The Battle of Medenine, also known as Operation Capri, was a German counter-attack at Medenine, Tunisia, intended to disrupt and delay the 8th Army's attack on the Mareth Line. The German attack started on 6 March 1943, failed to make much impression and was abandoned at dusk on the same day. Over the next day or two, German forces withdrew northward….
At about 06:00 on 6 March, under cover of fog, Rommel attacked Medenine with three Panzer divisions. Montgomery had, however, been forewarned of the German attack by Enigma decrypts and had established strong defensive positions. The 8th Army had massive force superiority, including large, concealed batteries of anti-tank guns. These guns included a few of the new 17-pounder guns. The British were also able to concentrate their artillery in divisional or corps strength.
Infantry probed the entire front. Tanks led the attack, closely followed by motorised infantry. The British and New Zealand artillery held their fire until the tanks were almost on the anti-tank guns, when the 25-pounder guns opened fire on the infantry, leaving the tanks isolated without infantry support…. During the afternoon, heavy and accurate artillery fire disrupted German concentrations, in particular a large group of 1,000 infantry plus tanks just short of Tadjera Kbir…. The attack had been beaten with the loss of 52 German tanks. Luftwaffe attempts to support the attacks were ineffectual.
Over the following night, patrols were sent out to discover the likelihood of renewed attacks, but without incident. Over forty German tanks had been destroyed, so it was unlikely that they would have the strength for a repeat. Audible vehicle movements did suggest an attack, but in fact a withdrawal was in progress….
Erwin Rommel remarked:
The attack began extraordinarily well, but soon came up against strong British positions in hilly country, protected by mines and anti-tank guns…. Attack after attack was launched, but achieved no success…. it soon became clear that the attack had failed and there was nothing more to be done about it…. The attack had bogged down in the break-in stage and the action never had a chance of becoming fluid. The British commander had grouped his forces extremely well and had completed his preparations with remarkable speed. In fact the attack had been launched about a week too late…. We had suffered tremendous losses, including forty tanks totally destroyed. But the cruellest blow was the knowledge that we had been unable to interfere with Montgomery's preparations. A great gloom settled over us all. The Eighth Army's attack was now imminent and we had to face it. For the Army Group to remain in Africa was now plain suicide.
On 10 March, Rommel left Africa for the last time, leaving von Arnim in command….
On 6 March 1943, Bernard Montgomery wrote in a letter to Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff:
He is trying to attack me in daylight with tanks, followed by lorried infantry… It is an absolute gift, and the man must be mad.