The Germans surrender in North Africa

A captured German Tiger I tank, 6 May 1943.

A captured German Tiger I tank, 6 May 1943.

Troops with captured German Nebelwerfer rocket launchers, 7 May 1943.

Troops with captured German Nebelwerfer rocket launchers, 7 May 1943.

Troops from 6th Armoured Division gather round a road sign during the advance on Tunis, 6 May 1943.

Troops from 6th Armoured Division gather round a road sign during the advance on Tunis, 6 May 1943.

British troops advance warily through Bizerta, 8 May 1943.

British troops advance warily through Bizerta, 8 May 1943.

As Churchill arrived in the USA he received a telegram from North Africa:

12th May 1943

General Alexander to Prime Minister

The end is very near. Von Arnim has been captured, and prisoners will most likely be over 150,000. All organised resistance has collapsed, and only pockets of enemy are still holding out. It appears that we have taken over 1,000 guns, of which 180 are 88-mm, 250 tanks, and many thousands of motor vehicles, many of which are serviceable. German prisoners driving their own vehicles formed a dense column on the road from Grombalia to Medjez el Bab all day to-day.

My next telegram, denoting the formal end of the campaign, will follow, I hope, in a few hours.

Total prisoners, once they were counted, came closer to 250,000, bringing the Italian and German losses for the North African campaign to nearly one million. They had won nothing from it.

Alan Moorehead, who had chronicled the campaign all the way through, was still there at the end. He summed up the mood

The fact that von Arnim himself had not been able to get away was proof of the speed and completeness of our victory. No Axis aircraft had been able to take off into a sky filled with British and American aircraft, no Axis ship of any size had been able to put to sea.

All the Axis generals, with only one notable exception, had now been taken. One after another the famous units, like the 10th Panzer Division, gave up en masse. It is doubtful if more than one thousand enemy troops got away to Italy at the last. In the end a quarter of a million prisoners were taken.

In the southem sector the New Zealanders and the German 90th Light Division broke off their fighting at last. These two divisions were the élite of the British and German armies. For two years they had mauled one another across the desert. We had killed two of the 90th Light’s commanders. The 90th Light had almost killed Freyberg. They had charged up to the gates of Egypt in the previous summer, and it was the New Zealanders who broke the German division’s heart outside Mersa Matruh.

There is hardly a major battlefield in the desert where you will not find the intermingled graves of the New Zealanders and the men of the 90th Light.

And now at last it was all over. Eight minutes to eight o’clock on May 12th is the official time given for the cessation of all organised enemy resistance in Africa.

No special incident marked that moment. This tragedy of three years and three acts simply ended with all the actors crowding on to the stage too exhausted to be exultant or defiant or humiliated or resentful.

At the end the battlefield fell to pieces and lost all pattern and design, and those who had fought hardest on both sides found they had nothing to say, nothing to feel beyond an enveloping sense of gratitude and rest. The anger subsided at the surrender, and for the first time the German and Allied soldiers stood together looking at one another with listless and passionless curiosity.

The struggle had gone on so long. It had been so bitter. There were so many dead. There was nothing more to say.

The last of the German generals came down to the landing field and was own off to captivity. The last of many thousand enemy soldiers trudged into the internment camps. And in our ranks the soldiers stripped off their uniforms, washed, and fell asleep in the sunshine.

All Africa was ours.

See Alan Moorehead: The African Trilogy

German troops surrender to the crew of a Stuart tank near Frendj, 6 May 1943.

German troops surrender to the crew of a Stuart tank near Frendj, 6 May 1943.

A German hospital in North Africa just before the capitulation.

A German hospital in North Africa just before the capitulation.

A flotilla of Germans fleeing from the 1st and 8th Armies, found nearly twenty miles out to sea off Cape Bon, Tunisia, were rounded up by the Royal Navy. After weeks of iron rations these German prisoners were glad of good food given to them in the destroyer HMS JERVIS. All the prisoners are German and all except two are anti-aircraft gunners who were bombed out of their gun sites.

A flotilla of Germans fleeing from the 1st and 8th Armies, found nearly twenty miles out to sea off Cape Bon, Tunisia, were rounded up by the Royal Navy. After weeks of iron rations these German prisoners were glad of good food given to them in the destroyer HMS JERVIS. All the prisoners are German and all except two are anti-aircraft gunners who were bombed out of their gun sites.

In bright sunshine a fishing smack can be seen off Cape Bon, Tunisia, crowded with Italian Staff Officers and ten soldiers intercepted by HMS LEMERTON while attempting to reach Italy by sea. This is part of a blockade off Cape Bon by Royal Navy ships, preventing all Axis chances of achieving a "Dunkirk" from Africa.

In bright sunshine a fishing smack can be seen off Cape Bon, Tunisia, crowded with Italian Staff Officers and ten soldiers intercepted by HMS LEMERTON while attempting to reach Italy by sea. This is part of a blockade off Cape Bon by Royal Navy ships, preventing all Axis chances of achieving a “Dunkirk” from Africa.

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