In the desert British forces were being forced back by Rommel's surprise attack. The RAF sought to delay the pursuit as best they could:
Throughout the week, our fighter and bomber aircraft carried out a series of continuous and highly successful attacks on enemy forces and M.T. operating in the battle area, and heavy casualties were inflicted on troops and vehicles.
A particularly successful attack was made on the 26th, when our fighters, in spite of severe sand-storms, continuously machine-gunned M.T. and tanks moving between Antelat, Saunnu, Msus and Charruba. At least 120 vehicles were destroyed or damaged and many enemy troops were killed or wounded. Our bombers had already helped to disorganise enemy movement towards Msus by dropping 40 tons of bombs in continuous attacks throughout the previous night.
Our fighters also carried out several protective sweeps over the forward troops. During one of these, five Hurricanes intercepted a formation of 30 enemy aircraft near Msus, destroying four and damaging three without loss to themselves.
Shipping in Tripoli (L) harbour was heavily attacked by Wellingtons. A naval vessel and what appeared to be a flak ship were set on fire, and hits were obtained on the quays alongside which several ships were lying. Other Welling tons bombed the jetty at Buerat El Hsun and buildings and M.T. near Sirte.
Great activity was maintained by enemy fighters, which, in addition to carrying out several sweeps over the battle area, provided escorts for dive-bombing formations. Enemy long-range bombers operating from Libyan bases were also employed against our forward troops and vehicles, but the greater part of the German long-range bombers operated from Greece against land and sea communi cations along the Cyrenaican coast.
From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/21/26