Operation Skorpion

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Operation Skorpion
Part of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

A large scale coloured map showing the Egyptian-Libyan border area near the coast; dotted lines identify the border and frontier barbed wire fence while black dots represent important places and towns.

Date 26–27 May 1941
Location Halfaya Pass, Egypt
Result Axis victory
Belligerents
 United Kingdom Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Germany
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom William Gott Germany Maximilian von Herff
Strength
Elements of:



1 Infantry Battalion and supporting arms

Elements of:
Casualties and losses
United Kingdom 173 casualties[1]
12 artillery pieces
5 infantry tanks
Nazi Germany
Erwin Rommel (first from the left) in his command halftrack, SdKfz.250/3.

Operation Skorpion was a military operation during the North African Campaign of World War II, fought between Axis forces under General Erwin Rommel, and British forces under General "Strafer" Gott on 26–27 May 1941. Skorpion was a German counterattack on British positions at Halfaya Pass in northwestern Egypt, in response to Operation Brevity. The German operation was a success, and pushed the British out of Halfaya Pass, and back to the Buq Buq-Sofafi line.

Skorpion was Rommel's second offensive operation since arriving in Africa.

Background[edit]

After the great British victory over Italian forces in Operation Compass, the German high command sent Rommel and the Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) to retrieve the situation. Rommel attacked at once, and drove the British forces from central Libya back across the Egyptian border (except for the fortress of Tobruk). Axis forces advanced about 15 kilometers into Egypt, and occupied the coastal town of Sollum, and Halfaya Pass, further southeast. Halfaya Pass is a gap in the escarpment which separates the narrow coastal plain from the Sahara Desert inland, and is about 1 km from the coastline.

On 15–16 May, British forces attacked in Operation Brevity. The Brevity forces pressed through Halfaya Pass and went on to attack the desert flank of the Axis forces all the way to Fort Capuzzo in Libya. They were driven back, but held on to Halfaya Pass.

Rommel recognized that Halfaya Pass was a key position, as it allowed movement and supply between the coastal plain and the interior, and determined to regain it. His attack came just ten days later.

Rommel's attack[edit]

During the evening of 26 May, three German assault groups deployed at the foot of Halfaya Pass, between the pass and the coast. These were panzer elements of the DAK, commanded by Maximilian von Herff. They attacked the next morning.[2] Halfaya Pass was defended by the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards and supporting units. They fought well but could not stop the Germans from securing a commanding position, leaving the British in danger of being surrounded and cut off. During the morning, General Gott authorized a withdrawal and Lt. Colonel Moubray extricated his force with great skill, but at the cost of 173 casualties (100 casualties from the 3rd Coldstream Guards alone),[3]) four field guns, eight anti-tank guns, and five infantry tanks.[1] There were no other British forces close enough to provide support, so General Gott ordered British units to withdraw from the pass, which was re-occupied by the Axis.

The DAK had thus retaken all the ground lost to the British during Operation Brevity.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Howard, Michael; Sparrow, John (1951). The Coldstream Guards, 1920-1946. Oxford University Press. 
  • Jentz, Thomas L. (1998). Tank Combat In North Africa: The Opening Rounds, Operations Sonnenblume, Brevity, Skorpion and Battleaxe, February 1941 - June 1941. Schiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-0226-4. 
  • Playfair, Major-General I.S.O.; with Flynn R.N., Captain F.C.; Molony, Brigadier C.J.C. & Toomer, Air Vice-Marshal S.E. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1956]. Butler, J.R.M, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume II The Germans come to the help of their Ally (1941). History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-066-1. 
  • Rommel, Erwin; Liddell-Hart, Basil (editor) (1982) [1953]. The Rommel Papers. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80157-4. 

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Playfair, p. 163
  2. ^ Rommel, p. 137
  3. ^ Howard, p. 77

External links[edit]