Monday, June 22, 2009

14 June 1942: the British had lost the battle

Early in 1942, General Auchinleck had decided that he would not try to hold Tobruk while it was under siege, if such a situation arose. By late in the day on 13 June, 1942, General Ritchie realized that they had lost the battle on that day. Early on 14 June, he ordered a withdrawal to the Egyptian frontier. General Ritchie wanted to withdraw the divisions in the Gazala line before they were surrounded. With Tobruk not an option, he could only withdraw to Egypt. In previous battles, the British would have just withdrawn into Tobruk and setup to defend the fortress. General Ritchie telephoned headquarters and then sent a long dispatch in the early afternoon. He was directed to defend Tobruk, but to not allow his forces to be pinned there and put under siege. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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