Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lessons of the Crusader Battle

Vol.III of the Official History argues that the lessons of the Crusader Battle were that the RAF and the best-trained British units were the equal of the Germans. I can believe that was true. Prior to being expended in Greece and Crete, the British pre-war units still in service in late 1940 and early 1941 ran over the Italian infantry units. Only the elite forces, such as the Ariete Armoured Division and Trieste Motorized Division were any where near the level of the best British and Commonwealth troops. What the first two weeks of the Crusader Battle also showed was that the British generals commanding in the desert war were inferior to their German counterparts. Only General Auchinleck, of the senior commanders present in late 1941 and into 1942 could match wits successfully with Rommel. Not only was the problem at the level of the Lt-Generals, but even some of the division commanders, such as General Gott, were not up to the standard needed. I do not like what I know about Bernard Law Montgomery, but he was at least able to fight the Germans and win, if he had sufficient military strength. Men, such as Alan Cunningham, Neil Ritchie, and their corps commanders, could not compete with Rommel and his men. They continually made what I would call "rookie errors", such as committing forces piecemeal, where they could be defeated in detail.

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