as so is unable to give much assistance to its defenders. The Eighth Army evacuates Sidi Rezegh and El Adem.
Rommel launches a surprise attack from the southeast against Tobruk. This throw's the garrison into confusion which allows German troops to breach the outer defenses.
Tobruk falls to the Germans, who capture 32,000 prisoners, 2,000 tons of fuel, 5,000 tons of food and 2,000 vehicles.
German advanced elements reach the Egyptian border. Rommel signals Kesselring for permission to continue the advance in to Egypt, pointing out that at Tobruk his forces has captured large quantities of fuel and supplies.
The Germans advance into Egypt as the British retreat continues. Sollum and Sidi Barrani are evacuated by the Eighth Army.
The Germans capture Sidi Barrani, Sollum and the Halfaya Pass in Libya as the Eighth Army retreats to Mersa Matruh in Egypt. General Auchinleck relieves Lieutenant General Ritchie and takes personal command of the Eighth Army, with plans to hold Rommel if he could at Mersa Matruh, but more definitely at the El Alamein line, or if that failed the Suez Canal.
Rommel is made a Field Marshal and launches attacks against Mersa Matruh. Meanwhile, Kesselring, Cavallero (Italian Chief of Staff in Rome) and Bastico (Italian C-in-C in Libya) arrive at Rommel's HQ and give permission for him to continue his advance in to Egypt.
German troops begin to outflank the British positions at Mersa Matruh. As this happens the British start to withdraw towards the El Alamein line, confirming radio intercepts that had indicated they would.
German advance units capture Fuqa and report increasing confusion in the retreating British units.
Rommel takes Mersa Matruh after heavy fighting and captures 6,000 prisoners along with large quantities of supplies. British disarray increases as German advance units mix with British rear units which are reatreating as fast as possible for the relative safety of the El Alamein defensive position. Mussolini arrives at Derna in Libya to prepare for the triumphal entry into Cairo. Alexandria is bombed.
Rommel spearheads reaches El Alamein. The port facilities at Alexandria are prepared for demolition, should the axis forces not be stopped at El Alamein. In what became known as 'Ash Wednesday', British HQ is Cairo begins to destroy classified papers and prepares for evacuation to Palestine. A brave but disorganized Eighth Army is addressed by General Auchinleck, who tells them, that 'He (Rommel) hopes to take Egypt by bluff. Lets show him where to get off.' This comes as 'Ultra' interceptions told them that Rommel would attack their positions at El Alamein the following day.
Rommel captures 2,000 prisoners from the El Alamein ‘box’ but loses 18 of his 55 remaining tanks.
The British hold El Alamein despite heavy attacks, Rommel is now down to 26 tanks.
Due to exhaustion and lack of supplies, especially fuel for the armoured divisions, Rommel orders his German and Italian forces to suspend all offensive operations before El Alamein and begin constructing defensive positions. troops to after being reduced to 13 tanks in a final effort to break through.
Axis troops start laying minefields in front of their positions at El Alamein.
Despite continuous attacks by the British Eighth Army, Panzer Army Afrika manages to hold on to its positions before El Alamein.
Renewed German attacks against the British defenses at El Alamein bog down in the face of stubborn British resistance.
A British attack against axis positions to the South of El Alamein is repulsed.
New Zealander troops attack ‘Kidney’ Ridge in three days of fighting, which costs Rommel 2,600 prisoners and 115 guns captured.
Mussolini temporarily abandons his ‘Victory March on Cairo’ and returns to Rome.
Auchinleck musters 323 tanks against Rommel’s 92 in the second battle of ‘Kidney’ Ridge, but loses 131 tanks and 2,600 men.
Fierce fighting continues along the El Alamein front.
An Australian attack at Alamein fails and the Eighth Army goes over to the defensive after taking 7,000 Axis prisoners. This concludes the first battle of El Alamein.
Churchill visits the Eighth Army at El Alamein and decides to replace Auchinleck.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower is appointed as commander-in-chief of allied forces preparing to invade North Africa.
The creation of the Palestine Regiment of the British Army is announced. General Gott, the Eighth Army's commander designate, is shot down while en route for Cairo. Montgomery is chosen instead.
Montgomery takes command of Eighth Army, two days early.
Alexander replaces Auchinleck as C-in-C of the Middle East. Montgomery’s appointment officially announced.
Auchinleck announces the capture of 10,000 Axis troops in last two months of fighting in North Africa.
Rommel begins his final attempt to break through at El Alamein in the battle of Alam Halfa. However, the 15th Panzer Division fails to break through the 8th Army's lines and sustains heavy casualties losing about 30 tanks forcing the Germans to withdraw back to their start lines.
The RAF makes a record number of sorties in North Africa as desert battle rages. Rommel’s withdrawal is speeded up by heavy New Zealand pressure.
Rommel is back to the positions held on the 31st August, having lost 51 tanks (out of 515), 70 guns, 400 trucks and 2,865 men. The Eighth Army losses were 1,640 men and 68 tanks.
The Eighth Army stabilizes its line at Alam el Haifa, after Montgomery suspends the battle.
British desert raids reach Benghazi and Barer. A combined forces attack on Tobruk is also made.
The Governor General of Madagascar asks for an armistice.
Peace talks in Madagascar break down.
British forces land on the east coast of Madagascar and occupy Tamatave.
Field Marshal Rommel takes a medical leave and hands over command to General von Thoma. British troops occupy the capital of Madagascar.
Top-scoring Luftwaffe ace and Diamonds winner Hans-Joachim Marseille (158 British aircraft) of 3./JG 27 is killed in a flying accident.
Montgomery issues the final plan to senior commanders for the Second battle of El Alamein.
The final ‘Torch’ (invasion of NW Africa) plans are issued.
The Second Battle of El Alamein begins with a 1,000-gun bombardment. The Eighth Army gains ground on a 6-mile front and repulses Axis counter-attacks.
Montgomery switches the attack to the North. Rommel breaks off his sick leave to take charge of the critical situation in which the axis forces now find themselves.
The Eighth Army begins re-grouping its divisions at El Alamein for the final breakout.
A counter-attack by the 21st Panzer-Division to push the attacking British forces back into the German minefields fails, costing them 50 Panzer's. This leaves the axis forces with just 81 operational tanks.
Operation 'Supercharge', the breakout at El Alamein gets under way. Rommel has only 32 Panzer's left intact.
Rejecting out of hand Field Marshal Rommel's proposal to withdraw the Afrika Korps, now down to about 40 tanks, to the Fuka line, Hitler orders him to stand and fight.
The Italian 20th Motorised Corps is destroyed. Rommel re-issues his orders for retreat with only 12 tanks left. 10,724 Axis prisoners are taken by the British, including nine generals.
The British attack Rommel’s rearguard, which is now almost 100 miles to west of El Alamein. A peace treaty is signed in Madagascar with the Vichy French.
Further progress made by the Eighth Army with 20,000 further Axis prisoners being claimed.
Operation 'Torch' begins with Anglo-American forces under Lieutenant General Eisenhower landing in Morocco and Algeria against minimal Vichy French resistance. Mersa Matruh is re-taken by British.
US troops advance on both sides of Oran, taking 2,000 French prisoners after stiff resistance. German paratroops are landed in Tunisia without opposition from the French.
The Americans capture Oran. Petain takes command of all Vichy forces. British successes in Egypt continue with the capture of Sidi Barrani.
The British 8th Army retakes Sollum and Bardia, while Panzer Army Afrika continues its withdrawal toward Tripoli.
The Eighth Army captures Tobruk and Montgomery says: ‘We have completely smashed the German and Italian armies’.
British paratroops engage German troops in Tunisia, while the first clashes occur between the newly landed U.S. and German forces.
Laval is given absolute power by Vichy in Africa.
British troops engage a German tank column only 30 miles from Tunis.
The Eighth Army reaches Benghazi.
Retreating before the British 8th Army (Montgomery), Panzer Army Afrika reaches El Agheila.
Laval sets up Phalange Africaine, to fight allies in Africa.
British troops are only 22 miles from Tunis.
British paratroops drop south of Tunis.
German forces in Tunisia capture Tebourba.
German troops occupy the port of Bizerte in Tunisia.
Rommel begins to retreat from his positions El Agheila, as the Eighth Army continues advance in to Libya.
Admiral Darlan is assassinated by a young Frenchman in Algiers.
The French authorities execute Admiral Darlan’s assassin.
General Giraud becomes the leader of French Africa.
General De Gaulle welcomes Giraud’s appointment and calls for French unity.