This was the first Battle of the campaign in North Africa. 7th Armoured Division, 4th Indian Division and the Matruh Garrison, under General O’Connor’s direction, gained a brilliant victory, capturing 38,300 prisoners, 237 guns and 73 tanks, and annihilating eight Italian Divisions.
The Honour was awarded to the 8th Hussars.
This subsidiary Action was emblazoned by the 8th Hussars.
The 7th Armoured Division continued the battle around Sidi Barrani and they soon took the Rabia and Sofafi camps, which the Italians had abandoned. At this time the 11th Hussars had discovered the Italian 64th Catanazaro Division, under General Armico, well dug into the dunes west of Buq-Buq, behind the salt flats, with thirty-five guns of all types covering the east and another twenty-five guns of all types covering the south.
A hastily assembled force of 3rd Hussars, a squadron of 2 RTR, cruisers from the 8th Hussars, along with ‘B’ & ‘C’ Squadrons of the 11th Hussars, plus a battery of 4 RHA, all under the command of Lt-Colonel John Combe (11th Hussars) attacked the Italian force. They met strong opposition from the Italian artillery, which stopped the advance of ‘C’ Squadron, 3rd Hussars, and knocked out many of the tanks of ‘A’ Squadron.
The Italians were finally overwhelmed by a flank attack by 8th Hussars, in Cruiser tanks, along the western seaward side.
Shocked by the violent assaults and the number of defeats, the Italian army was now in full retreat, while being harried by 7th Armoured’s Support Group and of course roving patrols of 11th Hussars. These forces were of Birkforce (consisting of 7th Hussars, half of 11th Hussars, with two Batteries of RHA) and Combeforce (2 RTR, half of 11th Hussars, with two Batteries of RHA).
On many occasions the Italian air force attacked these two forces, delaying their progress. 7th Armoured Brigade was ordered to capture Sollum and get between Fort Capuzzo and the coast, in order to prevent any Italian forces trying to retreat into Sollum, but the Brigade failed to do so, as they preferred to undertake tank maintenance, refuelling and eat their evening meal rather than carry out night marches.
However, the Italians were still chased back across the Italian wire south of Sollum and into Cyrenaica, but they left 38,000 prisoners and a vast quantity of equipment, including 237 guns and over 70 tanks.