Sunday, June 17, 2007
13 to 16 December 1941
The Axis High Command, especially the Italians, wanted to hold onto territory as long as they could. Rommel was more interested in keeping his forces intact, as he believed that he could recapture territory later, if he could maintain a fighting force. Rommel's main difficulty was his supply line. If that could be secured, he would quickly regain lost ground. The 13th Corps commander, General Godwin-Austen, wanted to mount this grand operation to outflank and destroy the Axis forces, and wanted a fluid battle. The RAF was still moving forward, and would have trouble making itself a factor in the battle, but when they could not tell friendly from enemy forces, they would not risk attacks. In the period of 13 December to 16 December, the RAF had not dropped any bombs at all. When Rommel heard of the 4th Armoured Brigade's move forward, he planned to withdraw from the Gazala line, as he assumed that they would head for Mechili, as that was what he would have done. That caused great consternation among the Italians. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.