OPERATION "BREVITY"
The First British Repost

"BREVITY" and its Impact on the DAK
Operation "Brevity" has always been written off as the first attempt by the British to relieve the Tobruk garrison, and little more. However, it actually came at a time when Rommel was hard-pressed to repel it. The Germans had experienced heavy losses in their attempts to break the defenses of Tobruk, and were in no shape to take on the additional pressure of British armour threatening their tenuous gains along the Egyptian border. Halfaya Pass was held by a small force of the 15th Motorcycle Bn., in ill-prepared positions, and the British would push them off the Pass in short order.
On May 15 Wavell launched "Brevity" with the few cruisers and Matildas he had at his disposal. Even so, they quickly slashed into the Fort Capuzzo defences, while his forces below on the coastal road tackled Halfaya Pass and Sollum. This pass led from the low plains along the coast, up onto the main desert plateau above, and would prove to be a pivotal possession. It was a natural progression of the ancient "Trigh el Abd" tract, and as such was an established route from the upper desert down to the coastal road.
Wavel's actual intention was to push the Germans off some of their present holdings so that he would have more advantageous "jumping off" positions for his upcoming Operation "Battleaxe" to follow. About thirty A.9 and A.10 Cruisers and 24 Matildas was all the armour he could muster to accomplish this task. However, they managed to take Ft. Capuzzo and Sollum and threatened Sidi Aziez.
Rommel quickly dispatched the 8th Pz.Rgt. (of15 P.D.) early the next morning, and backed them up with 88's, and the British fell back, but still held the Pass. The fighting that followed christened it as "Hellfire Pass" from the British perspective. On May 27 Kampfgruppe Herff was ordered to retake the Pass, and 8th Pz.Rgt. would sweep around and attack it from the east. The Pass eventually passed into German hands again, and this time they heavily fortified the position. A big bonus was the capture of a goodly amount of British equipment in the form of 9 artillery pieces, 7 Matildas, and a mixture of much needed trucks.


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