Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Correlli Barnett said that Battleaxe was the antithesis of Sidi Barrani
Correlli Barnett argues, in The Desert Generals, that Battleaxe was lost on the first day. They had attacked Halfaya Pass and had been repulsed, primarily by the dug in 88mm guns. Correlli Barnett puts the blame on the lack of inspired leadership. At Sidi Barrani, the British were lead by General O'Connor, who was a brilliant leader in the field. In Operation Battleaxe, they had mediocre leadership, and failed. Still, the real cause of failure was Churchill's pressing Wavell to attack too soon. The result was that most of the tanks pushed through the Mediterranean in the Tiger Convoy were left on the battlefield when the British retreated. Churchill was in his worst manic-depressive mode, and when Battleaxe failed, he reacted by relieving General Wavell. I am an admirer of Churchill, but the 1940-1942 period in the Mediterranean and Middle East shows him at his worst. O'Connor's gains were lost because of going into Greece. Up until the Greek operation, General Wavell had waged a successful campaign against Italian interests in Africa, and was close to defeating them. After Greece, the Germans came in and the British position was in sharp decline, despite the British having a sense that they could beat the Germans, if properly armed and supplied.