2/6th Cavalry Commando Regiment (Australia)
The 2/6th Cavalry Commando Regiment was a cavalry regiment of the Australian Army that served during the Second World War and was converted into a commando unit. Formed at Ingleburn, New South Wales, in November 1939, it was raised as an armoured reconnaissance regiment attached to the 6th Division. In that role, the 2/6th saw action in the North Africa campaign and in the Middle East during 1940–41, where the regiment distinguished itself at Bardia, Tobruk and in Syria. Following Japan's entry into the war, the 6th Division was brought back to Australia and following a re-organisation, the regiment was converted into a cavalry commando regiment, incorporating the independent companies, formed at the start of the war. In late 1944, the 2/6th Cavalry Commando Regiment was deployed to New Guinea, where it participated in one of the final Australian campaigns of the war in the Aitape–Wewak area; the regiment was raised at Ingleburn, New South Wales, on 3 November 1939, as part of the Second Australian Imperial Force, raised from volunteers for overseas service.
Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Fergusson, a First World War veteran who had commanded the 8th Light Horse Regiment while serving in the Militia during the inter war years, the regiment was assigned to the 6th Division and was named the "6th Division Reconnaissance Regiment". The cadre of commissioned and senior non-commissioned officers upon which the regiment was raised was drawn from the Militia and were selected by Fergusson or his adjutant, Captain Charles Finlay, a regular Army officer who would go on to command the 2/24th Infantry Battalion and reach the rank of major general and serve as commandant of the Royal Military College, Duntroon; the regiment's first regimental sergeant major was Eric Hennessy, who rose to command the regiment. Upon establishment, the regiment's personnel were drawn from all Australian states, it consisted of three fighting squadrons,'A','B' and'C'.'A' Squadron was recruited from men from Queensland and New South Wales, while Victorians formed'B' Squadron and'C' Squadron consisted of troops from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
A headquarters squadron was formed, as was a regimental aid post. It took some time for the regiment to concentrate at Ingleburn and it was not until mid-December that the regiment's interstate recruits had arrived and training began. From the outset, the regiment was set apart from others by way of its distinctive headdress as it was issued with the black armoured corps beret, upon which members of the regiment wore the large Rising Sun hat badge, its Unit Colour Patch consisted of the same colours of the Royal Tank Corps – brown and green – which it wore in that order, in contrast to other armoured units which displayed the green followed by red and brown. It took some time for the regiment to form and by the end of the first week of the regiment's existence there were only a total of 107 men on its books at Ingleburn. Initial training was only rudimentary in nature, consisting of drill and basic signals. Lacking vehicles, at the outset only limited driver training could be undertaken using private vehicles.
On 13 November a quantity of weapons arrived for individual training and two days a number of utility vehicles and lorries arrived. More involved signals and driver training followed and on 23 November, the regiment was inspected by the divisional commander, Lieutenant General Thomas Blamey. Over the course of the next fortnight, personnel arrived from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, however, it was not until mid-December that the regiment was concentrated at Ingleburn when the last troops arrived from Victoria. By this time, the decision had been made that the troops of the 2nd AIF would be sent to the Middle East to train while they waited for transportation to Europe, on 15 December an advanced party of eight officers and NCOs from the regiment departed. Throughout December, the regiment received more advanced instruction in navigation and signals and two Vickers light tanks were received for training. Shortages prevented hands-on training on the new Bren light machine-gun and Boys anti-tank rifle, although demonstrations were provided, live-firing was undertaken on the Vickers machine-gun before a period of leave was granted over the Christmas and New Year period.
After reforming, the regiment's dispatch to the Middle East was confirmed and it subsequently took part in a divisional march through Martin Place, Sydney, in full dress uniform on 4 January 1940, watched by over 500,000 spectators. That week, 10,000 civilians farewelled the regiment at a parade at Ingleburn; the regiment had only been in existence for two months. Departing Sydney on the transport Strathnaver on 10 January, the 6th Division Cavalry Regiment would not make it to Europe. Instead, they would spend the best part of the next two years in the Middle East and would see action in Syria, Libya and Lebanon against Vichy French and German forces. Arriving in Egypt on 12 February, they were sent to Palestine where they joined the rest of the 6th Division and began training on Bren carriers and six old Vickers light tanks; this training continued for most of the year, until December 1940 when the 6th Division moved into the Western Desert where they concentrated along with a large number of British troops in preparation for an offensive.
Two days on 11 December 1940, the regiment – having been renamed the "6th Australian Division Cavalry Regiment" on 8 June 1940 – became the first unit of the 2nd AIF to see action in the war, when elements from'B' Squadron fought a brief but sharp encounter with the Italian garrisons at Garn el
Light Tank Mk VI
The Tank, Light, Mk VI was a British light tank, produced by Vickers-Armstrongs in the late 1930s, which saw service during the Second World War. The Tank, Light, Mk VI was the sixth in the line of light tanks built by Vickers-Armstrongs for the British Army during the interwar period; the company had achieved a degree of standardization with their previous five models, the Mark VI was identical in all but a few respects. The turret, expanded in the Mk V to allow a three-man crew to operate the tank, was further expanded to give room in its rear for a wireless set; the weight of the tank was increased to 10,800 pounds, which although heavier than previous models improved its handling characteristics, an 88 horsepower engine was added to the model to increase its maximum speed to 35 miles per hour. It had the Horstmann coil-spring suspension system, found to be durable and reliable, although the fact that the tank was short in relation to its width and that it pitched violently on rough ground made accurate gunnery whilst moving exceptionally difficult.
The Mk VI possessed a crew of three consisting of a driver and commander, who doubled as the radio operator, between 4 millimetres and 14 millimetres of armour, which could resist rifle and machine gun bullets, its armament consisted of one water-cooled.303 inch and one.50 inch Vickers machine gun. Production of the Mk VI ended in 1940 with 1,682 Mark VI tanks having been built. Many of those produced were variants designed to solve problems found with the original design; the Mk VIA had a return roller removed from the top of the leading bogey and attached to the hull sides instead, possessed a faceted cupola. The Mk VIB was mechanically identical to the Mk VIA but with a few minor differences to make production simpler, including a one-piece armoured louvre over the radiator instead of a two-piece louvre, a plain circular cupola instead of the faceted type; the Mk VIC, the last in the MK VI series, had the commander's cupola removed and had wider bogies and three carburettors to improve engine performance.
A small number of specialized variations were built based on the Mk VI chassis. The Tank, Light, AA Mk I was built in the aftermath of the Battle of France and was intended to act as a counter-measure against attacks by German aircraft, it featured. A variant on the Mk VIB was produced for service with the British Indian Army, in which the commander's cupola was removed and replaced with a hatch in the turret roof; when the Mk VI was first produced in 1936, the Imperial General Staff considered the tank to be superior to any light tank produced by other nations, well suited to the dual roles of reconnaissance and colonial warfare. Like many of its predecessors, the Mark VI was used by the British Army to perform imperial policing duties in British India and other colonies in the British Empire, a role for which it and the other Vickers-Armstrongs light tanks were found to be well suited; when the British government began its rearmament process in 1937, the Mk VI was the only tank with which the War Office was ready to proceed with manufacturing.
As a result of this, when the Second World War began in September 1939, the vast majority of the tanks available to the British Army were Mk VIs. Of these tanks, only 196 light tanks and 50 Infantry Tanks were in use by operational units of the army; when the Battle of France began in May 1940, the majority of the tanks possessed by the British Expeditionary Force were Mark VI variants. The 1st Armoured Division, elements of which landed in France in April, was equipped with 257 tanks, of which a large number were Mk VIB and Mk VICs; the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, which formed part of the division's 3rd Armoured Brigade, possessed by this time 21 Mark VI light tanks. The British Army lost 331 Mark VI light tanks in the Battle of France of 1940. Several of these vehicles were captured by the Wehrmacht, redesignated as Leichter Panzerkampfwagen Mk. IV 734 and used for training purposes until the fall of 1942. In November the decision was made to develop a self-propelled gun on the basis of the captured Mk IVs.
They carried a 105 or 150 mm field howitzer and were designated G. Pz. Mk. VI. All these SPGs were subsequently lost during the defense of France in the summer and fall of 1944; the Mk VIB was used in the North African campaign against the Italians late in 1940 with the 7th Armoured Division. At this time, the British had 200 light tanks along with 45 Matilda IIs. An attack by the 3rd Hussars at Buq Buq on 12 December 1940 resulted in its tanks getting bogged down in salt pans and mauled. In ten minutes, 13 tanks were destroyed, ten officers and men killed - including the CO - and 13 wounded; the 7th Armoured Division ha
Australia the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area; the neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea and East Timor to the north. The population of 25 million is urbanised and concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, its largest city is Sydney; the country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for about 60,000 years before the first British settlement in the late 18th century, it is documented. After the European exploration of the continent by Dutch explorers in 1606, who named it New Holland, Australia's eastern half was claimed by Great Britain in 1770 and settled through penal transportation to the colony of New South Wales from 26 January 1788, a date which became Australia's national day; the population grew in subsequent decades, by the 1850s most of the continent had been explored and an additional five self-governing crown colonies established.
On 1 January 1901, the six colonies federated. Australia has since maintained a stable liberal democratic political system that functions as a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and ten territories. Being the oldest and driest inhabited continent, with the least fertile soils, Australia has a landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres. A megadiverse country, its size gives it a wide variety of landscapes, with deserts in the centre, tropical rainforests in the north-east and mountain ranges in the south-east. A gold rush began in Australia in the early 1850s, its population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, remains among the lowest in the world. Australia generates its income from various sources including mining-related exports, telecommunications and manufacturing. Indigenous Australian rock art is the oldest and richest in the world, dating as far back as 60,000 years and spread across hundreds of thousands of sites. Australia is a developed country, with the world's 14th-largest economy.
It has a high-income economy, with the world's tenth-highest per capita income. It is a regional power, has the world's 13th-highest military expenditure. Australia has the world's ninth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 26% of the population. Having the third-highest human development index and the eighth-highest ranked democracy globally, the country ranks in quality of life, education, economic freedom, civil liberties and political rights, with all its major cities faring well in global comparative livability surveys. Australia is a member of the United Nations, G20, Commonwealth of Nations, ANZUS, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, World Trade Organization, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Pacific Islands Forum and the ASEAN Plus Six mechanism; the name Australia is derived from the Latin Terra Australis, a name used for a hypothetical continent in the Southern Hemisphere since ancient times. When Europeans first began visiting and mapping Australia in the 17th century, the name Terra Australis was applied to the new territories.
Until the early 19th century, Australia was best known as "New Holland", a name first applied by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1644 and subsequently anglicised. Terra Australis still saw occasional usage, such as in scientific texts; the name Australia was popularised by the explorer Matthew Flinders, who said it was "more agreeable to the ear, an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth". The first time that Australia appears to have been used was in April 1817, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie acknowledged the receipt of Flinders' charts of Australia from Lord Bathurst. In December 1817, Macquarie recommended to the Colonial Office. In 1824, the Admiralty agreed that the continent should be known by that name; the first official published use of the new name came with the publication in 1830 of The Australia Directory by the Hydrographic Office. Colloquial names for Australia include "Oz" and "the Land Down Under". Other epithets include "the Great Southern Land", "the Lucky Country", "the Sunburnt Country", "the Wide Brown Land".
The latter two both derive from Dorothea Mackellar's 1908 poem "My Country". Human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago, with the migration of people by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now Southeast Asia; these first inhabitants were the ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal Australian culture is one of the oldest continual civilisations on earth. At the time of first European contact, most Indigenous Australians were hunter-gatherers with complex economies and societies. Recent archaeological finds suggest. Indigenous Australians have an oral culture with spiritual values based on reverence for the land and a belief in the Dreamtime; the Torres Strait Islanders, ethnically Melanesian, obtained their livelihood from seasonal horticulture and the resources of their reefs and seas. The northern coasts and waters of Australia were visited s
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was fought in East Africa during World War II by Allied forces from the British Empire, against Axis forces from Italy of Italian East Africa, between June 1940 and November 1941. Forces of the British Middle East Command, including units from the United Kingdom and the colonies of British East Africa, British Somaliland, British West Africa, the Indian Empire, Northern Rhodesia, Mandatory Palestine, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia and Sudan participated in the campaign. Ethiopian irregulars, the Free French and the Belgian Force Publique participated; the AOI was defended by Italian forces of the Comando Forze Armate dell'Africa Orientale Italiana, with units from the Regio Esercito, Regia Aeronautica and Regia Marina, about 200,000 Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali from Italian-occupied Abyssinia, Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland, led by Italian officers and NCOs, 70,000 Italian regulars and reservists. The Compagnia Autocarrata Tedesca fought under Italian command.
Hostilities began on 13 June 1940, with an Italian air raid on the base of 1 Squadron Southern Rhodesian Air Force at Wajir in the East Africa Protectorate and continued until Italian forces had been pushed back from Kenya and Sudan, through Somaliland and Ethiopia in 1940 and early 1941. The remnants of the Italian forces in the AOI surrendered after the Battle of Gondar in November 1941, except for small groups that fought a guerrilla war in Ethiopia against the British until the Armistice of Cassibile ended hostilities between Italy and the Allies; the East African Campaign was the first Allied strategic victory in the war. On 9 May 1936, the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, proclaimed the formation of Italian East Africa, from Ethiopia after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the colonies of Italian Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. On 10 June 1940, Mussolini declared war on Britain and France, which made Italian military forces in Libya a threat to Egypt and those in the AOI a danger to the British and French colonies in East Africa.
Italian belligerence closed the Mediterranean to Allied merchant ships and endangered British sea lanes along the coast of East Africa, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. Egypt, the Suez Canal, French Somaliland and British Somaliland were vulnerable to invasion but Comando Supremo had planned for a war after 1942. Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, was appointed Viceroy and Governor-General of the AOI in November 1937, with a headquarters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. On 1 June 1940, as the commander in chief of Comando Forze Armate dell'Africa Orientale Italiana and Generale d'Armata Aerea, Aosta had about 290,476 local and metropolitan troops. By 1 August, mobilisation had increased the number to 371,053 troops. On 10 June, the Italian army was organised in four commands: Northern Sector, vicinity of Asmara Eritrea, Lieutenant-General Luigi Frusci Southern Sector, around Jimma Ethiopia, General Pietro Gazzera Eastern Sector, General Guglielmo Nasi Giuba Sector, Lieutenant-General Carlo De Simone, southern Somalia near Kismayo, Italian Somaliland Aosta had two metropolitan divisions, the 40th Infantry Division Cacciatori d'Africa and the 65th Infantry Division Granatieri di Savoia, a battalion of Alpini, a Bersaglieri battalion of motorised infantry, several "Blackshirt" Milizia Coloniale battalions and smaller units.
About 70 percent of Italian troops were locally recruited Askari. The regular Eritrean battalions and the Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali were among the best Italian units in the AOI and included Eritrean cavalry Penne di Falco. Most colonial troops were recruited and equipped for colonial repression, although the Somali Dubats from the borderlands were useful light infantry and skirmishers. Irregular bandes were hardy and mobile, knew the country and were effective scouts and saboteurs, although sometimes confused with Shifta, undisciplined marauders who plundered and murdered at will. Once Italy entered the war, a 100-strong company formed out of German residents of East Africa and German sailors unable to leave East African ports. Italian forces in East Africa were equipped with about 3,313 heavy machine-guns, 5,313 machine-guns, 24 M11/39 medium tanks, 39 L3/35 tankettes, 126 armoured cars and 824 guns, twenty-four 20 mm anti-aircraft guns, seventy-one 81 mm mortars and 672,800 rifles. Due to the isolation of the AOI from the Mediterranean, the Italians had little opportunity for reinforcements or supply, leading to severe shortages of ammunition.
On occasion, foreign merchant vessels captured by German merchant raiders in the Indian Ocean were brought to Somali ports but their cargoes were not always of much use to the Italian war effort. (For example, the Yugoslav steamer Durmitor, captured by the German auxiliary cruiser Atlantis, came to Warsheikh on 22 November 1940, with a cargo of salt and several hund
The infantry tank was a concept developed by the United Kingdom and France in the years leading up to World War II. Infantry tanks were designed to support infantrymen in an attack. To achieve this, the vehicles were heavily armoured to allow them to operate in close concert with infantry under heavy fire; the extra armour came at the expense of speed, not an issue when supporting slow-moving foot soldiers. Once an attack supported by infantry tanks had broken through defended areas in the enemy lines, faster tanks such as cruiser or light tanks were expected to use their higher speed and longer range to operate far behind the front and cut lines of supply and communications; the Infantry Tank was superseded by the Universal Tank concept which could adequately perform the roles of both infantry and cruiser tank, as represented by the Centurion which replaced both the Churchill and any Mediums or Cruisers in service. The experimental armoured formations of the British army were equipped with the Vickers Medium Tank Mk I and Medium Mk II, which were judged obsolete by the 1930s.
It was impractical to build more because their road speed of only 18 mph was too slow for manoeuvre warfare and their armament of a 3-pounder gun lacked the power to penetrate newer foreign tanks. By 1931, experience with the Experimental Mechanized Force led to the report of the Kirke Committee and specifications for three types of tank, a medium tank with a small-calibre anti-tank gun and a machine-gun, a light tank armed with machine-guns for reconnaissance and to co-operate with medium tanks by engaging anti-tank guns. A close support tank armed with a gun firing high explosive and smoke shells to give covering fire for tank attacks was specified; the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression led to big reductions in the funds made available for the army. Money spent on tracked vehicles fell from £357,000 in 1931–32 to £301,000 in the year 1932–33 and exceeded the 1931 figure only in 1934–35. In May 1934, Lieutenant-General Hugh Elles was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance and Brigadier Percy Hobart, the Inspector, Royal Tank Corps, asked Vickers to design a tank for infantry co-operation, that could survive all existing anti-tank weapons and be cheap enough for mass production in peacetime.
The next year, Vickers had a two-man tank design, with a machine-gun and powered by a civilian Ford V8 engine of 70 hp. The prototype of October 1936 weighted 10 long tons had a maximum speed of only 8 mph but carried 60–65 mm of armour and was mechanically reliable; the A11, Infantry Tank Mk I, was the first Infantry tank and the first practical expression of the decision to split design into I tanks and cruiser tanks, with different functions and tactics, supplied to separate units and formations. The 1935 edition of the War Office publication, Field Service Regulations, containing the principles by which the army was to act to achieve objectives, was written by Major-General Archibald Wavell, made breakthrough the responsibility of infantry divisions with the support of Army Tank Battalions, equipped with specialised vehicles for infantry-artillery co-operation, the slow and heavy Infantry tanks. Once a breakthrough had been created, a Mobile Division containing a tank brigade with light and cruiser tanks, would advance through the gap and use the speed and range of its tanks to surprise the defender and attack flanks and non-combatant units.
By 1939, further amendments to FSR added counter-attacks on an enemy armoured breakthrough. Defence against tanks could be achieved by troops finding physical obstacles and by controlling their own anti-tank guns; the obstacles could be woods and rivers or minefields as long as they were covered by fire from other weapons. In places lacking convenient terrain features, lines-of-communication troops would need anti-tank guns and be trained to set up localities suitable for all-round defenceThe need for economy in the design and production of the A11, too small for a radio, led to work on a successor, the A12, Infantry Tank Mk II in 1936. Capable of 15 mph, the A12 was still slow but had 60–70 mm of armour, making it invulnerable to tank guns and standard foreign guns like the German 37 mm Pak 36 anti-tank gun; the tank had a four-man crew and a turret big enough for a radio and a Ordnance QF 2-pounder high-velocity gun, firing solid projectiles capable of penetrating all 1939–1940 German tanks.
Vickers and government factories could not take on the work and it was farmed out to a civilian firm, which lacked experience and draftsmen. It took until 1939 to bring the A12 into production as the "Matilda II" and it had not gone into service when the war began, only 67 A11s having been delivered; when the Matilda was supplied to Army Tank Battalions it was an effective tank in the Battle of France and in the Western Desert Campaign, where it outclassed Italian tanks and was effective against standard Italian and German anti-tank guns from 1940–1941 but was found to be too slow for the fast tempo that German panzer units could achieve and unable to engage the more powerful German anti-tank guns from long range with high explosive shells. Using terminology, the infantry tank has been compared to a heavy tank, while the cruisers were compared to mediums, lights, or armoured cars; this comparison can be misleading.
The Fiat L6/40 was a light tank used by the Italian army from 1940 through World War II. It was designed by Fiat-Ansaldo as an export product, was adopted by the Italian Army when officials learned of the design and expressed interest, it was the main tank employed by the Italian forces fighting on the Eastern Front alongside the L6/40-based Semovente 47/32 self-propelled gun. L6/40s were used in the North African campaign; the official Italian designation was Carro Armato L6/40. This designation means: "L" followed by the weight in tons and the year of adoption; the L6/40 was a conventional light tank design of riveted construction. A one-man turret in the centre mounted a single Breda Modello 35 20 mm main gun and a Breda 38 8 mm coaxial machine gun; the driver sat in the front right of the hull. The riveted armour was six to 30 mm in thickness, equivalent to existing Allied light tanks. A further development of the Fiat L3 light tank, the L6 went through a number of prototypes during the late 1930s.
The first was armed with a sponson-mounted 37 mm a machine-gun armed turret. A version featured a turret mounted 37 mm gun and yet another version had only twin 8 mm machine guns; the production configuration, named Carro Armato L6/40, was put into production in 1939, with 283 produced. The L6 Lf flame tank variant was developed in which the main gun was replaced by a flamethrower with 200 litres of fuel. A command-tank variant had an open-topped turret; the most successful of the L6 variants was the Semovente 47/32, which eliminated the turret and substituted a 47 mm antitank gun in the open-topped hull. A final version late in the war was an ammunition carrier armed only with a single 8 mm Breda machine gun, it was used alongside the Semovente 90/53, carrying 26 extra 90 mm rounds, as the Semovente 90/53 itself could only carry six rounds. L6/40 light tanks were used by the Italians in the Balkans Campaign, in the war against the Soviet Union, in the latter stages of the North African campaign, in the defence of Sicily and Italy.
The L6/40 was the main tank employed by the Italian forces fighting on the Eastern Front. The L6 fought alongside the L6/40-based Semovente 47/32 self-propelled gun. Although a good light tank for its size and an improvement over the tankettes that were common within the Italian army, it was obsolete by the time of its introduction; the low silhouette of the vehicle made it useful for reconnaissance, its armament was effective against any light vehicles it might encounter. However, due to a lack of a suitable medium tank, it was employed in a combat role, for which it was unsuited; the L6 was used by the German Army. In 1943, 26 Italian L6s were captured and used by the Hrvatsko domobranstvo of the Independent State of Croatia; the L6/40 was used postwar by the Italian militia. Three L6/40s survive: one is kept in Legnano near the "Cadorna" barracks, one is in the inventory of the Kubinka Tank Museum, another is preserved in the Arms Museum in the castle of Gjirokastër in Albania. Water fording: 0.8 m Gradient: 60% Vertical obstacle: 0.7 m Trench: 1.7 m Elevation and Traverse: -12° to +20° through 360° of rotation List of armoured fighting vehicles of World War II Type 95 Ha-Go 7TP Stridsvagn L-60 Bishop, Chris 1998, The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Barnes & Noble, New York.
ISBN 0-7607-1022-8. L6/40 Light Tanks at wwiivehicles.com L6/40 at onwar.com
Italian invasion of Egypt
The Italian invasion of Egypt was an offensive in the Second World War, against British and Free French forces. The invasion by the Italian 10th Army ended border skirmishing on the frontier and began the Western Desert Campaign proper; the goal of the Italian forces in Libya was to seize the Suez Canal by advancing along the Egyptian coast. After numerous delays, the scope of the offensive was reduced to an advance as far as Sidi Barrani, with attacks on British forces in the area; the 10th Army advanced about 65 mi into Egypt but made contact only with British screening forces of the 7th Support Group not the main force around Mersa Matruh. On 16 September 1940, the 10th Army halted and took up defensive positions around the port of Sidi Barrani, intending to build fortified camps, while waiting for engineers to build the Via della Vittoria along the coast, an extension of the Libyan Via Balbia; the Italians began to accumulate supplies for an advance on Mersa Matruh, about 80 mi further east and the base of the 7th Armoured Division and the 4th Indian Division.
On 8 December, before the 10th Army was ready to resume its advance on Mersa Matruh, the British began Operation Compass, a five-day raid against the fortified Italian camps outside Sidi Barrani. The raid succeeded and the few units of the 10th Army in Egypt that were not destroyed were forced into a hurried retreat; the British pursued the remnants of the 10th Army along the coast to Sollum, Tobruk, Mechili, Beda Fomm and El Agheila on the Gulf of Sirte. The British lost 1,900 men killed and wounded during Compass and took 133,298 Italian and Libyan prisoners, 420 tanks, over 845 guns and many aircraft. Cyrenaica, the eastern province of Libya, had been an Italian colony since the Italo-Turkish War. With Tunisia, a part of French North Africa to the west and Egypt to the east, the Italians had to defend both frontiers and established a North Africa Supreme Headquarters, under the command of the Governor-General of Italian Libya, Marshal of the Air Force, Italo Balbo. Supreme Headquarters had the 5th Army in the west and the 10th Army in the east, which in mid-1940 had nine metropolitan divisions of about 13,000 men each, three Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale divisions and two alian ItLibyan Colonial divisions with 8,000 men each.
Reservists had been recalled in 1939, along with the usual call-up of conscripts. In 1936, General Alberto Pariani had been appointed Chief of Staff of the Italian army and begun a reorganisation of divisions to fight wars of rapid decision, according to thinking that speed and new technology could revolutionise military operations. In 1937, three-regiment divisions began to change to two-regiment, as part of a ten-year plan to reorganise the standing army into 24 binary, 24 triangular, twelve mountain, three motorised and three armoured divisions; the effect of the change was to increase the administrative overhead of the army, with no corresponding increase in effectiveness. The dilution of the officer class to find extra unit staffs was made worse by the politicisation of the army and the addition of Blackshirt Militia; the reforms promoted the tactics of frontal assault to the exclusion of other theories of war, dropping the emphasis on fast mobile warfare backed by artillery. Morale was considered to be high and the army had recent experience of military operations.
The Italian navy had prospered under the Fascist regime, which had paid for fast, well-built and well-armed ships and a large submarine fleet but the navy lacked experience and training. The air force had been ready for war in 1936 but had stagnated and was not considered by the British to be capable of maintaining a high rate of operations; the 5th Army in Tripolitania, the western half of Libya opposite Tunisia had eight divisions and the 10th Army with six infantry divisions, garrisoned the province Cyrenaica in the east. When war was declared, the 10th Army deployed the 1st Libyan Division Sibelle on the frontier from Giarabub to Sidi Omar and XXI Corps from Sidi Omar to the coast and Tobruk; the XXII Corps was moved south-west of Tobruk. Before war was declared, Balbo expressed his doubts to Mussolini It is not the number of men which causes me anxiety but their weapons... equipped with limited and old pieces of artillery lacking anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons... it is useless to send more thousands of men if we cannot supply them with the indispensable requirements to move and fight.
And demanded more equipment including 1,000 trucks, 100 water tankers, more medium tanks and anti-tank guns, which the Italian economy could not produce or that the army transfer them from elsewhere. In Rome the chief-of-staff, Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio, fobbed him off with promises instead, "When you have the seventy medium tanks you will dominate the situation", as Balbo prepared to invade Egypt on 15 July. After Balbo was killed in an accident, Benito Mussolini replaced him with Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, with orders to attack Egypt by 8 August. Graziani replied that the 10th Army was not properly equipped and that an attack could not succeed; the British had based military forces in Egypt since 1882 but these were reduced by the terms of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936. The small British and Commonwealth force garrisoned the Suez Canal and the Red Sea route, vital to British communications with its Far Eastern and Indian Ocean terr