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December 9, 1940 - British troops attack Sidi Barrani as part of Operation Compass. The first major campaign of the war in the Western Desert, Operation Compass saw British troops push the Italian Tenth Army out of Egypt and drive them back across the Cyrenaica region of Libya. Outnumbered, the British relied on superior mobility to keep the Italians off balance while maintaining the momentum of their assault. As the Italians fell back along the coast, the British commander, General Richard O'Connor, sent the 7th Armoured Division inland to cut off their retreat. Encountering delays in the desert, Major General Sir Michael O'Moore Creagh sent forward an armored force of 2,000 men. Arriving at Beda Fomm, this force held off the retreating Italians for two days until the rest of the division arrived. Trapped between the two British forces, the Tenth Army began to surrender in droves. At the campaign's end in early February 1940, O'Connor's men had advanced over 500 miles and taken over 130,000 Italians prisoner (right).

Photograph Source: Public Domain


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