First Battle of El Alamein

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The First Battle of El Alamein (1–27 July 1942 was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) commanded by Erwin Rommel, and Allied forces (Britain, British India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) commanded by Claude Auchinleck. The battle halted the second (and final) advance by the Axis forces into Egypt, El Alamein being only 66 mi (106 km) from Alexandria.



Retreat from Gazala

Following the defeat at the Battle of Gazala in June 1942, the Eighth Army had retreated from the Gazala line to Mersa Matruh, roughly 100 mi (160 km) inside the Egyptian border. General Neil Ritchie had decided not to hold the defenses on the Egyptian border because the defensive plan here relied on infantry holding defended localities while a strong armoured force was held back in reserve to strike any attempts to penetrate or outflank the fixed defenses. Since Ritchie had virtually no armoured units left fit to fight, the infantry positions would be defeated in detail. The Mersa defense plan also included an armoured reserve but in its absence Ritchie believed he could organise his infantry to cover the minefields between the defended localities to prevent Axis engineers from having undisturbed access.[3]

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