Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reacting to the Japanese attack

The British had wanted to supply the Far East forces without withdrawing troops and equipment from the Middle East, if possible. Units being sent to Iraq were diverted from Durban: "one complete anti-tank regiment and the men of a second; on eheavy and one light anti-aircraft regiment; Headquarters No.267 Wing and four fighter squadrons, with fifty-one Hurricane IIs and twenty-four pilots." Other pilots and aircraft were diverted at Takoradi. Men and equipment intended for Gymnast were sent east, instead. Fifty light tanks were sent, but not missed. They went to reinforce India. Force in India were lost to the Middle East and were to head east, as well. When the Crusader Battle ended, many aircraft were to be sent east, to destinations such as Singapore. Naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea were greatly weakened, which would give the Italians and Germans much more freedom to operate. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gymnast plans

The plan for Gymnast, the occupation of French colonies in northwest Africa was quite advanced. The operation would consist of two infantry divisions and one armoured division. They troops and equipment would be sent from Britain. They could be sent between 23 and 32 days after the decision was made. General Sir Harold Alexander would command the operation. All this was planned before the night of 7 to 8 December 1941. The Japanese attacks in the Far East dashed any hopes of mounting Gymnast anytime soon. A feature of the attack is that the United States actively joined the war on the side of the Allies. However, that involvement centered on operations in the Far East and the Pacific. That same theatre drew off forces either in the Middle East or planned for the Middle East. To coordinate with the Americans, Field-Marshal Sir John Dill was located to Washington. He was succeeded as CIGS by Sir Alan Brooke. Sir John Dill had traveled to Washington with Churchill when he went to meet with President Roosevelt and the Chiefs of Staff. The plan that they decided upon was to hold in the Far East and to make Germany the priority. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More plans that were moot

Winston Churchill like the idea for the "Gymnast" operation that would put Allied troops into Vichy North African colonies in northwest Africa. The British government hoped to be able to deal with General Weygand, but he was removed by the Vichy government on 18 November 1941. Operation Crusader was not going as well or as fast as had been hoped, so that slowed down consideration of "Gymnast". Still, the British were going to consult with U.S. President Roosevelt to help with France. They would essentially give the Vichy government an ultimatum, rather than negotiate with General Weygand. The commanders would rather have seen the operation target Tunisia than Morocco and Algeria, as they were too far to the west. The British went so far as to calculate that they would fly in three squadrons from Gibraltar and Malta, if the French acceded to their demands. All this became moot after 7 December 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

After the Japanese attacks in the Far East

The British naval losses in December 1941 and the Japanese attacks in the Far East meant that British plans for future operations were severely affected. The planned operation to take the rest of Libya, named "Acrobat", was removed as a possibility. Instead, for the first part of 1942, Rommel was resurgent and ultimately pushed back the British forces to the El Alamein area, where Auchinleck stopped him decisively at the First Battle of El Alamein. The British lost their superiority in the air along with their material superiority. The officers below Auchinleck were not able to win without that edge in equipment and men that they had enjoyed in the Crusader Battle. British planners were already thinking beyond Acrobat and were considering an operation to capture Sicily. The setbacks that occurred meant that was postponed to 1943, after the Axis forces were finally destroyed in Tunisia. At the same time, the Americans had landed in French North Africa and were moving east. But all that was more than a year in the future. But in the near term, the British hoped to negotiate with the French commander in North Africa, General Weygand, whom they knew quite well. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A low point for the Mediterranean Fleet

The damage and losses that had occurred in December 1941 reduced the British Mediterranean Fleet to its lowest strength since the losses in the battle for Crete in May and June 1941. To further aggravate the situation, the Japanese attack in the Far East meant that ships had to be sent east, regardless of the needs in the Mediterranean. The losses had been severe: the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the battleship Barham had been destroyed. The battleships Queen Elizabeth and Valiant were disabled and would need to be raised and repaired. With rising tensions in the Far East in October, two destroyers had been withdrawn and sent east. That had reduced the destroyer force to ten ships. To bring more ships to the eastern Mediterranean meant equipping Force H with Hunt class destroyers, which were much less capable than the Tribals, the J and K class, and L and M class ships. In late December, the cruiser Dido arrived at Alexandria, repaired since the Crete battle, along with four badly needed destroyers. Further destroyer reinforcements would be some of the smaller Hunt class ships. That left the battleship Malaya, with Force H, the only operational battleship in the Mediterranean. There was also the small and old carrier Argus. No fleet carriers could be spared. Force H also had the cruiser Hermione with some destroyers. The fleet at Alexandria was reduced to Admiral Vian's three small cruisers: the Naiad, the Dido, and the Euryalus. There were no heavy ships available to face the four operational Italian battleships. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Alexandria attackers

Six men attacked Alexandria harbour on the night of 18/19 December 1941. This was the most successful human torpedo attack of the war. The men belonged to the Tenth Light Flotilla. The submarine Sciré carried three of the torpedoes "to a position about 1-1/2 miles north of the eastern harbour of Alexandria". They traveled about five miles to the harbour entrance and arrived at a time when the boom was open for destroyers to enter. They were attacked by patrol craft, which dropped depth charges, but they were able to continue. The protective nets around the battleships did not deter them and they were able to plant their explosive charges. The charge for the Queen Elizabeth could be attached as intended, but they were not able to do that for the Valiant. The third charge was placed near the tanker Sagona. They left the charge on the harbour bottom, beneath the battleship. Of the six men who attacked, the two were taken prisoner on the Valiant, after being found on the buoy. The other four were found ashore after they were not able to make contact with the submarine Zaffiro, which was "to pick them up off Rosetta". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The attack on Alexandria

The Admiralty warned Admiral Cunningham on 18 December 1941 that the Italians intended to attack ships in Alexandria harbour with "human torpedoes". The Italians excelled at this sort of operation where there were individual heroics. Some precautions were taken against torpedoes. Early on 19 December, the British found that the operation had already commenced. They found two Italian frogmen sitting on the battleship Valiant's buoy. They were taken prisoner and placed in the hold, as insurance. By 5:47am, a tanker and the destroyer Jervis were damaged by explosions. At that point, the Italians warned the Valiant's captain that his ship would be hit by an explosion. The two British battleships repositioned their crew, so that there were 8 casualties instead of many when there was an explosion under a forward turret on the Valiant and under the Queen Elizabeth's boiler rooms. I believe that both battleships ended up settling to the bottom in the harbour. They were out of service for along time. The Queen Elizabeth was ultimately repaired at Norfolk, Virginia. A sailor who had been on the cruiser Exeter at the Battle of the River Plate stayed with my grandparents at Ocean View, near the naval base. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

14 to 17 December 1941

The 15th Cruiser Squadron, commanded by Rear-Admiral Vian, with cruisers Naiad, Euryalus, and Galatea had been sent to sea to intercept possible Italian convoys, but they were recalled on 14 December 1941. While approaching Alexandria, the Galatea was torpedoed by U-557 and sank. The remains of the 15th Cruiser Squadron, augmented by the old AA cruiser Carlisle, sortied later on 15 December. They hoped to make a run with the Breconshire to Malta, along with eight destroyers. Once Admiral Cunningham realized that the Italian battlefleet was at sea, he ordered the Carlisle to be sent back to Alexandria. Force K sortied from Malta early on 17 December, with cruisers Aurora and Penelope and with destroyers Lance and Lively. The cruiser Neptune and two more destroyers would join them at sea. Later on 16 December, the battleship Duilio, with three cruisers and "eleven destroyers" left the Italian naval base at Taranto with supply ships bound for Tripoli and Benghazi. Three more battleships, two heavy cruisers, and 10 destroyers provided cover on the east side. Admiral Iachino, in the Littorio, received air reconnaissance reports about the British movements. Reconnaissance aircraft mistook the tanker Breconshire for a battleship, so the Italians acted to try and protect their supply ships. Right before the sun went down on 17 December, Admiral Vian could see the Italian battlefleet on the horizon. Force K and the Neptune took the Breconshire into Malta, where they arrived at 3pm on 18 December. Late on 17 December, the Italians opened fire on Admiral Vian's force, but did no damage. On 18 December, the Italian battlefleet continued in distant cover for the supply ships and then withdrew. Malta was under heavy rain on 18 December, but "four Albacores attacked and damaged one of the convoy". The entrance to Tripoli was mined, so the supply ships had to anchor outside the harbour. While approaching Tripoli, the Aurora, Penelope, and Neptune were mined. The Neptune was disabled. While trying to reach the Neptune, the destroyer Kandahar was also mined and lost her stern. The Neptune and Kandahar had to be abandoned, the Kandahar being torpedoed. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A British success on the night of 12/13 December 1941

In December 1941, the Italians resorted to using warships to carry supplies to North Africa. They tried to run two light cruisers, the Alberto di Giussano and the Alberico da Barbiano, through to Tripoli. They were caught by four destroyers coming to join the Mediterranean Fleet: the Sikh, Maori, Legion, and the Dutch Isaac Sweers. The encounter happened near Cape Bon at just after 2am. The Allies were able to approach unnoticed and fired torpedoes. The destroyers then opened up with their guns and finished off the cruisers, leaving them in a sinking condition. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The war at sea in November 1941

Force K, the surface raiding force based at Malta, was the main reason that Axis supply shipments to North Africa were greatly reduced. The losses to British submarines remained about the same. Losses to British maritime air strikes actually declined, due to unfavorable weather. Given that, the inevitable result was that Force K would receive unwanted attention. 25 German submarines were sent to the Mediterranean. 15 would operate in the western Mediterranean while 10 would operate in the eastern portion. Field-Marshal Kesselring arrived in late November 1941 and brought along Fliegerkorps II, which would operate from Sicily. One of the immediate results was that the aircraft carrier Ark Royal was sunk by U-81 in early November. About the same time, the British tried to run two disguised merchant ships to Malta. They were sunk by the capable Italian torpedo bombers. That ended the attempt to use disguised ships to supply Malta. The next incident was that the battleship Barham was sunk by U-331 on 25 November. Many lives were lost because the Barham capsized and exploded. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Late November, early December: Blenheims on the attack

Blenheims, probably Blenheim IVs, achieved successes in the anti-shipping role in late November, early December 1941. The Lancaster Museum, in Canada, has a page on the Blenheim IV. No.18 Squadron, flying Blenheims, was based on Malta. During another Italian operation that was trying to push through supplies to North Africa, No.18 Squadron Blenheims caught a small Italian convoy at sea and sank the Capo Faro and damaged the Volturno and Iseo. No.104 Squadron Blenheims had damaged the merchant ship Mantovani, which was eventually sunk by the cruiser Aurora. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The destruction of the Duisburg convoy

The convoy that had been intercepted by Force K was the Duisburg convoy. There were seven merchant ships, of which all were sunk. Two of the escorting destroyers were lost. Force K sank the Fulmine and the submarine Upholder sank the Libeccio, which had been damaged by Force K. There had been two heavy cruisers, the Trento and Trieste in support, along with four more destroyers. Through lack of initiative and timidity, they failed to intervene. Some Italian submarines and surface warships brought a small amount of fuel to Libya. Another four convoys were sent to sea to make a run for North Africa. One operation successfully arrived at Benghazi, while it was still in Axis hands. After two Italian cruisers were torpedoed, the remaining convoys turned back. A small convoy from Greece, heading for Benghazi was intercepted and sunk. Only two other supply ships reached North Africa. One arrived at Benghazi and one at Tripoli. Late in November, another attempt was made from several ports, but only one reached Benghazi on 2 December 1941. About 62 percent of supplies that were sent to North Africa were lost on transit, according to an Italian estimate. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Shifting to the war at sea

Chapter IV of Vol.III of the Official History now shifts focus to the war at sea in the Mediterranean. In early November 1941, Martin Marylands were still in service in the maritime reconnaissance role. No.69 Squadron RAF had aircraft flying from Malta at this stage in the war. One Maryland returned to Malta on 8 November and reported seeing an Italian convoy headed east. They were "forty miles east of Cape Sartivento in Calabria". Force K was still able to operate from Malta and they sortied a few hours later. They made contact forty minutes after midnight on 9 November. Force K consisted of the small cruisers Aurora and Penelope (6-6in guns) and the Lance and Lively (4-4in guns). They caught the Italians totally by surprise and quickly reduced the destroyer Fulmine to a sinking condition. The six merchant ships were either sunk or left burning. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Axis supply in the Crusader Battle

The Official History says that despite the Axis forces being short on transport, they had well-stocked supply depots at locations such as "Gambut, Acroma, and Gazala". They generally operated close to them. When they tried to operate at a distance, they immediately had supply concerns. The Axis also captured a great deal of British transport, so that helped their situation. As the battle progressed, the supplies were depleted or captured by the British. That put the Axis forces in a situation that ultimately forced them to withdraw on El Agheila, where supplies were more easily brought forward. The British successes at sea against the Axis supply lines greatly complicated the situation for the Axis and meant that Rommel had little choice but to pull back to the west, to preserve this units for a more favorable opportunity (which soon arose). This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The British plan was good

The original plan for the Crusader Battle was good. They would move up to and occupy the Sidi Rezegh Airfield with a large force, including tanks and then wait for the Germans to attack them. They would fight the decisive tank battle and then break the siege of Tobruk. The problem was, when the Germans did not immediately react, the commanders on the spot dispersed their units across a large area. When the Axis force did move against them, they were able to crush the smaller units at their leisure. In the "Dash to the Wire", Rommel's instincts were correct. He succeeded in panicking a large part of the British rear echelon and General Cunningham, as well. Only the intervention by General Auchinleck saved the battle. Otherwise, it would have been another Battleaxe. If there was one culprit on the British side, you might already surmise, I would say it was General Gott, the 7th Armoured Division commander. He almost immediately deviated in major ways from Cunningham's plan. Very quickly, the plan was a dead issue and the British suffered great losses in the process, including losing some Commonwealth infantry brigades (New Zealand and South African). This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fighting dispersed

Even if Generals Gott, Norrie, Godwin-Austen and others seemed oblivious to the basic principle of keeping their forces concentrated, the Germans did that and were acutely aware of the British propensity to disperse and took advantage of it in the Crusader Battle and into 1942. General Cunningham assumed that his commanders would keep 30th Corps concentrated and that they would follow his plan. Gott was especially bad about sending individual tank squadrons off on a mission in some far location. "The German report on the battle" mentions this fundamental error on the British part. The DAK commander concentrated his forces so that he could incrementally defeat the British. After General Auchinleck's intervention to continue the Crusader Battle in late November, the British material superiority finally overwhelmed the Axis. The British superiority on the Axis supply lines that choked the Axis forces was a major factor. Rommel was wise enough to keep his forces largely intact, except for the lost units at the frontier, which were beyond help. The Axis forces temporarily pulled back so that the British supply lines were stretched to the limit, and then in a few weeks, pushed back to Gazala. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

British shortcomings in the Crusader Battle

The British had too sorts of shortcomings. One sort was their equipment. The other was more damaging, how they fought battles, which we will discuss later. As for equipment, in the air, the British fighters were outclassed by the Me-109F (Bf-109f). With respect to tanks, the new cruiser tanks being produced in large numbers, the Crusaders, were mechanically unreliable and had inadequate protection and armament. The 2pdr gun was too light. The solution was in the work with the 57mm 6pdr gun. A later version had a lengthened barrel and higher velocity, but the first version would be a vast improvement. The Crusader III would come into service with the gun and would arrive in the Middle East during 1942. There were also the American medium tanks armed with the medium velocity 75mm gun that would soon arrive, as well. The first were the Grants and Lees. The Sherman, with a turret-mounted 75mm would supplant the Grants and Lees with a 75mm gun in a sponson. In the interim, the British had to depend upon the 25pdr gun-howitzer for anti-tank work. This had the undesirable side effect of reducing their effectiveness in the pure artillery role. However, at the time, nothing else could be done. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Losses in the battle from November 1941 to January 1942

The Italians lost a great deal of equipment in the recent battle, mostly due to the lack of transport during the massive withdrawal to El Agheila. In sheer numbers, though, the British lost many more tanks in the battle than the Germans. The Germans already had in place a strong recovery and repair capability. The British still were lacking in this area, despite having made efforts since Battleaxe, in mid-1941. Because the British ended the recent battle in possession of the battlefield, this enabled them to recover and repair many more tanks than would have otherwise been possible. The British did recover many tanks. By 29 November 1941, they had recovered 187 of the 300 damaged, destroyed, or broken down. By 6 December, the losses had grown to 450, but 338 of these, including the previous figures, were recovered. By 1 January 1942, they had recovered 600 tanks. This figure does not include the infantry tanks (Matilda and Valentine). About 200 were lost, in addition. The Germans probably lost about 220 tanks and the Italians lost about 120 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The air fight during the Crusader Battle

During the Crusader Battle and the immediate aftermath, the British enjoyed a very complete air superiority. The army greatly appreciated the support they received, as many had experienced Greece and Crete where the Germans had the air superiority. Axis losses exceeded the British, but in confirmed losses, not by a great number. From 18 November 1941 to 20 January 1942, the Germans lost at least 232 aircraft and the Italians "at least 100". On the airfields of Cyrenaica, the British found 238 German aircraft and about the same number of Italian aircraft. That puts the Axis losses a great deal higher than the British losses of "about 300". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The air situation in January 1942

The German air contingent in North Africa was "a detachment of Fliegerkorps X". The commander, General Geisler, was based in Greece. His main concern was control of the sealanes and the war at sea. In November 1941, Field-Marshal Kesselring took overall command, with Fliegerkorps X as part of his Luftflotte 2. The commander in North Africa, the Fliegerführer Afrika, Major-General Frölich reported directly to Kesselring. Rommel was not in Kesselring's control and the Italian air forces had their own command structure.

In contrast to the undesirable Axis air command structure, Air Marshal Tedder, commander in the Middle East, had every available squadron in the Desert Air Force under Air Vice-Marshal Coningham's command. Coningham was co-located with the 8th Army HQ and worked closely with the army commander. He had achieved air superiority for the duration of the Crusader Battle, and that greatly affected the outcome of the battle.

This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Halfaya in early January 1942

The Axis forces at Bardia has surrendered on 2 January 1942. The British forces had closely surrounded the Halfaya Pass position and the two remaining day bomber squadrons conducted a bombing program, but to no avail. The 6th South African Brigade was then sent in to assault the lower Sollum area. That area surrenderedon 12 January, isolating the rest of the Axis forces. They surrendered on 17 January. Within a few weeks, Rommel was able to attack and pushed forward, again, to Gazala. In the campaign from the beginning to mid-January 1942, Axis casualties were more than double those of the British. Up to January 1942, from the start of the Crusader Battle in November 1941, the British had air superiority in the battle area. That would change in 1942, as the Luftwaffe poured strength into the Mediterranean theater, in an attempt to reduce or at least neutralize Malta and to protect the Axis supply lines, while making British transport and even movement difficult. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Attack on Bardia on 31 December 1941

A considerable force was gathered for an attack on Bardia under the command of General Villiers of the 2nd South African Division. The main ground force was the whole 2nd South African Division. In addition, the attack on Bardia would include the 8th RTR, the 44 RTR, the 1st Army Tank Brigade HQ (equipped with Valentines and Matildas), the NZ Divisional Cavalry (equipped with light tanks, probably Lt.Mk.VI and carriers), the 67th Medium Regiment, the 68th Medium Regiment, the 211th Medium Battery, the the 7th Field Regiment, SAA, and the Polish Carpathian Field Regiment. The attack was preceded by air attacks from the No.270 Wing RAF (No.14, No.45, No.84, and 2nd Lorraine Squadrons). No.451 of the RAAF provided tactical aerial reconnaissance and specialized reconnaissance to support the artillery. Bardia was beyond the reach of Axis air cover, so that helped. Offshore fire support was provided by the cruiser Ajax and the gunboat Aphis. The Axis forces surrendered on 2 January, "with Rommel's approval". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Changes in early 1942

A feature of early 1942 was that the Axis made a great air effort to neutralize Malta, and it started to have a visible effect. One of the benefits was that the Italians were able to ship 2,300 tons of aviation fuel to Tripoli on 5 January 1942. Meanwhile, the British were forced to rely primarily on road transport to bring supplies to the front in far western Cyrenaica. The continued air offensive against the Axis supply lines, now mainly by Wellingtons, could do little to change that situation. The Desert Air Force aided the offensive by 30th Corps to eliminate Axis forces trapped in the frontier area. They lay primarily at Bardia and Halfaya. The army had the 2nd South African Division, the 1st Army Tank Brigade, and part of the 1st South African Division. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New aircraft, new designations in January 1942

As previously mentioned, the Curtis Kittyhawk had arrived in North Africa and was in service in January 1942. They initially served with No.3 Squadron RAAF and were in action over Antelat on 1 January 1942. Another new aircraft was the Consolidated Liberator, which could carry a large bomb load for a long distance. The Liberator was used to bomb Tripoli on 11 January. With four engined bombers now in service with the RAF as heavy bombers, the Wellingtons became medium bombers (instead of heavy bombers) and the smaller Blenheim, Maryland, Boston, and Baltimore (not yet in service) were reclassified as light bombers, as in the US parlance. At the same time, the Italians introduced the biplane CR42 in the fighter-bomber role. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

In the air: late December 1941 and early January 1942

Both British and Axis air forces were greatly stressed by the last campaign, with then changes in locale. The British "day bomber" situation was pretty unsatisfactory. There were eight squadrons, but two were being sent to the Far East, in response to the Japanese attack. Two were in the process of refitting. Of the other four, two were used on the attack on Axis forces around Halfaya. That left two squadrons to support the current operations near Mersa Brega. They had one success on 29 December, when ten bombers "caused over forty casualties". The British used the LR Hurricanes (No.33 Squadron) and Beaufighters (No.272 Squadron) to reach beyond the lines for reconnassance and attacks. On the other hand, on 28 December 1941, the Axis put up "over a hundred aircraft". New comers to the North African theater included the Kittyhawk fighter and the Liberator bomber. The Germans had the Me-109F, which was superior to any Allied fighter in the theater. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The end of 1941 and beginning of 1942

Mussolini had agreed to Rommel's plan to withdraw to El Agheila. After winning a success against the 22nd Armoured Brigade, Rommel decided to hit them again, to help the infantry have some rest. The German Afrika Korps hit the 22nd Armoured Brigade, again, on 30 December 1941 and destroyed another 23 British tanks. That left the 22nd Armoured Brigade with a few Crusaders and the rest being Stuarts. The British withdrew the remainder of the 22nd Armoured Brigade. The British didn't realize that the Axis forces had started the withdrawal to El Agheila on 1 January 1942. They only noticed on 5 January and then they didn't have forces to interfere. The last Axis forces withdrew by 6 January to a defended locale near El Agheila. The British had small columns that followed but could not actually be in contact. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The 22nd Armoured Brigade on 28 December 1941

Vol.III of the Official History gives the composition of the 22nd Armoured Brigade battle group on 28 and 30 December 1941:

22nd Armoured Brigade with 55 Crusaders and 35 Stuarts
2nd Regiment, RA: 16-25pdr guns, in two batteries
102nd (Northumberland Hussars) AT Regiment: 36-2pdr ATGs in three batteries
122nd AA Battery, RA
9th Battalion, the Rifle Brigade

The 22nd Armoured Brigade was beaten and driven back by the
two Panzer Divisions (with 60 tanks, of which 44 were
Pzkw III and IV tanks). The 22nd Armoured Brigade lost 37 tanks,
mostly Crusaders that broke down and were abandoned. The Germans
lost seven tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

British supply problems

Now that the British forces occupied almost all of Cyrenaica in late December 1941, they were faced with major supply problems, while those of the Axis forces were reduced. Tobruk was still not in any condition to allow for large shipments. The port was still being repaired and there was sufficient danger from air attack, that shipments were more difficult than anticipated. Still, by 13 December, the RAF was at least able to provide fighter cover over Tobruk, so that shipments could be scheduled to arrive during daylight. They had hoped to use the Glenroy to transport lighters to Tobruk, but she was torpedoed by an Italian SM79 (a really good torpedo bomber) and was lucky to survive. The main threat now had become German submarines. They were still able to handle 600 tons of supplies per day at Tobruk, but the army needed more than that. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Desert Raiders

The December 1941 equivalent of Special Forces had been tasked to harass the Axis forces. The Oasis Force had joined with the Long Range Desert Group and Special Air Service at Jalo. From there, they cut across through the desert to the northwest, headed towards Agedabia. They crossed the Wadi Faregh south of Agedabia and then turned to the northeast and followed the wadi to Giof el Matar, which they reached on 22 December 1941. Tamet airfield and Agedabia's airfield were both hit, the former being hit twice. They claimed to have destroyed between 20 and 30 aircraft, all Italian. General Godwin-Austen hoped to mount an attack, as well in late December. In the event, nothing significant was achieved. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Axis forces withdraw further from 22 December 1941

After part of the 15th Panzer Division had driven back a column from the 22nd Guards, reinforced by the 3rd RTR, the Axis forces withdrew further. The Brescia Division seems to have performed a rearguard role while the other Italian infantry divisions went further down the road. The British plans went awry. The 22nd Armoured Brigade "ran out of petrol" after advancing to Saunnu. The 7th Support Group wasn't able to interfere with the Axis withdrawal from Benghazi. "Bencol" had started to move towards Agedabia. The Brescia Division finally withdrew after fulfilling its rearguard mission. By late on 24 December, the DAK, the Italian 20th Corps (Ariete and Trieste), and the Brescia Division were at Agedabia. Vol.III of the Official History says that this completed Rommel's successful withdrawal from the Gazala position. This account is based on that in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More about the 22nd Armoured Brigade on 22 December 1941

I know a bit more about the 22nd Armoured Brigade, as it was on 21 December 1941:

22nd Armoured Brigade

composed of
3rd County of London Yeomanry
4th Country of London Yeomanry
both equipped with a total of 80 Crusader tanks
(I would suppose about 40 Crusaders each)
2nd Royal Gloucester Hussars
equipped with 30 Stuarts, which might be
about 9 Stuarts per squadron with 3 for the HQ

This is based on information in Vol.III of the Official History

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