El Agheila

El Agheila

El Agheila ( _ar. العقيلة) is a coastal city at the bottom of the Gulf of Sidra in far southwestern Cyrenaica, Libya. It is currently known as Al-‘Uqaylah, and is the capital of the Municipality of the same name. But it is best known to history as the site of several World War II battles during the North African Campaign. In February 1941, it was taken by the British Western Desert Force following their destruction of the Italian Tenth Army in Operation Compass. The British halted there while most of the Western Desert Force was moved to deal with the Axis's invasion of Greece. This gave the German Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel a chance to arrive and launch an offensive which retook El Agheila in March and drove the British all the way back to Tobruk and the Egyptian frontier. Rommel would further fortify the city and use it as a base for his operations (see Siege of Tobruk). After being driven back from Tobruk following Operation Crusader in December 1941, the Afrika Korps fell back to El Agheila, halting their retreat and the British advance there.

In January 1942, Rommel launched a new offensive at El Agheila, which would again drive the British back towards Tobruk. This time he would capture Tobruk (see Battle of Gazala ) and advance into Egypt before being halted at El Alamein in July 1942 and decisively defeated there in November. The Afrika Korps was broken, and its retreating remnants gave up El Agheila for the final time to the advancing British Eighth Army in late December 1942.

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