At 2000 hours I invited several people from my immediate staff to share a meal off the gazelles we had brought in that morning.. Rommel, plunged into confusion, realized later that Hitlers order was only the first in a series of propaganda commands that would affect his decision-making authority for the duration of the war in North Africa. The soldiers ironically made jokes about traveling to Libya for Christmas and returning to Egypt for New Year. On top of all else, some overzealous people had blown up the ammunition dump at Barce along with the ammunition we were most short of, Rommel wrote.
The British made attack after attack against our strongpoints in the north and south, and soon there was no more doubtthe enemy offensive had opened, wrote Rommel. He promptly evacuated his troops to Buerat, located farther behind his frontline, where he had orders from superiors in Germany and Italy to make another desperate stand. The 90th Light Division and the Italian Combat Group Ariete fended off an assault from 80 British tanks that lasted nearly 10 hours. In doing so, Rommel effectively relinquished his stronghold of El Agheila, abandoning it completely for the first time since the early stages of the desert war. Montgomery later said to his family that he wished he could have met Rommel in person. Although respected by military peers for his prowess at tactics and physical training, Montgomery, dubbed Monty by comrades, was far from famous.
When Montgomery assumed command of the British Eighth Army in 1942, Rommel found himself faced with a shadowy opponent. Nothing will stop us now. He noted that the current scenario was very similar to past times when he had trapped his enemies. One knows ones own limits, but other people expect miracles..
Armbruster (an interpreter) and I each succeeded in bringing down one of these speedy animals from the moving cars, Rommel wrote. Thus, proper homage was paid to our most serious problem even on that day. As to your troops, you can show them no other road than that to victory or death.. Despite all this, Rommel was confident enough to underestimate Montgomery before their first all-out battle at El Alamein. While Rommel insisted that further damage to the Afrika Korps would result in the loss of Libya and tried to develop backup plans, higher authorities struggled to comprehend the situation and ordered him to hold his position indefinitely. His thoughts turned towards home; it was his son Manfreds 15th birthday. Rommel wrote that from then onward, he had to continually circumvent orders from the Fhrer or the Duce to save the army from destruction. Meanwhile, Rommel remained in control of vast territories across the North African continent he had captured in his previous conquests. Raiding parties soon swept across the desert in vehicles and opened fire on German positions. My outflanking movement was necessarily weak owing to maintenance restrictions and it was launched into difficult country, Montgomery noted, while Rommels position was was immensely strong and very heavily mined.. During his retreat to El Agheila, Rommels Italian allies destroyed much-needed ammunition in a fit of sheer panic. Each commander lashed out at the other in a series of tense duels. The path straight to Cairo was now firmly closed to German troops, who had been plotting to seize control of the city for some time. I wanted to occupy the Agheila bottleneck myself and thus ensure that the Axis forces would not hold the gateway to Cyrenaica a third time., Montgomery realized he needed to carefully protect his front-line troops from severe damage, as it was impossible to bring any fresh forces forward quickly. I did not feel depressed at the prospect myself, he noted dryly. His armys supply line, stretched and targeted by British bombers, was failingand, despite his constant demands for assistance, German and Italian bureaucrats were in no hurry to deliver aid. I therefore decided that I must get possession of the Agheila position quickly; morale might decline if we hung about looking at it too long, he wrote. Even the most devoted soldier can be killed by a bomb. He had developed nasal diphtheria and low blood pressure, which forced him to receive frequent medical attention. We had made the grade, and morale was high., The victory had a profoundly positive effect on the British troops in the Eighth Army. The Desert Fox was shifting his strength under cover of darkness. Rommel brimmed with resentment at the British approach and ordered his men to sow a deadly trail of mines. Private Geoffrey Glaister wrote to Montgomery on December 23, 1942: For the first time in my Army life I felt I belonged to something. By then it was too late.. As the aggressive Afrika Korps desert troopers fled across the badlands in search of a new stronghold, they headed to a very familiar placeEl Agheila, called Mersa el Brega by the Germans. Meanwhile, new interference in his authority came from the Luftwaffe. It shook him deeply. There were only a few tracks through this sand sea, he wrote, and so long as Rommel held the area, he could hold up our advance, or alternatively could debouch at will against us.. I also wanted to get some more clothes, and generally get cleaned up after nearly four months in the desert., After a comfortable stay in the British embassy, he returned refreshed for the fight. Both Poston and Sweeny were killed in the last days of the war after having loyally served Monty for years on the front lines. Montgomery died in 1976, aged 88. He was a stranger to the desert war, and limited public information was available on him. By that stage, Montgomery had already faced Rommel once, months earlier at the Battle of Alam Halfa on 31 August. The advance was becoming sticky, and I was experiencing the first real anxiety I had suffered since assuming the command of the Eighth Army., He had chased Rommel relentlessly across vast distances of bleak wilderness. Over the course of the battle, Rommels forces sustained an estimated 20 percent casualties. At one point, the whole of Rommels Panzer Army was caught between the New Zealand Division and the rapidly advancing British 7th Armored Division. It was very cold. The Desert Fox and his remaining troops escaped by a very narrow margin. He hoped to herd Rommels panzers into an open area where they would be more prone to damage. Under Montgomerys command, the Eighth Army had decisively defeated Germanys most famous field marshal at El Alamein. The letter was found by Hugh Galton-Fenzi, the son of Betty Galton-Fenzi, wife of Bernards brother Harold. The ghost of Rommels past successes lingered at El Agheila, an eerie region of the Libyan wilderness filled with soft sand dunes and shimmering salt fields. Although the command situation had changed, Rommels fearsome reputation persisted. Judging from his writings, Rommel appears to have developed some resentment against Montgomery. The Germans broke into small groups and burst their way through gaps in the strung-out New Zealand divisions, according to Montgomery. I decided that the Eighth Army needed a halt officers and men deserved a rest and I was determined they should have it, he wrote. The energetic Monty was unable to dispel his troops sense of foreboding regarding this area. Nothing has stopped us since the Battle of Alamein began on 23rd October 1942. However, Rommels defeat was not final. During the Western Desert campaign of that conflict, he led the British 8th Army to victory over Rommel at the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942. Montgomery was adamant about keeping the attack constant and ferocious. The duel was soon to begin, but each general entered the battle suffering from strategic handicaps. events, and resources. Rommels human weaknesses and struggles were not acknowledged by German political leadershis complaints and misfortunes no longer suited the Nazi narrative. Rommel mentioned once cynically listening to a Cairo radio broadcast that vaunted Montgomerys success. Goering stated that I must at all costs hold on indefinitely if possible, I should already begin attacking the enemy from Mersa el Brega [El Agheila], he wrote. Montgomerys troops had already brought artillery forward, established supply dumps, and reconnoitered the battlefield. Describing higher staff at German and Italian headquarters, he wrote: They believed the fault lay with us and thought they could improve our fighting spirit with bombastic and magniloquent phrases. In the postwar era, many men from the British Eighth Army befriended former enemies from the Afrika Korps. He was proactive in goading enemies to strike and constantly probed for weaknesses. Their shared experience of desert warfare created a strange bond between them. Cracking open a bottle of port, Monty and a large group of his administrative officers gathered together for a very lively evening. Montgomery planned to lead an assault on the front of Rommels army while also closing in to cut him off from behind. The letter is dated 6 October of that year, just weeks before the battle that marked a turnaround in Allied fortunes in the war. I could not at this stage risk a battle involving heavy casualties, he recalled. For myself, thank you, Sir, for this new feeling. As Nazi rulers worried about their world political image, they urged Rommel to behave according to their propaganda, however out of touch with reality it might be. However, the Afrika Korps need for materiel remained dire. In January 1942, we had succeeded in falling upon and smashing the British vanguard with locally superior forces before effective help could reach them, wrote Rommel. staff officers present, the majority of whom never heard a shot fired in anger, appeared to agree with every word the Fhrer said, Rommel recalled. Rather than allow Rommel to retreat quietly, he decided to throw him off balance with what he described as bluff and maneuver, intended to bustle Rommel to such an extent that he might think he would lose his whole force if he stood to fight.. Rommel, dumbfounded, witnessed Hitlers temper explode for the first time. Former opponents of the Desert Fox praised him as a good man; even Winston Churchill referred to Rommel in a speech as a great general.. In reality, Montgomery was an extremely meticulous and controlling personality. This first instance of interference by higher authority in the tactical conduct of the African war came as a considerable shock.. It was an ugly situation to have to stand immobilized for any length of time in the desert, he wrote angrily. The risky battle of El Agheila in December 1942 helped the British defeat Germanys famed Desert Fox.. Attacking with unfavorable odds was an equally high-stakes gamble for Montgomery. I received a present of a miniature petrol drum containing, instead of petrol, a pound or two of captured coffee, he noted, not missing the irony. Additionally, the German High Command and their Italian counterpart, the Comando Supremo, were slow to respond to the reality that the impending battle at El Agheila would impact the fate of Axis control across the entirety of North Africa. Turkeys, plum puddings, beer, were all ordered up from Egypt..
Control was also one of his strongest battle principles; he refused to concede that any aspect of battle should be dictated to him by the enemy. Rommel wrote to his wife that his men were in top spirits, thank God, and it takes great strength not to let them see how heavily the situation is pressing on us.. This order demanded the impossible. The war in North Africa has been largely viewed as a gentlemens warboth British and German opponents engaged in combat in what is seen as a chivalrous manner, humanely and without atrocities. After all, he had played cat-and-mouse with the best of Britains commanders over the course of nearly two years, and he had won. The Germans right flank, however, remained open across nearly 120 miles of desert. The British struggled to press onward across the rugged terrain of the dune sea. Why Rommel, despite natural advantages in the terrain and an obvious weakness in Montgomerys army formations, ultimately declined to put up a more determined struggle for the territory remains a mystery. The unforeseen British victory at El Alamein had reversed the fate of Egypt and British troops in North Africa. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery thoroughly enjoyed his first encounter with Nazi general Erwin Rommel, a newly discovered letter has revealed. He had made cunning use of natural elements, including sandstorms and the treachery of the open landscape, to wreak havoc on troops who pursued him here in the past. Rommel decided that to remain in the area would be suicide. He sounded the retreat as his staff sent incessant SOS messages to Europe. They must enter the fight with the light of battle in their eyes and definitely wanting to kill the enemy, he wrote of his approach. At the Battle of El Agheila, however, both generals were handicapped. They did not look at things realisticallyindeed they refused to do so. Rommel was forced to wait for orders before making any major strategic decisions. Rommel was already movingdigging in defenses around El Agheila in what was known as the Agedabia region. He launched a full-scale attack. To complicate matters, Germanys High Command had begun aggressively interfering in Rommels decisions. It was as if GHQ were in London and the leading troops were in Moscow, with only one road joining them, described Montgomery. The RAF also sank an Axis tanker and two fast ships laden with a total of 3,500 tons of petrol intended for Rommels troops. 6731 Whittier Avenue, Suite C-100 McLean, VA 22101, Stay up to date with all of our latest news, Now, not unlike his enemy, Montgomery was facing a supply crisis. I was angry and resentful at the lack of understanding displayed by our highest command and their readiness to blame the troops at the front for their own mistakes, wrote Rommel, preoccupied with increasing feelings of disillusionment towards his countrys leadership. We were completely stunned, and for the first time during the African campaign I did not know what to do, he wrote. However, Rommel seemed to have defeated them all, and I would like to have a crack at him myself, Montgomery recalled in his memoirs. Montgomerys predecessor, British commander Claude Auchinleck, had written of Rommel in February 1942 that the German field marshal was becoming a kind of magician or bogey-man to our troops it would be highly undesirable that our men should credit him with supernatural powers.. Even prior to El Alamein, Rommels personal morale had started to fray at the edges. His writings reveal that maintaining complete control of situations was his ideal. Rommels swift and seemingly unstoppable string of conquests across North Africa since 1941 was brought to a crashing end by Montgomerys Eighth Army at El Alamein. Temporarily abandoned, Rommel had to devise his own plans for how to deal with the looming presence of Montgomery stalking him from a relatively short distance. This seems to have had a chilling effect on the German commander. It was true that I had never fought in the desert and I would have under me some very experienced generals who had been out there a long time. After assuming command of the Eighth Army, Montgomery reorganized all forces under his authority until things suited him, ignoring Rommel until the right moment came to strike. In many instances, he dubbed him only the British commander.. In spite of the need for secrecy the Italians made an atrocious din and some of their vehicles even drove back through the moonlit night with blazing headlights, Rommel wrote. In keeping with his philosophy of total control, Montgomery refused to let Rommel dictate events on the battlefield. Perhaps his battles against Rommel had left Monty with experiences that he found difficult to express or forgive. Strapped with administrative weaknesses and political obligations, they faced each other across the battlefield with uncertainty. The situation at El Agheila was certainly very different from any that either side previously experienced.
During Rommels crushing defeat at El Alamein, Hitler ordered him to stand fast, yield not a yard of ground, and throw every gun and every man into the battle.
Rommels prior experience and killer instincts strongly inclined him to take the chance. Construction, Artefacts made of non-local materials indicate that the quarry may have been the source of much of the ochre found across the American midcontinent, Information about the health of early migrants to South Australia was obtained through analysis such as micro-CT scanning of their teeth., Tours take place at 2pm Wednesday to Sunday and are free for visitors with admission to Auckland Castle., The molar has been dated to between 164,000 and 131,000 years ago., New research finally answers the question of what Bronze Age daggers were used for, as Isabella Caricola and Andrea Dolfini reveal., Life and death in an early South Australian colony, Last chance to tour archaeological remains of medieval chapel at Auckland Castle, New study reveals Bronze Age daggers were not status symbols, but used for animal processing. The Agheila wasteland was like the threshold to a supernatural playing field where Rommel held dominion. Many had been there twice already, and twice Rommel had driven them back, he wrote. Conservators working in the Temple of Khnum in Esna, Upper Egypt, have uncovered new details of the buildings colourful ceiling frescoes.
It would not be the first time in history that a strong will has triumphed over bigger battalions. He was older than Rommel and had fought more battles than his German opponent. Rommel would undoubtedly withdraw to that position and would endeavor to stop us there; his supply route would then be shortened while ours would be long, thus reversing the supply situation which had existed at Alamein. He described Agheila as a difficult position to attack., Despite his recent defeat, Rommels near-mythical reputation cast a growing shadow over the minds of his pursuers. Rommel and his Axis forces had been decisively defeated. Yet they and other faces from the Eighth Army would forever live on in Montgomerys memory, celebrating that Christmas Eve party with him amid much toasting, drinking, joking, and singing. As Rommels war-weary troops en-camped 60 miles west of Alexandria, citizens began evacuating Cairo in anticipation of a German takeover. Eager to thwart Rommel and bolster the fragile morale of British troops, he took action earlier than he had planned. More battles lay aheadMontgomery was already hell-bent on hacking a path forward to Tripoli, Libyas wild and luxurious capital city on the Mediterranean coast. The British were isolatedthe bulk of their fighting troops were concentrated forward, and a gap had formed between these troops and their lines of supply and reinforcement in the rear. The enemy will try to stop us, he vaunted to his troops. The aggressive general hated being forced to hold back. Montgomery called the Royal Air Force his long-range hitting weapon. The bombardment was intended to unsettle the fleeing Germans during their withdrawal and protect British light infantry from Luftwaffe strafing. He started moving Italian infantry troops away from the forward area, withdrawing them to another defensible area called Buerat.
One thing was certain: Rommels loss of the El Agheila position effectively closed the Third Reichs access to Egypt forever.
As Montgomery had predicted, Rommels supply difficulties were alleviated somewhat as he drew closer to Axis-held territories. Unfortunately, I then came too abruptly to the point and said that the abandonment of the African theatre of war should now be accepted as a long-term policy, he wrote. Montgomery also said to his brother that he was sent to North Africa so quickly to take over the 8th Army that he did not have time to see his son David at Winchester, who is doing very well. Some improvised mines known to have been created by the Afrika Korps included Luftwaffe bombs weighing more than 1,000 lbs., buried in shallow pits and rigged with tripwires. We had still received no strategic decision from the supreme German and Italian authorities on the future of the African theatre of war, wrote Rommel. He was seen off, Montgomery wrote of the event, adding I have never before had to face up to a Field Marshal in battle, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rommel indeed believed that the British were attempting an all-out bid to overrun them. Even with his limited fuel supply, Rommel could have held El Agheila, exploiting natural defenses and the overextended British supply line to wear down his enemy. The situation was potentially disastrous for the British, and Rommel was a clever tactical opportunist. He liked to personally motivate and inspire his troops, delivering rousing speeches among the ranks to inflame their warrior spirit. Rommel referred to the explosive devices as neat little surprises for the British. Even as Rommel pulled back, the New Zealand Division maneuvered behind the retreating Afrika Korps.