Tank Warfare in North A frica: Beda Fomm to Operation Crusader, 1940-1941
When Winston Churchill told a press conference in August 1941, “We are determined to fight for Egypt, the Nile Valley and Nor th Africa as if it were the soil of England itself ”, he was exercising absolute earnestness. For the British and Commonwealth powers in World War Two, the Middle East and Nor th Africa were the vital ar teries linking Britain to its overseas holdings.
Thus, wresting control of the arid Nor th African deser t from the clutches of the Axis powers was imperative to long-term victory.
More so than any other theatre in World War Two, the Nor th African campaign is envisioned as the pinnacle of swift-moving , expeditious mechanised war fare – the wide open spaces of the desert perfectly suited for practising the operational arts of wide envelopment, combined arms war fare and manoeuvre tactics.
Indeed, from the opening campaigns that saw Italian columns annihilated by highly versatile Commonwealth tank units, to the titanic clashes of armoured vehicles around the vital city of Tobruk, tank war fare was a mainstay of the desert campaign.