Friday, March 07, 2014

General Wavell gets involved

When the Major General was about to be dispatched to Crete on 28 or 29 May 1941, he was briefed by General Wavell, the theater commander. Thinking about the situation, I had some new insights that I wanted to share. General Wavell had a streak of "bad luck" that was only broken by the success against the Italians in Libya in late 1940 and into early 1941. The success against the Italians happened almost in spite of General Wavell. The great blitzkrieg campaign in western Egypt into Cyrenaica was due to Richard O'Connor and his assistant Eric Dorman-Smith. The 7th Armoured Division and the 6th Australian Division threw the Italians into disorder and captured large numbers of infantrymen. The offensive was halted by General Wavell, so that the resources could be diverted to the ill-conceived Greek campaign. I suspect that Wavell did not believe that there was any chance of the Greek campaign succeeding, so he lied to the Australian Prime Minister and the senior Australian officers to get them to agree to participate. Again, I suspect that Wavell thought he would be removed from his command if he opposed the Greek adventure, and that was probably true. He was not going to be able to persuade the Australians with the truth, so he lied. Wavell hung on through a series of disasters, the last being the operations against Rommel at the Libyan border that failed. Churchill had pushed to rush tanks to the Middle East through the Mediterranean Sea only to see them wasted. Wavell was finally fired and Churchill brought in another Indian Army officer, Claude Auchinleck.

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