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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Mareth Line

The Mareth Line

The Mareth line—known as ‘the African Maginot’—was a formidable position. The defensive zone stretched from Zarat on the Gulf of Gabes to Ben Kreddache in the Matmata Hills, a distance of less than 30 miles. Originally the line was built across the gap between the hills and the sea by French military engineers. The position comprised not so much a line as a series of fortifications in depth which included permanent anti-tank obstacles and concrete emplacements. The Wadi Zigzaou, running from the Matmata Hills to the sea, had steep sides and could not be crossed by armour and was thus a very efficient tank trap. The whole position was served by a system of military roads which allowed quick movement for mobile reserves. To the north the line was covered by a coast unsuitable for landings, and to the south by rough and difficult country.