Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Correll Barnett on the collapse in Cyrenaica

Correlli Barnett, writing in The Desert Generals, took a dim view of the arrangements made after the conquest of Cyrenaica in early 1941. The way he described the situation was that the experienced 7th Armoured Division was scattered "through Egypt". The successful General O'Connor, still suffering from a stomach ailment became GOC British Troops in Egypt. General Neame was commander of what was now called Cyrenaica Command. He had an Australian infantry brigade and the inexperienced 3rd Armoured Brigade from the 2nd Armoured Division. General Wavell allowed this situation because British intelligence thought that Rommel and his German-Italian command would need until at least mid-April before they would be ready to attack. In fact, the German command had ordered him to be ready by April 20th. In fact, Rommel, like General O'Connor, was a man of action, and attacked on his own initiative on March 31st. Wavell had sent General O'Connor back to Cyrenaica, arriving on 3 April, just in time to be captured on 6 April, along with General Neame, after then ran into a German force which had penetrated behind British lines in the dark.

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