Saturday, January 31, 2009

A critical fight on 29 May 1942

As the Axis mechanized forces closed on Knightsbridge on 29 May 1942, they were attacked by the 2nd Armoured Brigade. The brigade was locked in combat with the two German panzer divisions and the Italian Ariete Division. Two regiments from the 22nd Armoured Brigade joined the battle. A sandstorm prevented the 4th Armoured Brigade from reinforcing the British armour. The battle lasted through the day, but the German forces were now concentrated, unlike the British. The 90th Light Division had arrived to complete the German concentration. One casualty occurred when General von Vaerst was wounded. He commanded the 15th Panzer Division. Being a general serving with Rommel was a dangerous occupation. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rommel's plan for 29 May 1942

Rommel saw that his forces were scattered across the desert and were desperately in need of supplies. The long route around Bir Hacheim in the south was vulnerable to attack. Rommel's plans were to concentrate his forces, to resupply them immediately, and to open a new supply corridor through the minefields. A corridor in the vicinity of the Trigh Cappuzo would be ideal. Colonel Westphal, as a good staff officer would do, took the initiative with General Cruewell to ask him to penetrate the minefields through 13th Corps in the North. He had the Italian Sabratha Division attack the South Africans, although they were repulsed. Simultaneously, Rommel personally led a supply convoy around the south to the Afrika Korps. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

At the end of 28 May 1942

Gemeral Ritchie was more satisfied with his situation at the end of the day on 28 May 1942 than was justified. The one dangerous situation was that the Italian divisions Trieste and Pavia were penetrating unprotected minefields "near the Trigh Capuzzo and Trigh el Abd". The British still possessed 240 running cruisers and 90 infantry tanks. They expected replacement tanks to arrive the next day in the form of 40 cruiser tanks and 30 infantry tanks. General Auchinleck thought that his forces were not feeling the necessary urgency, and was concerned. The British were feeling cocky, however, as they captured a copy of Rommel's plans. They figured that they had dealt the Axis forces a good blow. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The air forces on 28 May 1942 at Gazala

The British air commander, Air Vice-Marshal Conyngham, was committed to provide low-level attacks on Axis forces in the battle. Fighter-bombers attacked targets near El Adem and Bir Hacheim on 28 May 1942. Fighter-bombers and day bombers probably hit the 15th Panzer Division, although in conditions of poor visibility. The British pretty much had free-rein over the battlefield on this day, as the Axis air forces were probably uncertain over their troops' positions in the mobile battle. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The next day: 28 May 1942

The 21st Panzer Division and the Ariete Division were able to move on 28 May 1942. The 21st Panzer Division penetrated very far north and took "Commonwealth Keep". The 1st Armoured Division commander, General Lumsden, had wanted to attack the 21st Panzer Division with his two armoured brigades, but the 22nd Armoured Brigade stayed with the 15th Panzer Division. The 2nd Armoured Brigade did attack the Ariete Division west of Knightsbridge. The 1st Army Tank Brigade also hit the Ariete Division from the northwest at the same time. The 4th Armoured Brigade hit the 90th Light Division and pushed it to the south and west. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Axis forces at the end of 27 May 1942

The Axis forces had penetrated deep behind the British front at Gazala by dusk on 27 May 1942. The 15th and 21st Panzer Division were just west of El Adem, but had lost one third of their tanks. The 15th Panzer Division was short of fuel and ammunition. The 90th Light Division was somewhat farther east, south of El Adem. The Italian Ariete Armoured Division had attacked Bir Hacheim, but was repulsed. The Trieste Motorized Division had turned north too quickly and was trapped in minefields west of the Gazala line. The DAK headquarters was trapped, without support, just south of Bir Harmat. Rommel's response to the situation was a planned advance with the remaining mobile force, the 21st Panzer Division. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The airforce on the first day of the Gazala Battle

The rapidly changing situation effectively neutralized the Desert Air Force, except in the south. The British fixed positions held out and allowed the light bombers and Kittyhawk fighter-bombers to safely operate in support. They were able to punish the 90th Light Division. German fighter operations, including over the forward airfields necessitated withdrawing needed fighter squadrons to fields farther east. Still, South African Bostons acting in the "intruder" role hit airfields near Tmimi and those that were dispersed.

The British were relatively pleased with the situation by nightfall of 27 May 1942, while Rommel was not pleased. The axis forces had lost fully one third of their tanks on that day, despite having penetrated fairly deeply into British lines. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The British try to strike back

The 30th Corps commander ordered the 1st Armoured Division to intervene in the battle as the first day progressed. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was the closest unit, being about 12 miles from the attack on the 4th Armoured Brigade. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was further north, between El Adem and Knightsbridge. The 22nd Armoured Brigade had the ill fortune to be attacked by the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions. The brigade lost 30 tanks and some guns. The 2nd Armoured Division commander, General Lumsdem, directed the brigade to fall back towards Knightsbridge. Both armoured brigades were able to attack together and damage the Germans in the process. The 1st Army Tank Brigade attacked from northwest of Knightsbridge and also inflicted some damage on the Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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