Invasion of Egypt
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseAfter capturing British Somaliland on 19 Aug 1940, Italian troops marched for Egypt on 9 Sep 1940. The invasion of conducted mainly by the Italian Tenth Army under General Mario Berti consisted of 10 divisions, hundreds of light tanks armed with machine guns, and 70 M11 medium tanks. King Farouk of Egypt, abiding by the Anglo-Egyptian treaty signed in 1936, surrendered his nation to a virtual occupation of the British in order to fight the invading Italians, thus the port city of Alexandria quickly became a major British base and the home of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The British Middle East Command had about 36,000 troops in Egypt, which was dwarfed by the size of the Italian force in Libya alone without consideration of the Italian force in East Africa.
ww2dbaseIn the air, the two forces appeared to be evenly matched, with fighters downing opposing peers in dogfights, British bombers reaching Italian staging areas at Tobruk, and Italian bombers destroying British defenses along the Mediterranean coast. On the ground, however, the British fought with better efficiency. Although Italian troops were able to push British troops back on the first few days of the invasion, the British troops fell back somewhat orderly, laying down mines as they retreated, which further disrupted the Italians who were already frustrated by overheating vehicles. On 10 Sep, Italian troops crossed the Egyptian border, and the British front lines fell back to the Halfaya Pass, which was taken within the next few days. On 13 Sep, Italian troops of the 1st "23 March" Blackshirt Division captured Fort Capuzzo in Libya, which was captured by the British at the onset of the war. On 16 Sep, the UK 3rd Coldstream Guards were nearly surrounded by Italian troops, saved only by the the arrival of the UK 11th Hussars. By the end of 16 Sep, the Italians captured Sidi Barrani, 65 miles east of the original Italian lines, but that would prove to be about as far as the Italians would go, far short of the original goal of capturing the Suez Canal.
ww2dbaseAs the Italian troops marched to Maktila, about 10 miles east of Sidi Barrani, Italian Marshal Rodolfo Graziani halted the invasion, citing supply problems. Having requested but received no trucks from Rome since before the invasion, he now requested 600 mules to help ease the situation. He instructed his troops to form advance defensive positions at Maktila, Tummar, Nibeiwa, and Sofafi, while his main forces were fortified at Buq Buq, Sidi Omar, and the Halfaya Pass.
ww2dbaseCasualties of the battle was relatively light. The Italians lost 40 men killed, while the British suffered 120 killed and 410 wounded.
Last Major Update: Aug 2010
Invasion of Egypt Timeline
|9 Sep 1940||Italian Army Marshal Rudolfo Graziani ordered his troops in Libya to march toward British positions, with troops of the Italian 10th Army under General Mario Berti as spearhead; the Italian goal was to capture the Suez Canal. Italian aircraft bombed British defensive positions while British aircraft flew sorties against Italian supply dumps and troop concentrations.|
|10 Sep 1940||Italian troops crossed the Libyan-Egyptian border.|
|12 Sep 1940||The Italian 10th Army advanced slowly toward the Libyan-Egyptian border.|
|13 Sep 1940||Italian troops of the 1st "23 March" Blackshirt Division captured Fort Capuzzo in Libya, which was captured by the British at the onset of the war.|
|16 Sep 1940||Italian troops of the 1st Blackshirt Division "23 Marzo" captured Sidi Barrani, Egypt and stopped the advance due to supply problems. This would prove to be the farthest the Italians would go.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939