Rommel found a a way to outflank the British through crossing the sand hills to the north of the coastal road. Within days, he has driven the British from Cyrenaica (ignoring orders from Berlin, which had been to hold fast and wait for reinforcements).
He split his forces into two, sending one fork speeding along the coast towards Benghazi, and the second fork racing inland to sever the coast road to Tobruk. Already, Rommel’s (Italian) superior, General Gariboldi, was objecting. He considered the offensive foolhardy. Rommel worried that he was not advancing fast enough.
Flying about the battlefield in his Fieseler Storch, Rommel kept his soldiers on the move. By the following week, he had reached Tobruk and was laying seige. He declared the Suez Canal to be his next objective.
A large number of British troops had been taken prisoner. Included were three generals: Major General Michael Gambier-Parry (commander of the 2nd Armoured Division), Lieutenant General Philip Neame (British commander in Cyrenaica) and Lieutenant General Richard O’Connor, famous for his daring offensive of December 1940. What would have been the outcome if the dashing O’Connor had been pitted against The Desert Fox? The world will never know.
As the weeks went by, Tobruk proved tougher than Rommel had imagined. Rommel’s efforts and his headstrong nature did not impress the emissary that Berlin would send later in the month. The man’s name: Friedrich Paulus—eventually to become famous in his own right for his capitulation at Stalingrad in 1942.