Neal Dando


This thesis focuses on the extent to which the physical terrain features across Egypt, Libya and Tunisia affected British operations throughout the campaign in North Africa during the Second World War. The study analyses the terrain from the operational and tactical perspectives and argues that the landscape features heavily influenced British planning and operations. These should now be considered alongside other standard military factors when studying military operations. This thesis differs from previous studies as it considers these additional factors from June 1940 until the Axis surrender in May 1943. Until now it has been widely assumed that much of the North African coastal sector was a broadly flat, open region in which mobile armoured operations were paramount. However this work concentrates on the British operations to show they were driven by the need to capture and hold key features across each battlefield. At the operational level planning was led by the need to hold key ground in Libya and across the province of Cyrenaica during the crucial middle period of the campaign. A secondary theme of the thesis argues that British forces began to improvise some tactical doctrines, with the initial practice of combined arms altering into Infantry and armour fighting separated battles. Other new developments included the practice of unit dispersal to hold key ground and to engage the enemy using temporary units known as Jock columns. The two themes are inter-linked and contribute fresh insights to the debate on British methods of warfare. The methodology has been to consult key primary documents, reports, war diaries and published memoirs, from major archives across the UK and compare these with the campaign historiography to develop the main arguments. These include the National Archives, the Churchill Archives Centre, the Liddell-Hart Centre for Military History, the National Army Museum, John Rylands Centre, Imperial War Museum at London and Duxford and London and the Tank Museum Archives at Bovington. The sources include unit war diaries, after action reports, along with many of the key 3 published and some unpublished memoirs. The analysis of these two themes will show that key terrain features were a significant influence upon all levels of military planning and operations throughout the campaign.

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