Italy had entered the war against France and Britain on June 10, 1940, following German successes in the west and she seemed likely to exploit her strong position in the Mediterranean. In September, Italian troops in Libya advanced to the Egyptian frontier, but in December a British attack not only overran Italian frontier positions but took the port of Tobruk and drove deep into Libya. In February 1941, however, German troops began to arrive, and soon, under their aggressive commander, Erwin Rommel, pushed the British back. For more than eighteen months the war in the Western Desert was to ebb and flow between El Agheila and El Alamein. A pile of captured weapons (above) marks the scale of the Italian defeat, January 1941.
A long column of disconsolate Italian prisoners (below) winds its way into captivity.