Saturday, January 8, 2011


January 29 1942 after the Bengazi's fall Rommel reaches the at Bomba's golf and to Ain el Gazala's line. At May 26. The Axis forces consists in the 15st e 31st Panzer Divisions (320 combat vehicles), the Italian Division Ariete (240 combat vehicles), the Italian Division Trieste and a German Motorized Division. The Axis forces wait for the arrive of second Italian Division; the Littorio.

With this forces Rommel wants to create a diversion across the littoral and launch a massive attack trough the south, dominate Bir Hacheim and advance to Tobruk. In resume: Destruction of the British troops in the square formed by Ain el Gazala, Tobruk, Bir el Gobi and Bir Hacheim.

Bir Hacheim was an Italian built desert fort and a defensive position at Gazala, south of Tobruk and was defended outrangely hard by French Foreign legionaries against Italian and German troops during the battle in May/June 1942.

They supported a siege from the Axis. Doing this, they maintained a lot of Axis forces around Bir Hacheim before leaving the area, wounded soldiers and voluntaries holding position...

On June 10-11, the Axis finally drove the Free French forces out of Bir Hacheim, and on June 11 Rommel's panzers broke out of the Cauldron. The Eighth Army once more started falling back to the Egyptian border. On June 15, German tanks reached the coast and Rommel shifted his attention to the Tobruk garrison. This time he would not make the same mistake of leaving the thorn in his side.

Thanks to:
Daniel Kane
Uwe Wiedemann
Jean-Jacques LE POTTIER

In the Foreign Legion was Germans who fought for France. However they could not but admire his compatriot, the "Desert Fox". His legend was such that the English General Staff, had to make a campaign of detoxification.

The garrison was besieged and attacked by DAK for 6 days. Bir Hacheim blocked a major supply route needed to Rommel

The Free French Brigade, had supplies for 10 days. But the furious attacks of DAK quickly exhausted their reserves. On June 3 Rommel sends an ultimatum. Koenig, the commander responds using gun fire.

The Stukas crush the positions, the drinking water reservoirs and supplies. Koenig wants to save his men and decided to leave the siege by force, overcoming the minefields.

When DAK finally takes the position, only a few Legionnaires are in place, most of them killed and injured.

After the conquest of Bir Hacheim, the Axis troops attack Tobruk and comes hungry men, bearded and staggering with sleep, six days without sleeping ... Rommel asked him for one last effort.


French and British prisoners in Bir Hachein

Two different pictures of the same scene: The second one (original) was published in July 1942 in a french magazine named "Illustration" (under German controlled propaganda). In the original photo, here were fewer prisoners than on the first one. Appears that the first one was modified to show a lot more prisoners within a single photo. Also note that in the original pictures, all prisoners were Free French, there were none British even if you see British helmets as the Free French were British equipped. Also on the first photo there is a change in color along the line were the original part has been removed. Please note that o both photos, all the soldiers of the foreground have the same pause which means that one photo has been changed.
What is strange is that it seems that the photo published by a German controlled french magazine shows fewer prisoners and a truck with the German cross on it was left untouched, and why the second photo has been modified? 

The wounded french soldier who lies on the ground with bandaid around his leg and who wears a "képi" is Roger Ceccaldi at that time he was Lieutenant (now Colonel) still lives (until May, 27 2001). He was the artillery officer in Koufra when Leclerc took that italian post in March 1941. He was sent then to Cairo and on his way back he went to Bir-Hacheim. He was with another artillery soldier who did manage to escape. At Bir Hacheim, he had managed to recover 3 british 25 Pounders from an indian unit that had been routed by the Germans and which abandonned the guns. All his three guns were then destroyed by Stukas He was sent to Italy where he escaped with two other artillery men. They spent 1 month in the montains (in shorts !) hidding from the germans looking for them. He went south where he found the Allies. He went back to north Africa where he re-joined a new artillery unit. He landed in the south of France wit the french troops on August 15th and went all the way south to borth in Alsace.

Thanks to Alain Godec from France

Bir Hakeim (sometimes written Bir Hacheim) is a remote oasis in the Libyan desert, and the former site of a Turkish fort. During the Battle of Gazala the First Free French Division of General Marie Pierre Koenig defended the site from 26 May to 11 June 1942 against attacking German and Italian forces directed by General Erwin Rommel. Resisting for 16 days, the Free French gave the retreating British Eighth Army enough time to reorganize, allowing them subsequently to halt the Axis advance at the First Battle of El Alamein.

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