Monday, December 28, 2015

Dual responsibilities for an Australian commander in 1941

General Blamey had been the commander of the Australian contingent in the Mediterranean and Middle East in 1941. When he was appointed deputy commander, under General Wilson, that created a problem. Several times during 1941, a Dominion commander as appointed to critical commands. On short notice, General Blamey had been put in charge of the retreat and withdrawal from Greece. General Freyberg, from New Zealand, had been put in charge of the defense of Crete. Sometime during the fighting in the Western Desert, and then again in Syria, General Lavarack was put in charge. General Lavarack was younger than the others and was a more junior officer in the Great War. The Official History suggests that when General Blamey had been appointed as Deputy Commander, that the Australian Government might have put someone else in charge of their forces in the Middle East.

The Australian Official History blames the errors in command, rightly so, on Churchill and his closest advisers in Britain. With General Wavell as the theater commander, he had successfully defeated the Italians in the Western Desert and in Ethiopia (they call it Abyssinia). When the main players in Britain decided to move into the Balkans that they put the Western Desert in jeopardy. They very nearly lost everything due to throwing away army and naval forces in the Greek campaign and the battle for Crete. General Wavell was made a scapegoat for Churchill's errors in policy and planning. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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