Friday, May 13, 2005

There was almost continual pressure from Churchill on Auchinleck to personally take command of the 8th Army

Winston Churchill had almost unbounded confidence in Claude Auchinleck's ability to lead an army in the field. He constantly begged Auchinleck to personally take command of the 8th Army. Auchinleck, however, was feeling the demands of being theater commander, and only took the reins of the 8th Army during crises. The first time was during the Crusader battle, as I recently wrote, and the second, and last time, was in the retreat from Gazala towards the Egyptian border. On the first occasion, the Crusader battle was one, and Tobruk relieved. On the second occasion, the first Alamein battle was won, and a plan made for Alam el Halfa. By late summer 1942, Churchill was so hard-pressed politically that he sacked Auchinleck and put Harold Alexander and Bernard Law Montgomery into the Middle East as a team, with Alexander as the theater commander and Montgomery as the field commander. They succeeded, but Montgomery's main strength was not losing battles, which was not a bad thing. The British Empire had had a string of defeats from 1940 to 1942, so they needed to stop losing.

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