A pause in the desert war

Erwin Rommel in the desert , August 1942.

German artillery in the desert in the summer of 1942.

In the desert there was now a lull in the fighting as both sides consolidated their positions. The last week of July had seen British forces – mainly Australians and New Zealanders – fail to break out despite valiant attacks which had ended with heavy casualties. There was growing disquiet in the British establishment at the progress of the campaign.

The new focus of the campaign was on the supply lines – the German forces were now stuck way out in the desert, at the end of a long supply chain that stretched across the Mediterranean. The British were now much closer to their supply bases in Egypt and could expect the imminent arrival of an ever increasing amount of munitions – including much needed tanks from the USA. Rommel needed to strike again soon if he to take advantage of his position so far east. As he wrote to his wife, he was optimistic, :

2 Aug. 1942

Dearest Lu,

All quiet, except for intense air activity against my supply lines. I’m thankful for every day’s respite we get.

A lot of sickness. Unfortunately many of the older officers are going down now. Even I am feeling very tired and limp, though I have got a chance to look after myself a bit just at the moment.

Unfortunately, the British railway from Tobruk to the front is not yet in operation. We’re waiting for locomotives.

Holding on to our Alamein position has given us the severest fighting we’ve yet seen in Africa. We’ve all got heat diarrhoea now, but it’s bearable. A year ago I had jaundice and that was much worse.

Erwin Rommel

See The Rommel Papers .

Two German Field Marshals – Erwin Rommel and Albert Kesselring. They met in Libya in the early days of August 1942 to discuss the supply situation.

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