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The Battle of Bir Hakeim ( took place at Bir Hakeim, an oasis in the Libyan desert south and west of Tobruk, during the Battle of Gazala (26 May – 21 June 1942). The 1st Free French Brigade (Général de brigade Marie Pierre Kœnig) defended the position from 26 May – 11 June against much larger Axis forces of Panzer army Afrika (General Erwin Rommel). The Panzer army captured Tobruk ten days later but the delay imposed on the Axis offensive by the defence of the fortress influenced the cancellation of Operation Herkules, the plan for an Axis invasion of Malta. Rommel continued to advance and invaded Egypt, slowed by British delaying actions until the First Battle of El Alamein in July, where the Axis advance was stopped. Both sides used the battle for propaganda, Winston Churchill renamed the Free French as the Fighting French and Hitler called the French the second best fighters after the Germans.

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