Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Gazala Battle on 12 June 1942 turns against the British

The 30th Corps commander, General Norrie, decided to go on the offensive, early on 12 June 1942, since he believed that the Axis forces were dispersed. He wanted the 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades to head south and then attack the 15th Panzer Division. The 7th Armoured Division commander, General Frank Messervy, disagreed with this move, and decided to go and talk with his corps commander in person. Near El Adem, he encountered Axis forces and was "out of touch with everyone". Since they never got the order to advance, the two armoured brigades sat and fought off a half-hearted attack by the 15th Panzer Division, which was supposed to keep a defensive posture. At noon, Rommel decided to hit the 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades from front and rear with his two panzer divisions. Since General Norrie could not find General Messervy, he put the 7th Armoured Division brigades under the command of the 2nd Armoured Division commander, who brought forward the understrength 22nd Armoured Brigade. At this point, the 2nd and 4th Armoured Brigades were hit by the 15th Panzer Division. The 4th Armoured Brigade went over the escarpment, partly by mistake and partly because of the Axis attacks. The British had sustained heavy tank losses due to skillful use of anti-tank guns, which were pushed forward. General Norrie did not know about the losses that had been taken, and assumed that they armour was still intact. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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