Friday, August 31, 2007

Bad news on 25 January 1942

After the 1st Armoured Division mauled by the DAK on 25 January 1942, General Godwin-Austen ordered the 4th Indian Division to withdraw from Benghazi. The remains of the 1st Armoured Division were ordered to make for Mechili. In the rear, General Ritchie and Air Marshal Tedder decided that the German success on 25 January was not serious and just a fluke. General Ritchie ordered that the withdrawal cease. General Ritchie made the statement that showed just how out of touch with reality he was: "The most offensive action must be taken, together with the greatest risks". General Ritchie took the 4th Indian Division under his immediate control. General Godwin-Austen protested, and then commented on General Ritchie's "loss of confidence in himself". General Ritchie, once he had taken control found that the two division commanders doubted their ability to hold on. The 1st Armoured Division was down to 41 tanks and 40 field guns. The 4th Indian Division only had been reduced to the strength of a single brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

British confusion and over-optimism

While General Ritchie let General Godwin-Austen make plans to withdraw, he continued to believe that Rommel could not be that strong or well-supported to be a threat. Air Vice-Marshal Coningham prepared for the worst, and got ready for a massive withdrawal of the air units from their forward positions. They were sitting with two fighter squadrons at Benghazi, but they would be pulled back to Martuba to join two others. After that, all four would withdraw to El Adem. The main group of fighters was withdrawn to Mechili, with plans to withdraw to Gazala. The RAF was able to hit the Axis rear at Nofilia, using Beaufighters. By 25 January 1942, Rommel pushed northward, which had the effect of driving the 1st Armoured Division back in the direction of Charruba. If the Germans had not run low on fuel, they would have continued past Msus. As it was, they had to stop, but Rommel was pleased with the effects of his "spoiling attack". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

24 January 1942

Rommel had finished 23 January 1942 not really realizing what had happened. He wasted time headed to the southeast when the British had actually withdrawn to the north. The events of 23 January had greatly worried the 13th Corps commander, General Godwin-Austen. His concerns were that the Axis forces were stronger than had been expected and that his forces seemed inadequate for stopping or even slowing the Axis advance. General Ritchie, the new 8th Army Commander, would have nothing of it and still thought that the Axis forces couldn't possibly be in a position to advance further and would be running low on supplies. General Ritchie thought that if the British could assemble to groups, one at Msus and the other south of Benghazi, that would be more than the Axis forces could handle. General Godwin-Austen had reservations, as he felt that the 1st Armoured Division was too weak to protect the "desert flank". This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The 4th Indian Division on 23 January 1942

The 4th Indian Division was under 13th Corps command. The 7th Indian Infantry Brigade was defending Benghazi. The division commander, General Tuker, had ordered the 11th Indian Infantry Brigade forward from Tobruk to relieve the 7th Indian Brigade, so it could move south in support of the 1st Armoured Division. General Ritchie seems delusional, at this late date, because he still expected to brush aside the German offensive and attack into Tripoli. Of course, Rommel's success brought him trouble from the Italian high command, as they were afraid of getting over extended and in a weakened state where the British could attack. Not only did General Cavallero arrive at Rommel's HQ, but also Field-Marshal Kesselring, making dire predictions that there would not be any supplies arriving in the near future. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Late on 23 January 1942

The 9th Lancers had the misfortune to arrive at Saunnu about 5pm, when the 21st Panzer Division arrived. They fought a sharp action, during which the 21st Field Battery, South African Artillery was overrun. They did succeed in knocking out several German tanks, however. The 10th Hussars also were caught in the fight, and were fortunate to eventually disengage, but only with great difficulty. Their artillery fought well, but lost many guns. The Queen's Bays were able to reach the track to Msus and the 2nd Armoured Brigade HQ. Only by the morning of the 24th did the rest of the brigade arrive. The 1st Support Group and 200th Guards arrived, as well. By the evening of 23 January, the 9th Lancers had 28 tanks, the 10th Hussars had 8 tanks, all near Saunnu. The 21st Panzer Division lost half of its 20 tanks. The 15th Panzer Division was much stronger, but by 23 January, they had dropped in strength from 80 tanks to 61 tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Confusion on 23 January 1942

The Queen's Bays had been directed to Saunnu, looking for Marcks Group. They had been sent to el Grara, so no one was at Saunnu, when the Queen's Bays arrived. Rommel had ordered the 21st Panzer Division to Saunnu, so but the did not receive the order. They sat where they were, instead. Air reconnaissance was impaired by ground haze, early in the day. British air reconnaissance did see the massive move up the coast road and attacked with LR Hurricanes, as that was the only aircraft available. Fighters were used for reconnaissance, since the air battle over the scene was so intense. The weaker 21st Panzer Division was hit by the 9th Lancers and 10th Hussars and was stopped. They called for help from the 15th Panzer Division. They would not respond without DAK approval. The 15th Panzer Division was ordered forward and ended up chasing the 1st Support Group northward. Late afternoon on 23 January saw the 2nd Armoured Brigade caught in action with DAK, and while they inflicted some damage, they also lost guns. The initial German confusion subsided and they started to press the 1st Armoured Divison quite hard, until they leaguered for the evening. The artillery on both sides was engaged valiantly. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

23 January 1942

The British intentions on 23 January 1942 were to stage an orderly withdrawal of the 1st Armoured Division units that were in the far southwestern part of Cyrenaica. Rommel's intention was to capture as many of those forces as he could and to move forward. The British "bluff" was called by Rommel and as exposed to be a bluff and unrealistic desires. They did not count on Rommel's opportunistic streak and his willingness to push forward, where ever he sensed weakness. The British hope that they would advance into Tripolitania any time soon was shown to be a pipe dream. Axis forces had moved to the southeast in an attempt to cut off the most forward British troops. Rommel had wanted the 21st Panzer Division to move to Saunnu, but they didn't receive the order. Marcks Group had withdrawn from Saunnu to move east to Maaten el Grara. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

General Ritchie misread what was happening

General Ritchie, the new 8th Army commander, was in Cairo when Rommel's offensive started. Ritchie believe that Rommel was just "trying to gain elbow-room east of the El Agheila defile". In reality, this was a new offensive, pursued when Rommel realized just how unprepared the British were. The RAF just barely got off the Antelat airfield. The last aircraft took off under fire. As it was, the field was soggy. The RAF fought back using Blenheims and Wellingtons to harass the Axis supply lines. Ritchie had decided to provide the 4th Indian Division with enough transport to be mobile. He had assumed that the Rommel would hold back his tanks, when they were actually used in the attack. The British had unknowingly recreated their dispositions from early 1941, right before Rommel's initial attack. Rommel attacked for the same reasons: he found the British were poorly disposed and weak on the ground. He had a momentary superiority as his supply situation had improved, so he moved forward take advantage of the situation while he could. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The initial retreat from western Cyrenaica

Major-General Frank Messervy was temporarily in command of the 1st Armoured Division after General Lumsden had been wounded in an air attack. He commanded the initial withdrawals. General Messervy had wanted the 200th Guards Brigade to block the coast road, but the brigade commander had sent the 2nd Scots Guards to Antelat, as they were without artillery or any other support. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was sent to a position about 12 miles north of Giod el Matar, which is directly east of Agedabia. By the first evening, the 1st Support Group and the 200th Guards Brigade were positioned along a front between Agedabia and El Haseiat. General Godwin-Austen, the 13th Corps commander, took a pessimistic view and ordered that troops in Benghazi be prepared to abandon the city. He was right, as the whole western Cyrenaican front was about to collapse. All he had was the 4th Indian Division to try and slow Rommel's advance up the coast road. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The initial advance from 21 January 1942

Group Marcks quickly pushed up the coast road towards Agedabia, starting on 21 January 1942. The British pulled back their columns as the three Axis groups advanced. The 1st Support Group was soon bogged down and had lost 16 guns, some to damage but more to being caught in soft ground. They were new to the desert and came under dive bomb attack. Even the 15th Panzer Division had problems with soft going. They Axis forces advanced 10 t0 12 miles on the first day. The 1st Support Group and the 200th Guards Brigade withdrew in front of them. The Marcks Group, on the coast road had two motorized infantry battalions and some mixed German and Italian artillery. General Messervy, new to mobile warfare, misread Rommel's intentions, as he thought that the center was most vulnerable. General Godwin-Austen had a better idea of what to expect, and he had withdrawn his headquarters back to Msus from Antelat. The British finally realized that Rommel had flanked them on the right, and started to react. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Panzerarmee Afrika strikes in January 1942

54 German tanks, their crews, and fuel arrived at Tripoli on 5 January 1942. They reached the front lines by 14 January. Another shipment of equipment arrived at the front on 17 January. The Germans now had 84 tanks and the Italians had 89 tanks. The next day, Rommel ordered an attack on 21 January. The forces were arrayed in three groups. The DAK would be on the right, the Italian 20th Corps in the center and Group Marcks was on the coast road. At the same time, Axis air strength had risen to 515 aircraft. Still, only 300 were ready for action. The British air strength had fallen to 280 that were actually ready. Sandstorms on the night of 20-21 January helped to hide the Axis movements from aerial observation. Antelat, perversely, got rain and was turned to pudding. Four British fighter squadrons were flown off to other airfields, farther to the rear. The attack was launched at 8am on 21 January 1942. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Panzerarmee Afrika

The Axis forces fighting the British in Libya were dubbed Panzerarmee Afrika on 22 January 1942. The nominal list of divisions, all low in strength, were the Deutsche Afrika Korps, with the 15th Panzer Division, the 21st Panzer Division, and 90th Light Division, along with the Italian 10th Corps, with the Bologna and Brescia Divisions, the Italian 20th Corps, with the Ariete Armoured Division and the Trieste Motorized Division, the Italian 21st Corps, with the Pavia, Trento, and Sabratha Divisions. Rommel had some officers who later were quite famous: Major F. W. von Mellenthin and Colonel Westphal. As early as 12 January 1942, Major von Mellenthin, Rommel's senior intelligence officer told him "that for the next fortnight the Axis forces would be slightly stronger than the British immediately opposed to them". The operations head, Colonel Westphal, suggested that the British forces exposed near Agedabia should be attacked. The Axis forces would be too week to push forward, but this was a good opportunity. Once Rommel agreed to this plan, he decided to keep it secret, even from their superiors. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

British air forces in western Cyrenaica in early 1942

The British positioned their air forces, in early 1942, for a planned advance into Tripolitania. The problem with that is that events beyond the Middle Eastern theater had made that plan obsolete. The air commander, Air Vice-Marshal Conyngham estimated that "ten single-engine and one twin-engine fighter, four day-bomber and two tactical reconnaissance squadrons" would be required. No.211 Group, a HQ, was brought forward to command the squadrons that were assembled for the coming offensive. At Antelat, there were four single-engined fighter squadrons. One each were at Tobruk, Benina, Derna, and El Adem. Day bomber squadrons were positioned at Gambut and Bu Amud. The air commander was located at Tmimi, as was his Senior Air Staff Officer. Another factor that would affect the situation was that the Germans almost immediately received substantial rearming and resupply. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, August 17, 2007


The 2nd Armoured Brigade, part of the 1st Armoured Division, had been brought to Mersa Matruh by rail. From there, they traveled about 450 miles "on their own tracks". They lost about 20 cruiser tanks to mechanical breakdown on that trip. We would suppose that the "cruiser tanks" were probably all Crusaders. By this time, they were most likely Mk.II's. They were unlikely to have earlier cruisers. If they did, they would have been Cru. Mk.IVA tanks. Most likely, all remaining Cru. Mk.IVA's were expended in the Crusader Battle at Sidi Rezegh. We believe that they were all assigned to the 7th Armoured Brigade. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The British units positioned forward in early 1942

These are the OOB's for the units that were positioned to the west in early 1942:

200th Guards Brigade Group
3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards
2nd Battalion, Scots Guards
B Squadron, 11th Hussars
1st Field Regiment, RA (two batteries)
51st Field Regiment, RA (two batteries)
27/28th Medium Battery, RA
C and D Batteries, 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment, RA
6th Battery, 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, SAA
6th and 197th Light Anti-Aircraft Batteries, RA
1st Field Squadron, Royal Engineers

1st Support Group
Composite Squadron, 3rd and 4th County of London Yeomanry
11th (HAC) Regiment, RHA
20th Battery, 7th Field Regiment, SAA
76th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA
260th Battery, 65th Anti-Tank Regiment, RA
43rd and 44th Light Anti-Aircraft Batteries, RA
Detachment 7th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers
2nd Battalion, The King's Royal Rifle Corps
1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade

2nd Armoured Brigade Group
The Queen's Bays
9th Queen's Royal Lancers
10th Royal Hussars
2nd Regiment, RHA
8th Field Regiment, RA (two batteries)
7th Field Regiment, SAA (less 20th Battery)
102nd (NH) Anti-Tank Regiment, RHA
2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, SAA (less 6th Battery)
Detachment 7th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers
9th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The British commanders were confident, that the Axis forces were in no shape to attack

As usual, the British commanders were wildly wrong. This was not the first time, nor sadly, the last. Everyone, including General Auchinleck, the theater commander, were certain that the Axis forces would not be ready to attack any time soon. Therefore, having the inexperienced 1st Armoured Division units in forward positions would not be a problem. The front from Mersa Brega to Wadi Faregh just had a screen composed of columns from the 200th Guards Brigade and the 1st Support group. The conventional wisdom was that dividing the units into small all-arms units and dispersing them was the correct way to hold the front. To make matters worse, the 200th Guards Brigade only had two battalions, rather than the three called for in a brigade organization. The 1st Support Group was spread over "hummocky ground", difficult to driver upon. 24 Stuart tanks were positioned with the 1st Support Group. The 2nd Armoured Brigade Group was at Antelat. They were equipped with mixed regiments, each with 26 cruiser tanks and 18 Stuarts. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The 1st Armoured Division

The 1st Armoured Division had seen action in France in 1940, ending with the withdrawal from Dunkirk. They lost whatever equipment that they had there. The Division was reconstituted after returning home. They units that they had acquired by early 1941 were pretty much what they took to the Middle East. They continued to have challenges thrown at them. They lost their tanks in early 1941, when they were taken for the Tiger Convoy. These tanks were mostly expended in the abortive Operation Battleaxe. The 1st Armoured Division was left to train with an odd assortment of old cruiser tanks. In July, the lost their tanks again so that they could receive the modifications needed to operate in North Africa. The 22nd Armoured Brigade was sent ahead to the Middle East with "most the available Crusader tanks". The remainder of the division was shipped to the Middle East in September 1941. That left the division without adequate training as a unit. The division arrived during the Crusader Battle, but was only sent forward in pieces, not as a division. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Western Cyrenaica in January 1942

The forward British units in Western Cyrenaica included the 2nd Armoured Brigade, the 200th Guards Brigade (renamed 22nd Guards), and the 1st Support Group. The 2nd Armoured Brigade had been east of Agedabia, while the 200th Guards and the 1st Support Group had formed a loose front east of Mersa Brega. When Axis forces attacked suddenly in later January, they quickly pushed forward. The 1st Armoured Division troops were new to the desert conflict, except for the 22nd Armoured Division, which had become part of the 7th Armoured Division. The 2nd Armoured Brigade had been turned into a brigade group, with the addition of the 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, the 11th (HAC) Regiment RHA, and the 76th Anti-tank Regiment. However, when support group moved forward, these units reverted to their command. New units were assigned to operate with the 2nd Armoured Brigade at the last minute. Meanwhile, there had been a shortfall in the supplies sent to Cyrenaica, leaving the troops at the front ill-supplied. 13th Corps had wanted to move the 4th Indian Division forward, but the supply situation was too tenuous to allow it. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The British were deluding themselves, as were the Axis commanders

The Japanese attacks that commenced on 7 December 1941 gave the Axis commanders hope that the United States would be focused on the Pacific War and that British strength would be drained away from the Mediterranean theater. They also had hopes that the Americans would concentrate their efforts in the Pacific, and the Allies would go into a containment strategy against them. The British commanders kept hoping that despite their severe naval losses in the Mediterranean and the tenuous situation in Libya, that they might still mount Operation Acrobat to push the Axis forces out of Tripolitania. They obviously did not anticipate the reversal of the strategic situation that took place in early 1942, where the Germans took control of the air over the Mediterrean and put the British supply situation in jeopardy, in conjunction with increased submarine interdiction of British supply lines and operations against British warships. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Japanese

Hitler had made a conscious decision when planning the attack on Russia to encourage the Japanese to attack American interests. He hoped that they would keep the United States occupied in the Pacific and keep then too busy to attack Germany. Hitler did not trust the Japanese with the information about the planned attack against Russia. Hitler also hoped that the Japanese would declare war on Russia after the German attack. Prior to 7 December 1941, the Japanese informed Germany and Italy that their negotiations with the United States had reached an impass and asked that they declare war on the Americans. Both Germany and Italy did not immediately agree. This was at a time when Axis forces had been forced back to Tripolitania and the Russians had recaptured Rostov. Moscow had been successfully defended and the German forces had been halted outside of Moscow. Germany and Italy were thus greatly encouraged by the initial Japanese successes following 7 December 1941. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Political turmoil in Egypt

There was a certain amount of sympathy for the Axis cause in Egypt. Gamel Abdel Nasser was apparently one of those Axis sympathizers. They were able to stir up a certain amount of resentment against the British occupation. There was an economic crisis that ended with the British buying the cotton crop for 1941, as farmers had greatly over-produced. The British had done the same thing in 1940. The Wafd party were anti-British, and were able to bring down the government in early 1942. They pressured King Farouk to appoint Nahas Pasha as Prime Minister. The King was very young. He only turned 22 on 11 February 1942. Fortunately, Nahas Pasha then pledged his support for the British, in a turn-around, and was able to stop the open anti-British activities. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Changes in the government

The commanders in the Middle East had been very pleased with having a cabinet-level minister stationed in the the theater. However, Oliver Lyttleton, the previous minister was moved to Minister of Production. That left the post of Minister of State in the Middle East vacant. The commander protested, and at length, the Australian Minister, Mr. R. G. Casey, who was stationed in Washington, was appointed to succeed Mr. Lyttleton, who left the Middle East at the end of February 1942. The commanders were concerned that they might lose their communications line with the Government in Britain, and that they might not receive the support that they felt that they needed. Mr. Casey did not arrive in the Middle East until 5 May, so until he arrived, Mr. Walter Monckton functioned as the Minister of State. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Organizational changes in the Middle East

During the actual fighting in Iraq, the command had passed to the Middle East theater commander, but in June, the commander in India was given back the responsibility. In mid-December 1941, a consensus was building that Iraq should be moved back under the Middle East. General Auchinleck was actually in favor of it. General Wavell, who was in India, was less sure that such a move was best. The proposed change would include Persia (Iran) under Auchinleck's command. Wavell's area was now expanded to include Burma, as well as Thailand and Malaya. With the winter in Russia in full force and Russian forces making gains, the threat to the Middle East from the North now seemed less imminent. The move was actually made on 12 January 1942. As a consequence, the forces in Iraq became the Tenth Army. Shortly after that, on 29 January, a treat was signed in Teheran, bringing Persia (as Churchill preferred to call Iran) under Allied protection. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A reprieve, but losses anyway

Thanks to President Roosevelt's offer to send Amercian divisions to New Zealand and Australia, the New Zealand Division and the 9th Australian Division were left in the Middle East. The commanders in the Middle East decided that they had to assume that the northern flank was safe, because with the forces at their disposal, they were unable to aid Turkey and defend a German attack through Syria and Iraq. President Roosevelt offered shipping to send two divisions from home to the Middle East or to India, depending on where the need was greatest. Three British divisions were already on the way to reinforce the Middle East. Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier Indomitable was to transport more aircraft from the Middle East to the Far East. The Indomitable arrived back in the Middle East on 23 February 1942 after carrying 48 Hurricanes to the east. They left with another 60 for the squadrons already in transit. No.30 and No.261 Squadrons were sent from the Middle East, as well. Four Blenheim squadrons and two Hurricane squadrons went as well. This was along with 12 Blenheim IVs. Another seven squadrons originally intended for the Middle East were diverted to the Far East, as well. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stripping the Middel East of forces

Churchill and the commanders at home seemed to have an exaggerated view of what the forces in the Middle East theater could accomplish. Commitments were made to Turkey that were very difficult to meet, given the situation from December 1941 onwards. Conversely, General Auchinleck was worried about scenarios that in the end, were not a danger. He was constantly worried about a German attack south into Syria from the Caucasuses. I must admit that when the Germans reached Rostov on Don, the chances were improved that they might go further. The whole picture on the south-eastern front changed with the battle at Stalingrad. That battle finished the German offensive and threw them back into a defensive posture. In any case, the preparations to aid Turkey meant that Iran (or Persia, as Churchill preferred) and Iraq were left without any anti-aircraft defenses. In addition, two anti-aircraft regiments (one light and one heavy) were sent east with the Australian divisions. By this point, there were indications that the 9th Australian Division would be withdrawn, as well. The British 70th Division was sent east in March 1942. They commanders at home also wanted to pull a division from Iraq to go east. Substantial air power was pulled from the Middle East, as well. When the Axis forces rebounded in early 1942, the British position in the Middle East was left in extreme jeopardy. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My assessment of the British position in January 1942

The British might have been tempted to blame their poor performance prior to July 1942 on the need to send forces East to deal with the Japanese attack. The truth seems to be that their real troubles stemmed from a combination of factors. First and foremost was that they lacked competent leadership from the army commander level to at least the division commander level. General Auchinleck, despite his failings, probably could have commanded the 8th Army successfully in the field. That is what Churchill begged him to do, but Auchinleck felt that his role should continue to be solely as theater commander. In critical situations, Auchinleck stepped in and salvaged the British cause, such as the Crusader Battle and after the fall of Tobruk. He then would step back out to theater commander.

General O'Connor, if his health had not failed after the successful campaign against the Italians in late 1940 and early 1941 was probably the equal of Rommel, but his health did fail, and then he was bagged by the Germans when he drove forward in western Cyrenaica. No one who remained, from the theater commander, General Wavell, down to the division commanders, was up to the job of fighting the Germans.

The Germans had good doctrine, well-trained officers who were extremely competent, and had second rate tanks, not much better than the British but much more reliable than any the British had except the American-made Stuarts. They did have superior anti-tank guns and the doctrine about how to use them. Nothing could stand up to the "88", or even the 50mm PAK38's.

The British continually made fundamental mistakes that never should have been made by experienced officers. They continually dispersed their forces, especially the armoured forces. They broke down the infantry divisions, as well. They were always used at this stage of the war as a source of independent brigades. The brigades were often broken into battalions and dispersed into battle groups. The British thought that they were copying the Germans by having these small, independent groups, but they did not really understand what the Germans were doing. The British habitually committed the beginner mistake of trying to have small forces "everywhere".

I hate to say that I agree with Bernard Law Montgomery on something, but he was trying to counteract the dispersion by decreeing that "divisions will fight as divisions". He also disliked the "Jock Columns" because they were just another means of dispersing forces.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Plans on 1 January 1942

One immediate benefit of active American involvement was that American air power could be immediately deployed to the Mediterranean theater. As we have mentioned, the grand strategy adopted in mid-December 1941 was to hold on in the Pacific in a defensive posture while a more vigorous offensive was mounted against Germany and Italy in Europe. Defeating Germany meant landing a great army and defeating German forces in the field. Still, more forces were immediately needed in the Far East. The plan was to send six infantry divisions, a single light tank squadron, and an armoured brigade (the 7th). The divisions would include the 18th British, 17th Indian, 6th Australian, 7th Australian, and two more divisions from either Iraq or India. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Forces taken from the Middle East that were sent to the Far East

The naval forces left after the December disasters included only small vessels, except for the Australian cruiser Hobart. The Australian sloop Yarra was also sent home. Two sloops and two minesweepers were sent from the Red Sea to the East Indies. They were the Sutlej, Jumna, Lismore, and Bathurst. Three sloops were taken from the Persian Gulf and sent to the East Indies, as well. These were the Indus, the Hindustan, and Falmouth. The plan also included taking two submarines and sending them east in early 1942. Hurricane fighter aircraft were transported east by the aircraft carrier Indomitable. The land forces sent east included the 7th Armoured Brigade with 110 Stuarts in two regiments. There was a 25pdr battery and an anti-tank battery. General Auchinleck offered to send an Australian brigade, if they could be promptly replaced. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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