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Desert Victory (1943)

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The Allied campaign to drive Germany and Italy from North Africa is analysed, with the major portion of the film examining the battles at El Alamein, including a re-enactment.

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Title: Desert Victory (1943)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Harold Alexander ...
Himself (archive footage) (as General Alexander)
...
Himself (archive footage) (as Mr. Churchill)
...
Himself (archive footage) (as Hitler)
Bernard L. Montgomery ...
Himself (archive footage) (as General Montgomery)
Erwin Rommel ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Rommel)
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Storyline

This documentary recounts the famous World War II battle of El Alamein, considered one of the key turning points in the war against the Nazis. The film uses actual footage taken during the battle, including film captured from the Nazis, to explain the battle tactics and their execution. It also pays tribute to the men and women on the home front who, in their work in the factories and in their lives in general, made victory possible. Written by garykmcd

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The full-length feature story of the rout of Rommel in Africa by the British 8th Army... with the most thrilling scenes ever taken under fire! See more »

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Documentary | War

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Release Date:

13 April 1943 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Victoire du désert  »

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1.37 : 1
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This documentary is considered a Second World War wartime propaganda documentary film of the United Kingdom. See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat." - Churchill 1942 -
18 December 2001 | by (Liverpool England) – See all my reviews

Before the Battle of Alamein reached its crescendo, and before the victorious finale in Tripoli, there was a long drawn out overture which lasted from June 1940 to October 1942. It was to turn this campaign into something unique in World War Two.

A featureless land fit only for war, as the narrator, J. L. Hodson stated in the early scenes. "If war was to be fought then let it begin here". In endless miles of rock-strewn scrub desert, where civilians hardly existed. If chivalry existed in war, then chivalry was here also; as the veterans on both sides claimed. This was the only campaign were a spirit of comradeship and respect existed between the opposing armies. They even shared the same popular song, "Lili Marlene".

How did soldiers cope with the desert conditions? The men of the Afrika Korps coped well enough. They were a highly disciplined obedient product of the world's most professional military establishment. The Italians, it is said, brought along their comfort women to make life a little easier. To British and Commonwealth soldiers desert fighting was an old story. Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the 19th Century, Jordan, Palestine, Mesopotamia (now Iraq), in the 20th Century. They took it in their stride.

From 1940 to 1942 this campaign swung back and forth between El Alamein in Egypt and westward to El Agheila in Cyrenaica. Under General Wavell, General O'Connor a daring and imaginative commander, succeeded in destroying a large part of the Italian forces in Libya at Beda Fomm, in December 1940. February 1941 the Afrika Korps arrived on the scene commanded by General Erwin Rommel. A bold and highly respected soldier indeed. The Afrika Korps was about to become famous and show its ability.In Britain unknown desert place names became famous. Benghazi, Gazala, Bardia, Mersa Matruh, and Tobruk.

By July 1942 Rommel's successes had run there course. His long supply lines from Italy via Tripoli were harassed by the Royal Navy, RAF and commonwealth squadrons. He was stopped in his tracks a short distance west of the railway stop at El Alamein, a location that was to win a roomy place in British military history. Tobruk under a second siege had fallen to Rommel. General Auchinleck relieved General Ritchie and took command in the field himself.

Tobruk's fall was a blow to Churchill. He decided that new blood should conduct operations. He wanted to appoint General Sir Henry Maitland "Jumbo" Wilson. He also favoured Lieutenant General Richard "Straffer" Gott. But Gott's luck ran out; killed when flying in a Air Force transport aircraft shot down by the Luftwaffe. General Sir Alan Brooke suggested Montgomery. Churchill concurred. An unknown man outside army circles Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery was a man dedicated to the profession of arms; a soldier to the marrow in his bones. Montgomery's CinC would be General Sir Harold Alexander. An officer and a gentleman to his fingertips if ever there was one. For effect Monty, as he became known, wore a wide-brimmed Australian slouch hat which displayed a number of regimental and commonwealth badges. He ruthlessly fired senior subordinates who did not "measure up". He courted the correspondents. Putting them, "in the picture". Monty would, "...clear this chap Rommel out of Africa once and for all". Thus spoke the British Army's greatest self-publicist! The scribes lapped it up. Monty's self confidence seemed a dangerous weapon in itself.

Rommel decided to strike at the Eighth Army's defensive line which ran forty miles from the coast southwards to the Qattara Depression. Montgomery was building up Eighth's strength at the time. It was called the Battle of Alam Halfa. With air support the ground forces hit back hard. Rommel withdrew.

The offensive at Alamein opened up with a heavy artillery barrage. After twelve days of bitter fighting coupled with ceaseless air attacks by the RAF the Afrika Korps commenced the long retreat from Egypt into Cyrenaica, across Tripolitania, through the Libyan capitol, Tripoli, and into Tunisia. So after two years of a long hard slog the Eighth Army was on a winning streak. Fortune smiled upon the soldier's faces. In the minds of the British people, fed up with defeat and starved of victory, the BBC radio announcement was a delightful shock to the system. At last they had something to cheer about. As the young woman stated in the film, "There's plenty more where that comes from". There was indeed.

In Tripoli, the show place of Mussolini's much vaunted African Empire this documentary ends. Mister Churchill took the salute of the Eighth Army veterans. The Master of Ceremonies? Monty of course, brilliant but insufferable, wearing the now-famous black beret, displaying a general's cap badge and the badge of the Royal Armoured Corps. The victory parade was symbolic in another way. For this long bitterly fought campaign was Britain's imperial swan song. From now on, America would take an increasingly leading role in this worldwide conflict.

Apart from the British divisions there were also Australian, New Zealand, South African, and Indian divisions. And those brave little warriors from Nepal, the fearless Gurkhas. And here in this desert wastes was born the legendary SAS. Commonwealth commanders served the cause well. Generals Pinenaar, South Africa, Freyberg, New Zealand Morshead, and Air Vice Marshal Coningham, Australia.

And what of the two, three, and four star generals? Some known, some not so well known. Some relieved by higher command. Generals, Archie Wavell, Alan Cunningham, and Claude Auchinleck, overshadowed by Harold Alexander and Bernard Montgomery. Others? Neil Ritchie, Oliver Leese, Willoughby Norrie, Herbert Lumsden, Briggs, Dorman-Smith, Godwin Austen, Gatehouse and Brian Horrocks. Some did, "measure up", and some didn't, before and after Montgomery arrived on the scene.

And Field Marshal Rommel? He was recalled from North Africa. Had he fallen into Allied hands he would have avoided the July '44 plot against Hitler. Survived in Allied captivity and lived out his remaining years in retirement.


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