Author(s): Bryn Hammond
The battle of El Alamein in 1942 was one of the most crucial events in the entire Second World War. Before it, the British had never won a major battle on land against the Germans; nor indeed had anyone else, even the Russians. At Alamein the British Eighth Army first thwarted the Axis attempts in North Africa to seize Cairo and the Suez Canal and then smashed through the German-Italian defences, eventually driving the Axis forces out of North Africa. This victory, by a 'British' army actually composed of a variety of nationalities including men and women from the Indian sub-continent, southern Africa, Australians, New Zealanders, French and Greeks, as well as British troops, had psychological and morale-raising significance that exceeded even its strategic importance. Nothing had the sweet smell of success prior to this battle than El Alamein and for the battered British Empire battling against the might of the Third Reich this victory was crucial to its ability to continue its war efforts.
El Alamein's significance went beyond the events of the war. The opposing army commanders were perhaps the first 'celebrity' generals, attracting the attention of press and newsreel reporters alike. This led to a host of myths and tales of idiosyncratic behaviour that were shamelessly exploited by the individuals themselves and, especially in Britain, eagerly devoured by a public enamoured of the romance of warfare in this remarkable and hostile environment where men were at war with each other as well as with the elements. Drawing on a remarkable array of first-hand accounts, this book reveals the personal experiences of those on the frontline, giving the individual's point of view of the battle, from all sides, and provide a fascinating account of the minutiae detail of how war was actually fought alongside the analysis of the strategic decisions made by the generals.
El Alamein 1942 is the story of exactly how a seemingly beaten and demoralized army turned near-defeat into victory in a little over four months of protracted and bloody fighting in the harsh North African desert and of the repercussions of the battle for the participants, for historians and in popular culture.
El Alamein, Britain's victory in the deserts of North Africa in 1942, was the first major reversal of fortunes for Hitler's Third Reich. This book reveals how a defeated army was turned into a battle-winning force, how men were at war with each other and the environment, and how the first 'celebrity generals' were created.
The author has done a superlative job in writing about a battle that has been thoroughly examined by others. He, however, brings fresh material to light about the extreme hardships faced, not only in fighting a determined foe, but the harsh weather conditions as well, from actual survivors of the Battles of El Alamein and Alam Halfa fro June through November 1942. "WWII History (Late Fall 2012)" ...belongs in any World War II collection... "James A. Cox, The Bookwatch (September 2012)""
Bryn Hammond is a member of the British Commission for Military History and completed his doctoral thesis on tank warfare. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham, and the Western Front and Gallipoli Associations. His previous publication, Cambrai 1917 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008), was extremely well received and he has written widely on a variety of military history subjects in a number of magazine publications. He currently works at the Imperial War Museum.
Outline Table of Contents Introduction and Setting the Scene * 'The Race to Egypt' and the initial manoeuvre for position * Placing the battle in the context of the war in general and specifically the Desert War situation in July 1942; * A description of the British and Dominion forces in full retreat and of the Germans and Italians in hard pursuit. * The importance of a stand on a defensive line near the railway halt of El Alamein and the construction of several defensive "boxes" (localities with slit trenches and dugouts and surrounded by minefields and barbed wire) although most of the "line" was just open, empty desert; * The last opportunity to stop Rommel's drive into Egypt with its potentially fatal consequences for British power and influence in Middle East. The Armies at Alamein * How Eighth Army turned to confront its pursuers. * The battle of Alam Halfa * How order was brought from chaos, and where chaos was never overcome. * This chapter would introduce many of the main characters, places, military units and terminology that will appear throughout the rest of the book. * An explanation of the land and air forces available to both sides and the problems the opposing commanders faced. First Alamein - The first clash of battle * The German advance stalls for lack of fuel, etc. * Auchinleck's counter-attacks begin; * The attacks are not adequately co-ordinated. There are some spectacular successes and some appalling failures. * In-fighting amongst the allied generals but courage on the battlefield; The Little Man with White Knobbly Knees - Montgomery and Alexander take charge * Churchill and Alanbrooke visit the Middle East * The dismissal of Auchinleck, the death of Gott and the arrival of Montgomery * What the ordinary men thought about these changes, and how they affected these men. * Reorganisation, reinforcements - the thoughts of new arrivals in the desert and the response of those already there Alam el Halfa * Eighth Army's defence against Rommel's renewed attack. * The experiences of those involved. * How this attack was defeated * How close did Rommel really come to victory? * Rommel's logistical problems * The growing importance of the Desert Air Force * Montgomery's first offensive operations Planning for Breakthrough * How Eighth Army prepared for the breakthrough and what the men knew of the plans * What Montgomery planned to do and how he prepared his troops for this. * What were the problems to be overcome? How did the units train to do this? * New equipment: what the men thought of the Sherman, the 6-pounder, the 5.5-inch gun Operation Lightfoot * The enormous artillery bombardment * The infantry advance * Clearing gaps in the minefields * Attempts to get the armour through the minefields * Why these attempts failed The Failure of 'Crumbling' - The wearing-out fight * How Montgomery's original plans to 'crumble' the Axis defences were not working * Why and how the plans were changed. * The attacks by 9th Australian Division in particular * Greater risks taken by the armoured units produces greater casualties * How German and Italian strength and morale was being sapped Breakthrough: Operation Supercharge - The decisive blow * The new bombardment * How the Germans and Italians were finally broken * The breakthrough by the armour * Pursuit of the motorized and armoured formations, capture of the infantry * 'Operation Torch' - the landings in French North Africa * How the Germans and Italians were finally defeated in North Africa Analysis and Conclusion * 'Desert Victory' * The significance of the victory to the men of Eighth Army and to the Germans and Italians - was this a 'turning point' in the Second World War * The 'Celebrity General': Montgomery and Rommel * The raging battle: How the events surrounding Alamein were (and remain) the subject of dispute between participants and historians * How is 'Alamein' remembered today * The true nature of the battles at Alamein