Friday, October 21, 2005
The aftermath of Rommel's initial advance in April 1941
Since Generals O'Connor and Neame had been captured on April 6, 1941, events moved in a wider scope. The first step was that General Wavell decided that Tobruk must be held, if there was to be any chance of stopping the German advance. Wavell's temporary Director of Military Operations, the controversial Brigadier Eric Dorman-Smith, on April 10 flew in a Lysander to Tobruk, where the "Cyrenaica Command" had moved. The pilot navigated through a dust storm to take him there. The recipients of the order were Brigadier John Harding and General Moreshead, commander of the Australians. On the flight back to Cairo, Dorman-Smith saw what appeared to be Germans on the road to Bardia. The Australians successfully repulsed the attack on Tobruk on April 13th and 14th. They repulsed them again on April 16th and 17th. By April 28th, the Germans were on the frontier with Egypt. On April 29th, the British were expelled from Greece, with the loss of 20% of their forces. Rashid Ali led a pro-German revolt in Iraq, starting on May 5th. On May 12th, Churchill was pressing General Wavell to use the 300 new tanks in the desert against the Germans. The tanks were not yet prepared and there had been no time to train. The German attack on Crete took place on May 20th, ending with the island's capture and significant British naval losses. This is based on the account in Correlli Barnett's book The Desert Generals.