On this day in 1942, the battle of Alam el Halfa signified the last major push by the Axis forces in North Africa before the superior numbers and ordnance brought to bear by the Allies ended Axis involvement in the southern Mediterranean.


The battle of Alam el Halfa was fought between August 30th and September 5th in North Africa. 6 divisions of Axis forces under Erwin Rommel attempted to break through the southern section of the Allied position to the west of the Alam el Halfa ridge but were repulsed by a combination of well-prepared mine fields, constant air bombardment and supporting tank fire. The picture of a Valentine Mk III tank above shows the distinctive low hull and small armaments of this tank, making it a useful tool for defensive positions with limited cover.

The holding operation of Alam el Halfa by the Allies, under the newly appointed Bernard Montgomery, is sometimes overlooked in favour of the more decisive 2nd Battle of Alamein. It is a notable engagement since once the German offensive had been repelled Montgomery did not counter-attack to any great extent, fearing the anti-tank screen set up by Rommel while also wishing to preserve his forces for the coming advance. This focus on overwhelming numbers was to become symptomatic of Montgomery’s generalship for the remainder of the war.

The original image can be viewed here.