Despite its title this book actually looks at the eastern half of the six month campaign between the end of the battle of El Alamein and the final Axis collapse in Tunisia. The focus is on the battles between Montgomery's victorious Eighth Army and Rommel's increasingly weakened forces. The title comes from the hardest fighting of this campaign, the battle for the Mareth Line, originally built by the French to protect Tunisia from the Italians in Libya.
We start with the pursuit in the immediate aftermath of El Alamein, perhaps Monty's best chance to eliminate Rommel's army. It becomes clear that Montgomery put a great deal of effort into organising a rapid and effective pursuit, but a combination of poor weather, unexpected minefields and Rommel's rapid retreat foiled his plans. After that Rommel was able to use the threat of a stand to force Montgomery into preparations for a full scale assault while always intending to move to Mareth.
This is a useful look at a period that is often skipped over in accounts of the fighting in North Africa. Montgomery's six month long pursuit of Rommel is normally overshadowed by El Alamein and Operation Torch, which changed the situation in North Africa and saw the first large scale commitment of American land forces in the war against Germany. The standard Campaign series structure works well here, with sections on the opposing commanders, armies and plans before the narrative, so the progress of the fighting can be understood in the context of each commander's aims. The text is clear, and is supported by excellent maps. Overall this is a good entry in this series, and provides useful detail on an important but unappreciated campaign.
Origins of the Battle
The Pursuit after El Alamein
The Mareth Line
The End in Africa
The Battlefield Today
Author: Ken Ford