A DEFENSIBLE POSITION
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