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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

March 20th, 1943- The Battle of Mareth Line

Conflict: World War II

Combatants: British vs. Germans/Italians

Location: Tunisia

Outcome: British victory

After a failed German offensive in early March of 1943, the British Eighth Army launched its own offensive across the Mareth Line. On March 20th, under cover of a broad artillery barrage, the New Zealand division under General Bernard Freyberg exercised a flanking maneuver on the German/Italian left.

New Zealand soldiers storming, North African Campaign, 1940-43 by National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Six days later, the New Zealanders had turned the enemy left and made room for British armor to slip through and harass the German rear. The flanking attack combined with a British frontal assault forced Italian General Giovanni Messe to withdraw the German and Italian forces to the north. The Germans and Italians lost 7,000 men as prisoners of war.

Two wounded soldiers from the Durham Light Infantry during the Mareth Line battle in Tunisia, March 1943 by Keating (Capt), No 2 Army Film & Photographic Unit

Points of Interest:

  • Axis forces in Africa would surrender two months after the retreat from the Mareth Line (May 1943).

  • Bernard Freyberg was knighted in 1942 and appointed governor-general of New Zealand in 1946.

General Bernard Freyberg from New-Zealand 1940 by an unknown photographer
General Giovanni Messe by an unknown photographer



Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).

Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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