Saturday, April 06, 2013

A different topic :Auchinleck versus Rommel

We had a discussion this afternoon about the general topic of the war in North Africa in 1940 to 1943. Prior to the arrival of Bernard Law Montgomery on the scene, the only British general to beat Rommel in battle was Claude Auchinleck. He did it not just once but twice. As we well remember and have discussed in the past, the first occasion was when the Crusader battle, which had been commenced with great hope, had gone wrong. General Auchinleck had made a string of bad appointments in 1941 to 1842. The first time, Alan Cunningham, brother of the great admiral Cunningham, proved himself to be unsuitable for the position of Eighth Army commander. He had just fought a brilliant campaign in east Africa against the Italians. The battle was fast moving an mobile, but with small forces of colonial troops along with regular army units. Alan Cunningham was extremely tired and lacked experience with mechanized warfare in the desert. When Cunningham was ready to cede the battle to Rommel, Auchinleck stepped in and proceeded to beat Rommel, forcing him into a retreat from the area near Tobruk. The second occasion was when Neil Ritchie had lost Tobruk and there was danger of Rommel blitzing into the canal zone. Auchinleck stepped into the command again and after some maneuver, fought the First Battle of El Alamein and left the Axis forces stalled and disabled. The best source on this topic is the British Official History of the War in the Mediterranean and Middle East, along with Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

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