Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Defensive preparations at Tripoli in July and August 1941

The preparations made at Tripoli in July and August 1941 were based on the assumption that the Germans would enter Syria from Turkey. The plan envisioned that the Germans would use roads and railroads to move forces through Turkey. The planners thought that the German force would include 11 divisions as well as airborne units. While there was some thought that the Germans might move southward along the Mediterranean coast, they thought that a move would more likely be made from Aleppo, to Homs, to Damascus, and by Lake Tiberius, with a flanking movement through Palmyra. Tripoli had a fortress that was made ready for defense in all directions. General Allen, commander of the 7th Australian Division, thought that they would need two infantry divisions and one armored division. General Allen had his men work on building a fortress area large enough to hold that size force. General Auchinleck visited Tripoli in October and informed General Allen that no additional troops, except perhaps an armored battalion were to be added. In response, General Allen redesigned the fortress perimeter to be shorter given the force he had to defend Tripoli. General Blamey disagreed with General Auchinleck about what the Australian troops should be doing. Blamey wanted to see the Australians spending time training, not digging defenses. In the event, some civilian laborers were added to relieve the Australians from having to spend all their time digging. General Blamey, it turns out, agreed with what Bernard Law Montgomery believed, that the divisions and brigades should be kept intact and should not be broken up into ad hoc battle groups. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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