General Rommel And The Afrika Korps In Stunning Pictures

Rommell in action. CC BY-SA 3.0
Rommell in action. CC BY-SA 3.0

The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps was the German expeditionary force in Africa during the North African Campaign of World War II.

First sent as a holding force to shore up the Italian defense of their African colonies, the formation fought on in Africa from March 1941 until its surrender in May 1943. Its commander was the infamous Erwin Rommel.

Erwin Rommel

Rommel first gained attention in the First World War. As a young German officer, he experienced mobile warfare on the Romanian and Italian fronts, avoiding the bogged down trench fighting. Smart and courageous, he earned several of Germany’s highest honors, including two Iron Crosses.

Politically astute, Rommel ingratiated himself with the Nazi leadership as they took control of Germany. His style of command involved more micro-management than was usual in Germany, but because of his political connections, it did not hinder his career.

At the start of the Second World War, Rommel commanded the troops guarding Hitler’s headquarters during the invasion of Poland. He then used Hitler’s favor to win command of a Panzer Division, skipping the usual line for a promotion.

In France, Rommel proved his worth as a tank commander. Using the boldness that had won him distinction in the previous war, he led his division in a decisive advance. He waded into icy waters and wielded a machine gun during a difficult river crossing. His troops were credited with capturing 100,000 Allied prisoners.

Rommel in an armored vehicle. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Rommel in an armored vehicle. By Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0 de


Having gained a solid reputation as a military genius of the highest order, Rommel was promoted to Lieutenant General and placed in command of the newly formed Afrika Korps, which had been created with the intention of being sent to Libya to assist Italian troops struggling to cope with British advances into Axis territory in North Africa.

Ignoring orders to assume a defensive posture, Rommel immediately launched a lightning assault on the startled British forces and his Afrika Korps advanced rapidly, driving General Waverley out of his fortified position at Benghazi.

In an attempt to take advantage of the confusion that resulted from the fall of Benghazi, Rommel continued to press forward, driving the British before him and finally enveloping the enemy within Tobruk.

Rommel placed Tobruk under siege but met with stiff and resolute resistance from British and Australian soldiers.

In June 1941, Wavell launched an Allied counterattack, Operation Battleaxe, but was severely mauled by Rommel’s Afrika Corps.

After that, Rommel notched up a string of victories, more often than not against vastly superior forces, including Tobruk, Gazala, and El Alamein.

In the process, he not only earned a formidable reputation for personal bravery and strategic genius but also for gallantry and mercy, as he amply demonstrated when he sent medical supplies to New Zealand forces within the Allied lines.

With a lack of reinforcements and supplies hampering his ability to complete a knockout blow to the Allied forces in North Afrika, Rommel was forced to go on the defensive and then later pull out his remaining forces from the North African theater.

Briefly involved in the defense of Italy, Rommel was then moved to Normandy. He prepared defenses and fought against the 1944 Allied invasion. However, his tactical flexibility was limited by Hitler’s commands.

In July 1944, he was severely wounded when a British fighter strafed his car. While recuperating, he was implicated in a plot to kill Hitler. Given a choice between suicide and a show trial, he took his own life on October 14.

These often-chilling pictures offer us a fascinating insight into the hardware the Allies were up against in this theatre of WW2. The campaign was hard and bloody and left many hundreds of thousands dead, missing, wounded, or captured, but the fascist alliance of Germany and Italy was ultimately driven from the land. After the campaign, the Allies would turn their attention to Italy, where they would win another crucial victory in the fight against militant fascism in Europe.

Tripolis, Ankunft DAK, Rommel
The arrival of the first Afrika Korps troops. Rommel greets an Italian officer Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Bei den Soldaten des Deutschen Afrika-Korps Ein erbeuteter englischer Tank, von Truppen des deutschen Afrikakorps wieder flottgemacht, rollt mit wehender Fahne ¸ber eine W¸stenstrasse im Kampfgebiet von Tobruk.
A Captured British Mk II Mathilda Tank near Tobruk – Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
A German soldier with goggles and a scarf to protect him from the desert sand Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
A German private first class (Gefreiter) carries a Panzerbüchse 39 tank hunting rifle through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Rommel u. Generalmajor v. Bismarck
General Rommel with General von Bismarck, commander of the 21st Panzer Division discussing tactics on a map. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Tobruk, Rommel und Bayerlein, Hafen
Erwin Rommel and Fritz Bayerlein standing in an open staff car in Tobruk harbor Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Nachschub, Soldaten mit Feldflaschen
Supplies being delivered in the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Panzer II, Kraftfahrzeuge
The commander of a Panzer Mk II stands in his turret; another Mk II can be seen in the background. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Soldaten in Sch¸tzenpanzer
German soldiers with binoculars in German Half Track, Sd. Kfz 250. A Panzer Mk III can be seen on the right. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, schlafende Kradmelder
German soldiers sleeping on their Luftwaffe BMW with sidecars Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Panzer III in Fahrt
A Panzer Mk III drives through the desert. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
1.6.1942 Nach der Schlacht bei Sidi Mustah [...] Auf Hˆhen von Sidi-Mustah s¸dwestlich von Tobruk
June 1st, 1942 after the battle at Bir Hacheim, a German Half Track Sd. Kfz. 251 with what appears to be a radio antenna. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
A Half-Track tows an 88mm gun through the desert Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Zugkraftwagen mit Flak
A 5 Ton Half-Track, Sd.Kfz. 6, tows an 88mm gun Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Die K‰mpfe um die El-Alamein-Stellung
An 88mm gun being towed into position near El Alamein Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, motorisierte Truppen in Ortschaft
German troops near a mosque Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Sch¸tzenpanzer
German soldiers in a light Half Track, Sd. Kfz, 250 overlooking the battle (smoking vehicles can be seen in the background) Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Panzer IV, Turm
Close up of the gun of a Panzer Mk IV, 7,5 cm KwK/L24 Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordarfrika, Soldaten vor Haus mit Aufschrift
German troops near a building that has “Reserved for Signalers. No Parking within 500 YDS” written on it Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
German troops driving in a hairpin turn up a mountain in Africa, note the tank with a track missing. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Tunesien, Abfeuern einer Kanone
Tunisia, a heavy field howitzer firing Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Erwin Rommel and General Fritz Bayerlein in their command vehicle, a Sd.Kfz. 250/3 “Greif” Half Track. Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0
Nordafrika, Schützenpanzer mit Sender
A medium half-track, Sd. Kfz. 251 with antenna Bundesarchiv CC-BY-SA 3.0

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.