The Battle of Gazala was an important battle of the Second World War Western Desert Campaign, fought around the port of Tobruk in Libya from 26 May-21 June 1942. The combatants on the Axis side were the Panzer Army Afrika, consisting of German and Italian units and commanded by the “Desert Fox” Colonel-General Erwin Rommel; the Allied forces were the Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Neil Ritchie under the close supervision of the Commander-in-Chief Middle East, General Sir Claude Auchinleck. Rommel pushed his armoured forces round the southern flank of the Gazala position to engage the British armour in the rear of the Allied defences.
Despite successes in this engagement, Rommel’s armour found itself in a precarious position: interference to supply lines resulting from the continuing resistance of Free French at Bir Hakeim, which anchored the southern end of the Allied Gazala defences, left his tanks short of fuel and ammunition. Ritchie was slow to take advantage of this and Rommel concentrated his force to punch westwards to open a supply corridor through the Gazala line north of Bir Hakeim. The battle ended in a resounding victory for the Axis although at a high cost in tanks. Devoid of effective armoured forces in subsequent battles, Rommel was unable to decisively defeat the Eighth Army as it retreated into Egypt and his pursuit was brought to a halt at the First battle of El Alamein.