Battle of Bir Hakeim: Wikis


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Battle of Bir Hakeim
Part of Battle of Gazala
Canon de 75 modele 1897 used at Bir Hakeim modified as an antitank gun on pneumatic wheels.jpg
Canon de 75 modèle 1897, modified as an effective antitank gun on pneumatic wheels, used at the Battle of Bir Hakeim by the Free French Forces. Musée de l'Armée.
Date 26 May – 11 June 1942
Location Bir Hakeim, Libya
Result Successful Free French delaying action
France Free French Forces Flag of Germany 1933.svg Germany
Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg Italy
France Marie Pierre Koenig Flag of Germany 1933.svg Erwin Rommel
3,703 45,000
Casualties and losses
140 dead,
229 wounded,
814 captured
40 cannons
3,300 dead or wounded,
277 captured,
51 tanks,
49 planes,
~100 vehicles

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.

General Bernard Saint-Hillier would say in an October 1991 interview:

A grain of sand had curbed the Axis advance, which reached Al-Alamein only after the arrival of the rested British divisions: this grain of sand was Bir Hakeim. [1]


The Battle of Bir Hakeim


Libyan context in summer 1942

At the beginning of 1942, after its defeat in the west of Cyrenaica, the British 8th Army faced the Axis troops in Libya near the fort of Tobruk. In May 1942 the German advance plan in Libya resumed, aiming to take control of the Suez Canal. This plan appeared successful until the Battle of Bir Hakeim, which would have disastrous consequences for Rommel's ambitions in the Middle East. It started well; General Albert Kesselring and his air fleet, returning from the Eastern Front, would launch Operation Herkules; Malta, impeding the Afrika Korps resupply effort, was about to be bombed from Sicilia and invaded. Italian combat swimmers had managed to sink two British battleships (HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant) and a Royal Navy cargo ship in Alexandria bay. Axis resupplying and reinforcements were becoming easier, while the British were forced to send some of their troops to Southeast Asia to fight Japanese forces.

To prepare his advance, Rommel relied on multiple intelligence sources: The Abwehr had managed to crack British military codes, and could decipher the communications sent to US military attachés describing their military situation. They had also infiltrated Cairo with a spy, Johannes Eppler (Operation Salaam), and could use the Horch Radio surveillance company's services. Rommel had only 90,000 men and 575 Panzers compared to the British forces of 100,000 men and 994 tanks, but he had the initiative and his troops were more experienced, and had proven themselves more competent at desert warfare. On top of this, Rommel's tanks and cannon were stronger than their British counterparts, most notably the famous 88 mm anti-tank gun. His plan was to go south, around the British front, and then to head north to split General Ritchie's 8th Army in two. On 26 May, Rommel launched his attack, hoping to reach the Suez Canal.

With his left flank composed of the 10th and the 21st Italian corps (Sabratha, Trento, Brescia and Pavia divisions), and of the German 150th Infantry Brigade, Rommel launched a frontal attack on Gazala, situated on the coast heading for Tobruk, in an attempt to lure away the majority of the Commonwealth forces. At the same time, he sent to the south his five best divisions (the 15th Panzer, 21st Panzer, 90th Light Infantry, Ariete Armored, and the Trieste Motorized), flanking the north-south British fortified line, to encircle the British forces. He hoped by that maneuver and a fast conquest of Tobruk he would be able to strike for Egypt. General Ritchie, in command of the British 8th Army, believed that the Germans would attack Tobruk directly. He therefore deployed the largest part of his force, four divisions and two brigades, in front of the two Italian divisions. This left only two divisions and three brigades, including the 1st Free French Brigade, covering the south flank. The trap around the 8th army was set.

Rommel's attack: frontal attack on Gazala and bypass towards Bir Hakeim, while the British Army retreats to cover Tobruk.

Bir Hakeim, a Free French fort

Among the Allied strong points in the south, one was held by Free French Forces, that of Bir Hakeim. The 1st Free French brigade, commanded by General Marie Pierre Koenig. This was quite a heterogeneous unit, created from several distinct groups fleeing the military occupation of France. It had 3,700 men, split onto six battalions:

There were also small units, such as the 22nd North African Company of Captain Lequesne and the 17th Sappers Company of Captain Desmaisons. They had artillery support from the 1st artillery regiment of Colonel Laurent-Champrosay.

The available equipment was also of diverse origin. There were 63 Bren Carriers, several trucks and two howitzers from the British, but most of the artillery pieces were French and came from the Levant: 54 75mm cannons (30 were used in an antitank role), 14 47 mm, 18 25 mm and 86 British-supplied Boys anti-tank rifles and 18 anti-aircraft Bofors 40 mm. Most of the infantry equipment was French, with 44 .81 or .90 mortars, 76 Hotchkiss machine guns, 96 anti-aircraft and 270 infantry FM 24/29 light machine guns. The fort had food supplies for ten days and 20,000 .75 shells.

General Bernard Saint-Hillier, describing the Bir Hakeim position that Koenig's men were about to defend:

A simple crossroads in the middle of an arid desert, a naked and rocky place swept by sand winds, Bir Hakeim can be seen from far away. The battlefield is in effect characterized by a total absence of cover and natural obstacles. The position includes a superficial undulation south-north, surrounded by an old meharist post without any tactical interest, and, near point 186 are the two little elevations, witnesses of what were two old water tanks. East of the undulation, was a wide basin bent to the north. Koenig split the support point into three sectors, defended by three battalions. The 2nd battalion of the 13th DBLE was defending the eastern face. The 3rd as reinforcements, is organized into several jock columns with .75 or .25 motorized cannons, available for reconnaissance outside of the fort. The defensive system massively employs land mines. To give depth to this relatively linear defensive system, very wide and sparse minefields are laid before the position. Northern and north-eastern extents of these minefields are reaching the other allied defensive position. Near Trigh-el-Abd, a dense mined band links them. The delimited triangle, code-called V zone, is watched by motorized patrols of the FFL brigade wrote Commander Vincent, officer from the FFL brigade.[nb 1]

The Italian assault

During the night of 26 May 1942, Rommel started his attack, taking the initiative. The 15th and 21st Panzerdivision, the rest of the 90th Motorized Infantry Division, and the Italian Divisions Trieste and Ariete started the large encircling move south of Bir-Hakeim as planned. The British Armored units, taken by surprise, reacted in an improvised and unorganized manner at the attack and took heavy casualties. Learning about the enemy moves, Koenig awoke his men and ordered them to take their battle positions.

Italian M13/40 tank

On 27 May, at 09:00, Rommel gave the order to General De Stefanis, commanding the Ariete Armored Division, to attack Bir Hakeim from the southeast. This division, formed of the 132nd armored regiment, equipped with M13/40s, of the 8th Reggimento bersaglieri and of the 132nd artillery regiment, attacked the French position at 9:30am from the rear in two successive waves. The bersaglieri had tried to get out of their trucks to support the armored advance, but a heavy barrage from the French artillery forced them to retreat. The armored vehicles, charging courageously without infantry support, tried to cross the minefield and six tanks managed to infiltrate the French lines, avoiding mines and anti-tank fire. They were eventually destroyed by very close range 75 mm fire, and the crews were captured. Captain Morel, leading the 5th company, thought the situation was desperate and set fire to the company flag and confidential documents.

The Ariete Division, reduced to only 33 tanks in 45 minutes, had to retreat. The remaining tanks then tried to outflank this resistance by attacking the north, but made contact with the V zone minefield protecting that face. They eventually regrouped and retreated, leaving behind 32 destroyed tanks and 91 prisoners, including Lieutenant Colonel Pasquale Prestisimone, commander of the 132nd Italian Armored Regiment. Only two French soldiers were wounded and a truck and a cannon were destroyed. Most of the antitank artillery fire took place only 400 or 200 meters away from the French lines, but the legionnaires did not step back. The 27 was a defeat for the Axis in the south, but north of Bir Hakeim, the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade had been annihilated, and two weakened British brigades, the 4th and the motorized 7th were forced to retreat to Bir-el-Gubi and to El-Adem, leaving Bir-Hakeim completely isolated.

On 28 May and 29 May, the Royal Air Force bombed Bir Hakeim and its surroundings, misled by the Italian tank wrecks in and out of the position. Koenig was therefore forced to send a detachment under Capitaine de Lamaze's orders to destroy the wrecks to avoid any more mistakes. The group sent a column to make contact with the 150th British brigade, stationed further to the north. After a few hours Italian artillery forced them to give up, but the retreating French column managed to destroy 7 enemy half-tracks. On 29 May, the detachment of Capitaine de Sairigné destroyed three German panzers. Saint-Hillier recounts this day:

In our fort, no information would come to us about the general outcome, we only knew about the 3rd Indian Brigade being destroyed on the 27th by 44 tanks supported by many other troops, and about the 4th and the 7th brigade retreating on Bir-el-Gobi and El-Adem. We were isolated from the British Army...[nb 2]

The day after, 30 May, and the 31 May, Bir Hakeim was quite calm; only one enemy infiltration occurred in the minefields.

When 620 thirsty and exhausted Indian soldiers, captured by the Axis and then released in the middle of the desert during their attack, eventually reached the safety of the fort and add to them the 243 prisoners already there, a water shortage threatened. The detachment of Capitaine Lamaze, on the demand of the 7th British Armored Division, sealed off the breach opened the day before by the Axis tanks in the minefields. Led by Colonel Amilakhvari, the legionnaires were ambushed by the enemy, but managed to retreat with the help of the Bren Carriers of the 9th company Messmer.

On 31 May, the fifty resupplying trucks of the 101st motorized company of Captain Dulau eventually reached Bir Hakeim with its water cargo. On its return, the convoy took the Indians, the prisoners, and the heavily wounded back to Allied lines. A raid by the detachments Messmer, de Roux and de Sairigné, led by Colonel Amilakhvari, destroyed five tanks and an armored vehicle repair workshop. The Germans had been forced to retreat temporarily to the west because of a counter-attack by 150th British brigade, but during night this same brigade was destroyed allowing Rommel access to his supply lines north of Bir Hakeim and the next morning the encirclement of the fort was resumed.

The siege

Rommel's success in the north was very costly, especially in tanks where he was outnumbered anyway. Even with the destruction on 1 June of the British 150th Brigade, Rommel's wide flanking plan was proving riskier because of the resistance at Bir Hakeim (his right flank and supply route was threatened by this position). The Afrika Korps had to take Bir Hakeim. The Italian divisions received troop reinforcements from the Afrika Korps and the fort had been bombed several times on the first of June. Then, on 2 June, Rommel sent the Trieste division, the 90th Light Infantry Division, and 3 recon armored regiments from the Pavia division against Bir Hakeim.

The garrison spotted the enemy advance at 8am, German troops coming from the south, while Italian forces were coming from the north. Two Italian officers presented themselves at 10:30am at the 2nd Foreign Legion battalion lines, asking for the capitulation of the fort. General Koenig rejected the offer. From the 2 June to 10, an artillery duel took place. More than 40,000 high caliber rounds (from 105 to 220 mm calibers), and 42,000 75 mm rounds would be fired by the French artillery, while the fort was, in turn, being massively bombed by German and Italian air forces. The German Stukas alone flew more than twenty bombing raids on Bir Hakeim. The British Army was unable to support the French forces, except on 2 June, when they had repulsed the attack of the Ariete division. Koenig's isolation was almost total.

The advance of the 21st panzer division

On 3 June, Rommel himself sent a hand written note to General Koenig: "To Bir Hakeim troops. Any over-lengthened resistance means a needless bloodshed. You will eventually share the same destiny that the two British brigades of Got-el-Oualeb, which got destroyed two days ago. We will cease combat if you raise the white flags and come to us, without weapons."; the only answer was a cannon salvo from the 1st artillery regiment which destroyed a few German trucks. On the 3 June and 4, every attack was preceded by heavy 105 mm and stuka bombings, and were repulsed by the defenders. General Rommel would recount: "A surrender proposal, brought to the defenders by our negotiators, had been rejected, and the attack against the fortifications, the positions and the minefields set by the French troops was launched around 12 pm, from the north-west by the Trieste Motorized Division, and from the south-east by the 90th Light Infantry Division. The June battle started with an artillery bombardment; bombings went on during ten days with an uncommon violence. During that time, I had to command myself, at several times, the assaulting troops. On the Western Desert Campaign, I had not seen a more relentless fight."[citation needed] Friedrich von Mellenthin, one of the staff officers of the Afrika Korps, would later write that he "had not ever been confronted, during the whole desert campaign, to such a relentless and heroic defense".[citation needed]

From the 6 June, the fighting became even more intense. At about 11am, the 90th division sent its assault detachments with the support of pioneers of General Kleemann - holder of the Knight Cross with Oak leaves, returning from the Eastern front - to try to clear a passage through the minefield. The German pioneers managed to approach to a distance of 800 meters from the fort after having breached through the outer minefield, and during the night, they managed to clear several passages into the inner perimeter, where German infantry managed to gain a foothold. The French defenders, taking cover in fox holes, dug outs and blockhouses were firing efficiently at the Axis troops trying to penetrate the defenses. However, even if some parts of the minefields had been cleared, the precision and the density of the fire aimed at that open area would prevent any significant advance by the German troops. Surprisingly, even with food and water shortages, the well entrenched legionnaires were still resisting. On 7 June, four RAF raids were made against the advancing troops engaged in the minefields.

The next night, a last convoy reached the fort. Aspirant Bellec left the fort, breaking through the German lines, to meet with the convoy. With the help of a fog, the unseen convoy then managed to resupply the fort. But on the other side, exploiting the same weather condition, Rommel was preparing for the final assault: heavy tanks, 88 mm guns and Colonel Hacker's pioneers were forming up in front of the fort. On the morning of the 8 Rommel was ready for the last battle. Impressed by the French resistance, he would write: "And yet, the next morning, when my troops attacked once again, they were welcomed again by the same heavy fire they suffered the day before. The enemy was hiding in its individual holes, remaining invisible. I had to take Bir Hakeim, the fate of my army was depending on it."[citation needed]

He commanded in person the attack on the north, approaching as close as he could, with artillery firing directly against the fortifications. The Luftwaffe in constant support, with, amongst others, a raid of 42 Stukas, which hit the medical post of the brigade, killing 17 of the wounded. General Saint-Hillier would recount: "The crew of a 75 piece is blasted away by a 88 round; the only remaining legionnaire, with only one hand left, reloads its cannon using his stump, aims, fire, and hits the 88..."[citation needed] At night, only a few fortifications north of the disposal were severely damaged, and General Koenig addressed a message to his men. He was told that the 10th would be the last day to hold on, that they could retreat on the 11th, since the British had had enough time to reorganize their troops. The message read: "We have been fulfilling our duty for fourteen days and fourteen nights. I urge you, officers and soldiers, not to let exhaustion overpower you. The longer we'll hold, the harder it'll be: this will not worry the 1st Free French Brigade. Everyone, gather your forces! The essential will be to fire at the enemy each time he comes within range."[nb 3]

The brigade had barely enough ammunition and food for another day, but not enough water: so the RAF dropped 170 liters of water, of which the most part got used for the wounded. Before 9am, the fog had been preventing any combat and gave enough time to the radio team of Captain Renard to contact the British. Rommel had asked for the reinforcement of the 15th Panzerdivision, and no real ground combat actions were attempted before its arrival, around 12, apart from the German artillery and air forces still bombing the fort: Only a few skirmishes had occurred between the 66th Italian Infantry regiment from the Division Trieste, and the men of Lieutenant Bourguoin, now only fighting with hand grenades. At 1 pm, 130 aircraft bombed the forts north face while the German infantry launched its attack, supported by the 15th Panzerdivision and heavy barrages from the artillery. A breach was made into Captain Messmer's 9th company lines, and into the central position of Aspirant Morvan; But the situation was saved with the help of the Bren Carriers. The Axis artillery, though, would bomb the lines until 9 pm, and at that time a new attack was launched, again without success. After that last assault, the French officers planned to abandon the position, which was untenable and strategically unimportant.


At 5:00 PM on 9 June, the evacuation order reached the French camp. That night, General Koenig set up its plan. He asked for RAF protection and planned the evacuation at 11 pm on the 10, since he had to wait for a watering and extraction point to be set by the British troops southwest of the position. So they will have to resist for another full day before evacuating, with only 200 75 mm and 700 mortar rounds left for the day.

On the morning of 10 June, the heavy bombings started over, and assault was launched against the Oubangui-Chari and 3rd Foreign Legion battalion lines, preceded by a raid of 100 Stukas on the fort. The tanks of the 15th Panzerdivision nearly overpowered the sector, but a last counter-attack by Messmer's and Lamaze's men, supported by Bren Carriers and the last mortar rounds, eventually repulsed them. After this, another two hour long German attack will fail, and the Axis forces decided to delay the attack to the next morning, not knowing that the defenders had run out of ammunition.

Then, the complex evacuation began. The heavy equipment was destroyed, and the 2nd Foreign battalion prepared to break through the lines to rendez-vous with the British 7th Motorized Brigade, 7 kilometers southwest of the fort. Mine clearance by the sappers took longer than they had planned for, and, 75 minutes late, Capitaine Wagner's 6th company first left the perimeter. Out of time, the sappers had not been able to clear the 200 meters wide corridor they should have, and only a narrow passage was cleared to the southwest. Then, an illumination flare spotted the French evacuation, and French officers, understanding that Germans would soon appear issued a decisive order: they decided to rush massively to the southwest, even if the cleared path was not wide enough. Many vehicles got blown away, but the 3rd Foreign battalion, and the Pacific overseas battalion had managed to leave the sector. More than a real planned evacuation, it had become a massive rush to southwest of the French. Little detachments neutralized, on the way out of the brigade, the three successive Axis defensive lines. Captain Lamaze's Bren Carriers excelled in this task, but the Captain got killed with Captain Bricogne, while running from a machine gun nest to another, using grenades to destroy them. Lieutenant Dewey also got killed by a 20 mm round. Others, like the captain commanding the 3rd battalion, got captured, but most of the brigade managed to break through the encirclement, following Amilakvari's section, and reached Gasr-el-Arid. The British spotted the first element of the French column, led by Bellec, at 4 in the morning. At 8 am, most of the brigade had reached the extraction point, but during the day, British patrols would rescue numerous lost men.

The evacuation was a success, and Rommel, not knowing that the whole brigade had left during the night, launched a new assault in the morning. His men found only the dead and the wounded who could not leave. The Luftwaffe, after its 1,400 raids on the fort, was almost out of fuel and could not even harass the retreating French columns. Rommel wrote: "On the 11th, the French garrison was about to receive its death-blow. Sadly for us, the French did not wait for us. Despite all the security measures we took, they managed to leave the fort, under the command of General Koenig, and preserved most of their men. Thanks to obscurity, they headed southwest and rejoined the 7th British Brigade. Later on, we would notice that where the French broke through, my encirclement measures had not been correctly set up. Once again, proof that a French commander, determined not to throw its guns away at the first opening, can work miracles, even if the situation seems desperate. In the morning, I visited the fort, site of ferocious battles; we had long waited for its fall. Fortifications around Bir Hakeim included, among others, 1,200 dug combat emplacements for infantry and heavy equipment."[citation needed]

Consequences of Bir Hakeim

On the Axis side, there were heavy casualties. 3,300 men had been killed, were wounded or gone missing, 277 had been captured, 51 tanks, 13 halftracks and a hundred other vehicles had been destroyed. The Luftwaffe had lost 7 aircraft, taken down by the French AA-guns, while 42 Stukas had been destroyed by RAF fighters. French losses were considerably lighter, with 99 killed and 19 wounded during the siege; 42 killed, 210 wounded, and 814 POWs during the evacuation, along with 40 75 mm, and 5 47 mm destroyed cannons, 8 Bofors AA-guns and about fifty destroyed vehicles. All in all, 2,619 out of 3,703 French Free men would rejoin the British lines.

This feat of arms was for many a significant proof of the valor and courage of the French soldiers, bitterly criticized since June 1940.[2] British official historian Playfair wrote: "The lengthened defense of the French garrison played a major role in the re-establishment of the British troops in Egypt. The free French gravely disrupted, from the beginning, Rommel's offensive, resulting on a disturbed supply line of the Afrika Korps. The growing Axis troop concentration in the sector, needed to subjugate the fort, saved the British 8th Army from a disaster. The delays in the offensive caused by the relentless French resistance increased the British chances of success and eased the preparation of the counter-offensive. On long term, holding back Rommel allowed the British forces to escape from its meticulously planned annihilation. That's why we can say, without exaggerating, that Bir Hakeim greatly contributed to El-Alamein defensive success."[citation needed] On 12 June, General Claude Auchinleck would release a statement: "The United nations must be full of admiration and gratitude towards those French troops and their valiant General [Koenig]".[nb 4] Winston Churchill would be more terse: "Holding back for fifteen days Rommel's offensive, the free French of Bir Hakeim had contributed to save Egypt and Suez canal's destinies."[citation needed]

Even Adolf Hitler would answer to the journalist Lutz Koch, coming back from Bir Hakeim: "You have heard, gentlemen, what Koch recounts. It is a new proof of the thesis I've always supported; namely, that French are still, after us, the best soldiers in Europe. France will always have the possibility, even with its current birthrate, to raise a hundred divisions. We will definitely, after this war, have to set up a coalition able to militarily control a country capable of such impressive military feats."{Lutz Koch, Rommel, Paris, Plon, 1950}} As a consequence, the Führer gave the order to execute the Free French prisoners, an order that Rommel refused to carry out. Anecdotally, Rommel, impressed by the French resistance, and understanding that the prisoners suffered of thirst, ordered that French prisoners and Axis soldiers would receive the same water ration. It matched Benito Mussolini's will, whose orders to its troops were to treat particularly well the French prisoners.

De Gaulle to Koenig: "Know and tell your troops that all of France is watching you and that you are its pride."[nb 5]

Notable Personalities of the Battle of Bir Hakeim

See also


  1. ^ Simple croisement de pistes dans un désert aride, caillouteux et nu que balaient les vents de sable, Bir Hakeim est vu de partout. Le champ de bataille se caractérise en effet par une absence totale de couverts et d'obstacles naturels. La position englobe une légère ondulation sud-nord, que jalonne un ancien poste méhariste, sans valeur défensive, et, près d'un point coté 186, les deux mamelles, qui sont les déblais de deux anciennes citernes. À l'est de l'ondulation, une grande cuvette inclinée vers le nord. Kœnig divise le point d'appui en trois secteurs, défendus par trois des bataillons. Le 2e bataillon de la 13e DBLE tenant la façade est. Le 3e en réserve, forme plusieurs groupes mobiles dotés de véhicules et de canons de 75 ou de 25 portés, disponibles pour mener des reconnaissances parfois lointaines à l'extérieur du réduit. Le système défensif emploie massivement les mines. Le commandant Vincent, de la brigade FFL, décrit ainsi les défenses de Bir Hakeim: Pour donner de la profondeur à ce système défensif relativement linéaire, un marais de mines, c'est-à-dire une surface très grande faiblement minée, précède la position. Les branches nord et nord-est de ce marais s'étendent jusqu'aux centres de résistance voisins. À hauteur du Trigh-el-Abd, elles sont reliées par une bande minée. Le triangle ainsi déterminé sur le terrain, qui est baptisé zone du V, est surveillé par des patrouilles motorisées de la brigade FFL.[citation needed]
  2. ^ Dans notre point d'appui, aucun renseignement ne parvient sur la situation générale, nous savons seulement que la 3e brigade indienne fut écrasée le 27 mai, par 44 chars suivis de nombreuses autres troupes et que la 4e brigade blindée et la 7e brigade motorisée britannique se sont repliées sur Bir-el-Gubi et El-Adem. Nous sommes en grande partie isolés du reste de l'armée britannique...[citation needed]
  3. ^ « Nous remplissons notre mission depuis quatorze nuits et quatorze jours. Je demande que ni les cadres ni la troupe ne se laissent aller à la fatigue. Plus les jours passeront, plus ce sera dur: cela n'est pas pour faire peur à la 1ère brigade française libre. Que chacun bande ses énergies! L'essentiel est de détruire l'ennemi chaque fois qu'il se présente à portée de tir ».[citation needed]
  4. ^ « Les Nations unies se doivent d'être remplies d'admiration et de reconnaissance, à l'égard de ces troupes françaises et de leur vaillant général [Kœnig] »[3]
  5. ^ «Sachez et dites à vos troupes que toute la France vous regarde et que vous êtes son orgueil.»[citation needed]
  1. ^ Il fallut qu'un grain de sable enrayât l'avance italo-allemande, qui n'atteignit El-Alamein qu'après l'arrivée des divisions britanniques fraîches: le grain de sable s'appelait Bir Hakeim. Ligne de Front, Hors-série n °6
  2. ^ Bimberg, p. 105: "The brigade's heroic stand at Bir Hakeim, in spite of the beating it had taken, had enhanced the reputation of the Free French in the eyes of the world. Now the name "Free French" was changed to France Combattante—"Fighting French"—and even the greatest doubters among the British began to show respect. It was well deserved..."
  3. ^ Mémoires de guerre, Charles de Gaulle edition La Pléiade p.260.


  • Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, La France Libre, NRF, Paris, 1996.
  • Erwan Bergot, La Légion au combat, Narvik, Bir-Hakeim, Dièn Bièn Phu, Presses de la Cité, 1975
  • Bimberg, Edward L. (2002), Tricolor Over the Sahara, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313316548 
  • Général Kœnig, Bir Hakeim, Ed. Robert Laffont, Paris, 1971.
  • Dominique Lormier, Rommel: La fin d'un mythe, Ed. Le Cherche midi, Paris, 2003.
  • Pierre Messmer, La bataille de Bir Hakeim, Revue Espoir, Paris, September 1986.
  • Raphaël Onana, Un homme blindé à Bir-Hakeim, Ed. L'Harmattan.
  • Field Marshal Rommel, Archives Rommel, Herrlingen-Blaustein.
  • Daniel Rondeau and Roger Stephane, Des hommes libres: La France Libre par ceux qui l'ont faite (Testimonies: Chapter 16, p. 243 and s.), Ed. Bernard Grasset, Paris, 1997.

Coordinates: 31°35′N 23°29′E / 31.583°N 23.483°E / 31.583; 23.483

External links


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