This weekend's event commemorates Operation Lightfoot. Taking place during the Second Battle of El Alamein, this operation is notable for featuring one of the hardest-fought tank engagements of the North African campaign.
The Second Battle of El Alamein took place from October 23 to mid-November of 1942.
It is best remembered as a contest of wits and wills between Lieutenant-General Bernard Law “Monty” Montgomery, the newly-promoted head of the British Eighth Army, and the famed and feared “Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, one of the men who pioneered modern armored warfare tactics from the war’s outset, and put the British strongly on the defensive.
“Monty’s” energetic assumption of command and insistence upon resupply helped restore flagging British morale. Rommel realized he could not allow the British to resupply and launched an assault of his own before his ammunition and fuel could entirely run out:
“The battle raged for twelve days. British artillery attacks were followed by a massive tank engagement in which both sides battered one another to an apparent bloody standstill. However, the 8th army had more tanks, and in what became a battle of attrition, Rommel’s tanks were steadily written off until a mere thirty-five of an original 500 remained operational.”(1)
It was a bloody battle. The Eighth Army took 13,500 casualties, while capturing 30,000 of Rommel’s men on the advance. They launched a determined pursuit, which was eventually compromised by longer supply lines, large amounts of prisoners, and a still-determined rearguard of Rommel’s army, who refused to give up.
German High Command ordered an immediate reinforcement of Tunisia, creating the 5th Panzer Army under General von Arnim and ordering more troops in from Europe.
The Allies had gained the strategic initiative, and Rommel was on the retreat.
The Second World War would continue in earnest, but the Second Battle of El Alamein was a turning point on the Western front, best summed up by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill:
“Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.” (2)
Event Begins: 04:30 PDT (07:30 EDT) on October 25, 2013
Event Ends: 04:00 PDT (07:00 EDT) on October 28, 2013
|IV Pz.Kpfw. III||IV Matilda|
|V Pz.Kpfw. IV||V Crusader|
1) Chandler, David G., and I. F. W. Beckett. The Oxford illustrated history of the British Army. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print. p. 289-290.