Monday, October 09, 2006
The navy intended to draw attention away from the Crusader offensive
The decision had been made to run a simulated convoy from Gibraltar, through the Mediterranean Sea. The idea was to draw the Axis air forces away from the battle area. The simulation started on 16 November. The Mediterranean Fleet sortied from Alexandria, Force H sailed from Gibraltar, and Force K sailed from Malta. Some merchant ships were included, to make the simulation look like a genuine convoy. The army started to move at midnight on 17 November 1941. Not for the last time, a commander had an idea about what the enemy would do and how they would react, and would ignore what was really happening. In this case, Rommel was sure that the British might react to his impending attack on Tobruk, but that a major offensive was not pending. His only screening forces were the two armoured car formations, the 3rd Reconnaissance and the 33rd Reconnaissance Units. The Crusader Battle was planned to start on 18 November, and Rommel only had his light forces in front of the British. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.