Operation Acrobat

This was a British unrealised plan for an advance by Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham’s 8th Army from Cyrenaica into Tripolitania after the successful conclusion anticipated for ‘Crusader’ (i) (December 1941/January 1942).

At the end of ‘Crusader’ (i) the exhausted and logistically impoverished Axis forces fell back to the west largely along the coast of Cyrenaica via Derna, Barce and Benghazi to El Agheila in the south-eastern corner of the Gulf of Sirte, and there halted on 31 December 1941 to revitalise themselves with the aid of their shortened lines of communication from Tripoli in Tripolitania. The British-led forces moved west in the Axis forces' wake, most to the north of the Jebel Akhdar but some across the ‘Benghazi bulge’ to the south of the Jebel Akhdar via Mechili and Bir Gerrari. The two elements met at Agedabia on 25 December, and then advanced together to reach El Agheila by 5 January 1942. With their vehicles in dire need of overhaul, their men tired in the extreme, and their lines of communication radically overextended, the British halted just to the east of the Axis forces, and all thoughts of an ‘Acrobat’ advance to Tripoli were abandoned.

The Axis forces recovered their combat capability more quickly than the British-led forces, and took the offensive to the east once again in ‘Theseus’ (i) on 21 January 1942.