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Desert Victory

Desert Victory

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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.

By mid-October 1942, Montgomery could deploy approximately double the number of men and tanks available to Rommel’s German-Italian army. The British also enjoyed the invaluable advantage of air superiority over the battlefield. Aware that an attack was imminent, Rommel had prepared his defenses as best he could, sowing hundreds of thousands of antitank and antipersonnel mines along his front to slow any British advance. Rommel returned to Germany to recuperate from illness shortly before the British offensive was launched, command passing to a subordinate.

On the night of 23–24 October a barrage from more than 800 guns heralded the offensive; British sappers, followed by infantry and tanks, advanced to clear paths through the minefields. Although the Axis commanders were taken aback at the violence of the assault, the Eighth Army’s progress was painfully slow, the British armor failing to get to grips with the enemy. Rommel, meanwhile, mounted spirited counterattacks.

For a while it seemed that the Axis might bring the British offensive to a halt. The German minefields and accurate antitank fire produced a mounting toll of knocked-out British tanks. But progress by the infantry, especially the Australian and New Zealand Divisions, opened up corridors through the Axis defenses that the British could exploit. On 2 November Rommel signaled to Hitler that the battle was lost. Although initially refused permission to retreat, Rommel began the withdrawal of his German units, leaving his Italian allies—who lacked motor transport—to be mopped up by the British. By 4 November the motorized elements of the Axis were in full retreat, and because of the sluggish British follow-up they were allowed to escape virtually unscathed. But this was of limited strategic importance because the British victory at El-Alamein was confirmed by Operation Torch, the Anglo-American landings in North Africa on 8 November. The Axis forces were now being squeezed in the Allied vice, and their expulsion from North Africa was only a question of time.


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