The fighting In all directions at once
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Graziani’s Tenth Army in Libya vastly outnumbered the 36,000 British, New Zealand and Indian troops of LieutenantGeneral Richard O’Connor’s Western Desert Force (WDF) who guarded Egypt-grandiloquently described as the Army of the Nile by Churchill. But the British had years of peacetime experience of training and operating in the desert and Wavell was not intimidated. He decided from the outset to take the offensive, using General Creagh’s 7th Armoured Division-which had as its emblem a jerboa, and would soon become famous as “the desert rats”—to harass the Italians in a continuous series of surprise raids. As a result, between June and September 1940, the Italians incurred 3,500 casualties and rarely ventured from the confines of their camps, whereas the British, who lost just 150 men, became masters of the desert and gained a moral ascendancy over the Italians.