Tunisian Campaign, November 1942-May 1943

First Allied Attack on Tunisia
German Counterattack
Operation Eilboete
Kasserine Pass
Eighth Army
Final Allied Attack on Tunis

The Tunisian Campaign (8 November 1942-13 May 1943) was the final stage of the North African campaign, and saw a combined British, American and French army slowly eliminate the Axis bridgehead in Tunisia.

For two years the North African campaign had swept back and for across eastern Libya and western Egypt, but after the Second Battle of El Alamein Rommel's Panzerarmy Africa was forced into one final retreat across Libya. Montgomery's Eighth Army captured Tripoli on 23 January 1943, the objective of every British offensive since 1940. Rommel retreated across the Tunisian border, heading for the Mareth Line.

In the meantime British and American troops invaded French North Africa on 8 November 1942 (Operation Torch), and quickly secured Morocco and Algeria. After taking Algiers the British moved east along the Algerian coast, reaching Bougie on 11 November and Djidjelli and Bone on 12 November (just beating a force of German paratroops to Bone). A small force then continued along the coast to Constantine, then to the port of Tabarka, 60 miles from Bizerta.

Although the Germans were unable to intervene in Algeria or Morocco, they did decide to occupy Tunisia. On 9 November Kesselring was given a free hand by Hitler, and on the same day he flew three aircraft into Tunisia. Their first footholds were at El Aouina airfield near to Tunis and Sidi Ahmed airfield, near Bizerta, where they were firmly in place by the morning of 10 November. This was followed by the occupation of Tunis city on 14 November. General Walther Nehring was given command of the new XC Army Corps in Tunisia. By the end of November Nehring had around 25,000 men and 100 tanks under his command, including a number of Tiger tanks. Although the Allied forces to the west outnumbered him, the Allied supply lines would only support a small scale advance. Nehring also had air superiority at this stage, with reinforcements coming from Sicily.

First Allied Attack on Tunisia

After landing in Algeria, the Allies quickly turned east and attempted to occupy Tunisia. This involved a mix of airborne landings, carried out by both British and American forces, and a more conventional ground attack, following two main routes – one near the north coast and one 25 miles further inland to the south, generally following a series of river valleys. When Operation Torch had first been planned this move east was meant to end at Tunis and Bizerta, on the Mediterranean coast, but once the Germans were established in some strength in the north-east of Tunisia it became a race to decide where the front line would be. As the British columns dashed east, German columns fanned out from Bizerta and Tunis.

General Anderson, commander of the British 1st Army, decided to advance in three columns. The 36th Brigade, 78th Infantry Division would advance along the coastal route, heading for Bizerta. 11th Brigade, 78th Infantry Division, would advance along the inland route, and follow the river valley to Medjez el Bab, Tebourbe, Djedeida and then to Tunis. They would be followed by 'Blade Force', a mixed artillery and armoured force, built around the 17th/21st Lancers regimental group, equipped with Crusaders and Valentines, and supported by a company of light tanks from the US 1st Armored Division. This force would split off from the valley route at Beja, and use a road that ran north-east to Sidi Nsir then east to Tebourbe.

On 15 November Lt. Col James Hill's 1sts Parachute Battalion was unable to drop at Souk el Arb, at the start of the inland route. On the same day Lt Col Edson D Raff's battalion of the US 503rd Parachute Regiment landed at Youks les Bains, much further to the south.

On 16 November Hill's paratroops tried again, and this time the weather was on their side. They were able to land around the airfield, where a force of French Senegalese troops under Colonel Jung didn’t offer any resistance, but also didn’t cooperate. By the end of the day the paratroops had reached Beja, 40 miles to the north east of Souk el Arb.

16 November also saw the first clash between British and German troops in Tunisia. A small motorised column from the 5th Northamptonshire Regiment, under Major V. Hart, attempted to advance along the road from Djebel Aboid, heading for Mateur. They ran into a German blocking force which included some armoured, and suffered a defeat. Hart was forced to retreat back towards the rest of 36th Brigade, which was following up.

On 17 November Hill's paratroops advanced further north-east, heading towards Mateur via the railway stop at Sidi Msir. About fifteen miles to the south-west of Mateur they ran into a German patrol (three armoured cars and three scout cars), which they defeated. This helped convince Colonel Jung to join the Allies.

On the same day the reconnaissance squadron from 36th Brigade reached Djebel Abiod.

Panzer III Ausf L in Tunisia
Panzer III Ausf L in Tunisia

On 18 November the reconnaissance squadron was replaced by the 6th Royal West Kents at Djebel Abiod. Luckily they began to dig in, for at around 3pm a German column, led by around thirty Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs, supported by paratroop infantry, appeared on the road from Mateur. At first the Panzers had the best of the fight, but after the British field guns got into place they were forced to retreat.

On the same day Blade Force reached Souk el Araba, secured by the paratroops two days earlier.

After the Germans landed in Tunisia part of the French garrison, six colonial garrisons under General Barré, had retreated to Medjez el Bab, in the hope that the Allies would arrive before the Germans forced them to pick sides. This almost worked, but on 19 November Nehring issued Barré with an ultimatum – join us or face the consequences. Barré broke off negotiations, and his position came under air and paratroop attack. Barré sent urgent requests for air and armoured support to the Allies, but when none were forthcoming had to retreat west to Oued Zarga. This left the German paratroops in possession at Medjez el Bab. They prepared to defend the east bank of the river Medjerda, and with it one of the roads to Tunis. 

On 24 November the 11th Infantry Brigade approached Medjez from the west. Their commander decided to carry out a two pronged assault on the German positions. The 5th Northamptons were sent to cross the river upstream of Medjez, while the 2nd Lancaster Fusiliers carried out a frontal assault. The idea was to attack during the night, but the Lancasters were delayed, and weren't able to attack until daylight on 25 November.

The attack on 25 November was quickly repulsed. The Germans used their tanks against the Northamptons, who were unable to make and progress. The Lancasters managed to cross the river, although their commanding officer, Lt Col Manly, was killed before the crossing, but were then pinned down by the Germans. With heavy artillery support the trapped troops were able to retreat to the west bank.

On 26 November a force of US M3 light tanks that had been attached to Blade Force had a luck break. They managed to bypass a number of German outposts, got onto the high ground overlooking Djedeida airfield, putting them well in advance of any other Allied force. The tanks then attacked the airfield and destroyed over twenty Stukas. Nehring panicked, believing that this meant that Allied armour was about to emerge on the Tunisian plains, and ordered a retreat to a close defensive position around Tunis and Bizerta. Kesselring soon restored his morale and the order was cancelled.

On the same day 11th Brigade prepared for a new assault on Medjez, but when they attacked they discovered that the Germans were gone, obeying Nehring's order to retreat.

On the northern route 36th Brigade reached Tamera, six miles past Djebel Abiod, and advanced towards Sedjenane.

On 27 November 11th Brigade advanced north-east from Medjez towards Tebourba, which fell without a fight. They then moved east, and the 1st East Surreys captured Djedeida village. On the far side they were counterattacked by a stronger German force, including seventeen tanks, infantry and mortars. The Surreys were forced to retreat back to the support of their artillery battery, but after seven of their eight guns were destroyed they had to pull back further.

On the same day 36th Brigade reached Sedjenane.

On 28 November 36th Brigade ran into the Germans at the rail stop at Jefna, only sixteen miles west of Mateur. This would be as far as they would get during this first offensive. The Germans were strongly dug in around Jefna, and the advancing 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were ambushed and after a day of heavy fighting forced to retreat.

On 29 November the 5th Northamptons (11th Brigade), supported by a company of Grant tanks and the 496th Field Battery, launched a second attack on Djedeida, but this attack was also repulsed.

On 30 November the Northamptons tried once again, but by now the airfield at Djedeida was back in German service. To make things worse the Northamptons could actually see the Stukas taking off to attack them. The attack was repulsed.

On 30 November 36th Brigade launched a second attack at Jefna. This time the main targets were the hills of Djebel Azzaq to the north and Djebel Agred to the south (nicknamed Green Hill and Bald Hill respectively). The West Kents were to take Djebel Agred and 6 Commando Djebel Azzaq. Once again the attack failed, and on the night of 30 November/ 1 December it was cancelled. The front line would sit to the west of these hills until the final offensives in April 1943.

While the British attacks had been going well, General Anderson had been planning to exploit any possible success. Blade Force was to be joined by Combat Command B of the US 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. In order to protect the flanks of this advance, the 2nd Parachute Battalion was told to raid a series of German held airfields to the south of Tunis, at Pont du Fahs, Depienne and Oudna.

By the end of 28 November a reconnaissance force had reached the southern-most of these, at Pont de Fahs, and discovered that it had been abandoned, as had Depienne. The plan was chanced, and on 29 November the 2nd Parachute Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col John Frost, landed at Depienne. They were joined by the reconnaissance troops, who soon reported that the Germans were blocking the road to Oudna. Frost set his men off on a cross country march to avoid this road block, and at about noon they reached a well (Prise de l'Eau), near to the airfield. The airfield quickly fell, but Frost's men then came under heavy attack. They held on to the airfield until evening, and then withdrew to Prise de l'Eau. Frost planned to hold on to noon on 1 December, and then head for his rendezvous point if there was no news of success at Djedeida. Early on 1 December radio contact was established, and Frost learnt that the attacks had failed. Frost held on at Prise de l'Eau for most of the day, then at dusk began an attempt to break out. After an impressive march across difficult terrain and in hostile territory the survivors of his unit reached Medjez. This action cost the 2nd Parachute Battalion 16 officers and 248 men from the original force of 460.

By the end of November it was clear to Anderson that the first attack on Tunis had failed. German resistance was stiffening all the time, they had more tanks in the immediate area, and dominated in the air. He decided to pause his offensive, and wait for reinforcements and for air cover. In the meantime he hoped to hold on to Tebourba, which was a decent defensive position, and a good starting point for any future offensives.

German Counterattack

The initiative now passed over to the Germans. Kesselring paid a visit to Nehring, bolstered his flagging morale and ordered him to counterattack with 10 Panzer Division, in order to push the British away from Tunis and Bizerte.

The German counterattack began on 1 December. 10 Panzer, commanded by General Fischer, launched a three pronged assault on Tebourba. The British were pushed back towards the village, but this first attack was repulsed. The US Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, was moved up from Medjez, but suffered heavy losses in its first clash with German armour. The Germans also had the advantage in the air, with the Luftwaffe operating from bases just behind the front, while the RAF was sixty miles to the rear. After two days the Germans had retaken Tebourba.

On 6 December the Germans attacked again, clashing with the US 1st Armoured Division. In a badly handled encounter battle the Americans lost 18 tanks and 41 guns, forcing the official divisional history to report that American armaments and tactics had failed. This would be a pattern in the first part of the Tunisian campaign, but the Americans quickly learnt from their mistakes, and became a formidable fighting force. The Germans were mislead by their early successes, and for some time dangerously underestimated their American opponents. On this occasion mud also played a part in the scale of the US defeat. The Germans were stopped two miles east of Medjez by a small French force.

6 December also saw Lt. General Charles Allfrey, the commanding officer of the British V Corps take over on the Tunisian front. He recommended that there should be no more attacks until the next batch of convoys arrived. He also wanted to abandon Medjez el Bab and retreat to a better defensive line. The French objected, and the dispute had to go all the way to Eisenhower. He agreed to a limited withdrawal to Djebel el Almara, to the north-east of Medjez. By the time the German attacks stopped on 11 December, they had captured Longstop Hill, a key position that changed hand several times during the fighting, but Medjez remained in Allied hands. Allfrey began to plan for a fresh attack towards Tunis, to begin on Christmas Day. Preliminary attacks began on 22 December, and Longstop Hill changed hands several times over the next few days. By Christmas Day it was clear that the weather and the German defences meant that the attack would almost certainly fail, and Eisenhower postponed the attack on Tunis indefinitely.

Damaged Panzer IV ausf G, Tunisia, 1943 Damaged Panzer IV ausf G, Tunisia, 1943

On 14 January 1943 the Allies unified their command structure in North Africa. Eisenhower was made Supreme Commander, while General Alexander, the British commander-in-chief in the Middle East, became his deputy. Beneath them were the British First Army attacking Tunisia from the west and Montgomery's Eighth Army, coming from Libya.

At the start of 1943 the First Army was commanded by General Sir Kenneth Anderson. In theory he had three corps under his command - General Allfrey's 5th British Corps, General Koeltz's 19th French Corps and General Fredendall's 2nd US Corps, but the French refused to take his orders. Instead they obeyed General Juin, the commander of French Ground Forces in North Africa, who in turn was under General Giraud. Any serious coordination with the French thus involved passing orders up and down a chain of command which stretched all the way back to Algiers. Anderson wasn't helped by Fredendall, who disliked the British, and Anderson in particular (and who failed to back up his awkward attitude with any particular battlefield ability).

At the start of 1943 the Axis forces in North Africa were split into two separate commanders. In the north of Tunisia was General von Arnim's 5th Panzer Army, the stronger of the two forces. This was largely made up of units rushed to Africa after Operation Torch, but early in 1943 was also given a number of units from Rommel's Panzerarmee Afrika, the second Axis army. Rommel's command was renamed as the Deutsche-Italiansiche Panzerarmee just before the end of the Libyan campaign. The famous Afrika Korps was only one part of this army. Rommel's position was also under threat, and plans were in place to replace him with an Italian general.

Operation Eilboete

Von Arnim's first task was to capture the passes in the Eastern Dorsales region (running north-south about half way between the east coast and the Algerian border), as Kesselring saw them as key to any future German offensives (and also to any Allied attacks into the Tunisian plains). Von Arnim launched Operation Eilboete on 18 January. An initial attack against the British around Bou Arada failed, but the second wave of attacks, later in the month, saw the Germans capture the Faid and Pinchon passes. By 30 January all of the passes were in German hands.

Kasserine Pass

The Germans now realised that they had a chance to conduct a larger scale offensive, but couldn't agree on what to do. The problem wasn't helped by the poor relationship between von Arnim and Rommel. Von Arnim wanted to carry out a fairly limited offensive, expanding on Operation Eilboete. Rommel, unsurprisingly, wanted to carry out a far more ambitious plan. He would attack into the Western Dorsales, destroy the US II Corps and then advance towards the north coast of Tunisia behind the British First Army. The Allies would be forced to retreat out of Tunisia, giving the combined Axis forces the time to move south and defeat Montgomery's Eighth Army, which was then gathering its strength in preparation for an attack on the strong Mareth Line positions in the south of Tunisia.

In the end both plans were carried out, after Kesselring intervened to end the argument. Von Arnim's attack, Operation Frühlingswind, would use 10 Panzer and 21 Panzer to attack towards Sidi Bou Zid, starting on 14 February 1943. Two days later Rommel's attack, Operation Morgenluft, would begin. He would attack further south towards Gafsa. 21 Panzer would be transferred from von Arnim to Rommel to support the attack on Gafas. The two attacks were to meet up at the Kasserine Pass, and if all went well perhaps even continue on towards the major Allied bases at Bone and Constantine, over the border on Algeria.

Both attacks began well. The US II Corps was forced to retreat, suffering heavy casualties. On the second day of Frühlingswind the US 1st Armored Division lost 165 tanks. Kesselring then approved Rommel's suggestion for a more powerful assault around Tebessa, and by 19 February German troops were approaching the Kasserine Pass. The pass fell on the following day, and the Germans advanced on Tebessa and Thala. This was when the offensive ran out of steam. American troops held Tebessa, and British troops held Thala. On 22 February Rommel and Kesselring met up at Kasserine Pass, and decided that they had to cancel the offensive. The Americans had suffered a nasty shock, and many of their novice troops had broken and fled or surrendered, but the line eventually held, and any chance of a major Axis victory was gone.

On the Allied side the attack led to a shakeup in II Corps. General Fredenall was sacked and replaced with George S. Patton, who had been preparing for the invasion of Sicily. Patton had a big impact on his new corps, which soon turned into a tough effective fighting unit.

Much to Rommel's frustration, von Arnim followed his lacklustre support for the attack around Kasserine with a frontal assault on the British lines in the north (Operation Ochenskopf). This began on 26 February and after some initial gains was turned back, ending by 19 March. Rommel cancelled the offensive, but not before some of the priceless Tiger tanks had been lost.

Eighth Army

On 26 January Rommel crossed into Tunisia, and headed for a new Panzerarmy HQ to the west of Ben Gardane. He soon received a message relieving him of command due to ill health, but the date he chose to hand over to General Messe was up to him. Messe finally got his promotion when Rommel was given command of the attack in the Kasserine Pass. Panzerarmy Africa became the 1st Italian Army.

The Eighth Army didn't rush to follow Rommel. It crossed into Tunisia on 4 February, but the advance sped up after the start of the German offensive at Kasserine. On 15 February Rommel's rearguard withdrew into the Mareth Line. On 16 February the advancing Eighth Army captured Ben Gardane, on 17 February they took Medinine and on 18 February Foum Tatahouine. This increased pressure forced Rommel to move 15 Panzer and 21 Panzer back to the southern front.

Panzer III Ausf L or M, Tunisia
Panzer III Ausf L or M,

During this period Montgomery was joined by Leclerc's Free French, who had marched 1,500 miles across the desert from Lake Chad.

On 23 February Rommel was made commander of Army Group Africa. He was thus not directly responsible for the details of his former army's premptive attack on Montgomery (battle of Medenine, 6 March 1943), although he had suggested the overall idea. Messe came up with the detailed plan, for a simple four division attack on the British left, after arguing against Rommel's plan for a two pronged assault. Unfortunately for the Axis, Ultra intercepts meant that Montgomery knew exactly what was about to happen. He was able to reinforce his front line, and positioned anti-tank guns in the right place to hit the attacking tanks. As a result the Axis attack ended as a costly failure.

On 8 March an increasingly ill Rommel handed command of the Army Group to von Arnim, and on 9 March he flew out of Africa for the last time. His departure was kept secret, and the Allies didn’t realise he had left until the final collapse in Tunisia.

Eighth Army Bombardment of Mareth Line
Eighth Army Bombardment of Mareth Line

Montgomery's next target was the Mareth Line, a series of pre-war French fortifications in the fairly narrow gap between the coast and the Matmata Hills. The Axis position was protected by two steep sided ravines, the Wadi Zeuss and the Wadi Zigzaou. The gap between the two was filled with minefields, and the main defences were on the north side of the Wadi Zigzaou. Montgomery decided to launch a two-pronged attack. The New Zealand division was sent on an wide outflanking move, across the Matmata Hills, to attack through the Tebaga Gap. The 50th Division was to attack on the coastal flank of the main Mareth Line.

Earlier in the year Montgomery had sped up his advance in order to help the Americans fighting at Kasserine. Now he asked for support from the Americans. Ideally he wanted an attack east from the Kasserine area towards the coast at Sfax or Gabes, a move that cut have cut off the Axis forces in the Mareth Line. Alexander didn’t trust the US II corps with such a major task, but decided to give them a more limited task, which he hoped would draw Axis reserves to their area, and also improve their morale.

The American attack, Operation Wop, began on 16 March. Gafsa, taken by Rommel early in the Kasserine fighting, was taken on 17 March. The Americans then advanced east along the railway that ran through Gafsa heading for the coast, and captured Sened Station on 21 March. Finally they captured Maknassy, on the edge of the Eastern Dorsals on 22 March. After that the advance ran into more serious Axis opposition, and came to a halt.

Back on the Mareth Line the British attack began on the night of 20-21 March. At first all went well, and two British brigades got across the Wadi Zigzaou and captured a number of Axis strong points. The New Zealand flanking attack began later on 21 March, but their movement had been discovered and Messe had moved reinforcements to that flank. Various diversionary attacks failed, allowing Messe to concentrate his efforts against the British attack on the coast, and by the night of 22-23 March the British were forced to retreat back across the Wadi Zigzaou.

Montgomery now decided to switch his main effort to the outflanking attack. The 1st Armoured Division was sent across the hills to join the New Zealanders, ready for another massive assault, Operation Supercharge II.

On 23 March 10 Panzer attacked the US 1st Armored Division around El Guettar, to the south-east of Gafsa. The attack failed, the 1st Armored Division's first clear victory over fresh German armour, and a clear sign that they were improving rapidly. The failed attack left 10 Panzer in dire straits.

Operation Supercharge II began late on 26 March, after a heavy artillery and air bombardment. For the first time the air attack was carried out in cooperation with the ground troops, and forward air controllers advanced with the troops. The attack went according to plan. The Allied troops smashed their way through the Axis lines, and by the start of 27 March had reached El Hamma, to the north-east of the Tebaga gap. Once again the Germans managed to scrape together an improvised defensive line, and the attack stopped. Messe's infantry was already retreating from the Mareth Line, and this desperate stand at El Hamma allowed most of them to escape from Montgomery's attack.

On 27 March the US 34th Division attempted to break through the Fondouk Pass, well to the rear of the Gabes gap. If the Allies could break through here, then they would be able to reach the coast around Sousse, and split the Axis bridgehead in half, but this attack was repulsed.

By 29 March Messe's men had taken up a new defensive position, in the Gabes Gap. This was a narrow gap between the coast and the salt marshes of the Chott el Fedjadj, protected by a mix of hills and the Wadi Akarit. This was potentially a better defensive position than Mareth, at least if Messe had only had to face Montgomery, but it was very vulnerable to attack from the rear, where the Americans would eventually break through to the coast.

On 28-29 March Patton's II Corps launched a new offensive from El Guettar, in the hope that it could reach the Gabes Gap before the retreating Axis forces. This attack was held up by Italian troops, and German reinforcements soon reached the area (21 Panzer and Panzergrenadier Regiment Afrika). During the first few days of April the Americans were held up along the Gabes road. 

On 6 April Montgomery began his attack on the Wadi Akarit line. Although Messe managed to hold out all day, by the evening it was clear that he couldn't hold out any longer, and so he ordered a retreat. On 7 April the Axis forces pulled back towards Enfidaville, with the Eighth Army in pursuit.

On 7 April armoured cars from the Eighth Army met up with a patrol from the US 1st Armored Division, on the Gafsa-Gabes road. The two Allied armies in Tunisia had finally joined up, and von Arnim's Army Group Afrika was trapped in a small bridgehead around Tunis and Bizerte.

On 8 April the US 34th Division and part of the French XIX Corps and British IX Corps attacked the Fondouk and Pichon passes, in an attempt to cut off Messe's retreat. Once again they were held up. On 9 April the 34th Division and British 6th Armoured Division carried out a combined attack, which also failed, later leading to bitter feelings between the two forces, with the British blaming the poor training of 34th Division for the failure and the Americans blaming IX Corps for producing a poor plan. The Allies finally broke through early on 10 April but by then Messe's men had escaped to the north.

Final Allied Attack on Tunis

Douglas Boston IIIs over Tunisia, 1943
Douglas Boston IIIs over Tunisia, 1943

The end was now close. The remaining Axis forces had been pushed back into the north-eastern corner of Tunisia, although they still held Bizerta and Tunis. The line ran south from the coast some way to the west of Bizerta, then turned east to reach the coast again at Enfidaville. Von Arnim's forces were outnumbered by around six to one, the Luftwaffe had abandoned them and they only had a handful of tanks left.

The Allied offensive was supported by Operation Flax, an attempt to intercept all Axis air transport coming into Tunisia. Huge numbers of German transports were shot down in mid April, including at least 50 Junkers Ju 52s during the Palm Sunday Massacre of 18 April and fourteen Messerschmitt Me 323s on the Cap Bon Massacre of 22 April. After this the Germans abandoned all attempts to fly large amounts of supplies into Tunisia by day, and limited themselves to smaller scale night time flights.

Alexander decided to use the US II Corps (now under Bradley) and the British First Army for the final assault. Montgomery's Eighth Army was reduced to a diversionary role. It began the offensive with an attack on Enfidaville, beginning on 19 April, but this ran into heavy resistance and ended on 21 April. The main attack (Operation Vulcan) began on 22 April. Progress was slow but steady on the main fronts. The British X Corps made the most progress and forced the Germans to gather all of their remaining forces into a single unit to stop them. V Corps captured Longstop Hill, a key feature of the earlier battles (26 April). Bradley's men attacked through the hills and made slow but steady progress. On the Allied right the Eighth Army made limited progress and at heavy costs.

Alexander decided to transfer several key units from the Eighth Army to the First Army (4th Indian Division, 7th Armoured Division and 22nd Guards Brigade), ready for a renewed assault (Operation Strike). In the meantime the US 1st Armoured Division made good progress, reaching Mateur on 3 May.

Operation Strike began on 5 May. This time progress was much quicker but uneven. On 7 May troops from the US 9th Division occupied Bizerta without any resistance. The US 1st Armoured Division reached Ferryville, on the southern shores of Lake Bizerta. Armoured cars from the British V Corps entered Tunis without any opposition. In the south the French XIX Corps reached Pont du Fahs.

The last resistance came in the Cape Bon Peninsula. British troops advanced east into the area from Tunis, and then spread out, occupying most of the peninsula by 11 May. The last Axis troops to surrender were the Italian First Army, which was isolated on the Axis left, and surrendered on 13 May. In all the Allies captured 275,000 prisoners in Tunisia, a mix of combat and non-combat troops. Hitler had refused to allow any evacuation until it was too late, and then only for specific lists of specialist troops. As a result large numbers of support troops and specialists were captured along with the fighting troops.

The last signal from the Afrikakorps was sent by its final commander, General Cramer. 'Ammunition shot off. Arms and equipment destroyed. In accordance with orders received the Afrikakorps has fought itself into the condition where it can fight no more. The Deutsches Afrikakorps must rise again. Heia Safari!'

In contrast Alexander sent a shorter signal to Churchill - Sir, it is my duty to report that the Tunisian Campaign is over. All enemy resistance has ceased. We are masters of the North African shores'

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 May 2017),Tunisian Campaign, November 1942-May 1943, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/campaign_tunisian.html

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