‘Steel my soldiers’ hearts’: El Alamein Reappraised

Jonathan Fennell


The dominant explanations for Allied success in North Africa in the Second World War focus on the impacts of command and materiel on the campaign. Many argue that Montgomery’s military nous made a decisive difference, others contend that the unbending logic of numbers and technology guaranteed success. By utilising new sources, such as censorship summaries of the soldiers’ mail, and by incorporating a novel methodology that integrates quantitative and qualitative analysis of the many indicators and corollaries of morale, it is argued that the issue of morale must also be considered when trying to understand outcomes on the battlefields of North Africa. A crisis in morale developed during the summer of 1942 that fed into ineffective combat performance. This crisis was turned around in dramatic fashion at Alam Halfa and El Alamein. It is suggested that this turnaround in morale was central to the success at El Alamein and that the impact of both leadership and materiel on that victory can best be understood in this light.

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