December 9, 1940
BRITISH & INDIAN FORCES TAKE OFFENSIVE IN NORTH AFRICA
Western Desert, North Africa (JFK+50) Major General Richard Nugent O'Connor* launched an invasion today of 30,000 British & Indian troops against 80,000 Italians here in the Western Desert of North Africa.
Western Desert Battle Area
North African Campaign
Map by Stephen Kirrage (2007)
O'Connor's forces, including troops from the Indian 4th Division & British 7th Armored Division, mobilized 275 tanks in attacking 7 Italian divisions.
Reports say that O'Connor was able to cut through a chain of Italian forts as his armored division swept along the western coast to block a potential Italian retreat.**
*Richard Nugent O'Connor (1889-1981) was born in India to a father who was a major in the Royal Irish Fusiliers & a mother who was the daughter of a former governor of India's central provinces.
O'Connor attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1908 & served in WWI where he received the Italian Silver Medal of Honor.
He was captured by a German patrol in WWII & served more than 2 years as a POW in Italy.
Upon his release & return to Britain, O'Connor was knighted. He was promoted to full general in 1945.
General O'Connor died in 1981 at the age of 91.
General Richard O'Connor
Oct 7, 1944
Imperial War Museum Photo
**The battle in the Western Desert marked the beginning of the end of Italian occupation of North Africa. Italy declared war on Great Britain in June 1940.