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North African Campaign - Part IV: The Gazala Ram
by Paul Rohrbaugh

The Gazala Ram: Ariete’s Stand at Trigh Capuzzo

“We were told this would be the decisive battle of the desert campaign. That Rommel was stuck and we were going to knock out his armor, then drive the whole Axis army back to Tripoli.”
--Sargeant Major Neville Gillman, C Squadron, 22nd Tank Brigade on May 29th, 1942.

By the end of May, the British were becoming desperate in North Africa. The British 150th Brigade was cut-off in their fortified “box”, called Knightsbridge, at the center of the Gazala Line. Rommel’s panzers seemed to everywhere in the Allied rear areas. In a final effort to relieve the isolated 150th Brigade at Knightsbridge and cut off the German spearhead the British launched their last tank reserves, the 2nd and 22nd Tank Brigades, in a final attack. In their way was the Ariete (The Ram) Division.


“It was a really bad day…again something went wrong, again a good looking plan for combined action fizzled out.”
--Except from the 22nd Tank Brigade’s history following its battle with the Ariete Division on May 30th, 1942.

The British attack was uncoordinated and suffered for it. The British tankers hurled themselves against the dug-in Italian Anti-tank guns and tanks. At times the Italians came close to running out of ammunition, and fighting came to point-blank ranges at some places. Despite the carnage and ferocity of the Allied attack, the Ariete Division stood its ground. At the end of the day British General Claude Auchinleck ordered a general withdrawal, conceding the field to the Axis in order to fight another day at the last Allied defensive line before the Suez Canal, El Alamein.

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