Friday, December 14, 2012
British political considerations and leadership
As 1941 progressed, Winston Churchill b became increasingly desperate for something to go well. Early in the year, we saw the successful conclusion of the campaign to seize Italian Cyrenaica. That campaign was abruptly ended because General Wavell was involved in the the planning for the operation in Greece and he knew that the forces to continue the offensive in North Africa would be needed in Greece. We need to remember that General Wavell was the quintessential staff officer, not a fighter. Wavell's successor, Claude Auchinleck, was a fighter and lacked the ability to do the sort of staff work that Wavell could do. the affect of this was that arrangements that Wavell made did not generally fare well when faced with armed opposition. 1941 was filled with examples. The Italian campaign had gone well, but mostly because Wavell was not closely involved. The arrangements that Wavell made in North Africa failed miserably in the face of Rommel's probing attacks from February 1941. We must also remember that there were great events happening concurrently with the Mediterranean theater. We also so the action against the Bismarck and the loss of the battle cruiser Hood. We also saw Rommel's run up to Tobruk and the capture of Richard O'Connor and General Neame, his successor. By the end of April, the Greek operation had failed and some of the troops were ceremonially dumped on Crete. We shall see as we go further into 1942 the lengths that Churchill was prepared to go to make something good happen to aid his political position. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.