The Mareth Line, Tunesia 1943

The Mareth Line in Tunisia, 1943

This diagram of the Mareth Line shows the deployment of Italian and German divisions of Heeresgruppe Afrika defending the line in front of Toujane, Mareth and Zarat in western Tunisia. The British 8th Army advanced against the Mareth Line on 17th February 1943, encountering little opposition. The town of Medenine was occupied the following day and preparations for the attack began. On 6th March, three German Panzerdivisions, two light divisions, and elements of three Italian divisions launched a preemptive attack from the Matmata mountains in the direction of Medenine, but they were repulsed by unusually heavy and very effective artillery fire. Rommel lost 55 of his remaining 150 tanks in this action. Montgomery launched his own attack, code-named "Operation Pugilist", against the Mareth Line in the night of 19th/20th March 1943.

Elements of the British 50th Division (Major General Kirkman) penetrated the Mareth Line and established a bridgehead west of Zarat on 20th/21st March, but a determined counterattack by 15. Panzerdivision (Generalmajor Borowietz) destroyed the pocket and established the line once again in the course of 22nd March. On 26th March, General Horrock's British X Corps flanked the Mareth Line west and northwest of the Matmata Mountains, crossing the Tebaga Valley and capturing the town of El Hamma. This flanking movement made the Mareth Line untenable. The following day, German and Italian units managed to check Horrock's advance with well-placed anti-tank guns, in an attempt to gain time for a strategic withdrawal from the Mareth Line. Within 48 hours the defenders of the Mareth Line marched 60 kilometers northwest and established new defensive positions at Wadi Akarit.

The town of Toujane in the Matmata Mountains

The town of Toujane in the Matmata Mountains

View from the Toujane-Mareth road into the valleys below

View from the Toujane-Mareth road into the valleys below

Entrance to the Museum of the Mareth Line

Entrance to the Museum of the Mareth Line

Musée Militaire de la Ligne Mareth

Musée Militaire de la Ligne Mareth

British 2pdr anti-tank gun outside the Museum of the Mareth Line

British 2pdr anti-tank gun outside the Museum of the Mareth Line

Garmin GPS Waypoints Latitude Longitude Elevation
Matmata, Tunisia N 33°32′54.9″ E009°57′00.8″ 321 m
Mareth, Tunisia N 33°35′46.0″ E010°18′39.3″ 63 m
Medenine, Tunisia N 33°21′21.9″ E010°28′35.0″ 121 m
GPS waypoints in WGS-84 format, taken with a handheld GARMIN eTrex Summit Global Positioning System.

The concrete emplacements of the Mareth Line can still be seen alongside the road from Toujane to Mareth. Apparently, these bunkers are considered Tunisian military installations today, and tourists are not permitted to photograph them.

Frequently Asked Questions

For further information and updates, please join us on facebook or in the Miniatures Forum.

Return to the Index