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Operation Battleaxe

Allied soldiers during Operation Battleaxe

Operation Battleaxe was a British operation that hoped to push Axis forces out of Cyrenaica, which, in turn would have ended the siege of Tobruk. It began on the 15th of June 1941 and ended on the 17th of June 1941 with an Axis victory. This resulted in the loss of 91 British tanks,[1] (a high proportion due to mechanical failure) and the replacement of British General Archibald Wavell, who was ordered by Winston Churchill to change places with General Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief India.[N 1]


Operation Compass 2

In late March 1941, soon after the arrival of German forces (the Afrika Korps) in Tripoli, Libya, to reinforce the Italians, their commander (General Erwin Rommel) was ordered to remain on the defensive. However Rommel rapidly captured the British front line position at El Agheila. He then went on an offensive which, by mid-April, had reached as far as Sallum, Egypt. The sole remaining Allied position in Libya was the heavily fortified port of Tobruk, which Rommel had surrounded and placed under siege. The Allied response was restricted primarily to harassment by the Royal Air Force.



  1. Churchill wanted to sack Wavell out of hand, but the latter had too many successes to his credit, prompting the sideways promotion.[2]


  1. Goralski, Robert. World War II Almanac 1931-1945. Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1981. ISBN 0 241 10573 0 Page 163
  2. Perrett, Bryan. British Military History for Dummies. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 2007. ISBN 0 470 03213 8. Page 341