Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 654 June 15, 1941

Operation Battleaxe. At 2 AM, British troops (including 11th Indian Infantry Brigade) in armoured cars, 100 infantry tanks & 90 cruiser tanks move forward from Egypt. They attack German/Italian defenses on the Libyan border at 6 AM, moving along the coast and across the desert covered by RAF Hurricane fighters. By noon, they recapture Fort Capuzzo (has now changed hands 9 times since June 1940). However, British tanks are decimated by dug-in 88mm anti-tank guns firing over open sights at Halfaya Pass and Hafid Ridge. At Halfaya Pass (named Hellfire Pass by the British) 15 heavy Matilda infantry tanks are quickly destroyed. At Hafid Ridge, Germans fake a retreat to lure the British tanks over a ridge into a trap (the first of many times Rommel will use this tactic). Although the race to bring reinforcing armour to North Africa has been a tie, Germans take the first round due to superior anti-tank weapons.

Operation Exporter. British destroyers shelling Sidon, Lebanon, in support of Australian 7th Division, are attacked again by Luftwaffe Ju88s, hitting destroyers HMS Jackal, Ilex and Isis. Jackal suffers minor damage from a bomb passing through the upper deck and into the sea. Both HMS Ilex and Isis go to Haifa for temporary repairs. Isis will go to Bombay and Singapore where she is further damaged by Japanese bombing on January 17 1942. Ilex will go to Aden, Mombassa, Durban and USA for repairs, completed in October 1942. In Syria at 4 AM, Indian and Free French troops (Gentforce, now under the command of British Brigadier Lloyd French as General Paul Legentilhomme has been wounded) launch an attack the city of Kissoué, 8 miles South of the capital Damascus on the road from Deera. They capture Kissoué by 9 AM but Vichy troops outflank them along a parallel road 5 miles to West and threaten Allied troops holding Quneitra, well behind Gentforce.

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