Key Dates for the North African Campaigns in the Western Desert

This is a work in Progress as I rough out the framework for a North African Campaign, text taken wholesale from :

In broad terms, there were 3 Major British desert land offensives: Compass (December 1940), Crusader (November 1941) and Lightfoot/Supercharge (October/November 1942).

These were followed by Torch (November 1942) and Vulcan (April 1943 ) in Tunisia


10 June: Italy declared war on Great Britain and France; Canada declared war on Italy.

11 June: Australia, New Zealand and South Africa declared war on Italy.

11-12 June: East Africa campaign began.

4 August: Italy invaded British Somaliland.

13 September: Italy invaded Egypt.

28 October: Italy invaded Greece.

9 December: Operation Compass, the first Western Desert offensive began.

16 December: British offensive opened in Italian East Africa; Egypt cleared of Italian forces.


6 February: OKW issue order for Operation Sonnenblume.

22 January: Tobruk in Libya fell to British and Australian troops.

7 February: Benghazi captured by British.

12 February: German forces under General Erwin Rommel arrived in TRIPOLI.

17 February: Instructions issued to military commanders for a Greek expedition.

6-7 March: British troops entered Greece.

24 March: Rommel captured EL AGHEILIA in Libya with little resistance.

30 March: Enemy counter offensive began in the Western Desert. German armour and Italian infantry advanced.

3 April: British evacuated BENGHAZI.

6 April: Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece.

10 April: Australians forced to withdraw to TOBRUK.

12-13 April: Rommel encircled TOBRUK. Siege began.

14 April: German attack on TOBRUK repulsed.

22-29 April: Evacuation of troops from Greece to Crete and Egypt.

27 April: Germans entered Athens. Greece surrendered to Germany.

15 May: Operation Brevity. Limited counterattack by Wavell retook HALFAYA pass.

17 May: Italian forces in East Africa surrendered.

20 May: German airborne invasion of Crete began. MALEME airfield captured.

26 May: Operation Skorpion (Venezia) began.

28-31 May: British and Commonwealth troops evacuated from Crete.

2-11 June: The Cauldron Battle around BIR HAMAT/SIDI MUFTAH

15-18 June: Operation Battleaxe failed to relieve TOBRUK.

4-6 October: BENGHAZI and TRIPOLI raided by RAF.

18 November: Operation Crusader began in the Western Desert. New Zealand Division crossed the Libyan frontier into Cyrenaica.

21 November: Tank battle between British 8th Army and Axis forces began south and south-east of TOBRUK.

23 November: Totensonntag

26 November: New Zealand Division linked up with garrison at TOBRUK.

27-30 November: Axis forces returned to TOBRUK front.

2 December: Heavy RAF raids on Axis supply bases in TRIPOLI and BENGHAZI.

10 December: Siege of TOBRUK lifted.

11 December: Germany declared war on United States.

16 December: Rommel began retreat to EL AGHEILA.

24 December: 8th Army captured BENGHAZI.


2 January: 8th Army captured BARDIA.

6 January: Rommel commenced offensive at EL AGEDABIA.

8 January: Rommel repulsed and withdrew during sandstorms.

21 January: Rommel commenced second offensive.

23 January: Axis troops took EL AGEDABIA.

29 January: Rommel’s forces retook BENGHAZI.

20 February: Western Desert frontline stabilised at GAZALA.

26 May: Rommel launched Operation Venezia to recapture TOBRUK.

5 June: The “Cauldron battle around SIDI MUFTAH.

12 June: The “Knightsbridge” crisis at BIR BEL(L)EFAA.

21 June: Rommel captured TOBRUK.

30 June: Rommel reached EL ALAMEIN.

1 July: First Battle of EL ALAMEIN.

7 August: General Bernard Montgomery took command of 8th Army.

2 September: Montgomery drove Rommel back by  in the Battle of ALAM HALFA.

21 September: Rommel handed over command of Italian-German Panzer Army to General Stumme and left for Germany.

23 October: Operation Lightfoot (Second Battle of El Alamein) began. New Zealand Division captured MITEIRYA RIDGE.

25 October: General Stumme died. Rommel returned to North Africa.

28 October: RAF disrupted German armour reforming for possible counter attack at EL ALAMEIN.

2 November: Operation Supercharge began. 8th Army broke through Axis forces at EL ALAMEIN. New Zealand Division opened a way for British armour.

8 November: Operation Torch began. American and British forces land in French Morocco and Algeria under Lieutenant General Eisenhower.

11 November: Axis forces driven out of Egypt.

13 November: TOBRUK fell to the 8th Army

20 November: BENGHAZI recaptured by British forces.

13 December: Rommel withdrew from EL AGHEILA.

Fieseler Storch Fi 156. (1937), [STOL Army Cooperation]. All Fronts. (Tankzone model from the Author’s collection)


23 January: 8th Army under General Montgomery entered TRIPOLIi.

29 January: 8th Army advance parties entered Tunisia.

27 February: 8th Army took up position opposite the MARETH LINE, Tunisia.

6 March: Rommel attacked 8th Army in Tunisia and was repulsed.

9 March: Rommel left North Africa and returned to Germany on sick leave.

20-28 March: 8th Army broke through the MARETH LINE.

5 April: Operation Flax. Allied air operation cut Axis air supply lines to North Africa

6 April: Axis forces in Tunisia withdrew as British and American forces link up.

22 April: Operation Vulcan. First Army offensive began against TUNIS.

7 May: Operation Strike. Operation Retribution was an air and sea blockade of Axis Naval forces to cut off North Africa.

7 May: Allies captured TUNIS.

12-13 May: German and Italian troops surrendered in North Africa.


  1. ‘The North African Campaign timeline’,, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage). I simply cut and pasted the text, deleted specific references to the Kiwi divisions and tidied up the tenses used to the past tense. Otherwise this can be considered an edited quote from this website. I have added further dates for German Offensives. The NZ site may have drawn it’s (uncredited) text from, as Wiki cites reference sources and the NZ Ministry for culture doesn’t. The two texts are too similar to be coincidental.
  3. Ellis, J. (1993) The World War II Databook. London: BCA
  7. (Don’t miss the Hindi verion on youtube : – Sadly, there is no singing!)

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Filed under 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Western Desert, WWII

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