Monday, November 30, 2015

Defending the Middle East from attack from the north in 1941

The British apparently took the threat of attack by German troops from Russia into the Middle East. If the Germans were to attack through Turkey, either with or without help from the Turkish government, the British thought that they would advance into Turkey to hold the southern mountain passes. They were unsure what the stance of the Turkish government would be in the event of a German move through Turkey. They might fight to oppose the Germans. They might allow the Germans free passage through Turkey. The British thought that they would be able to use four divisions to move into Turkey. They expected that the Germans would move into northern Syria from Turkey. If they reached Syria, they considered that the country was well-suited to armored warfare and that the Germans would have more tanks than the British. The British thought that they would need two armored and five infantry divisions to adequately defend Syria and Iraq from German attack. By the end of July 1941, there were limited forces available. There was the 7th Australian Division, the diminutive Free French Division, the 5th Indian Brigade, the 6th British Division, and the 4th Cavalry Brigade. There was also the 10th Indian Division, but that was considered to be not included in the plan, but the division was a potential blocker to any German advance into the Persian Gulf region. The only complete unit in the scheme was the 7th Australian Division. The 6th Division was lacking much beyond the infantry battalions. They had to rely upon Australian units for artillery and other division supporting units. Sending British infantry battalions to the Middle East without artillery and other support units was considered to be a major error. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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