BMMHS Evening Meeting

El Alamein: T'was a Famous Victory

Speaker: Professor Niall Barr

BMMHS Meeting Venue

Woodcote Village Hall, Reading Road, Woodcote, RG8 0QY

In view of the prevailing COVID conditions and to ensure the safety of our attendees we have regretfully decided to cancel this meeting.

El Alamein: T'was a Famous Victory

The talk will examine Alamein’s place in history and consider some of the wider issues and consequences, as well as some of the lesser known aspects of this famous battle and campaign.

El Alamein Painting
The Battle of El Alamein, (23 October - 4 November), 1942 British Infantry advancing, supported by a Sherman tank, past a smoking German Panzerkampfwagen Mk 3 Ausf.L and an 88 mm German anti-tank gun. The identification of the action is based on the dating of the armour: the Panzer carries supplementary armour around the turret not in use until 1942, and the use of Shermans indicates late 1942. This would rule out both Battles of Tobruk. Painting by Will Longstaff (1879-1953). © NAM. 1990-06-4-1
General Bernard Montgomery In 1942, he was appointed Eighth Army's commander in the Western Desert, where he set about transforming the fighting spirit and abilities of his men. Montgomery effectively organised the defence of El Alamein against Rommel, countering Italian and German attacks, before delivering the Allies their first major land victory of the war at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October.
Erwin Rommel was Britain's most persistent opponent in the Second World War. Known as the Desert Fox he achieved international fame and legendary status for his daring and brilliant generalship during the battle for North Africa.
El Alamein
The El Alamein battlefield strewn with destroyed vehicles and equipment.
Alamein Soldiers Advance
British infantry advancing as darkness falls, silhouetted against the setting sun, El Alamein, 1942 The 2nd Battle of El Alamein began on 23 October 1942 with the biggest barrage the British army had fired since 1918 unleashed on the Axis positions. This was followed by the infantry advancing in the moonlight along white tape the sappers had laid to show the way through the German minefields. © NAM. 2005-05-25-7 Out of Copyright
German prisoners of war under guard by a signpost to El Alamein. © NAM. 2008-12-200-80 Out of Copyright
El Alamein
A British infantryman advancing with fixed-bayonet, El Alamein, 1942 At the Second Battle of El Alamein (23 October-4 November 1942) Allied forces in Egypt under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery broke the Axis lines and forced them into a retreat that pushed them all the way back to Tunisia. © NAM. 2005-05-25-1 Out of Copyright
El Alamein
British soldiers move forward with fixed bayonets. The 2nd Battle of El Alamein in 1942 turned the tide of battle in the Western Desert in the Allies' favour. General Montgomery spent months building up an overwhelming advantage in men and armour, before launching his attacks against Field Marshal Rommel's German and Italian troops. © NAM. 2005-05-25-4 Out of Copyright
El Alamein
A British officer armed with a revolver leading his men forward with fixed bayonets, The 2nd Battle of El Alamein in 1942 turned the tide of battle in the Western Desert in the Allies' favour. General Montgomery spent months building up an overwhelming advantage in men and armour, before launching his attacks against Field Marshal Rommel's German and Italian troops.© NAM. 2005-05-25-6 Out of Copyright
'A' Squadron hull down on Ruweisat Ridge in support of infantry attack, 1942 Photograph by Major Wilfred Herbert James Sale, MC, 3rd County of London Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). Ruweisat Ridge, a prominent geographical feature in the Western Egyptian Desert, witnessed intense fighting during the First Battle of El Alamein (1-27 July 1942) involving the 2nd New Zealand Division, 5th Indian Division, 2nd Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade. © NAM. 1975-03-63-8-53
El Alamein
A mine explodes close to a British artillery tractor as it advances through enemy minefields at El Alamein Unlike other battles of the desert war, El Alamein was fought on a narrow front, which offered no possibility of flanking manoeuvres. Instead the Eighth Army had to fight a bloody pitched battle in which they advanced slowly through dense minefields under a massive artillery bombardment in the teeth of ferocious enemy resistance. In a grinding battle of attrition, Montgomery used his superior resources to wear down the enemy before unleashing an armoured onslaught to effect a breakthrough that forced them into retreat. While the strategic importance of the battle may have been overstated, El Alamein was an important boost for British morale at this otherwise low point in the war. © NAM. 2005-05-25-2 Out of Copyright
Rommel's Map
British copy of Field Marshal Rommel's annotated map of El Alamein, 23 October 1942 © NAM. 2000-04-50-1

About the speaker – Professor Niall Barr

King’s College London

Professor Niall Barr is Professor of Military History and Dean of Academic Studies (Head of Department) of the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London, based at the Defence Academy, Shrivenham, UK.

Educated at the University of St Andrews, he has previously taught at St Andrews and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He joined Defence Studies in 2000, and has taught on every professional military education course, including the Higher Command and Staff Course, and at the Royal College of Defence Studies.  He has also conducted numerous battlefield tours and staff rides.

His main research interest concerns the operational history of the British Army in the Second World War, but he also has an enduring interest in the Scottish military tradition.  His current research project concerns the role and importance of food in war.

Research Interests

  • The role of food and logistics in warfare
  • First World War (focusing particularly on 1918)
  • Veterans and ex-service affairs (focusing particularly on the British Legion)
  • Second World War (focusing particularly on the North African and Mediterranean campaigns)
  • Anglo-American military co-operation

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