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.