Monday, December 07, 2015

Australia and army organizations as of August 1941

When Churchill replaced General Wavell with General Auchinleck, as the theater commander, he apparently had endorsed the use of ad hoc battle groups in the Middle East. The thinking apparently was that if the Germans use ad hoc battlegroups, then the British should imitate them and use them as well. General Blamey, who was a political soldier opposed breaking up divisions to form battle groups. Part of the rationale for battle groups (the German kampgruppe), was to disperse formations to be less vulnerable to air attack. Auchinleck proved that he understood that you have to concentrate your forces at the critical point to win battles when he did just that in the Crusader Battle and pushed Rommel back to El Agheila. Then, after the collapse after the surrender of Tobruk in 1942, Auchinleck took charge and stopped Rommel at the First Battle of El Alamein. But much of the time, from January 1942 to July 1942, the British wasted their time with Jock Columns and the like. Rommel, the master of infiltration tactics could almost at will panic the British army and cause them to scatter. It was only with the arrival of Bernard Law Montgomery that this situation was changed.

General Blamey was appalled that the Australian Government apparently only planned to put four divisions into the field. General Blamey thought that they would eventually have to mobilize many more men that four divisions worth to win the war. He correctly realized that this was to be a very dynamic and mobile war and would require a lot of men on the ground to win the war. And that was before anyone realized that the Japanese planned to enter the war as a combatant. General Blamey also suggested that naval blockade and air attacks would not be the answer to winning this war. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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