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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

Enemy Attacks in Western Desert

Enemy Attacks in Western Desert

In Syria the weeks passed and no enemy attack southwards through Turkey developed. In the Caucasus the Russians were sternly resisting in a campaign which culminated in the battle for Stalingrad. But in the Western Desert in May and June events swung in favour of the Germans.

In the Second Libyan Campaign the New Zealanders had helped to relieve Tobruk, and the enemy was driven from Cyrenaica back to El Agheila for the second time within a year. On 21 January, however, an enemy counter-offensive had forced the Eighth Army to withdraw as far as Gazala, just west of Tobruk.

By the middle of May both sides had built up their forces for further offensive action. The Axis offensive began on the evening of 26 May. After three weeks of heavy and costly fighting the Eighth Army, again leaving a garrison in Tobruk, which capitulated on 20 June, retreated to Egypt in a withdrawal which was not to end until El Alamein was reached.