Monday, October 02, 2006

The British lacked adequate air reconnaissance at the start of the Crusader Battle

The British only had three squadrons of trained reconnaissance pilots operating in the tactical reconnaissance role. To make matters worse, the first two days of the battle had rain. Ordinary fighter and bomber aircrew were less familiar with the terrain and the way the armies operated in the desert. With the vehicles operating dispersed, and indeed, possibly intermingled with enemy vehicles, telling what was happening in the battle was difficult. That feature of the operation left General Cunningham pretty much blind as to what was happening. All he knew was that the plan was for 30th Corps to move forward and stop, and wait for an Axis attack that never came. Once that happened, the situation deteriorated rapidly. The mistake was that 30th Corps did not advance towards a position that would have threatened the Axis position and would have brought an immediate ripost from Rommel. Part of the problem was that Cunningham relied on "experts" in armoured warfare who were anything but experts. The may have served for some time in armoured units and taken part in battles, but they were using equipment and doctrine unsuited for modern, mechanized warfare. The equipment part was less critical, as the German tanks were less than ideal, but the Germans used the right doctrine and were lead by an expert in the field, in Rommel.

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