At 9.40pm on Friday 23 October 1942, the Battle of El Alamein began with a four-hour ground and air bombardment launched by Britain and its allies. As it subsided, the troops began their advance.

In the first phase of the battle, (24-25 October 1942), known as 'Break-In', British XXX Corps began its attack in the northern sector while XIII Corps mounted its subsidiary attack in the south. Divisions of both corps penetrated the deep enemy minefields, but X Corps’ armoured divisions were unable to complete the breakthrough.

Photographs

Infantry at El Alamein

Photographs

Infantry at El Alamein

British infantry rushes an enemy strong point through the dust and smoke of enemy shell fire.

British General Bernard Montgomery was thus forced to revise his plans, and the second phase of the battle, 'Dogfight', had to be fought within - rather than beyond - the fortified positions. This took place between 26 and 31 October, with Montgomery’s tactic of 'crumbling' away at the enemy defence positions with a series of limited attacks. At the same time, the British fended off German counter-attacks ordered by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Photographs

General Bernard Montgomery

Photographs

General Bernard Montgomery

The most famous British general of the Second World War, Bernard Montgomery - known popularly as ‘Monty’ - took command of the Eighth Army in August 1942. Montgomery remains a controversial figure. Often appearing abrasive, egocentric and arrogant, he was a meticulous commander and also very popular with his men. 

The third phase of the battle, 'Break-out', was fought between 1 and 4 November 1942, when Montgomery, judging Rommel’s forces at breaking point, ordered the final blows against them. By 3 November it was obvious that Rommel was preparing to withdraw, and the next morning the 5th Indian Brigade attacked, driving a wedge through Rommel’s front, thus enabling the 1st and 7th Armoured Divisions and the 2nd New Zealand Division to go in pursuit of enemy forces, now in full retreat.

In Britain, the church bells were rung for the first time since May 1940 to celebrate the Eighth Army's success which was, as Winston Churchill described it, 'a glorious and decisive victory'.

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