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Full title Desert Rats
Also known as North Africa Campaign, The
Year of release 1985
Publisher CCS (UK)
Re-released by Juegos & Estrategia (Spain) (as 'Ratas del Desierto')
Author(s) Robert T. Smith
Machine type ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Number of players 2 - turn based
Controls Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor and Keyboard
Type Strategy: War
Message language Multiple languages (see individual downloads)
Original publication Commercial
Original price £9.95
1125 ptas.
Availability Available as both Perfect TZX and non-TZX
Protection scheme None
Additional info Appeared on side B of covertape MicroHobby issue 216: Tape 46 (MicroHobby)
Features Historical Warfare
Also listed on Freebase
Remarks Also came as bonus with the big box release of Vulcan.
Other systems This title was also advertised for and/or published on the Amstrad CPC

если игра без автозапуска,то нажмите "R" затем "Enter" (ну или Ввод по рабоче-крестьянски)) DESERT RATS The North Africa Campaign Cases Computer Simulations R.T. Smith CONTENTS Section Nos Page No. 1 Introduction 3 2 The Main Menu 3 3 The Scenarios 4 4 Malta Status 5 5 The Display 5 6 Units 6 7 Sequence of Play 7 8 Ordering Units 7 9 Reports 9 10 Combat 9 11 Supply 10 12 Reinforcement, Withdrawal & Replacement 11 13 Terrain 12 14 Unit Types 13 15 Player's Notes 14 16 Historical Background 16 17 Enter Rommel 18 18 Operation Battleaxe 20 19 Operation Crusader 21 20 Battle of Gazala 24 21 Curtain Raiser 28 22 El Alamein 30 Designer's Notes Inside back cover Illustrations - Playing Area 2 - Screen Layout 5 - Unit Symbols 6 - Terrain Symbols 12 - Photograph - "When in Doubt" 15 - Map - "North African Theatre" 17 - Photograph - "Rommel" 19 - Map - "Operation Crusader" 23 Map - "Gazala" 25 - Map - "German Map of Tobruk" 26 - Photograph - German & British tanks 27 - Photograph - "Montgomery" 29 - Map - "El Alamein" 31 All photographs reproduced by the kind permission of the Imperial War Museum. ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR SPECTRUM 128K USERS The 128K version has been expanded to include two additional scenarios and a number of improved features. The instructions have therefore been updated for the 128K users. LOADING Select TAPE LOADER from menu and key ENTER instead of keying LOAD "". 1. INTRODUCTION The game now covers the period from the first British offensive against the Italians in December 1940 to the defeat of the Afrika Korps at the battle of El Alamein and their subsequent withdrawal from Libya at the end of 1942. 2. MAIN MENU There is a joystick option and Kempston, Protek and Sinclair joystick interfaces can be used. Keying 0 when selecting the number of players will result in the computer going into demo mode. This can be escaped by holding the "M" key down until the end of a turn. 3. THE SCENARIOS There are eight scenarios:- 1) Operation Compass - this scenario covers the first British offensive from its beginning until the capture of Tobruk. The scenario lasts 45 turns from 9th December 1940 to 22nd January 1941. The British player must endeavour to capture Bardia and Tobruk whilst the Italian player must try to maintain his position in Egypt and should not allow the British player to capture Derna. 2) Beda Fomm - this scenario covers the period from the fall of Tobruk until the surrender of the Italian Tenth Army. It lasts 15 turns from 24th January to 7th February 1941. The British player's aim is to capture Benghazi and to destroy the Italian army. The Italian player should try to frustrate those aims whilst holding as much territory as possible. 3) Enter Rommel - as before. 4) Battleaxe - as before. 5) Operation Crusader - as before. 6) The Battle of Gazala - as before. 7) El Alamein - as before. 8) The Desert War - this scenario now starts with the first British offensive in December 1940 until Rommel's withdrawal from El Agheila in December 1942. It lasts 736 turns from 9th December 1940 to 14th December 1942. 6. UNITS Note that whilst "Libyan" and "Blackshirt" Divisions are nominally divisions, they are treated as brigades in the game because they are weak and therefore they require a HQ unit to supply them. 8. ORDERING UNITS Stacking points have been reduced from 13 to 10 in a square. 11. SUPPLY Supply range has been increased from 7 to 10 squares and from 5 to 7 diagonally. LOADING INSTRUCTIONS The procedure for loading a program into your computer is given in your manual. Please follow these steps for loading the program. 1. Connect the EAR socket of the computer to the EAR socket of your tape recorder. 2. Set the volume control as per your manual. 3. Adjust the tone control to maximum. 4. Type LOAD "" (Spectrum) RUN " (Amstrad) 5. Start the tape recorder. The program will RUN automatically once loaded. Note that for the Amstrad 664 and 6128 you will need to key | TAPE first. (The | symbol is obtained by keying SHIFT @ before TAPE) ) 1985 R. T. Smith Copies of this recording may only be made for the sole use of the purchaser unless written permission is obtained from the publisher. CASES COMPUTER SIMULATIONS LTD. 14 Langton Way, London, SE3 7TL Tel: 01-858 0763 THE PLAYING AREA [DRmap02.GIF] 1.INTRODUCTION Desert Rats is a 1 or 2 player wargame depicting the campaign in the "Western Desert" from the arrival of the Afrika Korps in the Spring of 1941, until their defeat at the battle of Alamein and subsequent withdrawal from Libya at the end of 1942. Players may choose to fight the whole campaign or one of the major battles. One player commands the British (Allied) forces, and the other player the German and Italian (Axis) forces. In the one player game, the computer may control either side. 2. THE MAIN MENU Upon loading "Desert Rats" you will be presented with the main menu. There are several options available here, although not all are available at once. They are: - Begin New Game - Continue Play - Load New Game This loads a previously saved game, from tape. - Save Game This saves the current state of play to tape, so that the game may be continued later. - Alter Number of Players The player may change to playing against the computer instead of another player or vice versa. - Abandon Game This abandons the current game, and allows a new one to be started. When a scenario has finished the following option is also available: - Extend Game Selecting this option enables play to continue up to the final turn of the next scenario. e.g. You select scenario 1 ("Enter Rommel"), and play on until it finishes on the April 30th turn and if you then select the "Extend Game" option, you will be able to continue play until June 21st, which is the end of scenario 2. The winner will then be decided, according to the victory conditions for scenario 2. You may then of course extend the game further until the end of scenario 3. 3. THE SCENARIOS When you begin a new game, you must choose a scenario to play. There are a total of six. They are: 1) Enter Rommel This scenario covers the Afrika Korp's first offensive. It lasts 31 turns, from 31st March 1941 until 30th April 1941. To win the Axis player must either capture Tobruk, or cut the road route leading to it. The British player wins if he prevents this. 2) Battleaxe This is an introductory scenario, that covers the British offensive codenamed Battleaxe. It lasts 7 turns from June 15th 1941 to June 21st 1941. To win the British player must clear the road to Tobruk, of enemy units. The Axis player wins if he prevents this. 3) Operation Crusader This covers the 2nd major British offensive to relieve the siege of Tobruk. It covers the period from the beginning of the offensive until the Axis withdrawal to El Agheila. The scenario lasts for 45 turns from 18th November 1941 to January 1st 1942. To win the British player must clear the road to Tobruk and/or inflict heavy casualties on the Axis forces. The Axis player must attempt to keep Tobruk besieged and hold his position at the Egyptian border. 4) The Battle of Gazala This covers the period from the beginning of the battle of Gazala until the Afrika Korp's advance was halted at the first battle of Alamein. The scenario lasts 39 turns, from May 26th 1942 until July 3rd 1942. To win the Axis player must capture Tobruk and advance as far forwards as possible. The British player wins if he maintains his position at Gazala, or inflicts heavy enough losses on the Axis forces. 5) El Alamein This scenario covers the defeat of the Afrika Korps at the second battle of Alamein. It lasts 19 turns, from October 23rd 1942 until November 10th 1942. To win, the British player must advance to the Libyan / Egyptian border, and inflict heavy losses on the Axis. The Axis player must try to hold his position as far forwards as possible. 6) The Desert War This scenario covers the war in the desert from Rommel's first attack in the Spring of 1941 until his withdrawal from El Agheila at the end of 1942. The scenario lasts 624 turns, from 31st March 1941 until 14th December 1942. The only way to win is to destroy all your opponent's units. In all scenarios it is necessary to achieve the victory conditions, without taking excessive losses. If a player attains his victory conditions, but the computer judges that his losses have been too severe, then the game will be declared a draw. 4. MALTA STATUS There are no skill levels as such in "Desert Rats". Instead the "Malta Status" is used to alter the balance of play. British Air and Naval forces operating from Malta destroyed large quantities of Axis supplies greatly impairing the effectiveness of their ground forces. It is therefore possible to choose how effectively the Axis forces operate. There are three options. 1) Historical. This recreates the historical situation with regard to the Axis supplies. 2) Operation Herkules. This option assumes that the plan to capture Malta in the Summer of 1942 was successfully carried out. If this option is chosen then the Axis player will receive greatly increased amounts of supply during the latter half of 1942. 3) Not used as Base. This option assumes that Malta was not used by the British as a naval base or that the Axis powers made a much greater effort to suppress its effectiveness. If chosen, Axis supplies will increase throughout the game. 5. THE DISPLAY The screen display consists of four sections (see diagram). Section one is a window onto the map; shown on page two over which the game is played. Section two shows the date of the current turn, and section three shows the identity of the unit being ordered. Section four is the "menu window" and is used to show options available when giving orders, and for displaying reports and messages. [DRdia05.GIF] 6. UNITS The various military formations that took part in the campaign are termed units. British units are coloured Blue (Spectrum) Magenta (Amstrad), German ones Black (Spectrum and Amstrad), and Italian units are Magenta (Spectrum) Green (Amstrad). The presence of a unit is indicated, either by a symbol showing its type, or by an "unidentified unit" symbol showing that it has not been identified by the other side. For the convenience of those playing in "black and white", Axis units are shown facing right, and filled in solid, whereas British units face left, and are shown in outline. Units come in four sizes; divisions, brigades, battalions, and HQs. Only Italian units are division size. Brigades, battalions and HQs may belong to a division. If so then the division name is given with the unit name in section three of the display when the unit is being ordered. The division a unit belongs to is important for supply purposes and when giving orders. Units that do not belong to any division, are termed "independent units". Independent HQs are termed "Corps HQs". UNIT SYMBOLS [DRusymA.GIF] MEDIUM TANK [DRusymB.GIF] ANTI-TANK [ " ] LIGHT TANK [ " ] ARTILLERY [ " ] INFANTRY TANK [ " ] HQ [ " ] RECCE [ " ] DUG IN UNIT [ " ] MOTORISED INFANTRY [ " ] FORTIFIED UNIT [ " ] INFANTRY [ " ] UNIDENTIFIED UNIT [ " ] SUPPORT GROUP 7. SEQUENCE OF PLAY The game is played in a series of turns. Each normal turn represents one day. The order in which activities occur during each turn is as follows:- - Each player gives orders to his units, the British player first. All units then move to carry out their orders simultaneously - both sides moving at the same time. - After units have moved combat occurs between adjacent units. - Those units forced to retreat as a result of combat then move and the units that they were blocking may continue to move towards their objective. - The next turn then begins. Each scenario begins with an offensive by one side or the other. To recreate the surprise achieved, only the attacking side is allowed to give orders during the first turn of each scenario. It would be very tedious to play the whole campaign in turns of one day each. Therefore when nothing much is happening, eg. both sides are resting in preparation for the next offensive, the turn length is increased to six days. These longer turns are termed "reorganisation phases". Whilst the computer is executing orders, players may scroll the map using the arrow keys. 8. ORDERING UNITS Units must be given orders at the start of each turn. If playing with two players, then only the player actually giving orders should look at the screen. The program prompts each unit in turn to be given orders by highlighting the unit and showing the options available to it. The unit's identification will be shown at the bottom of the screen together with a symbol showing its type. If the division's name is followed by the number of units in it, the order will apply to all the units. It is however, still possible to order the units separately (see D Divide below). When satisfied that a unit's orders are correct key 'ENTER' to move on to the next unit. (Note that the program moves on automatically if some orders are selected). If you key 'ENTER' without changing the order or moving the cursor, then the unit will continue with its old orders. Thus it is possible to give an order that will take several turns to complete and doing so will save time when giving orders. If you move the cursor accidentally or change your mind, then moving it back over the unit, will enable the unit to continue with its old orders. NOTE THAT FOR THE AMSTRAD a joystick can be used for the cursor movements using the fire button to end commands instead of using ENTER/RETURN key. The following orders may be given: M MOVE. This order instructs a unit to move to another location. Use the arrow keys to move the flashing cursor to the desired destination and press 'ENTER'. If a unit already has "Move" orders then moving the cursor will redefine its destination. If a unit has "Hold" or "Fortify" orders then it will automatically be given "Move" orders if the cursor is not over the unit when 'ENTER' is pressed. A ASSAULT. This is similar to "Move" and the order is given in the same way. However, "Assault" instructs a unit to be more aggressive in trying to get to its objective. Thus if it meets an enemy unit, it will inflict more damage in combat than a unit with "Move" orders, although it will suffer more itself. H HOLD. This order instructs a unit to stay where it is. The unit will "dig in" which will protect it in combat particularly against armour. Units with "Hold" orders also recover from fatigue. (Efficiency) T TRAVEL. This order instructs a unit to move along the road at four times normal speed. It may only be given if the unit is on the road and not next to an enemy unit. Units travelling are very vulnerable to attack, and may not themselves attack. To give the order, press "T", then move the cursor to a destination on the road. If a unit already has "Travel" orders, and you wish to change its destination, then you must select the "Travel" order again by pressing "T". P GO TO PORT. One British unit per turn, may move between Alexandria and Tobruk, or vice versa by sea. This order instructs a unit to do so. It may only be given if Tobruk is occupied by a British unit. F FORTIFY. This order instructs a unit to strengthen its position by digging fox holes, laying mines etc. The longer a unit is at this task the more effective will be the result. Units may only fortify if they are already "dug in" ie. have selected "Hold" the previous turn. Tank units may not fortify. If a unit moves then it loses all benefits from its fortifications. D DIVIDE. This command does not count as an order but causes a unit that is stacked with other units of its division to be split off temporarily, so that it may be ordered separately. R REPORT. This command does not count as an order but gives a report on the current unit. See below for details. NOTE: It is possible to have more than one unit in a square. This is referred to as stacking. Divisions count as 7 stacking points, brigades as 3 and HQs and battalions as 1. It is possible to have up to 13 stacking points in one square. As a rule of thumb, players should assume that they can stack all the units of one division together. 9. REPORTS When a report is requested, the following information is given:- STR Strength. This gives an indication of the unit's strength either in men or in tanks. MPS Moves per Turn. This gives an indication of how far a unit may move. The number given is the number of squares it may move in one turn, over clear terrain. It will go slower over rough terrain. SUP Supplies. This gives an indication of the supply level of the unit. Units with very low supply may not attack, and units with none suffer double damage when attacked. When a [tick] is shown the unit is able to receive supplies. MOR Morale. This gives the morale of a unit. The higher it is, the less likely it is to retreat after combat. A/M Attack Modifier. This is the unit's attack modifier. The higher it is, the more effective the unit is at attacking. EFF Efficiency. This is the unit's efficiency level. It is reduced due to fatigue, when a unit is in combat. Some units enter the game with low efficiency level, to reflect lack of training. A unit may recover from fatigue when it has "Hold" orders. (ie. it is resting or training). FRT Fortification. The number given. is the number of days that a unit has been "Fortifying" for, ie. the effectiveness of its defences. In addition the report shows for each side the number of supply points being received per turn, together with the number of replacements available in men and tanks. These are used to replace losses. (Replenishments for Germans and Italians are shown separately). 10. COMBAT Combat occurs between units that end their movement adjacent to each other. For each attacking unit, the computer flashes the attacked units and makes a sound the length of which is related to the greatest damage done to any of the attacked units. However, if a unit is dug in it will not attack the enemy units which are also dug in. The effectiveness of an attack is determined by a number of factors. a) The unit types of the defender and attacker; b) their strengths; c) their orders (eg. move, assault; d) the terrain; e) the attacking unit's attack modifier and efficiency level; f) the defending unit's supply level (ie. units with no supplies take double damage); g) whether the defender is dug in, or fortified); h) the other units stacked with the defending units; i) the effectiveness of an attack is also reduced if the attacking unit is on an escarpment square and attacking uphill (ie. away from the sea). If sufficient damage is inflicted on a unit in combat, it will have to retreat. 11. SUPPLY Supply played an important part in the Desert War, not only was the outcome of a battle decided by who had the greater reserves of fuel and ammunition, but individual units often ran out of petrol at inconvenient moments. To reflect this the supply rules in "Desert Rats" are quite complex. Each unit carries supplies with it and these are used up when a unit moves, fortifies or attacks. In addition each side has a pool of supplies off the map from which units may replenish their own stocks. There are two separate sets of rules for replenishing supplies, one for battalion and brigade sized units and another for HQ units and division sized units which contain their own divisional HQs. Brigades and Battalions These units can only draw supplies if they are next to, or overlapping an HQ unit. Any unit may draw supplies from a Corps HQ unit. In addition, independent units may draw supplies from any HQ. Otherwise units may only draw supplies from their own divisional HQ. Divisions and HQs The supply rules for Divisions and HQs are quite different to those for Brigade and Battalions. In particular, no HQ may draw supplies from another HQ. These units draw supplies by being within seven squares (five diagonally) of a road square, provided that the road is clear of enemy units all the way back to the edge of the map. (Left hand edge for Axis units, and right hand edge for British units). Supplies can be blocked if an enemy unit is between the unit and the road. Supplies may also be drawn from a track, in the same way as from a road, provided that a clear route exists back along the track to the road, and thence to the map edge. Supplies may also be drawn from a port in the same way as from a road square. Benghazi and Tobruk are ports. In all the above cases, in order to draw supplies, a unit must be on the same vertical, horizontal or diagonal line, as the supply source. It may sometimes be necessary to move units' positions a little to get them in supply. A tick against Sup in the Report will indicate that unit may receive supplies. Transporting the supplies also uses them up. The further along the road a unit is, the greater will be this loss, and the less will be available to the unit. Losses of supplies going through a port, are greater than for those going by road. Usually supplies are drawn from the off map pool. The amount of supplies used by a unit are dependent on its size, and its actions. A division uses more supplies than a brigade, which in turn uses more than a battalion or HQ. Units use supplies when they move, fortify or engage in combat. When in combat units with "Assault" orders use twice as many supplies as those with "Move" orders. Units with "Hold" orders use very few supplies in combat. Units with insufficient supplies may not attack. 12. REINFORCEMENTS, WITHDRAWALS and REPLACEMENTS From time to time, players will receive new units, and old ones will be withdrawn. This will happen automatically, although warning will be given of an impending withdrawal. Replacements are used to replace losses suffered in combat. They are divided into two types, armour for tank units, and infantry for other types. Replacements are distributed automatically to under strength units, but only units with "Hold" orders may receive them. If enough replacements are accumulated, then previously destroyed units may be rebuilt. Players receive replacements every month. Other changes may happen to units during the course of the game when playing scenario 6, or an extended scenario. A unit's type may change as may its designation and the division it belongs to. These changes reflect historical ones although they have been simplified to avoid confusion to players. 13. TERRAIN There are many different types of terrain in "Desert Rats". Any symbols not shown on the terrain chart, are purely decorative. Sea, salt marsh, and steep escarpment squares, are impassable, whilst escarpment, ridge, and rough squares slow down movement, and also give some protection in combat. Escarpments provide the best protection of the three, but to benefit, a unit must be behind the escarpment, not on it. The best protection is provided by a fort or fortification square. A unit must be actually on the square rather than behind it to get the benefit. Forts and fortifications around some towns are considered the same, but provide different benefits to the "fortify" order. TERRAIN SYMBOLS [DRtsym.GIF] ESCARPMENT (RED) [ " ] STEEP ESCARPMENT (BLACK) [ " ] ROUGH (RED) [ " ] RIDGE (BLUE) [ " ] FORTIFICATION (BLACK) [ " ] FORT (BLACK) [ " ] ROAD (BLACK) [ " ] TRACK (BLACK) [ " ] TOWN (BLACK) [ " ] SALT MARSH (WHITE) [ " ] SEA (BLUE) 14. UNIT TYPES The following is a brief resume of the types of units in the game. Medium Tanks These are very powerful, both against other tanks and particularly against infantry. They are however much less effective against units that are dug in. Tanks are vulnerable to HQs, artillery and anti-tank units. Light Tanks These are similar to medium tanks, but slightly less powerful and more vulnerable. They are slightly faster. Infantry Tanks These are very slow, and not particularly powerful against other tanks, but are even more powerful against infantry. They are hard to kill in combat. Recce Recce units do little damage in combat, and take very little themselves. They are very fast. They are useful for cutting off retreats, cutting supply lines, and generally being a nuisance. However, they will usually retreat when attacked. Motorised Infantry These are not particularly powerful when attacking and, if not dug in, are very vulnerable to tanks. They can however fortify their positions, making them difficult to capture. They are better than tanks at attacking fortified, or dug in positions. Foot Infantry These are similar to motorised infantry, but move more slowly. Support Groups These are a mixture of infantry and artillery. They are more effective against tanks than infantry units, but are less effective against infantry. Artillery Artillery is useful against tanks, but vulnerable to attack by infantry. Anti-Tank Anti-tank units are effective against tanks, but not against anything else. They are vulnerable to attack by infantry. HQs These represent, not only administration units, but also a division's artillery. They are thus useful against tanks. They are very vulnerable to attack and should always be supported. 15. PLAYER'S NOTES As with any game of any complexity it requires experience to master the tactics needed to play "Desert Rats". However, a few general points are listed that should help players through their first games. Ideas for strategies can be gleaned from the historical notes. One of the most important points for the players to master is deciding how to go about attacking the enemy. The obvious method would be to order your units to the same square as is occupied by the enemy unit you wish to attack. However, in many cases this is not a good approach, because the enemy may well have moved away before your units arrive, and your attack will fail. A better method is to decide on an "axis of advance" for your units, and set their objective at some point behind the enemy lines. This will allow your units to pursue if the enemy retreats and if it holds its ground to attack. If it is forced to retreat or destroyed, then your units will be able to continue advancing behind enemy lines. Adopting this approach will also speed up the game as units can continue on the same axis for several turns, negating the need to give them new orders each turn. Another useful strategy which the attacker should adopt is to make good use of the "assault" order. By doing so the effectiveness of the attacks will increase and result in resistance being overcome quickly. However, using the "assault" order all the time will not only be expensive in supply terms, but will leave your units rather vulnerable if met by unexpected resistance, or a counter-attack. A defending player should not attempt to be too active but should concentrate his units to make each stack as strong as possible, making use of the benefits of being dug in, particularly if the unit is infantry when tanks are about to attack. Let the attacker use up his supply and be on the alert for opportunities to counter-attack units that are separated from the main attacking force or who are running short of supply. Whether attacking or defending, it is vital to keep a close eye on the supply situation. Particularly important is to prevent enemy units from cutting your supply lines. If this occurs, your operations will quickly grind to a halt. Recce units are particularly effective at cutting supply lines and can often divert much larger enemy forces. If any substantial enemy forces get behind your lines, the forces cut off could be in serious trouble as they may not be able to dislodge it before their supplies run out. The general level of supply in your army is also important especially when conducting an offensive. If supplies are running short then it is wise to get your units back to safe positions rather than let them be stranded on the battlefield where they will be sitting ducks for enemy counter attacks. It is best to avoid attacking until all units have a reasonable level of supply. Players should also bear in mind, that "fortifying" uses supply. If many units are fortifying, then this can be a drain on your supplies. Since any benefits are lost if a unit moves it is usually not worth fortifying, whilst waiting to amass sufficient supply for an offensive. The Axis player receives less supplies than the British player and so must use them with particular care. [DRpic15.JPG] 16. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND The North African Campaign was important not only because of North Africa's strategic situation, but also because it enabled Allied Forces and Commanders to gain valuable battle experience for the European Theatre and enabled Operation Overlord to be successfully executed in 1944. When Britain declared war on Germany on 3rd September 1939 as a result of Germany invading Poland, the North African situation was as illustrated on map opposite. At that time the Italians were neutral but were favourable to Germany. France and her North African possessions were Britains' most important ally. The "Phoney War" went on until 21st April 1940 when Germany invaded Norway. Then in June as a result of France falling the balance of power in North Africa changed. On 11th June Italy joined with Germany and declared war on the United Kingdom and on 24th June the French Vichy Government signed an armistice with Germany, and Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Syria all followed suit. Only French Equatorial Africa declared for the Free French under De Gaulle. (This enabled the Allies to supply their forces in North Africa from the Gold Coast and Nigeria by using the Trans-African route (see map opposite). In August 1939 Germany signed a Non-Aggression Pact with the Russians, thus the way was clear for the Germans to attack the Middle East via the Balkans and Turkey. The initial skirmishes by the British with the Italians on land and sea were very successful inflicting losses of 3,500 men in the first 3 months. Mussolini was under intense pressure from Hitler to invade Egypt and on 13th September he ordered Graziani to attack. The small British frontier force fell back and allowed Graziani to advance to Sidi Barrani. Graziani was reluctant to advance further as his supply lines were fully stretched. The Allies used October and November in which to consolidate and plan the counter attack. The Royal Navy scored a spectacular success at Taranto disabling a large number of the Italian ships. These losses so demoralised the Italian Navy that they then ceased to be a threat to the Royal Navy. In December 1940 the British counter attacked at Sidi Barrani. The attack was a complete success and the Italians were driven back to Sollum. The attack came as a surprise to the Italians and was carried out in text book style. Later they fell back to Bardia and Tobruk. Further successes on land were achieved by the Allies in January 1941. The Australians breeched the Italian defences of Bardia and the town fell and 40,000 Italian prisoners were taken. This success was followed up in early February 1941 by the 6th Australian Division and the 7th Armoured Division (the Desert Rats) taking Benghazi in the West of Libya. These two Divisions had overwhelmed the nine Divisions of the Italian Tenth Army! [DRmap17.GIF] There was a price to be paid for the successes and some historians state that the North African Campaign would have been shorter if the British had taken more time to demolish the Italians. When Sidi Barrani fell Hitler authorised "Mittelmeer" the intervention of the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean. Later when Bardia fell he authorised "Sonnenblume" (Sunflower) the transfer to North Africa of the 5th Light Motorised Division which was commanded by Rommel. In January as a result of Mittelmeer the Royal Navy had lost their supremacy in the Mediterranean. The Luftwaffe so seriously damaged "H.M.S. Illustrious" the aircraft carrier, that she had to flee through the Suez Canal to be repaired in the U.S.A. Malta was no longer a safe haven to have one of the Royal Navy's capital ships repaired. Meanwhile in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) British and Allied Troops fought a determined campaign and although outnumbered 10 to 1, obtained the Italians surrender by 19th May 1941. This success enabled much needed British Divisions to be diverted to North Africa. However in spite of the British victories the balance of power in North Africa swung against the Allies in March when Sonnenblume was launched and four Allied Divisions were transferred to Greece to counter the Balkan threat. R.T. Smith

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