A Panzer III tank crewman surrenders to an advancing British soldier during the Battle of El Alamein, 1942.Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III Sd Kfz. 141 (abbreviated PzKpfw III) translating as “armoured fighting vehicle”. It was intended to fight other armored fighting vehicles and serve alongside the HE support Panzer IV; however, as the Germans faced the formidable T-34, stronger anti-tank guns were needed. Since the Panzer IV had a bigger turret ring, the roles were reversed. The Panzer IV mounted the long barreled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun and engaged in tank-to-tank battles.
The Panzer III became obsolete in this role and for most purposes was supplanted by the Panzer IV. From 1942, the last version of Panzer III mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24, better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ended in 1943. However, the Panzer III’s capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun until the end of the war.
The First Battle of El Alamein (July 1-27, 1942) was a battle of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, fought on the northern coast of Egypt between Axis forces (Germany and Italy) of the Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) (also known as the Africa Corps) commanded by Field Marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) Erwin Rommel nicknamed “The Desert Fox” and Allied (specifically British Imperial) forces (Britain, British India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) of the Eighth Army, commanded by General Claude Auchinleck. The British prevented a second advance by the Axis forces into Egypt.
Axis positions near El Alamein, only 66 mi (106 km) from Alexandria, were dangerously close to the ports and cities of Egypt, the base facilities of the Commonwealth forces and the Suez Canal and the Axis forces were too far from their base at Tripoli in Libya, to remain at El Alamein indefinitely, which led both sides to accumulate supplies for more offensives, against the constraints of time and distance. At the battles of Battle of Alam el Halfa (August 30 – September 5) and the Second Battle of El Alamein (October 23 – November 11, 1942), the Axis army was defeated and driven out of Egypt for good.