Monday, May 02, 2005
As I have written, the main criticism of General Auchinleck was his inability to choose good commanders
While General Claude Auchinleck was clearly a skilled commander in the field, in his theater commander role, he failed repeatedly to choose suitable field commanders. The first choice was Alan Cunningham, the admiral's brother. As I have previously written, he was experienced in combat, such as fighting in East Africa. That was a realm where he could be successful. That did not translate into being successful at leading armoured forces in North Africa. The second choice was Neil Ritchie, who transitioned into the role in November 1941, after Cunningham was relieved. Lt-General Ritchie seems to have only taken the reins after Auchinleck had intervened to ensure a successful outcome to the Crusader offensive to relieve Tobruk. Despite the overwhelming material superiority of the British and allied forces, the battle had almost been lost in the early days. Ritchie was not tested until the Gazala battle, where he was also found wanting. In his case, as I have previously written, he felt insecure in leading a mobile, armoured army, and relied upon his corp commanders for decision making. Since he had a diverse group in his command committee, they had trouble arriving at decisions. That seems to have been Lt-General Ritchie's failing, in particular. He also seems to have not been an experienced armour commander. His experienced commanders were all with limited experience against Italians, and lack of success against Germans. The British command seemed to generally lack the energy and high activity level of the Germans, led by Rommel. Rommel set the pace for his forces, and that really just reflected the general superiority of the German command training.