Impregnable Tobruk. Public Domain /

By Mark McConville

INCREDIBLE images have revealed the last time Libya suffered through a war as the Allies and Axis powers fought the WW2 North Africa campaign.


Pictures from Tobruk- The editor on the rotary machine seen with his assistant, who is typing. Public Domain /

Harrowing pictures show the devastation wrought by both sides as a daylight raid on Tripoli is seen from the fighter plane’s perspective, roofless buildings remain barely standing amongst piles of rubble in Tobruk and Italian soldier lie dead in Derna following a British artillery strike.

Cheerier photographs show Lieutenant William Marx of New York City, attached to the public relations office of the U.S. Army 9th Air Force, doing some painting in the streets of Tripoli, a soldier soaping his face as he enjoys a mobile bath unit and an Arab assistant to an RAF armourer pleased with his original head-dress made out of ammunition for a Kittyhawk.


Gunners manning a captured breda gun ready to fire at any German aircraft that ventures within range. Public Domain /

The powerful black and white shots capture the mood in Libya during the North Africa campaign of World War Two between 1940-1943.

Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. British forces then crossed into Italian-occupied Libya from Egypt to capture Fort Capuzzo.

This was followed by an Italian counter-offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940.


Libya- Popular mobile bath units in the Western Desert 1940. Public Domain /

A further British counteroffensive, known as Operation Compass, destroyed the Italian 10th Army and prompted the involvement of the German Afrika Korps, led by Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox.

A series of battles for control of Libya and parts of Egypt followed, reaching a Climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein when British Commonwealth forces inflicted a decisive defeat on the Afrika Korps and forced its remnants into Tunisia.


Tripoli, Libya. Archbishop Spellman of New York (foreground) inspecting the damage done to the chapel of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Public Domain /

Other images show signposts printed in German and Italian point to former Axis offices at a street corner in Tobruk and native people going about their business despite the conflict as a craftsman smiles up at the camera from his sewing machine and Brigadier General Auby C. Strickland of the U.S. Army 9th Air Force gets his shoes shined in Tripoli.

Archbishop Spellman of New York is also pictured surveying the ruins of the chapel of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary while soldiers are snapped relaxing and preparing for attacks.