The Italians had a quarter of a million men under Marshal Balbo in Libya. Balbo was shot down by his own anti-aircraft guns over Tobruk and his successor, General Graziani, advanced cautiously to the Egyptian frontier where he prepared a line of forts. On December 7, 1940, Major General O'Connor began a large-scale raid on the forts with his Western Desert Force of 31,000 men. On December 9, the forts were taken and the coast road was cut between Sid Barrani and Buq-Buq behind them. O'Connor converted the raid into a sustained advance, overrunning the whole of Cyrenaica and taking some 130,000 prisoners.
The desert was often rocky, and at night its temperature dropped. These British troops (above) in a defensive position at Bardia on December 31, 1940 are wearing greatcoats.
Below, a photo taken December 10, 1940. An Italian strides off into captivity with his dog.