Volume III – Tobruk and El Alamein (1st edition, 1966)

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Author: Maughan, Barton

This volume’s main theme is the 9th Australian Division’s contribution in 1941–42 to the defeat in North Africa of the German and Italian Army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel.

In March 1941, soon after its formation, the division was sent untrained and without its artillery to Cyrenaica as part of a garrison force which, within a few weeks, took the brunt of a surprise advance by Rommel’s newly–arrived armoured force. Retreaing to Tobruk the division withstood, with the support of British armoured, artillery and machine–gun units, several assaults and a long siege, and maintained a threat on the flank of Rommel’s long line of communications to the Egyptian frontier.

Before the siege ended the division was withdrawn by sea but in the succeeding year it was recalled to the front as Rommel’s forces were approaching the El Alamein defences, only 70 miles from Alexandria. In General Auchinleck’s counter–offensive in July 1942 it captured the Tel el Eisa ridges and other important positions near the coast and later under General Montgomery took a leading part in Rommel’s defeat in the battle of El Alamein.

As well as recording the exploits of Australian soldiers, the book examines the actions of the generals who successively commanded the Middle East Forces and the Eighth Army – Wavell, Auchinleck, Cunningham, Ritchie, Alexander and Montgomery. The inter–governmental differences concerning the 9th Division’s withdrawal from Tobruk and its later return to Australia are also related.

An appendix recounts the experiences of Australian prisoners of war in Europe.