Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Type 15th Pz Div 21st Pz Div Ariete Div
Pzkw II 38 32
Pzkw III 75 64
Pzkw IV 20 15
M 13/40 146
The British had a more diverse tank complement, of which we don't know the exact details. This is what we do know:
Type HQ 30th Corps HQ 7th Ar Div 4th Ar Bre 7th Ar Bre 22nd Ar Bre
Cru Mk I, II, and III 6 26
Cru Mk IV 62
Crusader 2 53 155
Stuart M3 8 165
1st Army Tank Brigade (13th Corps): 3-cruiser tanks and 132 infantry tanks
(half Matilda, half Valentine)
32nd Army Tank Brigade (Tobruk): 32-cruiser tanks, 25 Lt Mk.VI, and 69 Matilda
This is base on tables in Vol.III of the Official History
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
The British infantry tanks were built to serve in an obsolete role. The infantry tank was trying to fill the that tanks were used in 1917 and 1918, in support of infantry in trench warfare.
That explains the existence of the diminutive Inf.Mk.I Matilda, armed soley with machine guns. The Inf.Mk.II Matilda was armed with a 40mm 2pdr high velocity gun, almost just because the gun existed, and it did make the tank more viable as a battle tank. The Matilda had good armour, good enough that it took an 88mm APC round to knock it out. It might also be disabled by a 105mm howitzer round.
The Inf.Mk.III Valentine was conceived of as tank that was more easily mass-produced than the Inf.Mk.II and it also proved to be capable of improvement, unlike the cast-hulled Inf.Mk.II. The Valentine was based on the proven Cru.Mk.I and Cru.Mk.II designs. The Valentine eventually received a 75mm gun, before it went out of production.
The Inf.Mk.IV Churchill was the ultimate embodiment of the infantry tank concept. It had the long tread, that allowed easier movement over shelled ground, and had good armour. The Churchill eventually received a 6pdr gun and then the British 75mm gun. By that time, the tank was obsolescent, but its good armour kept it around for longer than it might otherwise have been. The infantry tank concept was dead with the Churchill. It was replaced with main battle tanks that could fire HE or AP rounds, with a superior gun. The first such tank was the Centurion, of which prototypes arrived at the front at the end of the war.
The Russians were the only army that had well-conceived tanks of modern concept in 1941. The Russians were handicapped by the purges of the latter 1930's that wiped out most of the senior officers who were capable. That process almost disabled the Red Army. Fortunately, there were a small cadre of capable generals, and enough good men to stop the Germans before reaching Moscow in late 1941. The Russians had early versions of the T-34, which was like a well-armoured and gunned British cruiser tank, and the KV-I heavy tank, which was armoured on the scale of the Matilda infantry tank. Both the T-34 were equipped with a rather low-velocity 76.2mm gun, but this was replaced with a longer-barreled, higher velocity 76.2mm gun that was superior to anything the Germans had in 1941. The British cruiser and infantry tanks looked poor in comparison with the Russian tanks, as did the German tanks.
The Germans had to rely upon the "88" and field artillery to stop the Russian tanks. One poorly manned T-34 or KV-I could still terrorize a German army, until they managed to disable it or knock it out. Often, the Russian tanks simply bogged down, and then could be knocked out. The need to combat the powerful Russian tanks caused the Germans to rapidly improve their tanks and anti-tank guns. The Pzkw III received spaced armour and a 50mm L/60 gun, in small numbers. The Pzkw IV eventually received a 75mm L/48 gun. That same gun was mounted as an anti-tank gun. The only problem was that the numbers were too few. The Germans also started rush development of the Tiger I with an 88mm gun to combat the KV.
The British effort looked pretty pitiful, compared to what the Russians had, and soon, the Germans had, if in small numbers. Fortunately for the British, the Americans were developing 75mm gunned tanks that would become available by the late Spring of 1942. The Grants and Lees, with their hull-mounted 75mm gun were less than ideal, but by the fall, the British had received the Sherman, with a turret-mounted 75mm gun and good mobility. The Sherman also had the minimally acceptable scale of armour to allow it to compete with what the Germans had. The Italians lagged considerably behind at this time, as the best they had, by 1942, was the M15/42 with the longer-barreled 47mm gun and somewhat better armour. The British only produced better tanks by the end of the war. The Centurion, then only in prototype, was one of the premier tanks of the post-war period.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The British expected that the tank would dominate the Crusader Battle (also known as the Winter Battle). While the Official History indicates that the Germans also thought that, Rommel certainly did not. Rommel was a combined armed advocate, and made his reputation with infantry, using infiltration tactics pioneered in WWI. His approach to modern combined arms battlefighting was to use "sword and shield" tactics. He used armour against infantry and transport and artillery against tanks, particularly the 5cm PAK38 and the 88mm FLAK18 and other models.
The Germans had their pre-war tank designs. There were a small number of Pzkw I's, which were just MG armed and were of little consequence. The larger 20mm gun-armed Pzkw II was useful as a reconnaissance tank. The Pzkw III was the main battle tank, although the newest were just armed with a medium length 5cm gun that was capable of firing the "arrowhead" ammunition. The Pzkw IV was used in a similar role to the British support tanks, in that it was burdened with the short 75mm gun, intended to fire HE shells. The German tanks had the advantage of having some face-hardened armour that would shatter the British 2pdr shot and had a few Pzkw III's with appliqué armour.
The British had tanks built to an erroneous, pre-war concept. They had the slow, well-armoured infantry tanks. Originally, these were the Inf. Mk.II Matilda. Later, they were joined by the Inf. Mk.III Valentine, which were capable of being upgunned, unlike the Matilda, stuck with its cast hull. Infantry tanks were supposed to support infantry, but lacked a suitable armament for that role. The faster cruiser tanks were to fight other tanks, but they were under-gunned and armoured to be successful in that role. It was only when the British saw the American Grant, Lee, and Sherman, that they saw how to effectively arm a tank. The American medium tanks had the medium velocity 75mm gun at this date, which could fire either HE or an AP shot. The AP shot was on the order of 12 lbs, so it had much greater striking power than the high velocity, but lightweight 40mm 2pdr gun. Due to bad decision-making, the excellent 57mm 6pdr gun did not appear until 1942.
The Italians had the diesel-powered M13/40, at first. This was joined by the M14/41 and M15/42 tanks. The latter with a longer, higher velocity 47mm gun. They also had the useless L3 light tanks. Their more useful light tank was the L6, which really had too high a silhouette. They did have the excellent Autoblinda armoured cars, which were as good as any used by the Germans and better than what the British had.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
The defense of Tobruk since May 1941 had been commanded by General Leslie Moreshead, the commander of the 9th Australian Division. The Australians mounted an active defense, mounting constant small operations against the attackers. The Axis surrounded Tobruk with a system of minefields and artillery. Axis aircraft constantly were in the air over Tobruk, harrassing the defenders. A great deal of AA ammunition was expended by the defenders. The attackers did not want to attack until they were able to build up an arsenal of heavy artillery. In the event, the Tobruk garrison not only withstood the attacks but were able to break out during the Crusader battle.
The Australian commander, General Blamey, asked that Australian troops be replaced and withdrawn. That seems to have reflected the desires of the Australian government. The Australian government undoubtedly wanted their troops removed from what seemed to be a vulnerable position, in the besieged port. By August, the first withdrawals took place. By the end of August, there had been a change of government in Australia, and the new Prime Minister pushed for the rest to be removed from Tobruk. That seriously interfered with plans for Crusader and put naval assets under increased risk of attack. General Auchinleck was greatly distressed by the matter and Churchill assured him of their complete confidence in him. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Rommel was also planning an attack in November 1941. He hoped to attack Tobruk again, but the situation at sea put that plan into jeopardy. The British anti-shipping campaign was doing so well that Rommel's supply situation was becoming increasingly difficult. The OKH was concerned that the British planned top lift the seige of Tobruk, and then shift forces to defend the Caucasus. The Italians were more concerned that the British planned take the whole of Tobruk.
The Italian high command warned General Bastico that the British planned to launch an offensive soon. Generals Bastico and Rommel thought that would not be possible. Rommel, in any case, thought that he had sufficient forces to deal with any such attack, while he broke into Tobruk. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
- maintain air superiority
- disrupt the enemy supply system
- carry out reconnaissance as needed
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Morane Saulnier 406 Single-Engined Fighter (Free French)
Fairey Albacore Torpedo Bomber
Avro Anson General Reconnaissance (SAAF)
Avro Anson General Reconnaissance/Torpedo Bomber
Hawker Audax Air Transport
Hawker Audax Tactical Reconnaissance
Bristol Beaufighter IC Long Range Twin-Engined Fighter
Bristol Beaufighter IPR Photo Reconnaissance
Bristol Beaufort I Torpedo Bomber
Bristol Blenheim I Light Bomber
Bristol Blenheim IV General Reconnaissance
Bristol Blenheim IV Light Bomber
Bristol Blenheim IV Tactical Reconnaissance
Bristol Blenheim IVF LR Twin-Engined Fighter
Bristol Bombay Bomber Transport
Douglas DC2 Air Transport
de Havilland DH 86 Air Ambulance
Dornier Do.22 General Reconnaissance (Yugoslav)
Fairey Fulmar General Reconnaissance
Gloster Gladiator Tactical Reconnaissance
Hawker Hartbeest Light Bomber (SAAF)
Hawker Hurricane I Single-Engined Fighter
Hawker Hurricane IIA Single-Engined Fighter
Hawker Hurricane IIB Single-Engined Fighter
Hawker Hurricane IIC Single-Engined Fighter
Hawker Hurricane I Tactical Reconnaissance
LR Hawker Hurricane I Photo Reconnaissance
Junkers Ju.86 General Reconnaissance (SAAF)
Lockheed Lodestar Air Transport
Westland Lysander Tactical Reconnaissance
Martin Maryland General Reconnaissance
Martin Maryland Operational Training
Martin Maryland Strategic Reconnaissance
Martin Maryland Survey Reconnaissance
Curtis Mowhawk Single-Engined Fighter (SAAF)
Percival Proctor Air Transport
Short Sunderland General Reconnaissance
Fairey Swordfish Torpedo Bomber
Vickers Vincent Light Bomber
Vickers Wellesley Bomber Transport
Vickers Wellesley Light Bomber
Vickers Wellington IC Air/Sea Rescue
Vickers Wellington I & IC General Reconnaissance
Vickers Wellington IC Medium Bomber
Vickers Wellington II Medium Bomber
Monday, September 11, 2006
Short range fighters: 14 squadrons (including one naval squadron)
Long-range fighters: 2 squadrons
Medium bombers: 8 squadronds (for a short time 9)
Tactical reconnaissance: 3 squadrons
Survey reconnaissance: 1 flight
Strategic reconnaissance: 1 flight
The SAAF played a considerable part, having provided six squadrons and two flights. The RAAF had two squadrons, the Rhodesians had one squadron as did the Free French. Of course, the heavy bombers (probably Wellingtons at this date), fighters, and reconnaissance aircraft in the theater also occasionally made an appearance in combat. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Tripoli-attacked on 12 nights by 58 Wellingtons, some 4,000 lb bombs used
Naples-hit on 12 nights by 96 Wellingtons, some 4,000 lb bombs used
Brindisi was attacked once by 21 Wellingtons
Benghazi was hit by Wellingtons at night and SAAF Marylands in daytime
Derna-two attacks by 50 Wellingtons and 26 Blenheims at night, 11 Marylands in daytime
The harbour bombing proved to be pretty effective and caused disruptions to the Axis supply effort. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.