Thursday, February 25, 2016

The battlefield in North Africa 1940-1942

The area that contained the combat in North Africa stretched from the salt marshes near El Agheila in the west to the Qattara Depression that lay to the south of El Alamein. All the major operations stayed within 50 miles of the Mediterranean coast. To the south lay some prominent oases, like Siwa, Gialo, Giarabub, and also Kufra. In the east, there was the railway that ran to Mersa Matruh from further east in Egypt. The railroad was eventually extended to Tobruk. Otherwise, all supply ran on the coast road. The escarpment was a prominent feature in the landscape. In the western part of Egypt lay the Halfaya Pass. The road climbed from the coastal area to the plateau. In Libya, you had the plateau running from Bardia to Gazala. They would all become familiar names in the war in the western desert, as it was called. General Morshead realized that he faced a complete German armored division and they might well take advantage of the light forces in the west to mount an attack. For the first half of March 1941, we saw a process of German, British, and Australian forces probing each other to try and gain information. The 9th Australian Division was found to be short of signals equipment, as the forces going to Greece had been given priority. There was a need, however, so soldiers found ways of making unauthorized acquisition of the needed equipment, including things like wire, phones, and more. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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