Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Monday, October 29, 2012
Friday, October 26, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
In early March 1941, before the Greek situation had unraveled, commanders had foreseen the need to accommodate in Crete as many as 50,000 troops evacuated from Greece. By 17 April, the command in Crete had requested 30,000 "tents, clothing and blankets" for evacuated troops. Troops and civilians brought from Greece started to arrive by 23 April. By 25 April and immediately after, there were 25,000 troops brought to Crete at Suda Bay by warship. There were no tents or even coats for them. Because of the lack of preparation for what many had anticipated, time was lost to prepare defences on Crete. Men sat around, even in organized units that had arrived. There were no tools or any of the normal essentials. After the disaster in Greece, the men relished the time spent doing nothing but resting in Crete.
Once more senior officers arrived on Crete there was more serious consideration about how to prepare for the expected invasion. The existing garrison was positioned. There was a small air condition on the island. There were four squadrons withdrawn from Greece with six or eight Blenheim day bombers, six Hurricane fighters, six Gladiator biplane fighters, one squadron that flew in from Egypt with nine Blenheim bombers, and a Fleet Air Arm squadron.
General Wilson thought that if they wanted to defend Crete, they needed to increase the strength to a greater degree than General Wavell and the other commanders wanted. General Wilson thought that it was a mistake to try and defend Crete with inadequate resources, which was probably true. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Monday, October 08, 2012
Thursday, October 04, 2012
I was curious about General Archibald Wavell's background and how that compared with his successor, General Claude Auchinleck. Wavell's father was an army officer, in fact a Major General, and he grew up in India. He followed his father into the army. He quickly accumulated staff officer experience, although he distinguished himself in the Great War in combat and was awarded the Military Cross. He also lost an eye in the process.
General Auchinleck was much more closely aligned with the Indian army and his Great War experience was in the Mespotamian Campaign against the Turks. While Wavell learned Russian before the war, Auchinleck learned Punjabi. Auchinleck commanded troops in combat when Wavell was in a staff officer role. Between the wars, both spent time on half pay. Wavell became a Major General in 1933 while Auchinleck was promoted to that rank in 1935.
Before the beginning of the Second World War, Wavell was head of Southern Command in the UK. He was appointed to command the Middle East in July 1939. He presided over the successful campaign against the Italians in late 1940 until early 1941. That campaign was ended prematurely and in an unsatisfactory way so that Anthony Eden and Churchill's ill-fated adventure in Greece could proceed. Wavell tarnished his reputation in Greece and subsequently in Crete. The Germans, with Erwin Rommel in command, upset the situation in North Africa and that would eventually lead to Wavell's removal.
Aunchinleck was appointed to replace Wavell. We can imagine that he was chosen for his experience in the region. In many ways, Auchinleck lacked the skills to be theater commander. He would have been more comfortable commanding the army fighting the Germans. In fact, Churchill repeatedly urged Auchinleck to do just that. Auchinleck took his role as theater commander seriously and thought that commanding the army in the field would detract from that role. Only twice did Auchinleck take command, and in both cases, he outfought Rommel and saved the situation. Once was in December 1941, when Auchinleck saved the Crusader operation when his choice as army commander, Alan Cunningham, was exhausted after the whirlwind East African campaign. He was not ready to take on command of the army in North Africa, where he had no experience with armoured forces. The second occasion was after the surrender of Tobruk in 1942, when Rommel threatened to advance to the Suez Canal.
Wavell had a better eye for choosing commanders to serve under him, while Auchinleck lacked that ability. However, if you needed an army commanded in a tight situation, you wanted Auchinleck, not Wavell.
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
Starting on 13 May 1941, the Germans had aircraft based at Mosul and Erbil to aid the Iraqi's in their fight against the British. Three German He-111 bombers raided Habbaniyah on 16 May and were able to do considerable damage. The German aircraft lacked the necessary support, however, so there were only one fighter and one bomber still operational by 28 May.
The Iraqi anti-British group were upset at the lack of support by the Germans and Italians. The Iraqis wanted arms and gold. Apparently, any Arab revolt against the British needed to have gold, presumably to buy support. The Germans saw the Iraqi revolt as more of a political event, rather than a real uprising of the Iraqi people against the British. The latter might have actually received substantive support. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.