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1942: Rommel goes on the run at El Alamein
The German army in North Africa is in full retreat, after suffering a comprehensive defeat in Egypt at the hands of the 8th Army under General Bernard Montgomery.

News of the victory came in a special joint war report from British Headquarters in Cairo this evening.

It described the retreating columns of German soldiers as "disordered" and said they were being "relentlessly attacked by our land forces, and by the Allied air force, by day and night."

It went on to say that Allied troops have captured more than 9,000 prisoners of war, including the commander of Germany's Afrika Korps, General Ritter von Thoma.

We passed through safely, but many didn't: a number of heaps of blackened metal - some still burning - lay on either side of the track.
Casualties among the German troops are known to have been high.

The King sent a message of congratulations to the Allied Commander in Egypt, General Harold Alexander, saying "The 8th Army... has dealt the Axis a blow of which the importance cannot be exaggerated."

It has taken 12 days and nights of fierce fighting around the desert village of El Alamein to drive back the massed forces of the German commander, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

The village is at a bottleneck in the corridor formed by the Mediterranean coast on one side, and the impassable salt marshes of the Qattara Depression to the south.

The 8th Army has been dug in there, holding back Rommel's advance towards Cairo, ever since the first Battle of El Alamein in July.

The second Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October with a heavy bombardment of the Germans' five-mile-deep minefields to drive a way through for Allied troops.

Since then progress has been grindingly slow as the German army put up a hard-fought defence. But inch by inch, the Allied soldiers made their way forward.

The first indications that victory was imminent came yesterday, when the Germans abandoned a whole series of important positions without a shot being fired.

Then long columns of enemy transports began to build up along the coast road as the retreat began.

The triumph is already being described as the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler in North Africa.

After months of defeat, retreat and stalemate, it is exactly the change in fortunes the Allies need to drive him out of Africa altogether.

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Erwin Rommel
German commander Erwin Rommel was outnumbered and outgunned



In Context
The Allied victory in the Second Battle of El Alamein was a huge morale boost after a long period of attrition in North Africa, and it made a national hero out of General Montgomery.

It was greatly helped by a string of setbacks suffered by the Germans.

Rommel was ill when the battle started, and his deputy then died of a heart attack, leaving a third general in temporary command until Rommel's return.

The Germans were also badly weakened by chronic shortages of fuel and equipment due to their long supply lines.

One of the trump cards contributing to the Allied victory was the hammering they gave the German Panzer tank divisions.

Rommel started with 500 tanks: by the end of the first phase, he was down to just 100, and after a massive tank battle on the last day he was left with just 30 serviceable tanks.

The Second Battle of El Alamein was not quite the end for Hitler in North Africa, but it did turn the tide decisively against him.

Four days later, on 8 November, American and British forces invaded French North Africa in Operation Torch, the first major joint Allied offensive of World War II.

They overwhelmed the Vichy French resistance, and the remnants of the Axis forces in North Africa finally surrendered on 13 May 1943.

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