Saturday, October 01, 2005

Back to the British Official History: February-March 1941

We now look at the plan for holding Cyrenaica from the perspective of the British Official History. They noted that arrival of Fliegerkorps X in Sicily in January had transformed the military and naval landscape. Supplies for the Middle East were routed around the Cape, while even the resupply of Malta was impeded. That was contingent on the arrival of the carrier Formidable in the theater to replace the Illustrious which had been withdrawn due to damage. A side effect of the bombing campaign against Malta was that offensive operations against shipping to Libya were curtailed.

Incredibly, Libya was to be held by a skeleton force, while the focus would be on sending forces to Greece. The other major operations were in East Africa, which showed promise, but were demanding considerable effort. The 4th and 5th Indian Divisions were fighting at Keren in Eritrea. The Italian position in the south were to be assaulted by the 1st South African and two African Divisions. The 1st Cavalry Division was sitting in Palestine, still mounted on horses. The 7th and 9th Australian Divisions were newly arrived and under-equipped. The New Zealand Division, with only two brigades was in Egypt, but they were an effective fighting force.

Wavell decided to commit one armoured brigade, the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions, the New Zealand Division, and the Polish Brigade Group in Greece. There would also be supporting British units not attached to divisions.

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