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Operation Battleaxe


June 14[edit]

  • Afternoon - Three British columns advance towards Egyptian border from Sidi Barrani[1]
  • 21:00 - Rommel alerts Axis forces in the Sollum area of the upcoming British attack.[2]

Day 1: June 15[edit]

  • 04:55 - 7th Armoured Brigade Group reaches Sidi Omar.[3]
  • 05:15 - Coast Force, commanded by Brigadier Reginald Savory and charged with capturing Halfaya Pass, started to move on to their objective.[4]
  • 05:40 - British artillery supporting C Squadron, 4th R.T.R., in their attack on Halfaya is expected to fire; due to being bogged down in soft sand though, it does not.[5]
  • 05:45 - Artillery accompanying the 11th Indian Infantry Brigade Group begins their bombardment.[6]
  • 06:00 - Major C.G. Miles orders C Squadron to charge at Halfaya Pass without artillery cover[7]
  • 07:30 - 11th Indian Infantry Brigade Group come within three miles of Halfaya. As the approach closer they are pinned down by fire from by the Axis defenders. The British tanks soon run into a minefield which destroys four tanks and leaves the remaining two immobilized.[8]
  • 9:00 - 7th Armoured Brigade, led by 2nd R.T.R, arrives at Hafid Ridge, which is actually three separate crests. As they cross the first ridge, two A9's are hit by anti-tank guns and destroyed; the remainder make a tactical retreat.[9]
  • 09:15 - C Squadron sends the code 'pink spots' back to 4th R.T.R. command, conveying that the action at Halfaya was going well.[10]
  • 10:00 - Major Miles sends his final message: 'They are tearing my tanks to bits!'. 11 of the 13 tanks of C Squadron are destroyed within the next half an hour. The Cameron Highlanders, march forward regardless.[11][12]
  • 10:30 - Two troops (9 tanks) of A Squadron, 4th R.T.R., (commanded by Major I.A.D. Banks) capture 200 prisoners and eight field guns at B.P. 38 with no losses. The third troop (3 tanks) moves against Point 206. but one falls behind and the other two are disabled by enemy fire. Banks leaves behind a small force at B.P. 38 to investigate Point 206, but is repelled with two British tanks removed from action. Axis armoured cars then overrun B.P. 38, recovering their prisoners and equipment as well as neutralizing three British tanks and Allied infantry guarding them.[13][14]
  • 11:45 - Two squadrons of 2nd R.T.R. put in a flank attack between the first and second crests, using their machine guns against the artillery and losing only one tank. The commander of this attack noticed additional enemy positions behind the second crest and ordered a retreat, but due to a radio shortage five tanks didn't receive this order and continued forward to their destruction.[15]
  • 12:00 - 7th R.T.R. reaches Capuzzo. They chase away the garrison but are subject to numerous counter-attacks, losing five Matildas disabled and four damaged. They are joined at some point by the Guards Brigade and the position consolidated.[16]
  • 12:00 - Rommel sends 5th Light Division, via Kambut, to Sidi Aziz. [17]
  • 15:30 - Orders come in for the Marathas and Rajputana Rifles to attack at 19:00.[19]
  • 16:30 - A Squadron, with its four remaining tanks, seizes Point 206 briefly, but are repelled, with three tanks put out of commission, by Axis artillery.[20]
  •  ???? - Just before A squadron attempts another attack on Point 206 with its last remaining tank, B Squadron is authorized for action. In an evening attack, with artillery and infantry support, Point 206 is taken with 500 Axis prisoners and several guns.[21]
  • 17:30 - Reports come in to 7th Armoured Brigade from forward observers that Axis forces in Hafid were withdrawing; they also receive notification from Allied air forces that columns of German armour are en route to their location. Brigadier Russell, commanding 7th Armoured Brigade, orders the 6th R.T.R. to clear the ridges of enemy positions in preparation for battle against the German tanks. As the Crusaders clear the first crest, they visually confirm that the enemy is pulling back, and continue forward. Within five minutes, they clear the second crest and run into an ambush; eleven Crusaders are destroyed and six more are severely damaged.[22][23]
  •  ???? - A reinforced battalion (over 30 tanks) of the 5th Panzer Regiment engages the 7th Armoured Brigade just as light begins to fade. A long range battle ensues as the 7th move back towards the frontier wire.[24]
  • 18:30 - British forces at Capuzzo repelled a significant German counter-attack. After this, they prepared defences for the night.[25]

Day 2: June 16[edit]

  • 05:00 - 15th Panzer Division begins its attack on Fort Capuzzo.[26]
  • 06:45 - Savory cancels the upcoming planned attack.[27]
  • 10:30 - 15th Panzer Division reports that it has to break off its attack on Capuzzo as only 30 out of 80 tanks remain functional. [28]

Day 3: June 17[edit]

  • 04:30 - Panzers go on the move [29]
  • 06:00 - Panzers fall upon British armoured screens, pressing them back[29]
  • Between 04:00 and 09:00 - Messervy retains tanks, Creagh is informed of this [30]
  • Between 06:00 and 09:00 - Creagh sends message to Beresford-Peirse requesting presence and instructions [30] !!
  • 09:00 - Rommel intercepts Creagh's message and gives orders for his troops to press on to Halfaya[31]
  • 09:30 - Creagh sends message to Beresford-Peirse requesting presence and instructions[32] !!
  • 10:45 - Messervy informs Creagh of his ordered retreat[33]
  • 11:00 - Messervy's forces begin to retreat[33]
  • 11:45 - Wavell arrives at Halfway House, Creagh's HQ[34]
  • mid-afternoon - Battle winds down[35]; Guards Brigade clear and 4th Armoured falls back to Sidi Suleiman[36]
  • 15:30 - Entire Guards Brigade reaches Halfway House[37]
  • 16:00 - Leading panzers reach escarpment[35]
  • Night - Camerons, Rajputs and Mahrattas escape[38]

Notable figures[edit]


  • 10 - Commander of all forces
  • 20 - Commander of particular branch
  • 30 - Corps commander
  • 40 - Divisional commander
  • 50 - Regimental commander
  • 60 - Battalion commander
Name Faction Rank Unit Actions Aftermath Sources
Wavell, Archibald Allies 10Commander-in-Chief Middle East Command Laid out the basics of the initial plan and authorized the date for it to take place, assumed command on the third and final day, but only to agree with the order to withdraw Switched roles with Claude Auchinleck page
Pardi, Leopoldo Axis 50Maggiore ? Division,
2nd Artillery Regiment
Led the Italian battery at Halfaya ??
Bach, Wilhelm Axis 50Hauptmann 15th Panzer Division,
104th Rifle Regiment
1st Battalion
Commanded forces at Halfaya Pass Awarded Knight's Cross ??
Ehle, Curt Axis 50Hauptmann 15th Panzer Division,
1st Kradschützen Batallion (1 Kradschützen Batallion 15?)
Fort Capuzzo/Sollum/Halfaya Pass Awarded Knight's Cross on July 27, 1941 as Kom. of 1.Kp./Kradschutsen Batt.15 under Oberst Knabe
Kümmel, Johannes Axis 60Hauptmann 15th Panzer Division,
8th Regiment,
1st Battalion
Destroyed eight British tanks on the 16th during the attack on Capuzzo was Kom.of 1st Kp. of PR8 as an Oberleutnant Awarded Knight's Cross on July 9, 1941, gained the nickname "Lion of Capuzzo" Panzers are Rolling in Africa, pg. 68
Cramer, Hans Axis 50Leutnant to Hauptman to General de Panzertruppe 15th Panzer Division,
Commander of PR8/15PD or 8th Panzer Regiment of 15./ Panzer Division
May 16, 1941 took Sidi Aziz and later lead PR 8 into Tobruk Awarded Knight's Cross on June 27, 1941
Fromm, Walter Axis 50Hauptman Chef. I./Flak-Regiment 33 Fromm's Luftwaffe FlaK unit destroyed 93 vehicles (83 being tanks) in three days in battles around Sollum Awarded Knight's Cross on July 5, 1941
O' Carroll, Walter Allied 50Lieutenant-Colonel Commander, 4th R.T.R. ?? ?? Crucible of War
Paulewicz, ?? Axis ?? Commander of 1st Oasis Company Commander of forces stationed at Point 208 ? ?

Heinrich Voigtsberger - Knight's Cross (He received his for actions in April 1941 around Mersa el Berga)


  1. ^ Crucible 294 - During the afternoon of June 14th, three British columns left the area of Sidi Barrani and advanced some twenty-four miles towards the Egyptian frontier
  2. ^ Rommel 142 - At about 21.00 hours on the 14th June, I alerted the Sollum front. Several of the 5th Light Division's units and some Italian were put on the march for new positions, with instructions to hold themselves in readiness to intervene on the Sollum front.
  3. ^ PWTM 73 - '0455 hrs. 7 Arm'd. Div. reached Sidi Omar...'
  4. ^ Valour 284 - At 0515 hours on 15th June 1941, the Coast Force under Brigadier Reginald Savory moved forward to attack Halfaya according to plan.
  5. ^ Crucible 297 - The guns [British] should open about 0540, and they did not want to get mixed up in the 25-pounder concentration. The sun was rising behind and light forward was excellent. No guns sounded. ... for the supporting battery had bogged down in the soft sand...
  6. ^ The Tanks 84 - [O'Carroll]: "At 0545 gunfire became audible to the north and north-west. This was the attack beginning on the coast."
  7. ^ Crucible 297 - At 0600 when Major Miles - in absence of the planned artillery cover, for the supporting battery had bogged down in the soft sand over which his tanks and the infantry had advanced with no trouble - gave the orders for the Matildas to fan out and lead the charge towards the top of the pass...
  8. ^ Crucible 298 - By 0730, the Mahrattas and Rajputanas were within three miles of the Reverend Bach's post at the bottom of the pass.... They then reached a curve in the line of approach, and as they rounded it, came under heavy fire from ahead and above which pinned them down - and the Matildas on the right flank ran into mines upon which four of them promptly blew up while the remaining two were blocked in positions from which they could do little but act as pill-boxes.
  9. ^ Crucible 299 - The brigade had been led by the older and lighter cruisers of the 2nd R.T.R. in order that the Crusaders of the 6th R.T.R. should be held as a 'card up the sleeve' until the last possible moment, and shortly after 0900 the had arrived at what the leading squadron commander ... believed to be the objective. But Hafid Ridge consisted in fact of three gentle crests and between them lay the German anti-tank guns, including four 88mms. As the a9s and a10s breasted the first rise there was a blast of fire, two violent explosions as a pair of A9s brewed up - and the rest were then retreating rapidly...
  10. ^ The Tanks 89 - [O'Carroll]: "Somewhere about 0915 hrs. my wireless operator received the code word 'pink spots' which meant that Halfaya action was under control and going well."
  11. ^ The Tanks 84 - [O'Carroll]: "At about 1000 hrs. wireless reception was poor, but I heard Major Miles come up on the air and say, 'They are tearing my tanks to bits.' It was the last I heard from him. He was killed about half an hour later in the shambles that ensued." ... "And so the fight went on until soon the squadron had but one Matilda and one light tank left in action."
  12. ^ Spearhead 120 - Yet, despite this disaster, the surviving Matilda and the light tank ground steadily on and the Camerons, spreading out into artillery formation, moved implacably forward.
  13. ^ The Tanks 85 - A Squadron ... advanced up to the frontier wire at B.P. 42 behind the armoured-car screen, and then made an easterly turn. Major I. A. D. Banks with two troops moved north of the wire against B.P. 38 where 200 prisoners and eight field guns were captured with little fighting and no loss. The other troop, under Lieutenant P.E.G. Lobb, went south of the wire against Point 206, but one tank had fallen behind and the other two were disabled by heavy fire when close to the objective. Banks drove down to reconnoitre, but his own tank was then hit and disabled, and another one that came to the rescue vanished after overrunning Point 206. Soon afterwards, the party left at B.P. 38 were taken unawares by some German armoured-cars, and three tanks were lost together with a number of men who had been looking after the enemy prisoners.
  14. ^ Official 168 - In the centre General Messervy's attack began at about 10.30 a.m., when the 4th Royal Tank Regiment advanced against Point 206.
  15. ^ The Tanks 87 - A renewed attack was made at 11:45 am, with the support of A Squadron and an R.H.A. battery. This time B Squadron drove in from the flank, and swept at full speed through the guns, shooting them up—only one tank being knocked out in this charge. The commander had spotted further enemy guns behind the next crest, so ordered the squadron to wheel south and get out. Unfortunately, five of the tanks failed to hear the order or observe the wheel, and were never seen again.
  16. ^ Crucible 299 - They [7th R.T.R.] reached Capuzzo just before noon, chased the garrison away into the desert and then ... found themselves the object of several well-pressed counter-attacks in which five of their Matildas were knocked out and another four damaged. But the Guards infantry came up and consolidated the position...
  17. ^ Germany2ndWW 702 - Rommel... sent 5th Light Division via Kambut to Sidi Aziz at noon
  18. ^ Spearhead 120 - After two hours [from the time of C Squadrons destruction], with the climbing sun beating down upon the exposed Highlanders, a squadron of German tanks backed by armoured cars and lorried infantry bore down upon them.
  19. ^ Valour 285 - At 1530 hours on the afternoon of the 15th, orders were received that both the Marathas and Rajputana Rifles would put in an attack at 1900 hours that evening;
  20. ^ The Tanks 85 - Banks made a renewed attack on Point 206 about 4.30 pm with his four remaining tanks and overran the objective, but was driven off it by enemy artillery fire, and only one of his tanks was left fit for action.
  21. ^ The Tanks 85 - Just before this lone effort was tried, permission had been given for B Squadron to be used, and an evening attack was then arranged with artillery support and an infantry company following up. This was successful, the position being speedily taken, along with 500 prisoners and a number of guns.
  22. ^ The Tanks 87 - At last, about 5.30 pm, A and B Squadrons 6th Royal Tanks were launched to the attack—following a report that the enemy were withdrawing from the Hafid position. They ran into a skilfully framed ambush, with a dummy leaguer of lorries as bait, and had eleven tanks knocked out, while six more were disabled.
  23. ^ Crucible 300 - By this time, messages were coming in from the R.A.F. that long lines of German armour were streaming towards the battle area from the west, so Brigadier Russell, commanding 7th Armoured Brigade, ordered the first wave of Crusaders to clear the enemy posts from the ridge and set the scene for the main armoured battle...
  24. ^ Crucible 300 - ... and now it was seen that over thirty panzers of a battalion from the 5th Panzer Regiment were coming in from the west. Light was failing by this time and, as neight side was particularly anxious to close, a long-range battle during which the surviving cruisers of 7th Armoured Brigade slowly drew back towards the frontier Wire...
  25. ^ Crucible 299 - [7th R.T.R. and Guards Brigade] successfully fought off a much more serious counter-attack about 1830, and the joint forces then prepared for all-round defence during the night and possible exploitation of successes gained the following day.
  26. ^ Rommel 144 - At 05.00 hours on the 16th, second day of battle, the 15th Panzer Division launched its attack on Capuzzo...
  27. ^ Valour 285 - At 0645 hours on 16th June, Brigadier Savory visited the forward positions and after reviewing the situation cancelled the general attack scheduled for 0700 hours. According to the new orders, advances were to be made as and when possible.
  28. ^ Wavell 497 - At about 1030 hours the 15th Panzer Division reported that it had been forced to break off its attack on Capuzzo. British morale at this moment was very high. Of the 80 tanks which the 15th Panzer Division had taken into battle, only 30 remained; the others were either burned-out hulks on the battlefield or were awaiting recovery and repair.
  29. ^ a b Crucible 307 - The switch of thrust from one side of the area to the other was made during the late afternoon and evening of June 16, but not appreciated by the British until 0600 the following morning when the full weight of Rommel's remaining panzers – which had been on the move since 0430 &ndash fell upon the weak and exhausted screens west of Sidi Suleiman and began inexorably to press them back towards the escarpment and the battles around Halfaya.
  30. ^ a b Tanks 89 - The first effect of the 15th Panzer Division's early start was that Messery, taking it to portend a fresh attempt to recapture Capuzzo, countermanded the overnight order and plan that the 4th Armoured Brigade should move south to combine with the 7th Armoured Brigade against the outflanking advance of the 5th Light Division. That disappointing news, in conjunction with the 5th Light Division's arrival at Sidi Suleiman, had a recoil effect on Creagh—who during the night had moved his HQ back to Alam el Fakhri (twenty-five miles behind the frontier). He called up Beresford-Peirse on the radio-telephone, and suggested that the latter should come up by air to see him, as an important decision might shortly be required.
  31. ^ Tanks 90 - "I decided to pull the net tight by going on to Halfaya." Rommel gave this order about 9 a.m.
  32. ^ Crucible 307 - Creagh was the first to realize the danger which now threatened the entire Battleaxe Force, and at 0930 sent a message to Beresford-Peirse requesting his presence for advice and instructions – a message which was promptly picked up and retailed to Rommel who was not slow to grasp its implications
  33. ^ a b At 10.45 Messervy called up Creagh on R/T and, speaking Hindustani for security, said that he had decided to withdraw from Capuzzo, to avoid being cut off, and that the withdrawal would begin at 11 a.m..
  34. ^ Crucible 307 - As Wavell was still with Beresford-Peirse, he took over command, flew up to Halfway House... arriving at 1145
  35. ^ a b Crucible 308 - It was mid-afternoon before the crash of battle began dying down from the west, and 1600 before the leading panzers felt their way forward to find that there was now nothing between themselves and the delighted and triumphant men of Major Bach's force.
  36. ^ By mid-afternoon the lorry-borne Guards Brigade was well clear of the danger zone, and the remains of the 4th Armoured Brigade then fell back to Sidi Suleiman so as to link up with the 7th in an endeavour to block the enemy's pursuit.
  37. ^ Messervy 124 - By 15.30 hours a miracle had been enacted and the entire Guards Brigade Group had reached Halfway House.
  38. ^ Messervy 124 - The Camerons and Rajputs slipped away as night fell. The Germans struck out from Sollum attacking the Mahrattas on the right, but they too vanished into the darkness.