SPRINGBOKS OVER TUNISIA
As Axis troops were pushed closer toward Tunis, much-needed supplies were flown to them by air. But, as Andrew Thomas explains, South African P-40s helped disrupt the air bridge and force 250,000 soldiers to surrender
March 1943 in North Africa was decisive. Following heavy fighting, the German Mareth Line was breached, enabling Allied forces to advance north into Tunisia. Increasingly desperate, the Afrika Korps withdrew to join the Axis forces forming a unified bridgehead in northern Tunisia, pending a withdrawal to Italy.
However, in this intent, Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel was overruled by Hitler and German High Command. With Allied forces pressing in from the south and west, and with the Royal Navy’s dominance of the Mediterranean leading to its control of the sea routes, the 350,000 German and Italian troops in North Africa were facing an increasingly acute supply problem.
Britain’s Desert Air Force had already played a major part in supporting the advances through North Africa and into Tunisia. Its bomber squadrons, joined by those from Malta and American units operating from North Africa, also decimated Axis shipping ferrying supplies and reinforcements to Tunisia. In total, Allied air efforts were responsible for at least two-thirds of Axis ship losses during the period.