Thursday, September 06, 2007

The British air situation in late January 1942

After the army was forced back from western Cyrenaica, Tripoli was beyond the reach of British bombers, except for Liberators. Liberators were still in an experimental stage, where the RAF was trying to understand how best to use them. Meanwhile, the situation on Malta took a turn for the worse. Aircraft from Malta had been attacking Tripoli and Naples. These attacks were mounted by Malta-based Wellingtons. Seven Blenheims were lost, with their crews in just three days in other operations. The RAF had made a supreme effort during January, as they had flown 2,000 sorties besides anti-shipping operations. They had destroyed 19 German and "at least as many Italian aircraft", while they lost "45 British aircraft, mostly in the Desert". It was General Godwin-Austen who had suggested that a defensive line be prepared at Gazala. By this time, General Ritchie agreed. Rommel had backed off, as he felt that he was no longer stronger than the forces opposed to him. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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