Monday, May 16, 2005
General Ritchie planned to stake the entire Middle Eastern Theater on the battle at Mersa Matruh, circa June 25th, 1942
General Ritchie, after the collapse following Gazala, designed what he considered a blocking position at Mersa Matruh. The 8th Army was now reduced to 10th Corps and 13th Corps. The 10th Corps had the 10th Indian Division and 50th Division located within the perimeter at Mersa Matruh. Facing west on the coastal road, there was a minefield. South of that was a gap patroled by two small battlegroups, Leathercol and Gleecol. South of that, on the escarpment, protected by a minefield at the west end was 13th Corps, with the New Zealand diviosn and the remnants of the 1st Armoured Division. There was an incomplete position at the east end of the southern force at Minquar Quaim. General Auchinleck had succeeded in reinforcing the 1st Armoured Division, so that it had 159 tanks, including 60 Grants. How this was going to block the Axis forces, when the center was empty, is baffling. General Auchinleck arrived in the afternoon to review the situation and relieved Ritchie as army commander. This is based on Correlli Barnett's book The Desert Generals.