Thursday, April 23, 2009
Back to Bir Hacheim
While the Cauldron battle was being fought, the 90th Light Division and Italian Trieste division had been trying take Bir Hacheim in the south. They had good air support, although the support was very grudgingly given. Rommel had decided that Bir Hacheim needed to be taken by 8 June 1942 so that they could return to the task of attacking the Gazala line from the rear. To bolster the attack, Rommel sent the 15th Panzer Division south to join the battle. British columns operated outside the Bir Hacheim perimeter. They were formed from the 7th Motor Brigade, the 29th Indian Infantry Brigade, and the Free French. By 8 June, the air attacks had increased in intensity. 58 bombers escorted by 54 fighters were used in the attacks. The Free French needed help, but the army was not able to immediately help. Instead, the RAF mounted 478 sorties on 8 June against the Axis forces attacking Bir Hacheim. On 9 June, the British air effort was greatly diminshed. General Ritchie decided early on 10 June that the French needed to withdraw from Bir Hacheim,as they could not be sustained in that position. Rommel personally led a DAK attack that broke into Bir Hacheim from the north. The 7th Motor Brigade arrived with a large motor convoy and embarked 2700 men from the original 3600 and took them away successfully. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.