Thursday, February 23, 2006

The start of Battleaxe

The plan for Battleaxe envisioned air attacks to precede the battle. Benghazi was bombed every night, and increasingly, Axis airfields and supply lines were hit. The buildup for Battleaxe was given good fighter protection that prevented any German attacks. On the day the offensive started, 15 June 1941, the RAF had air superiority, and only six minor attacks got through.

The ground offensive did not go well in the border area. The Germans had succeeded in fortifying Halfaya pass and siting 88mm guns in good positions. The 11th Indian Infantry Brigade was blocked, and 11 of 12 supporting Inf.Mk.II Matildas were knocked out. The Official History also says that of 6 Matildas on the lower level, four were trapped in minefields.

In the desert, the 7th Armoured Brigade had encountered a defensive position with four 88mm guns, but few tanks. By the end of the day, the 7th Armoured Brigade had 48 running cruiser tanks.

The 4th Armoured Brigade had more success and General Messervy had decided to attack Fort Capuzzo. At the same time "Point 206" was taken. The Matildas actually did well against the 8th Panzer Regiment (probably because they had so much better protection). The problem was that the infantry did not advance in support as was needed.

At the end of the first day, two of the three attacks had been blocked and the Germans were planning counterattacks. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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