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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Battle of Medenine

14 February to 9 March 1943 (actual battle was fought on 6 March)

Theatre: North Africa
Location: Eastern Tunisia
Players: Allies: 51st (Highland), 7th Armoured and 2 New Zealand Divisions of the 8th Army. Axis: 90th Light, 10, 15 and 21 Panzer Divisions and Spezia Italian Division.
Outcome: 8th Army repulsed Rommel's attacks.

'He is trying to attack me in daylight with tanks, followed by lorried infantry... It is an absolute gift, and the man must be mad.' - General Bernard Montgomery, in a letter to Sir Alan Brooke, 6 March 1943

After El Alamein, the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel withdrew to the west with the 8th Army in hot but fruitless pursuit. An attempt to repeat General O'Connor's 1941 tactic during Operation Compass by cutting off the German retreat into the western Libyan province of Tripolitania was unsuccessful.

Rommel entered the Libyan capital Tripoli on 18 January and ordered the destruction and evacuation of the port the next day. On 13 February he entered Tunisia at the head of the Deutsches Afrika Korps; the following day he launched a two-pronged attack against the 1st Army positions south of Tunis, causing the loss of 40 tanks and a hasty withdrawal of Allied troops.

Rommel was now appointed head of a reconstituted Armeegruppe Afrika, including General Juergen von Arnim's 5th Panzerarmee and Italian forces in North Africa, recently reorganised as General Giovanni Messe's Italian 1st Army.

By now Rommel was also facing the 8th Army, established at Medenine in eastern Tunisia. On 6 March Rommel attacked Medenine with three Panzer divisions. As well as strong defensive positions, the 8th Army had massive force superiority, including large batteries of anti-tank guns. Rommel's attack was repulsed with the loss of 52 tanks.

On 9 March Rommel handed over command of Armeegruppe Afrika to Arnim and left Africa, never to return.

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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