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.