Friday, May 18, 2007

The events of late November and the beginning of December 1941 drove the New Zealand Division from the battle

We might recall Robert Crisp's account of meeting Bernard Freyberg near the Sidi Rezegh airfield, as recounted in Brazen Chariots. By 1 December 1941, the New Zealand Division, under General Freyberg's command, just wanted to survive. Every divisional formation in the Crusader Battle had been committed piecemeal and had their strength dissapated in haphazard battles, mostly initiated by General Gott. General Gott seems to have had a near fatal tendency to distribute any units that he could into small groups, of battalion size or smaller, if he could. General Norrie, the 30th Corps commander, is harder to judge, as he seems to have had less control over what was happening than Gott. The new 8th Army commander, General Ritchie, seems to have had an incomplete view of the situation near Tobruk, so anything he ordered was liable to be problematic. By the afternoon of 1 December, General Freyberg had decided that the New Zealand Division was spent and should be withdrawn to refit. He got General Norrie's approval, and General Ritchie later agreed, when he was informed, after the fact. This is based, in part, on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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