African campaigns timeline

AFRICAN CAMPAIGNS TIMELINE: The African campaigns of World War 2 trace back to Italian attempts to establish a colonial empire there in the 1800s. 
Facist leader Benito Mussolini set out to reverse Italy’s humiliating defeat in the First Italo-Ethiopian War at the end of that century.
British Commonwealth forces led an attack on the Italians in Africa, leading to Germany sending troops to back up their Italian allies. 
Elsewhere, Free French Forces attempted to take control of its country’s African colonies from the Nazi puppet state, Vichy France.


italo-ethiopia-warA comtemprary French illustration showing
Ras Makonnen (ater known as Emperor Haile
Selassie) leading Ethiopian resistance
against Italy in the First Italo-Ethiopian
War . @ African Campaigns timeline

The First Italo-Ethiopian War (1885 – 1896) The Empire of Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia) becomes the first African nation to resist European colonialism in war.  This leads to the collapse of the Italian government.

The Abyssinia Crisis (1934 – 1935) The Italians gain a foothold in Ethiopia, undermining the authority of the League of Nations.  This would lead to Italy allying itself with Nazi Germany.

Italian conquest succeeds (October 1935 – May 1936) Italy conquers and annexes Ethiopia and turns it into Italian East Africa. This is known as the Second Italo-Ethiopian War

The Battle of Dakar (September 23 – 25, 1940) British, Australian and Free French Forces led by Charles De Gaulle unsuccessfully try to capture the West African port of Dakar from the Axis-aligned Vichy French. 

The Battle of Gabon ( November 8 – 12, 1940) The “sequel” to the Battle of Dakar ended in De Gaulle’s Free French wresting control of French Equatorial Africa from the Vichy French.

British and Germans on the board

crusader-passesA British Crusader tank passes a buring German
Panzer in November, 1941 .
@ African Campaigns timeline

African counter-attack (December 1940) British Commonwealth forces attack Italian troops in Egypt and Italian East Africa. 

Germans invade Africa (February 1941) Hitler sends forces to Libya to aid his flagging Italian allies and pushes British and Australian troops back into Egypt and the port city of Tobruk.

Operation Crusader (November 18 – December 30, 1941) The British Army relieve the Siege of Tobruk in North Africa and reclaim gains made by the Germans and Italians.

Battle of Madagascar (May 5 – November6, 1942) The British invade and take Vichy-French-held Madagascar because of concerns the Japanese might try to use bases on the island.

The “Desert Fox” on the warpath

rommel-colorRommel in North Africa, 1942 .
@ African Campaigns timeline

Offensive in Libya (May 26 – July 27, 1942) The German “Desert Fox” Colonel-General Erwin Rommel goes on the offensive in North Africa and pushes the Allies back into Egypt.  The Germans are stopped at El Alamein, only 66mi (106km) from Alexandria.

Rommel strikes again (October 23 – November 11, 1942) The Germans try a second time to capture Al Alamein but are pushed back across Egypt and Libya by the Allies under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery.  Some say the battle marks the turning point of the war.

The cavalry arrives

operation-torchAmerican troops on a landing craft bound for Oran
in North Africa, November, 1942 .
@ African Campaigns timeline

Operation Torch (November 8 – 16, 1942) British and American forces invade French North Africa, Vichy French troops there nominally on the side of the Axis defect and join the Allies. Germany and Italy occupy Vichy France in response.

Montgomery takes Tripoli (January 23, 1943) Axis forces are forced to retreat as the Allies take Libya.  Rommel links up with a Panzer army in Tunisia and the Axis are facing a war on two fronts – from Montgomery’s 8th army in the west and the multi-national force from Operation Torch.
Tunisian Campaign (November 17 – May 13, 1943) Allied forces push the remaining Axis troops into a corner and they are forced to surrender on May 13, effectively ending the war Africa.

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The page African Campaigns Timeline was written by S. Anderson, 2011. Last updated 2011.

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References for African Campaigns Timeline

• World Encyclopedia, 2005

• The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition 2008

The Desert War: The Classic Trilogy on the North Africa Campaign 1940-43, Alan Moorehead, 2009

• A Short History of World War II, James L. Stokesbury, 2008

• Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945, Sir Max Hastings, Nov 1, 2011

• Britannica


Photo sources

• Italo-Ethiopian War

• Crusader tank

• Rommel in North Africa

• American troops


Unless otherwise stated, all photos used on the page African campaigns timeline are, to our knowledge, in the public domain. If you think otherwise, please let us know.