Coordinates: 31°30′N 25°11′E / 31.500°N 25.183°E /
Halfaya Pass (Arabic: مَمَرّ حَلْفَيَا
translit. Mamarr Ħalfayā, known colloquially as Hellfire Pass) is
located in Egypt, near the border with Libya. A 600 feet (180 m)
high escarpment extends south eastwards from the Egyptian-Libyan
border at the coast at as-Salum (or Saloum, Solum, Sollum), with the
scarp slope facing into Egypt.
Halfaya Pass is about two miles 2 miles
(3.2 km) inland from the Mediterranean and provides a natural
The escarpment is known as Akabah el-Kebir عقبة الكبير
(`aqabat al-kabīr) "great ascent". To
El-Edrisi it was known as
عقبة السلوم (`aqabat as-salūm) "graded ascent", whence the
modern name of the gulf and the town of Salum.
In antiquity it was known as Catabathmus Magnus. It was considered as
marking the boundary between Africa and Asia in Hellenistic geography.
It separated the provinces of Aegyptus and Marmarica.
1 World War II
World War II
Halfaya Pass World War II
In World War II, the engineered route up the escarpment had been
destroyed and the pass had great strategic importance. The only ways
Libya were to assault the pass or to out-flank it to
After the defeat of the Italian 10th Army on 7 February 1941 during
Operation Compass, the Italians were reinforced by German units
Afrika Korps under Erwin Rommel) and the British forces were forced
out of Libya, leaving a besieged garrison at Tobruk. On 14 April 1941,
Rommel's main force reached
Sollum on the Egyptian border and occupied
the Halfaya Pass. There were several allied attempts to recapture the
Halfaya Pass and relieve Tobruk.
The first attempt, on 15 May, was Operation Brevity. Rommel
counter-attacked; the British withdrew and by 27 May the Germans had
recaptured Halfaya Pass, a passage of time in which Major Edward
Thomas earned his Military Cross. Supply shortages obliged the Germans
to curtail their advance, so they dug in and fortified their positions
at Halfaya with 88 millimetre guns. This was the anchor for the Axis
positions, which opposed the Allied forces during the next allied
Operation Battleaxe on 15 June. German armour was deployed
to draw the British tanks (11th Hussars) onto the
concealed 88mm guns and the first wave was cut down in a few minutes
(11 out of 12 tanks were destroyed), earning the pass the nickname
"Hellfire Pass". The German commander, Major Wilhelm Bach, in his
conduct of the Axis defence of
Halfaya Pass earned himself the
nickname 'the Pastor of Hellfire Pass' (an allusion to his peacetime
occupation as a Lutheran minister). The commander of the larger
Italian contingent, General Fedele de Giorgis, General Officer
Commanding 55th Infantry Division Savona, was awarded the highest
German decoration, the Knight's Cross for the defense he conducted.
The allied commander, Major Miles, was last heard on the radio
reporting, "They are tearing my tanks apart."
The third attempt,
Operation Crusader opened on 18 November, with an
attack on Sidi Omar to the west of the pass and an attempt to outflank
Rommel to the south and relieve Tobruk. This was achieved on 29
November. Rommel, now under pressure, on 7 December withdrew to El
Agheila. Axis garrisons at Sollum,
Bardia as well as the Pass were
left behind, a temporary thorn in the Allies side. Isolated after the
Bardia on 2 January 1942, besieged by Commonwealth forces, cut
off from supplies, and bombarded from the air and the sea, Bach and de
Giorgis finally surrendered the Halfaya garrison on 17 January
Halfaya Pass was the location of the accidental death of Major-General
'Jock' Campbell (VC), then commander of the British 7th Armoured
Division. On 26 February 1942, a month after assuming command, his
staff car skidded on a newly laid clay road surface, killing him
Halfaya Pass and its according battles play a role in the Sniper
Elite III game plot.
^ Mead (2007), p. 90
Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the
key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount.
p. 544 pages. ISBN 978-1-