Friday, September 07, 2007
A change in British policy
General Ritchie still had visions of a quick attack that would push the Axis forces back into Tripolitania, but that was wishful thinking. He found that the two division commanders involved in the retreat from western Cyrenaica wanted to pull back to a more defensible location. After General Messervy had reported the reduced capability of the 1st Armoured Division and General Tuker had commented on the dangers of delaying the fighting retreat, General Ritchie relented and they would be able to withdraw to Gazala by 4 February 1942. The Axis forces occupied Benghazi on 29 January. They were out of fuel, so they were forced to sit for the moment. Rommel wanted to launch a new offensive, but the lack of fuel ruled that out for the moment. Mussolini still wanted to defend further west and just use light forces forward. Rommel thought that Mussolini and the higher commanders were too timid and weak-minded. The Italians would be content to just defend Tripolitania. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.