Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 655 June 16, 1941

Operation Battleaxe. There is stalemate at Halfaya Pass where British tanks are held at bay by the 88s. With the British attack stopped by German anti-tank guns and numerous tank breakdowns, Rommel sends in his armoured reserves. 5th Light Division attempts to outflank the British at dawn, bypassing Hafid Ridge to the West, but they are spotted by British 7th Armoured Regiment. There are running battles all day with many British tanks lost to the heavier guns of the Panzer IIIs and Ivs. At dusk, 7th Armoured Regiment retreats, allowing 5th Light Division to swing East at Sidi Omar aiming to encircle the British at Halfaya Pass. 15th Panzer Division attacks Fort Capuzzo all morning but loses 50 of 80 tanks to British 25-pounder anti-tank guns by noon. They are then ordered to cut South to Sidi Omar to join 5th Light in the encircling manoeuvre.

The British Royal Fusiliers battalion surrounded at Quneitra, Syria, is annihilated by Vichy French tanks. At 7 PM, 177 British officers and men surrender. Meanwhile further North, Indian and Free French troops (Gentforce) push on towards Damascus. 40 miles of the coast of Syria, British torpedo bombers sink Vichy French destroyer Chevalier Paul carrying ammunition from Toulon, France.

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