Tuesday, May 31, 2005
More about Operation Battleaxe
This duplicates, to some extent, what I had written on May 20, 2005. Churchill had badgered General Wavell to immediately attack using the tanks that had arrived from the Tiger Convoy. The attack took place starting on 15 June 1941. The British and Commonwealth forces consisted of about 25,000 troops and 180 tanks (cruiser and infantry tanks). The divisions involved were the 7th Armoured Division (Gen. Michael Creagh) and the 4th Indian Division (Gen. Frank Messervy). The armoured brigades were the 7th with cruiser tanks from the Tiger Convoy and the 4th with Inf. Mk.II Matilda tanks. The Matildas could make about 8 mph, except on smooth roads. They were desparately short of transport for troops and supply. This is from Correlli Barnett's book, The Desert Generals. Churchill had pressed to have a convoy of tanks sent through the Mediterranean Sea by fast transport vessels. He felt that he could affect the outcome by immediately sending tanks, which seemed to be the key weapon of war in the theater. A15 Crusader tanks were just coming off the assembly line, so it is not clear that they were included. More likely, the tanks sent were A13 Cru. Mk.IVA's. There was also a regiment of light tanks, presumably Lt.Mk.VIC's. I believe that there were also newly produced Inf.Mk.II's, as well. They took at least one transport loss on the way, so some tanks were lost. I can imagine that Churchill's political position was deteriorating with the events of early 1941. The next year went as badly, except for the American entry into the war in December.