Rommel laid his plans for the First Battle of Alamein. He intended to crash through the British lines and to exploit vigorously to the north and south, expecting the British to collapse. He was confident, but previous battles had taken a heavy toll of his divisions, which were left lacking in sufficient tanks, infantry and artillery.

Despite these weaknesses, optimism was the watchword. When the opening skirmishes of the battle began on 30 June 1942, the fighting would expose errors in German planning process, relying as it did on dubious intelligence as to the composition and disposition of British forces, combined with a declining quality in ‘bread and butter’ staff work. But underlying everything else, was the increasing exhaustion of the Axis forces as they teetered at the end of a long supply line. Their only chance of victory was by swift manoeuvrist warfare, but what Auchinleck intended to give them was grim resistance and grinding attrition.

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