The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man… Thomas Robert MALTHUS

All About Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel(3)…

Battle of Arras…

By 18 May the Division had captured Cambrai, but here Rommel’s advance was checked briefly. His chief of staff, still with the unmotorized part of the Division in Belgium and not having received radio reports from Rommel, had written off Rommel and his combat group as lost and so had not arranged for fuel to be sent up. There was a degree of controversy over this issue, with Rommel furious at what he perceived as a negligent attitude on the part of his supply officers, whereas his chief of staff was critical of Rommel’s failure to keep his staff officers up to speed on his actions.

On 20 May Rommel’s tanks reached Arras. Here he wanted to cut off the British Expeditionary Force from the coast and Hans von Luck, commanding the reconnaissance battalion of the Division, was tasked with forcing a crossing over the La Bassée canals near the city. Supported by Stuka dive bombers, the unit managed to force a crossing. The British launched a counterattack (the Battle of Arras) on 21 May with Matilda tanks, and the Germans found their 3.7-cm guns useless against the heavy armour. A battery of88-mm guns had to be brought up to deal with the threat, with Rommel personally directing the fire.

After Arras, Hitler ordered his tanks to hold their positions, while the British, in Operation Dynamo, evacuated their troops at Dunkirk, and the 7th Panzer Division was given a few days of much-needed rest. On 26 May, 7th Panzer continued its advance, reaching Lille on 27 May. For the assault on the town, General Hoth placed his other tank division, 5th Panzer Division, under Rommel’s command, to the chagrin of its commander, General Max von Hartlieb. The same day, Rommel received news that he had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross; he was the first divisional commander to be so honoured during the campaign. This award, which had been secured for Rommel at Hitler’s behest, caused more animosity among fellow officers, who were critical of Rommel’s close relationship with Hitler. They believed that this was further evidence that Hitler seemed to give Rommel preferential treatment.

On 28 May, while making the final push into Lille and far in front of friendly forces, 7th Panzer came under heavy fire from French artillery. Rommel drove his forces on, capturing Lille, trapping half of the French First Army, and preventing their retreat to Dunkirk. After this coup, Rommel’s forces were again given time to rest.

Drive for English Channel…

Rommel, resuming his advance on 5 June, drove for the River Seine to secure the bridges near Rouen. Advancing 100 kilometres (62 mi) in two days, the Division reached Rouen only to find the bridges destroyed. On 10 June, Rommel reached the coast near Dieppe, sending his „Am at coast” signal to the German HQ.

On 15 June, 7th Panzer started advancing on Cherbourg. On 17 June, the Division advanced 35 kilometres (22 mi), capturing the town on the following day. The Division then proceeded towards Bordeaux but stopped when the armistice was signed on 21 June. In July, the Division was sent to the Paris area to start preparations for Operation Seelöwe, the planned invasion of Britain. The preparations were half-hearted, however, as it became clear that the Luftwaffe would not be able to secure air superiority over the Royal Air Force….


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