|Fighting began in North Africa on September 13, 1940, when Marshal Rodolfo Graziani's Italian 10th Army launched an attack from its bases in Libya on outnumbered British forces in western Egypt. A successful British counterattack initiated on December 9, 1940, led by General Sir Archibald Wavell, resulted in Italian defeat at Tobruk (Tubruq) in eastern Libya on January 22, 1941. On February 12, 1941, German General Erwin Rommel arrived in Libya to take command of troops sent to reinforce Germany's Italian allies. The German units were rapidly expanded to the size of an Army Corps and renamed the Deutsches Afrika Korps (German Africa Corps).|
On March 24, 1941, Rommel launched an offensive, and, bypassing Tobruk, reached the Egyptian border on April 14. There, the opposing British and German-Italian armies remained stalemated until November 1941. Taking advantage of the diversion of human and material resources from North Africa to the Eastern Front in Europe in the summer and autumn of 1941, a reorganized British Eighth Army (consisting of British, Australian, Indian, South African, New Zealander, and Free French soldiers) attacked Rommel's positions in what was known as Operation “Crusader.” After early reverses, the British drove the Axis armies back into Libya, relieved the garrison in Tobruk, and forced Rommel to pull back on January 6, 1942, to El Agheila (on the border of the Libyan provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania).