After the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the Axis created Army Group Africa as a command headquarters for the 5th Panzer Army and the German-Italian Panzer Army, in Tunisia. The villages of Gafsa and Tozeur were to be held by mobile troops, the 10th Panzer Division had retired from Thala by early on 23 February and the 21st Panzer Division ended its attack on Sbiba on 24 February. The divisions were to refit and rejoin the 1st Italian Army, ready for an attack in early March, Arnim gained the approval of Kesselring, for an attack on a wide front against the V Corps sector on 26 February. The northern horn, with most of the tanks, was to advance on the route from Mateur from the north-east, to capture Béja 40 km west of Medjez. The operations would force the allies to withdraw and delay a further advance, the area was lightly held by poorly-equipped French troops of the Corps Franc dAfrique. Division von Manteuffel led the attack with elite troops of the Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger Regiment Barenthin, the Axis forces, with air support from the Luftwaffe made good progress across the hills held by the Free French between Cap Serrat, the railway and Sedjenane.
The French managed to repulse an Italian attack but were overrun, until 1 March, the British conducted expensive but successful counter-attacks, which delayed the Axis advance on the hamlet. A counter-attack by a battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, the DLI, the British position became untenable due to withdrawals by the French further west in the Medjez area, when Axis troops occupied high ground dominating the town. The French commander had thought his position was being outflanked and ordered a withdrawal, the German penetration towards Béja and Medjez along with the French withdrawal had caught the 139th Infantry Brigade in a salient and two companies of Sherwood Foresters were overrun. On 4 March, the British retreated 24 km from Sedjenane toward Djebel Abiod to stabilise the front, the Axis attack on Djebel Abiod was delayed for five days by the defence of Sedjenane and it was not captured. The southern horn of the operation was to be conducted by Kampfgruppe Audorff with the Herman Göring Parachute Division, the kampfgruppe attacked on the evening of 25 February, their first objectives being Tally Ho corner, an important road junction and a knoll nicknamed Fort MacGregor.
The Luftwaffe had attacked the British positions and shot up transport behind the front, at Fort MacGregor, D Company of the East Surreys were attacked by the paratroopers of the Herman Göring Division. After two German attacks were repulsed, paratroopers blew holes in the wire and the defenders were soon overwhelmed and destroyed. Djebel Djaffa further west, held by a battalion of French Colonial troops was attacked simultaneously by the paratroopers, the French were surprised and swiftly overrun, most being captured. A hasty counter-attack by the Surreys on Fort MacGregor was attempted but the attack was stopped just forward of the start line and the Surreys withdrew with many casualties. British artillery bombarded the hill for hours with all the medium and heavy guns. The paratroopers had been devastated by the shelling and had no choice, the summit was no bigger than a football pitch and was strewn with human remains, mostly German but the British dead of D Company. The next day almost as soon as arrived, the Surreys and the Valentines of the 17/21st Lancers, counter-attacked Djebel Djaffa
Invasion of Yugoslavia
The invasion of Yugoslavia, known as the April War or Operation 25, was a German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II. The order for the invasion was put forward in Führer Directive No,25, which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the Yugoslav coup détat. The invasion commenced with an air attack on Belgrade and facilities of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force by the Luftwaffe. These attacks were followed by German thrusts from Romania, Italian forces were limited to air and artillery attacks until 11 April, when the Italian army attacked towards Ljubljana and through Istria and Lika and down the Dalmatian coast. On the same day, Hungarian forces entered Yugoslav Bačka and Baranya, a Yugoslav attack into the northern parts of the Italian protectorate of Albania met with initial success, but was inconsequential due to the collapse of the rest of the Yugoslav forces. The invasion ended when an armistice was signed on 17 April 1941, based on the surrender of the Yugoslav army.
Yugoslavia was occupied and partitioned by the Axis powers, some areas of Yugoslavia were annexed by neighboring Axis countries, some areas remained occupied, and in other areas Axis puppet states such as the Independent State of Croatia were created. Along with Italys stalled invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940, and the German-led invasion of Greece and invasion of Crete, in October 1940, Fascist Italy had attacked the Kingdom of Greece only to be forced back into Albania. German dictator Adolf Hitler recognised the need to go to the aid of his ally, Hitler did this not only to restore diminished Axis prestige, but to prevent Britain from bombing the Romanian oilfields from which Nazi Germany obtained most of its oil. In 1940 and early 1941, Hungary and Bulgaria all agreed to adhere to the Tripartite Pact, Hitler pressured Yugoslavia to join as well. The Regent, Prince Paul, yielded to pressure. This move was unpopular with the Serb-dominated officer corps of the military and some segments of the public.
Military officers executed a coup détat on 27 March 1941, and forced the Regent to resign, while King Peter II, upon hearing news of the coup in Yugoslavia, Hitler called his military advisers to Berlin on 27 March. On the same day as the coup he issued Führer Directive 25 which called for Yugoslavia to be treated as a hostile state, Hungary had joined the Tripartite Pact on 20 November 1940. On 12 December it concluded a treaty with the Kingdom of Yugoslavia calling for permanent peace, the Hungarian leadership was split after Germanys War Directive 25 was delivered on 27 March 1941. Regent Miklós Horthy and the military favoured taking part in the invasion of Yugoslavia, Prime Minister Pál Teleki sought to prevent German troops passing through Hungary and cited the peace treaty with Yugoslavia as an impediment to cooperation with the Germans. On 1 April Yugoslavia redesignated its Assault Command as the Chetnik Command, the command was intended to lead a guerrilla war should the country be occupied.
Its headquarters was transferred from Novi Sad to Kraljevo in south-central Serbia on 1 April and this sent the unmistakable message that Yugoslavia was about to be invaded
Operation Crusader was a military operation by the British Eighth Army between 18 November–30 December 1941 in North Africa during the Second World War. The operation relieved the 1941 Siege of Tobruk, Rommel had to withdraw his armoured units to support the fighting at Tobruk. It was the first victory over the German ground forces by British-led forces in the Second World War, following the costly failure of Operation Battleaxe, General Archibald Wavell was relieved as Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command and replaced by General Claude Auchinleck. The Western Desert Force was reorganised and renamed the Eighth Army under the command of Lieutenant-General Alan Cunningham replaced by Lieutenant-General Neil Ritchie, the Eighth Army comprised two Corps, XXX Corps under Lieutenant-General Willoughby Norrie and XIII Corps under Lieutenant-General Reade Godwin-Austen. XXX Corps was made up of 7th Armoured Division, the understrength South African 1st Infantry Division with two brigades of the Sudan Defence Force and the independent 22nd Guards Brigade.
XIII Corps comprised 4th Indian Infantry Division, the newly arrived 2nd New Zealand Division, the Australian Major-General Leslie Morshead had been succeeded as Allied commander at Tobruk by the British Major-General Ronald Scobie. However, by November, the Australian 20th Brigade remained in Tobruk, in reserve, the Eighth Army had the South African 2nd Infantry Division, making a total equivalent of about 7 divisions with 770 tanks. Directly under the Italian High Command, remained Italian XX Corps, the Italian XX Corps under Lieutenant General Gastone Gambara with 132nd Armoured Division Ariete with 146 medium tanks M13/40 and 101st Motorised Division Trieste. The Axis forces had built a line of strong points along the escarpment running from near the sea at Bardia and Sollum. Axis initial air support consisted of about 120 German and 200 Italian serviceable aeroplanes but these could be reinforced quickly by transfer of units from Greece, a German motorised division needed 360 tonnes per day and moving the supplies 480 kilometres took 1,1702. 0-tonne lorries.
With seven Axis divisions and naval units,71,000 tonnes of supplies per month were needed. From February–May 1941, a surplus of 46,000 tonnes was delivered, attacks from Malta had some effect but in May, lack of transport in Libya left German supplies in Tripoli and the Italians had only 7,000 lorries for deliveries to 225,000 men. A record amount of supplies arrived in June but at the front, in November a five-ship convoy was sunk during Operation Crusader and ground attacks on road convoys stopped journeys in daylight. Lack of deliveries and the Eighth Army offensive forced a retreat to El Agheila from 4 December, crowding the Via Balbia, where British ambushes destroyed about half of the remaining Axis transport. Convoys to Tripoli resumed and sinkings increased but by 16 December, the situation had eased, except for the fuel shortage and in December. The Vichy French sold 3,700 tonnes of fuel, U-boats were ordered into the Mediterranean, the Italian navy used warships to carry fuel to Derna and Benghazi, made a maximum effort from 16–17 December.
Four battleships, three cruisers and 20 destroyers escorted four ships to Libya. The use of an armada for 20,000 tonnes of cargo ships depleted the navy fuel reserve, bizerta in Tunisia was canvassed as an entrepôt but this was in range of RAF aircraft from Malta and was another 800 kilometres west of Tripoli
Battle of France
The Battle of France, known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940 during the Second World War. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and attempted an invasion of France, the German plan for the invasion of France consisted of two main operations. After the withdrawal of the BEF, the German forces began Fall Rot on 5 June, the sixty remaining French divisions made a determined resistance but were unable to overcome the German air superiority and armoured mobility. German tanks outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France, German forces occupied Paris unopposed on 14 June after a chaotic period of flight of the French government that led to a collapse of the French army. German commanders met with French officials on 18 June with the goal of forcing the new French government to accept an armistice that amounted to surrender and this led to the end of the French Third Republic. France was not liberated until the summer of 1944, in 1939, Britain and France offered military support to Poland in the likely case of a German invasion.
In the dawn of 1 September 1939, the German Invasion of Poland began and the United Kingdom declared war on 3 September, after an ultimatum for German forces to immediately withdraw their forces from Poland was met without reply. Following this, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, on 7 September, in accordance with their alliance with Poland, France began the Saar Offensive with an advance from the Maginot Line 5 km into the Saar. France had mobilised 98 divisions and 2,500 tanks against a German force consisting of 43 divisions, the French advanced until they met the thin and undermanned Siegfried Line. On 17 September, the French supreme commander, Maurice Gamelin gave the order to withdraw French troops to their starting positions, following the Saar Offensive, a period of inaction called the Phoney War set in between the belligerents. Adolf Hitler had hoped that France and Britain would acquiesce in the conquest of Poland, on 6 October, he made a peace offer to both Western powers. On 9 October, Hitler issued a new Führer-Directive Number 6, the plan was based on the seemingly more realistic assumption that German military strength would have to be built up for several years.
For the moment only limited objectives could be envisaged and were aimed at improving Germanys ability to survive a long war in the west. Hitler ordered a conquest of the Low Countries to be executed at the shortest possible notice to forestall the French and it would provide the basis for a long-term air and sea campaign against Britain. On 10 October 1939, Britain refused Hitlers offer of peace and on 12 October, colonel-General Franz Halder, presented the first plan for Fall Gelb on 19 October. This was the codename of plans for a campaign in the Low Countries. Halders plan has been compared to the Schlieffen Plan, the given to the German strategy of 1914 in the First World War. It was similar in both plans entailed an advance through the middle of Belgium
Operation Bowler was an air attack on Venice harbour by Allied aircraft on 21 March 1945, as part of the Italian campaign of the Second World War. It was led by Acting Wing Commander, Group Captain, by early 1945, northern Italys rail and road network had undergone severe damage, forcing the Germans to resort to shipping goods into Venice and moving them from there along rivers and canals. Medals of wartime air ace who led Venice attack up for sale
Battle of Bir Hakeim
The Battle of Bir Hakeim took place at Bir Hakeim, an oasis in the Libyan desert south and west of Tobruk, during the Battle of Gazala. The 1st Free French Brigade defended the position from 26 May –11 June against much larger Axis forces of Panzerarmee Afrika. Rommel continued to advance and invaded Egypt, slowed by British delaying actions until the First Battle of El Alamein in July, where the Axis advance was stopped. Both sides used the battle for propaganda, Winston Churchill renamed the Free French as the Fighting French and Hitler called the French the second best fighters after the Germans. Both sides accumulated supplies for an offensive to forestall their opponent and General Claude Auchinleck, Commander in Chief of Middle East Command, hoped for the Eighth Army to be ready by May. British code-breakers tracked the dispatch of convoys to Libya as the British anti-shipping offensive from Malta was neutralised by Axis bombing, as the Eighth Army was not ready to take the offensive, Ritchie planned to fight a defensive battle on the Gazala line.
Auchinleck saw the former as more likely while Ritchie favoured the latter, Auchinleck suggested that British armour be concentrated near El Adem, where it would be well placed to meet either threat. H and J and the Panzer IV at 600–800 m, the frontal armour of the Grant was thick enough to withstand the 50 mm Pak 38 anti-tank gun at 900 m and the short-barrelled 50 mm KwK38 gun carried by the Panzer III at 250 m. The first 112 × 6-pounder anti-tank guns had arrived and been allotted to the brigades of the armoured divisions. At the meeting of Axis leaders at Berchtesgaden on 1 May, the Panzerarmee was to pause at the Egyptian border, while the Axis captured Malta in Operation Herkules and Rommel was to invade Egypt. The Panzerarmee had finished converting to the up-armoured Panzer III Ausf, H and received nineteen Panzer III Ausf. J with a long-barrelled 50 mm KwK39 gun, G with long-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK40 guns had arrived. The Abwehr had broken some British military codes and in late 1941 penetrated Black, the used by Bonner Fellers.
The British divulged much tactical information to Fellers, who reported it to the Axis as well as Washington. The 1,400 km advance to Gazala succeeded, because the port of Benghazi was open, the capture of Malta would not alter the constraints of port capacity and distance, protecting convoys and the use of a large port close to the front would still be necessary. Unternehmen Venezia, the Axis plan of attack, was for tanks to make an advance around the Bir Hacheim box at the southern extremity of the Gazala line. On the left side of the manoeuvre, the Italian 132nd Armoured Division Ariete would neutralise the Bir Hacheim box. The Axis tanks would be in a next day to thrust westwards against the Eighth Army defensive boxes between Gazala and Alem Hamza, meeting the eastwards attack by the Italian X and XXI corps
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of the Second World War, when the Royal Air Force defended the United Kingdom against the German Air Force attacks from the end of June 1940. It is described as the first major campaign fought entirely by air forces, the primary objective of the Nazi German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement. In July 1940, the air and sea blockade began with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal shipping convoys and shipping centres, such as Portsmouth. On 16 July Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as an amphibious and airborne assault on Britain. Nazi Germany was unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night bombing operations on Britain became known as the Blitz. Its first Chief of the Air Staff Hugh Trenchard was among the military strategists in the 1920s like Giulio Douhet who saw air warfare as a new way to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare, interception was near impossible with fighter planes no faster than bombers.
Their view was that the bomber will always get through, Germany was forbidden military air forces by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, but developed aircrew training in civilian and sport flying. In 1926 the secret Lipetsk fighter-pilot school began operating, a winter 1933–34 war game indicated a need for fighters and anti-aircraft protection as well as bombers. On 1 March 1935 the Luftwaffe was formally announced, with Walther Wever as Chief of Staff, the list excluded bombing civilians to destroy homes or undermine morale, as that was considered a waste of strategic effort, but the doctrine allowed revenge attacks if German civilians were bombed. A revised edition was issued in 1940, and the central principle of Luftwaffe doctrine was that destruction of enemy armed forces was of primary importance. In the Spanish Civil War, the Luftwaffe in the Condor Legion tried out air fighting tactics, wolfram von Richthofen become an exponent of air power providing ground support to other services. The difficulty of hitting targets prompted Ernst Udet to require that all new bombers had to be dive bombers.
Priority was given to producing large numbers of aeroplanes. The speed with which German forces defeated most of the armies in Norway in early 1940 created a significant political crisis in Britain. In early May 1940, the Norway Debate questioned the fitness for office of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, on 10 May, the same day Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister, the Germans initiated the Battle of France with an aggressive invasion of French territory. The Germans were so convinced of an imminent armistice that they began constructing street decorations for the parades of victorious troops. Instead, Churchill used his skilful rhetoric to harden public opinion against capitulation, the Battle of Britain has the unusual distinction that it gained its name before being fought. In secret conference on 23 May 1939 Hitler set out his rather contradictory strategy that an attack on Poland was essential, if this is impossible, it will be better to attack in the West and to settle Poland at the same time with a surprise attack
Battle of Greece
The Battle of Greece is the common name for the invasion of Allied Greece by Nazi Germany in April 1941 during World War II. Concomitant to the stalled Greco-Italian War, it is distinguished from the Battle of Crete. These Axis operations were part of the greater Balkan Campaign of Germany, at the time of the German invasion, Greece was at war with Fascist Italy, following the Italian invasion on 28 October 1940. The Greeks joined the Allies and defeated the initial Italian attack, when Operation Marita began on 6 April, the bulk of the Greek Army was on the Greek border with Albania, a protectorate of Italy, from which the Italian troops had attacked. German troops invaded from Bulgaria, creating a second front, Greece had already received a small, inadequate reinforcement from British Empire forces in anticipation of the German attack, but no more help was sent afterward. The Greek army found itself outnumbered in its effort to defend against both Italian and German troops, the British Empire forces were overwhelmed and forced to retreat, with the ultimate goal of evacuation.
For several days, Allied troops played an important part in containing the German advance on the Thermopylae position, allowing ships to be prepared to evacuate the units defending Greece. The German Army reached the capital, Athens, on 27 April and Greeces southern shore on 30 April, capturing 7,000 British Empire forces, the conquest of Greece was completed with the capture of Crete a month later. Following its fall, Greece was occupied by the forces of Germany, Italy. Hitler blamed the failure of his invasion of the Soviet Union and it nevertheless had serious consequences for the Axis war effort in the North African theatre. Enno von Rintelen, who was the military attaché in Rome, emphasizes from the German point of view, at the outbreak of World War II, Ioannis Metaxas—the fascist-style dictator of Greece and former general—sought to maintain a position of neutrality. Greece was subject to increasing pressure from Italy, culminating in the Italian submarine Delfino sinking the cruiser Elli on 15 August 1940, Italian leader Benito Mussolini was irritated that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had not consulted him on his war policy and wished to establish his independence.
He hoped to match German military success by taking Greece, which he regarded as an easy opponent, on 15 October 1940, Mussolini and his closest advisers finalised their decision. Metaxas rejected the ultimatum but even before it expired, Italian troops had invaded Greece through Albania, the principal Italian thrust was directed toward Epirus. Hostilities with the Greek army began at the Battle of Elaia–Kalamas, within three weeks, the Greek army launched a counter-offensive, during which it marched into Albanian territory, capturing significant cities such as Korça and Sarandë. Neither a change in Italian command nor the arrival of substantial reinforcements improved the position of the Italian army, after weeks of inconclusive winter warfare, the Italians launched a counter-offensive on the centre of the front on 9 March 1941, which failed, despite the Italians superior forces. After one week and 12,000 casualties, Mussolini called off the counter-offensive, elementary precautions such as issuing winter clothing had not been taken.
Mussolini had not considered the warnings of the Italian Commission of War Production, during the six-month fight against Italy, the Hellenic army made territorial gains by eliminating Italian salients