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 The main group of fighters was withdrawn to Mechili, with plans to withdraw to Gazala.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.