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Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy

The Mareth Line

The Mareth Line

The Mareth Line, known as the ‘African Maginot’ was a formidable position. The defensive zone stretched from Zarat on the Gulf of Gabes to Ben Khradache in the Matmata Hills, and was originally built by French military engineers. It was a series of fortifications in depth which included permanent anti-tank obstacles and concrete emplacements. The whole position was served by a system of military roads which allowed quick movement for mobile reserves. The coast north of the line was unsuitable for landings, and to the south there was rough and difficult country.

It was from this base that Rommel launched his last attack in Africa. He had concentrated his two infantry divisions (90 Light page 265 and 164) and the panzer divisions of the Afrika Korps (15 and 21), and 10 Panzer Division had come down from the north. In addition, he had Italian infantry formations.

Facing these forces were 51 (Highland) Division on the coast, 7 Armoured Division, then 2 NZ Division with 5 Brigade forward and 4 Light Armoured Brigade as a mobile force, and 6 Brigade deployed in the rear. Their defences were arranged as at Alam Halfa—defence in depth with artillery and anti-tank guns deployed and tanks ready to move to pre-arranged positions when the direction of the attack became clear.