Rommel’s Next Move

Blitzkrieg Rommel's Next Move
by Phil Yates

The advance of Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division was slowed dramatically by British and French counterattacks over the two days following the Battle of Arras, and was halted the next day, 24 May. The German High Command was worried about a co-ordinated French counterattack cutting off the panzer divisions instead of the panzer divisions cutting off the British and French armies in Belgium.

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The advance began again on 26 May, once the infantry divisions caught up with the tanks. On the same day, Rommel received the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest award for valour. Rommel wasted no time celebrating and pushed on to surround much of the French First Army in Lille the next day while the British began evacuating their army from Dunkirk. On 29 May Rommel’s division was pulled out of the line to rest and prepare for the next phase of the fighting, leaving the infantry divisions to eliminate the rapidly shrinking Dunkirk beachhead.
We were all very worried about you,… a letter to his wife. formation so elusive, so hard to pin down whether by an enemy or on staff maps, so unpredictable.

— Hitler to Rommel, 2 June 1940.
Rommel with his British prisoners at Cherbourg While his army prepared for Case Red, the plan for the final destruction of the French Army, Hitler toured the front lines taking Rommel with him—a unique honour for a divisional commander. Whereas Case Yellow, the initial attack, had been a sophisticated encirclement battle, Case Red was a simple exploitation. The panzer divisions lined up along the Somme River and attacked.

Left: Rommel with his British prisoners at St Valery en Caux.
Most of the panzer divisions faced a hard battle against the rebuilt French Army before they could break through the Somme Line, but once through the over-stretched French line found little opposition.

In contrast, Rommel’s 7th Panzer Division found undemolished rail bridges across the Somme and pushed quickly through the surprised French. Within days they were approaching Rouen on the Seine River near Paris.
Before they could claim the city, they were diverted to surround the French IX Corps (including the British 51st (Highland) Division) at St. Valeryen-Caux. Capturing 46,000 soldiers, they hastened south once more before swinging west again to capture the port of Cherbourg.
My division has been a blazing success. Dinant, Phillippeville, breakthrough the Maginot Line and advance in one night 40 miles through France to Le Cateau, then Cambrai, Arras, always in front of everybody else… Don’t worry about me. As I see it, the war in France will be over in a fortnight.
— Rommel in a letter to his wife.
Rommel’s successes in France made him a household name in Germany, although it would take his outstanding desert victories to bring his name to the world.

~ Phil.

Situational map
Situational map
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Last Updated On Friday, August 29, 2014 by Blake at Battlefront