‘The desert roused to fury, flaying us with a thousand whips of sand that stung our faces and knees unbearably, choking us and covering our bodies and luggage with a yellow screen.’
On 13 September 1940 the Italian Tenth Army finally trundled across the Libyan border into Egypt. A small ‘covering force’ of British troops fell back steadily before this stately progress, harrying the flanks of the 80,000 troops who were advancing across the desert in the general direction of Alexandria. Mussolini was ‘radiant with joy’ to hear the news, believing, as he told his Foreign Minister, Galeazzo Ciano, that ‘The English [sic] are withdrawing with unforeseen rapidity.’ His delight was premature.
Marshal Graziani had ...