||The Western Desert Force
is renamed as the XIII Corps.
||Royal Navy bombards Bardia in North
Africa day and night.
|| Australian 6th Division breaks through
the Italian defences around Bardia.
|| General Bergonzoli surrenders the
Italian XXIII Corps at Bardia to the Australians. 45,000 Italian
prisoners and 130 tanks are captured by the Australians for
just 500 casualties.
||Churchill demands that troops be released
from Wavell's offensive and sent to Greece.
||Tobruk is surrounded, but the British
are unable to assault it immediately as supplies and reinforcements
need to be brought up.
||Hitler confirms in Directive No.22,
his intentions to send military support to the Italians in Libya.
The operation is to be named 'Sunflower'.
||During the night, the Italians evacuate
Kassala and Gallalabat in the Sudan.
||British troops under General Platt,
re-occupy Kassala in the Sudan and advance into Eritrea.
|| Emperor Haile Selassie crosses the
Abyssinian border at Um Idla.
|| British and Australian forces breach
the defenses at Tobruk.
||Tobruk surrenders to British and Australian
troops who capture 25,000 Italians, along with 208 guns and
87 tanks. Combined British and Australian losses were about
450. The British government now orders Wavells XIII Corps to
||The British 4th Armoured Brigade reaches
Mechili, but cannot attack as its garrison is stronger than
first thought and so has to bring the rest of the 7th Armoured
||General Cunningham's 'Southern Force'
invades Italian Somaliland from Garissa and Bura in Kenya.
||The Italians evacuate Mechili during
||The 7th Armoured Division captures
Mechili. Meanwhile the Australians have bumped into strong Italian
defences at Derna and so Wavell decides to halt further offensive
action until reinforcements and supply can be brought up.
||Australian troops capture Derna as
the Italians begin to withdraw towards Benghazi. The 1st South
African Division launches a feint attack against Mega in southern
Abyssinia, in order to prevent the Italians from sending troops
to reinforce their hard pressed forces in Somaliland.
||The Italian garrison at Metemma in
northern Abyssinia, having been under increasing pressure for
the past 3 weeks, begins to withdraw towards Gondar, allowing
the 9th Indian Brigade to occupy the town.
||Agordat in Eritrea falls
to the 5th Indian Division after 2 days of fighting.
||5th Indian Division captures Barentu,
forcing the Italians to withdraw towards the mountain fortress
||The British 'Northern Force' bumps
into the Italian defences at Keren, but fail to crack them open.
General Platt decides he must build up his forces for a major
||RAF reconnaissance planes report that
the Italians are beginning to evacuate Benghazi in a withdrawal
towards El Agheila. The 7th Armoured Division is given immediate
instructions to advance from Mechili across the desert in order
to cut off the Italians escape route.
|| An advanced column of armoured cars
from the 7th Armoured Division intercept the Italian retreat
about 70 miles south of Benghazi.
|| Australian forces capture Benghazi
along with six senior Italian Generals. Italian forces make
repeated attempts to break through the weak British blocking
forces at Beda Fomm, but cannot. Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel
is appointed to command the German forces being sent to Africa.
||Again, the Italians make further breakout
attempts, which all fail. Later in the day the Italians surrender
20,000 men, 200 guns and 120 tanks to just 3,000 British troops.
Anthony Eden makes a speech parodying Winston Churchill's famous
'Battle of Britain' speech. He says "Never has so much
been surrendered, by so many, to so few". Lieutenant General
Rommel arrives in Tripoli and reports to General Gariboldi who
has replaced Marshal Graziani as commander of the Italian Army
|| Kurmuk near the Ethiopian border in
Sudan is recaptured by British forces. Leading elements of the
German 5th Light Division arrive at Tripoli and are immediately
moved up to Sirte to take up defensive positions.
|| Free French forces land in Eritrea.
||Reconnaissance elements of the German
5th Light Division clash with British forces for the first time
in Africa, at Nofilia near El Agheila.
|| British Nigerian troops of the 11th
African Division occupy Mogadishu, the capital of Italian Somaliland,
having advanced up the coast. Meanwhile the 12th African Division
pushes up the river Juba in Italian Somaliland towards the Abyssinian
border town of Dolo.
||The 11th African Division
begins a lighting pursuit of the retreating Italian forces north
from Mogadishu, towards the Ogaden Plateau.
|| The British start to transfer the
first contingent of troops from Egypt to Greece. These are to
be under the command of General Maitland Wilson.
||German aircraft mine the Suez canal,
blocking it for 3 weeks.
||The German 5th Light Division has now
completely arrived in Libya and is ordered to prepare for an
attack on El Agheila. Meanwhile, Rommel has flown back to Germany
for further orders and has been told that when the 15th Panzer
Division has arrived in Libya at the end of May he is to recapture
||The British 'Northern Force' having
concentrated the 4th and 5th Indian Divisions begin their offensive
for Italian fortress of Keren in Eritrea.
||British troops from Aden, land at and
capture Berbera in Italian occupied British Somaliland.
||The 11th African Division captures
Jijiga in central Abyssinia, having advanced 744 miles up the
Italian built Strada Imperiale in just seventeen days.
||The Berbera force and elements of the
11th African Division meet at Hargeisa inside British Somaliland.
|| Rommel, conducts a limited offensive
to recapture El Agheila from the British, which succeeds with
startling ease. This encourages Rommel to push forward towards
Mersa Brega. British Somaliland is now clear of Italians.
||British troops finally take Keren,
although they suffer nearly 4,000 casualties in the process,
while the Italians lose some 3,000 men. The Italians are forced
to withdraw towards Asmara. The 11th African Division captures
Harar in Abyssinia after the Italians have declared it an 'open
|| The 5th Light Division engages the
British 2nd Armoured Division near Mersa Brega, as it attempts
to capture the town. The battle rages all day and results in
the British withdrawing towards Agedabia.
||General Platt and his 'Northern
Force' capture Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. A pro-axis coup,
led by Raschid Ali seizes power in Iraq.
||The 5th Light Division recaptures Agedabia
from the British and fans out into three columns, two of which
race across the desert in an attempt to cut off the retreating
British, while the third pushes up the coast road towards Benghazi.
Rear Admiral Bonnetti, the commander of the Italian Red Sea
Flotilla orders his seven destroyers out on 'do or die' missions.
All the destroyers are sunk or captured without achieving any
|| A Pro-Axis coup in Iraq begins, led
by Rashid Ali.
||German and Italian troops enter Benghazi
||Elements of the 5th Light Division
capture Mechili and threaten to cut of the 9th Australian Division
which is withdrawing at speed towards Tobruk along the coast.
Haile Selassie's troops occupy the Italian forts at Debra Markos,
after their epic march through the Abyssinian hinterland, relying
on camels to carry all their supplies. The 11th African Division
captures Addis Ababa, the capital of Abyssinia, taking 8,000
|| Derna is captured the 5th Light Division
along with Generals Neame and O'Connor later in the day.
||The British 'Northern Force' captures
Massawa, the last Italian stronghold in Eritrea. This removes
any remaining threat to British convoys sailing through the
|| Rommel's forces take Bardia.
|| The 9th Australian Division withdraws
||Rommel makes an attempt to capture
Tobruk off the march. However, the 9th Australian Division repulses
the attack, forcing the Germans to think again. By now the Germans
are pretty exhausted after 3 weeks of continuous action and
their vehicles in serious need of an overhaul.
||German armoured units complete the
encirclement of Tobruk and push on up the coast road towards
the Egyptian frontier.
|| German advance spearheads capture
Sollum. Rommel receives orders from Berlin that he is to consolidate
on the Egyptian frontier and concentrate of capturing Tobruk.
Only then will he be allowed to push into Egypt. The result
of this order is that Rommel decides to rest his exhausted troops
and wait until the 15th Panzer Division arrives at the end of
May before making a major assault against Tobruk.
|| Britain warns Italy that if Cairo
is bombed, then the RAF will attack Rome.
||A Brigade from the British 10th Indian
Division land at Basra in southern Iraq.
||The Italian fortress of Dessie, south
of Amba Alagi is captured by South African forces.
||German troops cross the Egyptian border
and capture the Halfaya Pass, forcing the British to pull back
to defensive a line running from Buq Buq on the coast to Sofafi,
some 50km in to the desert. The British also begin construction
of a major defensive line in front of Mersa Matruh.
||Another Brigade from the British 10th
Indian Division lands at Basra, ignoring Iraqi's protests. The
Iraqi Army lays siege to The RAF base at Habbaniyh, although
RAF planes fly numerous air strikes against them.
|| The Afrika Korps second attempt to
capture Tobruk is again repulsed by the Australians.
||The Iraqi's attack the
British base at Habbaniya, but are repulsed.
||Emperor Haile Selassie returns to Addis
Ababa 5 years after his country was occupied by the Italians.
||The last Brigade of the British 10th
Indian Division arrives at Basra with its commander Major General
Bill Slim. Axis aircraft begin to land at the Mosul airfield
in northern Iraq.
||A British Brigade sized column (Habforce),
moves across the Iraqi border from Palastine.
|| German aircraft begin to operate over
Iraq in support of the rebellion by anti-British Iraqi forces.
||British aircraft launch attacks against
airfields in Syria which have been put at axis disposal by the
Vichy French authorities.
|| The British Army under Auchinleck,
launch an offensive, operation 'Brevity' against the Afrika
Korps and manage to recapture Halfaya Pass, Sollum and Capuzzo.
|| The Afrika Korps counter-attack against
the British and retake Sollum and Capuzzo, although the Halfaya
Pass remains in British hands. Berlin orders Rommel to leave
Tobruk to the Italians and to concentrate the Afrika Korps near
the Egyptian border. The Italian forces under the Duke of Aosta
surrender to British forces at Amba Alagi in Abyssinia.
|| General Dentz tells the French Army
in Syria to "match force with force". The 5th Indian
Division captures the Italian fortress of Amba Alagi after 18
days of fighting. The British column from Palastine (Habforce),
arrives at Habbaniyah and relieves its garrison.
|| The British capture Fallujah in Iraq
after fierce fighting. They also bomb Baghdad airport.
||Churchill announces the end of Abyssinian
campaign as the Duke of Aosta signs the formal Italian surrender.
The British took just 94 days to win the East African campaign.
||British forces capture the last Italian
stronghold in southern Abyssinia.
|| King George VI makes South African
Premier, General Smuts a Field Marshal, the first man born in
an overseas dominion to attain that rank.
|| Having been reinforced by the 15th
Panzer Division, Rommel retakes the Halfaya Pass on Egyptian
border. The 10th Indian Division begins to advance north from
Basra towards Baghdad.
|| The revolt in Iraq collapses as the
British near Baghdad. The Iraqi leader Rashid Ali flees in to
||British forces enter Baghdad and an
armistice is signed. The terms of the armistice require that
all axis personnel in Iraq are to be interned and that Iraq
support the British cause against the axis.
||British forces enter Baghdad
and reinstate the Regent.
||A Greek government-in-exile
is formed in Egypt.
||New Iraqi government is formed.
||Luftwaffe bombers carry out a night
raid on the port of Alexandria in Egypt, killing 100 people.
The Egyptian Cabinet resigns.
||British, Commonwealth and Free French
forces invade Syria and the Lebanon ('Operation Explorer') with
air and naval support. The British offer Syria independence
in an effort to stimulate Syrian revolt against their Vichy
rulers. Vichy France protests vigorously at these British proposals.
||British advance 40 miles into southern
Syria and the Lebanon capturing Tyre in the process.
||British advance breaks through Vichy
opposition in Syria.
||The British Army begins 'Operation
Battleaxe’ to relieve Australian held Tobruk and then
advance towards Derna. However, they meet fierce counter attacks
by the Afrika Korps and are unable to make any headway.
||The British attempt to continue their
offensive, but suffer heavy tank losses to German 88mm Flak
||The Afrika Korps beats back the British
attack at Sollum causing the British to call off ‘Operation
Battleaxe’ with 1,000 British casualties and 91 tanks
lost, for German losses of just 12 tanks.
||Free French troops occupy Damascus
in Syria. Germany and Turkey sign a ten-year non-aggression
||British forces occupy Damascus,
but Vichy forces continue to fight on. In light of this, British
forces from Iraq invade Syria in order to crush their resistance.
||General Wavell is relieved
of his command as C-in-C of the Middle East, by General Sir
||Axis aircraft bomb Tobruk
and Sidi Barrani.
||General Dentz sues for peace in the
||Vichy government rejects Syrian armistice
terms but Dentz accepts.
||The last Vichy French troops in Syria
surrender to British and Free French forces.
||An armistice is signed at Acre between
Vichy and British/Free French forces. This requires all French
material to be handed over to the British and gives the Vichy
French the choice of joining the Free French or returning to
France. Most opt for the latter. During the campaign the Vichy
French suffered 3,350 killed or wounded, while the British and
Free French lost about 2,400 men.
||British forces enter Beirut.
||General Sir Claude Auchinleck
flies to London for talks about future offensive operations
to relieve Tobruk.
||Fighting flares up around
the perimeter of Tobruk.
||A brigade of the 9th Australian
Division which is besieged at Tobruk is relieved by sea, as
Polish reinforcements arrive.
||British and Russian troops invade Iran
against slight opposition after their initially friendly demands,
had been rejected.
||British troops complete the occupation
of the vital Abadan oilfields in Iran.
||The Iranian government under Ali Furughi
orders a cease-fire.
||After demands from the
Australian Prime Minister, the British agree to relieve the
remainder of the 9th Australian Division from Tobruk.
||British forces reach Hamadan,
Iran and have now secured the Persian Gulf.
||General Sir Claude Auchinleck
issues his first directive in respect to the forthcoming British
Offensive, 'Operation Crusader', by ordering General Sir Alan
Cunningham to produce a plan for the relief of Tobruk and the
re-conquest of Cyrenaica.
||British release General Dentz, after
Vichy releases British POWs in Syria
||The British and Russians
demand that Iran expels all Axis nationals with 48 hours.
||Rommel launches a probing operation
with the 21st Panzer Division towards Sidi Barrani in the belief
that a British fuel dump was located there. The British forces
begin to fall back.
||The Shah of Iran abdicates and his
son, Crown Prince 'Mohammad Reza Pahlavi' takes over.
||British and Russian troops occupy Teheran,
after Iran failed to comply with their demand to expel all Axis
||Rommel, having discovered that their
wasn't a British fuel dump at Sidi Barrani and believing that
that British had taken up a purely defensive posture, withdrew
the 21st Panzer Division back to the Libyan-Egyptian border.
||The British Eighth Army
is formed in Egypt in preparation for 'Operation Crusader' and
now includes both XIII and XXX Corps. At the same time the British
Ninth Army is created in Palestine and the Tenth Army in Iraq
and Iran to guard against Turkey entering the war on the Axis
||After more than 3 months
of fighting, British forces in Abyssinia capture the Wolchefit
Pass, thereby opening the route to Gondar, the last Italian
held town in East Africa.
||General Cunningham's plan
for 'Operation Crusader' is approved by General Auchinleck to
be launched on the 11th November. The aim is for XXX Corps,
which includes the bulk of the British Armour to draw the 15th
and 21st Panzer Division into combat and destroy their tank
strength. Then, XIII Corps, having contained the axis forces
on the frontier, would envelop them from the south and advance
on Tobruk, whose garrison would break out at an opportune moment
and link up. While all this was happening, a smaller element
called 'Oasis Force' would advance further west in to Libya
than the main force, in order to deceive Rommel as to where
the main effort was to be made. Further smaller operations were
to be mounted by the SAS on Axis airfields in Libya in an attempt
to destroy aircraft on the ground.
||It is decided that British forces should
make their main approach on Gondar in Abyssinia, from the direction
of Adowa due to the better road conditions.
||The RAF's Mediterranean raids continue,
with Benghazi being bombed 14 times and Tripoli 10 times.
||General Auchinleck is forced
to postpone 'Operation Crusader' for 1 week so as to enable
the 1st South African Division, which had recently arrived from
Abyssinia to under go more training.
||A British night commando raid on what
is thought to be Rommel's HQ at Breda Littoria in the Jebel
Akhdar in Libya, fails when it is found to be only a logistical
HQ and that Rommel is away on a visit to Rome. Also, the SAS
raid on axis airfields fails when the transport aircraft are
blown off course by a sandstorm.
||At 6am 'Operation Crusader’,
the British Eighth Army's offensive to relieve Tobruk begins.
Rommel, who arrives back from Rome that day, is caught by surprise,
allowing the British XXX Corps to advance 50-miles and capture
the axis airfield 10 miles south of Sidi Rezegh. The Germans,
believing that the British are about to encircle Bardia, send
the Afrika Korps on a wild goose chase in that direction.
||The British garrison is ordered to
break out and link up with XXX Corps. However, Rommel, now realizing
the threat sent the Afrika Korps to attack at Sidi Rezegh.
||A confused battle continues around
Sidi Rezegh, with XXX Corps being forced to stop it advance
towards Tobruk after the loss of many tanks and for the Tobruk
break-out to be halted. Better news for XIII Corps though as
it captures Sidi Omar and Capuzzo.
||Axis forces destroy the 5th South African
Brigade after days of tank battles round Tobruk.
||Rommel gives orders for his tanks to
cut off the British supply routes by thrusting towards the Egyptian
frontier, or as it became known, the 'dash for the wire'. By
the end of the day Rommel's tanks had reached the frontier and
caused complete confusion in the rear of the Eighth Army.
||Rommel continues his attacks at the
rear of the Eighth Army.
||Due to Rommel's bold move, General
Cunningham wants to halt the offensive and fall back to the
frontier. General Auchinleck overrides him on this and replaces
him as commander of the Eighth Army with General Ritchie.
||The Tobruk garrison links up the the
New Zealand Division of the Eighth Army at El Duda. Rommel forces,
now under constant attack by the RAF is forced to turn his forces
around in order to deal with this new development. Gondar, the
last Italian held town in East Africa surrenders to British
forces after a tough battle. The Italian commander, General
Nasi surrenders 23,500 men, while the British suffer 500 casualties.
||In order to mount a final
attack on the British forces around Bir El Gobi, Rommel orders
the evacuation of the eastern part of the Tobruk perimeter,
but the attack fails.
|| The German and Italian
forces withdraw to a defensive position at Gazala.
||The Eighth Army officially relieves
the Tobruk garrison.
||The Eighth Army attack the German and
Italian positions at Gazala. Rommel, fearful that the British
will outflank him, orders the retreat.
|| British retake Derna from axis forces.
|| British successes continue in North
|| Under continuous pressure,
Rommel and his Afrika Korps start to evacuate Benghazi.
|| The British retake Benghazi.