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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Battle of Alam Halfa

30 August to 2 September 1942 (some argue the battle went on until 6/7 September)

Theatre: North Africa
Location: Around the Egyptian town of El Alamein, 100km (60 miles) west of Alexandria.
Players: Allies: General Bernard Montgomery's 8th Army comprising 13th Corps and 30th Corps. Axis: General Erwin Rommel's Armeegruppe Afrika including Panzerarmee Afrika, Deutsches Afrika Korps and the Italian 10th, 20th and 21st Corps.
Outcome: An Allied defensive victory. 8th Army maintained its position in the face of a major German attack.

'There will be no more belly-aching and no more retreats.' - General Bernard Montgomery, on taking command of the 8th Army

General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks advance toward German lines, North Africa, November 1942
General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks advance toward German lines, North Africa, November 1942©
Shortly after reaching El Alamein on 30 June, the 8th Army achieved a small but significant victory in the First Battle of El Alamein. Nevertheless, Auchinleck was now out of favour with Churchill.

Auchinleck was relieved of his 8th Army command and his position as Commander-in-Chief Middle East on 6 August; the latter post was taken by General Harold Alexander, the former by General Sir William Gott. The following day Gott was killed when his aeroplane was shot down. His replacement was Montgomery.

Montgomery arrived at El Alamein on 18 August and promptly told Alexander that all withdrawal plans had been destroyed. His determination, and the reinforcements which had been building up since July, were tested two weeks later.

On the night of 30 August Rommel advanced around the southern end of the British line; he aimed to repeat the approach that had succeeded at Gazala, forcing the British to choose between encirclement and retreat.

However, Montgomery had recognised Rommel's superiority in manoeuvre and responded accordingly. East of the line, the tanks of 13th Corps were deployed on and around the Alam Halfa Ridge, in effect serving as anti tank guns.

Rommel's advance was blocked; with fuel running low, he called off the attack on 2 September. No great victory for the British, Alam Halfa was nevertheless a bruising defeat for Rommel and a boost for Montgomery and the 8th Army.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.

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