Skip to main content

North African Campaign (Victorious Ending)

Volume 389: debated on Thursday 13 May 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I rise to announce formally to the House the end of the campaign in North Africa. When I addressed the House last Tuesday on the capture of Tunis and Bizerta, I indicated that we could not tell how long it would be before the enemy had been cleared out of North Africa and that we could not tell how many would escape from the net which General Alexander had thrown around them. The end has come more swiftly and more completely than could have been anticipated. General Arnim and his entire forces, save for a few small isolated groups, have surrendered. Yesterday, General Alexander reported that German prisoners driving their own vehicles formed a dense column on the road from Grombalia to Medjez el Bab all day. Over 150,000 prisoners have been taken, and a great mass of equipment—more than 1,000 guns, 250 tanks and many thousands of motor vehicles—has fallen into our hands. Thus, in less than a week a great army, strongly placed in good positions, has been not only beaten but completely destroyed. The Continent of Africa has been cleansed entirely of all Nazi and Fascist infection. I am certain that the battle which has now concluded will be regarded as a classical example of the military art. The honours of this great triumph are shared by the fighting men of the British Commonwealth and Empire, of the United States and of France, whose troops have revived her ancient glories. When we look back to the dark days of 1940, when only weak, ill-equipped forces stood between a far more numerous enemy and Egypt, when we look back a few weeks ago to the time before the Battle of El Alamein, when Mussolini thought that in a few days he would be entering Alexandria in triumph, we realise the magnitude of the change in our fortunes and what we owe to the men who have fought and won in North Africa. This campaign, which has driven the enemy 1,700 miles across a Continent, culminating in a great battle and the complete destruction of a mighty army, will stand out in history as a magnificent achievement. We may well rejoice and give thanks. An announcement as to how public expression will be given will be made in due course. North Africa is ours, but its occupation is not an end in itself. It is no longer a vulnerable area to be defended, but a forward base whence will be launched at the right moment further attacks upon the Axis, so that in the fullness of time, as a result of the blows of the United Nations, Hitler, like the German generals in Tunis, will be forced to accept unconditional surrender