British Commonwealth forces achieved the first Allied campaign victory of the war. Mussolini had been quick to follow his declaration of war (June 1940) with invasions of British Somaliland, Sudan and Kenya. But the British seized maritime control and counterattacked forcefully. By April 1941, East Africa had been secured, with its critical access to the Suez Canal. Madagascar, held by the collaborationist French Vichy regime, was a potential Japanese target; the British established a beachhead at Diego Suarez in April 1942, and within six months had occupied the whole island. German mechanized brigades under Erwin Rommel were an altogether more formidable proposition. Assuming command from the beleaguered Italians in Libya, he drove rapidly towards the Nile, but in a see-sawing campaign was eventually repulsed at El Alamein (November 1942). With Allied landings in Morocco, and Rommel invalided back home, the remaining Axis forces were cornered in Tunisia and forced to surrender (May 1943).
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