Sunday, February 19, 2006

Plans for Operation Battleaxe

The original plan for Operation Battleaxe was for the 7th Armoured Brigade to sweep across the desert and hit the forces besieging Tobruk while the 4th Armoured Brigade, with infantry support, would strike the frontier. The commanders decided that they didn't have the transport available to support such a mobile operation. The second plan was for the 7th Armoured Division to move to the west of Fort Capuzzo and wait for a German counterattack. Some skeptics pointed out that the Germans could decline to attack, and simply wait for further events. The commanders also disliked any plan which did not utilize all available forces. The planners came back with a third plan, whose goal was to employ the largest possible force that could be supplied (and do something). The largest possible force still utilized the 7th Armoured Division, but also the HQ and artillery from the 4th Indian Division, along with the 11th Indian Brigade and the 22nd Guards Brigade. With the 4th Indian Division, a familiar officer first appeared: Major-General Frank W. Messervy. The 4th Indian Division and the 4th Armoured Brigade (infantry tanks) was to attack the Axis forces in the frontier area and destroy them. The rest of the 7th Armoured Division was relegated to covering the desert flank of the attackers. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.

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