‘Get out your frocks, we’re on our way!’
German broadcast to the women of Alexandria
While Churchill commanded the House of Commons, the city of Cairo was gripped by panic. After seizing Tobruk, Rommel had advanced rapidly eastwards. By 23 June he had crossed the Egyptian border and – taking risks that, had he failed, would have marked him as one of the most irresponsible generals in the history of warfare – stormed towards Mersah Matruh, where Ritchie had unwisely opted to make a stand.
The following day Auchinleck cabled Churchill. ‘I deeply regret that you should have received this severe blow at so critical a time as a result of the heavy defeat suffered by the forces under my command.’ With an exceptional ...