Saturday, June 30, 2007

The British continued to fight dispersed in late December 1941

When we read about British operations in the last third of December 1941, we see that they commanders still insisted on dipersing the larger units into small columns of small fighting strength. To some extent, this can be excused by pointing out that the Axis forces were greatly depleted, but in fact, it was more of the same losing policies that came close to losing the North African Campaign during 1942. Generals Ritchie and Godwin-Austen continued to issue orders, directing units this way and that, having lost touch with what was actually happening on the ground. By 21 December, the 22nd Armoured Brigade, actually a component of the 1st Armoured Division, had been reborn with 80 cruiser tanks (probably mostly Crusaders) and 30 Stuarts. That formed the pattern for the first half of 1942. The armoured brigades would have mostly cruiser or medium tanks with a smaller component of Stuarts. The 4th Armoured Brigade had been withdrawn, except for the 3rd RTR. The dispersed state of British forces left them vulnerable and the 15th Panzer Division (note the unit site) attacked a company of Coldstream guards and artillery at Beda Fomm and caused them to retreat. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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