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Here, af­ter a month-long pum­melling of the Al­lied de­fences – the first bat­tle of El Alamein – the Axis ad­vance stalled. Rom­mel was at the end of his sup­ply lines, low on fuel and am­mu­ni­tion, with no more men or ma­te­rial in­com­ing, and El Alamein was that rarest of things in the open desert: a defensible po­si­tion, bor­dered to the north by the Mediter­ranean and to the south by the im­pass­able Qat­tara De­pres­sion. When Rom­mel’s fi­nal, des­per­ate at­tempt at a break­through at the end of Au­gust also failed, he for­ti­fied his po­si­tion to wait for re­in­force­ments that would never come.

Mont­gomery’s coun­terof­fen­sive came on the evening of 23 Oc­to­ber, by which time the Eighth Army had swelled to around 200,000 men, 1350 tanks and 1000 guns – more than dou­ble the strength of Rom­mel’s Ger­man

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