Friday, October 13, 2006
Some more thoughts about Lt-General Alan Cunningham
Lt-General Alan Cunningham's tenure as 8th Army Commander was a failure. I suspect that he had embraced the mystique of armoured warfare in the British army, and thought that somehow, different rules applied than he knew, that he relied on others' advice. I suspect that he felt almost paralyzed to be thrust into a position that involved commanding something that he didn't know anything about. British army doctrine about armoured warfare, in late 1941, was sadly mistaken. The key pieces of information that could have made General Cunningham successful was knowing about "sword and shield" tactics, as devised by the Germans, and that his experience with highly mobile warfare could be transfered to the situation in North Africa. He had just arrived in North Africa after conducting a brilliant campaign in East Africa, and that had been what had impressed General Auchinleck to appoint him as the new 8th Army Commander. I believe that General Cunningham must have relied on advice about to fight the Crusader Battle, and that advice was sadly mistaken, being based on bad doctrinal ideas. When General Auchinleck realized that the battle was going badly, and the army was running without adequate direction, he stepped in and, ultimately, won the battle. After this, Churchill had complete confidence in Auchinleck as a field commander, and really didn't want to have anyone else commanding the 8th Army in the field.