Thursday, November 30, 2006

There should not be any surprise about Robert Crisp seeing Bardia

The copy of Brazen Chariots that I have shows a map of teh Crusader Battle. Bardia is less than 10 miles north of the eastern end of the Trigh Capuzzo. In the chase after the attack on the motorized transport on the Trigh, Robert's squadron ran farther north and he and his troop came up to the drop from the plateau down to the sea, overlooking a town. The map shows that the town he saw had to be Bardia, just to the northwest up the coast from Sollum. And yes, the Stuart tank was a good adversary for German armoured cars and light tanks. The Stuart was fast enough to compete with the armoured cars and had a better gun and greater speed than the Pzkw IIs that the Germans were using. They also had a few of the very inadequate Pzkw Is with just machine guns. At least the Pzkw II had a 20mm cannon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The end of Robert Crisp's second day of the Crusader Battle

While the mechanics worked loudly on Robert Crisp's Stuart, he tried to sleep. They were not able to finish the repair to his tank, so he and his crew had to transfer to a new tank. This would not be the last time that this happened. Randolph Churchill had gotten wind of Robert Crisp's exploits, and put out a dispatch that said that "Bob Crisp, the South African fast bowler, had got the first hat trick of the Crusader campaign by knocking out three enemy tanks with three shots." Robert seems to have been mildly amused by the exaggeration. He had gotten one tank and two armoured cars, but that was close enough. The diary of the German 3rd Reconnaissance Unit recorded that they had encountered very fast British tanks, and had to retreat at high speed to escape, while they were still under fire. The British had "forced the unitl farther north over the Trigh Capuzzo and the first escarpment". This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The NZ account of the "Sunday of the Dead"

The online NZ official history is really useful. They have Chapter 10 devoted to the "Sunday of the Dead" (or Day of the Dead). This talks about the battle leading up to the surrender of the 5th SA Brigade in the Crusader Battle.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Events of the second day in retrospect

When Robert Crisp had tracers shot into the air, the fuel truck found them, and his troop was able to refuel. They apparently followed the fuel truck back to the battalion leaguer. Robert Crisp briefed the battalion commander, who was pleased with the results of the raid on the transport on the Trigh Capuzzo. It transpired that the other half of C Squadron was still missing. They showed up after sunrise on the third day. The battalion commander told them that the 8th Hussars had been heavily engaged in the afternoon of the second day, and the brigade commander had been looking for reinforcements for them. The other officers described the 8th Hussar's fight to Robert. The battalion adjutant described the 8th Hussars attack as "It looked like the run-up to the first fence at a point-to-point". The cavalry units were apparently not used to fighting with tanks, and they very quickly took many losses while learning the lessons. Robert Crisp returned to his tank to find the LAD crew at work on his tank. He found that his tank had "a whole bogie wheel shot off". This based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Official History (on the Crusader Battle): "Cruwell's Attack"

This must have been on 23 November 1941. Rommel had intended that General Crüwell join the 5th Panzer Regiment with the 15th Panzer Division, but General Crüwell made a command decision to send the 15th Panzer Division "to meet the Ariete Division". The 7th Support Group was in the unfortunate position of being in the 15th Panzer Divisions path, so it was "scattered". Teh next victims were the transport for the 5th South African Brigade. They succeed in hitting back, while taking considerable damage. The 15th Panzer Division joined the Ariete Division "north-east of Bir El Gubi". They 5th Panzer Division also arrived on the scene, but the planned joint attack did not start until 3pm, an hour later than had been hoped. The plan was to hit the South African troops with "150 tanks". The 22nd Armoured Brigade had tried to support the South Africans, but they were overcome and went into the German bag. The 22nd Armoured Brigade lost another third of its meager 34 Crusaders. The Germans paid for their success, as they lost between 60 and 70 tanks. The German personnel casualties were quite great. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

A link promoting the book Bomber Pilot, by Don Macintosh

Alastair sent me a link to this page promoting Don Macintosh's book about his experience in World War Two, called Bomber Pilot. Alastair interviewed Don Macintosh about his experience flying bombers in the RAF in WWII, and has audio as well as a transcript.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Second Day: lost

After their encounter with anti-tank guns, and their escape, Robert Crisp and his campanions were lost. Their squadron and the 3rd RTR were nowhere to be seen. Robert's friend, Harry McGreath, had tried to radio their commanding officer, with no luck. The day was getting late, and the sun would set soon. They were getting short of fuel, and didn't relish getting stuck, alone. Fortunately, to the south, they saw a group of armoured cars. They approached, and the cars proved to be a patrol from the King's Dragoon Guards. The KDG men had recognized the distinctive "Honey" profile, so they knew that they were friendly. The armoured cars were part of the screen for 30th Corps. The young subaltern gave them rough directions to the 4th Armoured Brigade HQ, and they drove off. Suddenly, Robert's Honey ran out of gasoline (he would have said "petrol"). They all stopped and formed a circle with guns pointing outward. The night was interrupted when Robert's radio operator was able to raise their commanding officer. He sent a fuel truck to them. They established radio contract with the officer in the vehicle, who asked them to fire tracer into the air. They did, and he found them. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Attack on the convoy on the second day of the Crusader Battle

This is Robert Crisp's account of the second day of the Crusader Battle.
When the A and C squadrons of the 3rd RTR reached they Trigh Capuzzo, the came over the hill and attacked. C squadron had sixteen tanks, side by side, and they were ordered to attack the head of the column. Robert Crisp knocked out two armoured cars and what must have been a Pzkw II light tank. They came across a third armoured car that had been abandoned. There was a pool of gasoline underneath, so they shot tracers and set the whole thing on fire. The bulk of the column had escaped over the escarpment to the north. They had moved past the Trigh Capuzzo and came to an steep decline. Robert Crisp took his tank to the edge and looked down. He could see the Mediterranean Sea and a town. He realized that he was looking at Bardia. His friend, Harry McGreath called to him to watch out for the anti-tank guns. Robert Crisp felt his tank shake and heard a bang. He called to his driver to reverse, to get out of the guns' sight. When he stopped, he looked and saw a puff of white smoke. He heard something whizz by his head. He knew that they had to leave where they were. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The start of the Second Day of the Crusader Battle: Robert Crisp

The beginning of the second day of the Crusader Battle saw B Squadron of the 3rd RTR being sent off to support the King's Dragoon Guards, who used South African Marmon-Herrington II armoured cars at this date. Robert Crisp's unit was sent north a couple of miles and then sat for two hours, which allowed them to cook breakfast. Eventually, the entire 3rd RTR was orderd to move to the east towards Bir Gibni to intercept an "enemy column moving south". This was the beginning of many random moves towards rumoured enemy movements that more often than not, were bad information. They heard news of B Squadron, apparently was engaging "7 tanks and 3 armoured cars". The battalion was being fragmented, and A and C squadrons were sent off to the Trigh Capuzzo to engage 200 enemy vehicles. The Trigh Capuzzo was far to the north, so they had a long journey. When they reached the vicinity, they looked over the crest of the hill, saw the column, protected by a few tanks and armoured cars, and then attacked. C Squadron was to attack the head of the column, and that was where Robert Crisp headed. This is based on the account in obert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The initial movement to the west from The Wire

This is Robert Crisp's account of the first day of the Crusader Battle.
After they had crossed the border at "The Wire", the British armoured force moved west. Robert Crisp says that they had a reconnaissance screen consisting of armoured cars from the South Africans, the 11th Hussars, and King's Dragoon Guards. He expected that there would be no surprises. By evening, they stopped and the Stuarts had to refuel, as the radial engines used a great deal of fuel, which gave them a rather short range. As the battle progressed, where there were "swift movements", the fuel consumption would become very significant. In any case, on the first day, they moved 65 miles from their last refueling and were south of Gabr Taieb El Esem. They lay at Point 185 on the map. So went the first day of the Crusader Battle. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Crisp early on the first day of the Crusader Battle

This is Robert Crisp's account of the first day of the Crusader Battle. After the 4th Armoured Brigade had brewed their morning tea, they started to move. The time was right after 7am. By the time they had crossed The Wire, they reached the first of the petrol dumps which had been placed for refueling. Each "Honey" (Stuart) filled up and then the unit proceeded. Robert Crisp says that they moved in "battalion open-order formation". The tanks were still concealed beneath their 3-ton truck camouflage. They were ordered to "drop sunshields" at 3:30pm. That allowed their radio antennas to be raised. Near the end were the "twin yellow pennants" that were for identification for British tanks. One unanticipated feature of the battle was that British tanks often lowered their antennas to allow them to better hide behind a rise, and Robert Crisp speculated that this probably led to British tanks shooting at each other. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Monday, November 20, 2006

This blog's purpose

The purpose of the Panzer Abwehr blog is to summarize the literature that is relevant to armoured warfare in World War II and to point out relevant resources on the Internet. I am not currently actively researching this area, except in the sense that I am getting a closer reading of the literature that I have had in the past. Covering the literature in this way gives me an opportunity to comment on the topic, as I have built up a certain amount of expertise, as I had spent close to 20 years in my previous studies. I have had an interest in writing a book or articles for publication, but I would want to be in a position to add to the knowledge of the topic. At this point, there has been so much work done that a further work seems somewhat redundant.

I am currently summarizing two works: Vol.III of Major-General Playfair's book History of the Second World War -The Mediterranean and Middle East and Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Crossing "The Wire" in the early hours of 16 November 1941

This is from Robert Crisp's account of the start of the Crusader Battle.
Robert Crisp says that late on 15 November 1941, the British forces moved up to "The Wire". While they waited, demolitions exploded, breaking the barrier. They moved under a complete radio silence. Almost immediately, they were engulfed by a thunderstorm that moved down from the north. The Stuarts had their "sun shields" to help keep them dry. At daylight, the column moved forward, including the 3rd RTR and Robert Crisp. Early on, they asked for and received permission to brew hot tea. They called it a "brew". Robert Crisp says that they used gasoline to heat the kettles. There was an attempt to prohibit this practice, but the authorities backed off, when they recognized the importance of letting the troops brew their tea. After 18 November and the start of the offensive, Robert Crisp says that with any lull in fighting you would hear: "Hullo JAGO, JAGO Two calling. May we brew up?" He says that the Germans heard what was happening and at one point, near Bir el Gubi, they heard a German voice say: "Hullo BALO, BALO calling. You may brrrew up" That drew a big laugh from the 3rd RTR. This is based on Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Back to Brazen Chariots: 13 November 1941

On 13 November 1941, the commanding officer came and briefed the 4th Armoured Brigade on the coming operation. The officers watching the presentation marked on their maps in crayon the details that were presented. They went back and briefed the troops on what they had heard. The plan was that the 4th, 7th, and 22nd Armoured Brigades would cross the border, through "The Wire", supported by the New Zealand an South African divisions. They would be to the south, while most German and Italian forces were in the north, near the coast. The idea was that the armoured brigades would move across the Axis lines of communication back to Benghazi. The hope was that the Axis armour would attack the armoured brigades, which would be will-sited, in defensible positions. The 4th Armoured Brigade would be in the center, with the 7th and 22nd Brigades on their flanks. The prospects greatly excited the troops, as it seemed like a good plan. Too bad it was not executed as designed. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A remark on the last

We need to remember that when General Cunningham found out the depth of the crisis and what had happened to his armoured forces, he was all but incapacitated. When General Auchinleck found out the state of his army and that Cunningham was not able to command, he took over and won the Crusader Battle.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Corps and Army did not know the true state British armoured forces on 22 November 1941

I suspect that if the 7th Armoured Division commander, General Gott, 30th Corps commander General Norrie, or the 8th Army commander knew the true state of the armoured force, they would have panicked and quite rightly so. We can be amazed that General Gott did not know what had happened to his brigades up to this point, but he did not. From his level and up, they were oblivious to the heavy losses that had taken. They continued to order units around as if they were whole. General Cunningham had decided that the New Zealand Division should move towards Tobruk, and told the 13th Corps commander to hold the border area with minimal forces. The 30th Corps would be ready to fight the German armour in the decisive battle. Rommel, meanwhile, ordered the DAK to attack towards the Ariete Division, catch the British armour between them, and defeat it. General Crüwell modified the plan to use the artillery and infantry from the 21st Panzer Division as the anvil and have the Ariete Division, 15th Panzer Division, and 5th Panzer Regiment be the hammer with which they would break the British armoured forces. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The 4th Armoured Brigade Stuarts are fitted to look like 3-ton trucks (lorries)

While the 4th Armoured Brigade Stuarts were at Abar Kenayis, they were fitted with tubing and burlap to make them look a bit like 3-ton trucks (lorries). The cover name for the camouflage was "Sunshields". Robert Crisp's assessment was that in the initial movement forward, the camouflage must have worked, because Rommel did not realize that what he describes as 600 tanks had moved up close to his forces. In the first week of November, the brigade moved forward to Hallequat, to the south of the coast road that ran towards Sollum from Sidi Barrani. In the run up to Hallequat, the rubber blocks in the Stuarts' tracks was damage by the "hard limestone outcrop". John Harding, later a Field Marshall, ordered Alec Gatehouse to take a damaged rubber block to show General Auchinleck in Cairo. Auchinleck responded by ordering every Stuart in rear areas to be stripped of its track blocks, which would be sent to the 4th Armoured Brigade to repair the tracks. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back to the Official History on 22 November 1941

We will mix in some of the Official History, alongside Brazen Chariots. On 22 November 1941, 70th Division was able to expand his outward penetration. General Norrie had instructed General Scobie not to go to far, until the battle at Sidi Rezegh was resolved. Back at the border, the New Zealanders had taken "Fort Capuzzo and Musaid, cut the Bardia water pipe and all the enemy's telgraph and telephone lines". The ended up astride the Bardia-Tobruk road. They 7th Indian Brigade and infantry tanks had a success. Two of the Indian battalions had taken Sidi Omar Nuovo and most of the Italian Omar. The infantry were supported by the 42nd RTR and one squadron of the 44th RTR. They lost 37 infantry tanks, however, in the effort. These were lost to a combination of anti-tank guns and mines. The Germans had dug in 88's, and these continued to dominate the Btitish infantry tanks. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Robert Crisp got jaundice, which gave him a two-week vacation

After going out and firing their guns, when the 4th Armoured Brigade returned to Beni Yusef, Robert Crisp had jaundice. That gave him a two-week vacation in "the 15th General Hospital, on the Nile opposite Gezira Island". He got to eat good food and recuperate in relative luxary. He could look out at the dhows on the Nile and the 3rd RTR moved forward to the Siwa track for the coming offensive. He rejoined his unit there. They had formed up about 90 miles to the east of the border ("The Wire"). The barbed wire fence had been built by the Italians in an attempt to keep the wandering Arabs out of Libya. The Wire was guarded by a series of strong points. The Italians occasionally patroled on their side, while the British kept up continuous patrols. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Getting ready for battle in early October 1941

The 4th Armoured Brigade was training, in early October 1941, in "the barren spaces west of the Cario-Fayoum road". Robert Crisp says that they were having "battle-practice with live ammunition". He says that they thought that the German 88mm gun could hit a tank at 3,000 yards, while they had the 37mm pop gun that could only reach about 1,200 yards. He says that in fact, they found that the effective range of both the 2pdr and 37mm guns was much less than the 1,200 yards that they had been told.

Robert Crisp had an idea that he wanted to try, to see if he might be able to get close enough to fire without being knocked out. He figured that he would not be able to fire from a moving tank, so he thought that if he could use the mobility of the tanks in his troop to close with the enemy. His idea, which I know is sound, was to have his gunner keep his sight on the target while moving, and when the tank stopped, the gunner would fire. This was to be an automatic procedure, happening without any further orders. Experience in battle practice indicated that this idea could work.

This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The 4th Armoured Brigade

Robert Crisp says that the 4th Armoured Brigade was continuously involved in the Crusader Battle for five weeks. He says that Alec Gatehouse kept records that showed that they were continuosly engaged for two weeks, "with an average of two battles a day". They they went "without rest or maintenance" during this period. The brigade had traveled 1,700 miles, with individual tanks covering as much as 3,000 miles. They lost 172 tanks knocked out, from a total strength of 163 tanks, all Stuarts. Robert Crisp says that he alone lost six tanks. By the end of two weeks, they must have been exhausted, running on adrenaline alone, as Robert Crisp says that commanders got about 1-1/2 hours sleep per day. By the end of the Crusader Battle, Rommel's tank strength had been reduced to 58, from a starting number of about 400. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A new army and the 4th Armoured Brigade

Robert Crisp mentions that the 3rd RTR and the 4th Armoured Brigade starting having stream of VIP visitors. They included Lt-General Cunningham, and oddly, the Maharajah of Kashmir. Robert and his comrades could tell that something was happening to cause this. They eventually found out that the new command was formed, called the 8th Army, with General Cunningham as its commander.

Within the 8th Army, the 4th Armoured Brigade was organized as an all-arms brigade group, with tanks predominating. There were the three armoured battalions, a troop of the RHA (equipped with 25 pdrs), "a detachment of the Scots Guards", and "antitank and antiaircraft units". Alec Gatehouse was the brigade commander, and he was actually a tank officer, rather than a converted cavalryman. Robert Crisp says that the 4th Armoured Brigade was the first all-arms "combat team" in the Army. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

The "new urgency"

The 4th Armoured Brigade was located far enough from Cairo to not receive much news about what was happening. Robert Crisp says that they were "astonished" at Wavell's removal and replacement with General Auchinleck. Robert says that A squadron's major had served under General Auchinleck in India and said of him: "Bloody good chap, the Auk". The remoteness of their location was not appreciated and was considered to be an unnecessary hardship.

By the end of September, the 3rd RTR was completely equipped with Stuarts and had a full complement of men. The new battalion commander was "Bunny Ewins", and he confirmed Robert Crisp as a captain and "second-in-command of 'C' Squadron". He still commanded a troop of "Honeys" as he called the Stuarts. He appreciated the better pay received as a captain. A lieutenant's pay had cramped his lifestyle.

This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The 4th Armoured Brigade is formed

At the end of August 1941, the 3rd RTR joined the 8th Hussars and the 5th RTR to form the 4th Armoured Brigade at Beni Yusef. Beni Yusef was located 20 miles past Cairo, apparently towards Libya. The time was spent in re-equipping and training on the new tanks and equipment. They had American techicians to help prepare the Stuarts. The British wanted 14 modifications made to better fit British needs. Robert Crisp had to censor his batman's letters home, to his great amusement. The batman must have been a Scot, as he referred to someone he called the "auld-wife". An officer of the Scots Guards who visited said that this referred to the batman's mother-in-law. After a three week stretch without a letter home, Robert Crisp prodded his batman to write. The batman wrote a letter to his wife blaming the carrying ship having been sunk for the three weeks without a letter. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The "Honey"

Robert Crisp put his crew into a new Stuart and took it out for a spin. He took the tank to the sandy desert and did things like try to lose a track. He also found that the Stuart could make 40mph. I am not sure if they had removed the governor, or what. Most British tanks were governed down to a rather low speed to reduce the chances of mechanical failure, as well as breaking a track. Robert Crisp instructed his driver Whaley to "make a few fast turns", and the Stuart responded without a problem. He finally told Whaley to attempt to "shed on eof these tracks". They found that the tracks always stayed on the tank. When they arrived back at the camp, Whaley dubbed the Stuart: "It's a honey, sir". Robert Crisp says that from then on, the Stuarts were known as honeys. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Ian Paterson has a page that shows the 7th Armoured Division organization as changes happened over time

Ian Paterson has another page that gives the changing organization of the 7th Armoured Division from late 1939 until the Normandy campaign in 1944. This sort of information is at least a starting point for wargamers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The 3rd RTR will get Stuarts in late summer of 1941

The 3rd RTR had somewhat more than 60 tanks when they were sent to Greece. All were lost, and only their machine guns were stripped. Robert Crisp did not think much of British tank design. His description was that the cavalry had undue influence in the process, so fast, lightly armoured vehicles were the result. In reality, the story was more complicated than that. There was a push to get vehicles into production before they had become mechanically mature. The British track design was also very fragile. Robert Crisp says that American technicians arrived to receive the Stuarts and take them into service. The Stuarts proved to be very robust and mechanically sound. The American track design was much stronger. The Stuarts were powered by aircraft radial engines, and this resulted in a very short, high silhouette. The Stuart's gun was the inadequate American 37mm and several Browning machine guns. The Stuart's other virtual, besides reliability is that the frontal armour was greater than that on British cruiser tanks of the time. The track links had big rubber blocks in them. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Robert Crisp decided to volunteer for the LRDG in July 1941

In July 1941, Robert Crisp had tired of enforced idleness and had talked with some New Zealanders about the Long Range Desert Group. That seemed like the perfect place for some excitement and danger. Robert spoke with Colonel Prendergrast, the LRDG commander, who promised to ask for his transfer to the unit. In a few days, the battalion adjutant for the 3rd RTR informed Robert Crisp that he wasn't going anywhere. They needed trained tank crews for the coming offensive, and that would keep him with the 3rd RTR. Gradually, his situation improved. Many new men joined the unit, to make up the losses from Greece. They learned that they would be equipped with American M3 light tanks, nicknamed the Stuart. Until the Stuarts arrived, they were training with A10s and A13s, along with a very few surviving A9s. The main problem with these vehicles was their mechanical fragility. Most of the tanks lost in Greece were due to "broken tracks or other mechanical breakdowns". This is base on the account in Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The beginning of Robert Crisp's book Brazen Chariots

In July 1941, Robert Crisp was playing cricket in Cairo. He was very well-known in the sport and enjoyed the attention that a good player received. He was a South African, and had been a professional cricket player before the war. In July, there were many soldiers in Cairo. The abortive Operation Battleaxe had failed, and that left the army in the position of rebuilding and training. Only in May 1941, Robert Crisp and the remnants of the 3rd RTR had returned from the disaster in Greece. The battalion had been reduced to a few hundred men. After a short rest, the battalion was pulled into providing protection to the airfield at Heliopolis. They were reduced to the petty occupations of an idle unit. They were fortunate, however, to enjoy the amenities of the rear area in Egypt. Robert Crisp was newly promoted to Captain, a rank he had previously held, three months after being commissioned in June 1940. Robert Crisp put his promotion to his playing cricket for South Africa, while his battalion commander had played cricket for Hampshire. After the Greek disaster, and the losses in officers, Robert Crisp had regained his rank. This is based on the account in Robert Crisp's book, Brazen Chariots.

I probably need to add Brazen Chariots to my list of books to summarize

This period in the Crusader Battle is well-covered in Robert Crisp's classic book Brazen Chariots. I realized that I should summarize the book for readers, as not many people are likely to have recently read the book. I highly recommend the book, as Robert Crisp provides a good narrative about his service in the 3rd RTR up to the time his Stuart was knocked out by 50mm PAK 38's during the Crusader Battle. He has a vivid description of the incident where the 4th Armoured Brigade was overrun, in the night (presumably) by the Germans. Alec Gatehouse, the brigade commander, was able to escape, but the soft vehicles in the headquarters were taken by the Germans. That put the brigade out of touch with the division commander, corps commander, and army commander until 24 November 1941.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The 7th Armoured Division was in dire straits by the 22nd of November 1941

After their encounters with the combined German panzer divisions, the 7th Armoured Division had minimal armoured forces left. The Germans had reclaimed Gabr Saleh and moved to retake Sidi Rezegh. The 7th Armoured Brigade had been further decimated and now had only 10 tanks left by the end of 22 November 1941. The 22nd Armoured Brigade had only 34 tanks. The remaining strength of the 4th Armoured Brigade is somewhat unclear, but the Germans had at least claimed to have captured about 50 Stuarts when overrunning the brigade. The Germans now had an overwhelming superiority in tanks, with 173 tanks left after the day's battles. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

More events from 21 November 1941

Orders had been issued for the 4th Armoured Brigade and 22nd Armoured Brigade to attack the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions, but they never were able to do so. That allowed them to eliminate the 7th Armoured Brigade as an effective fighting force. The ill-timed breakout attempt from Tobruk ran into some resistence from Germans, but not as much as was expected from the Italians. 70th Division, in the execution of the breakout plan ran into the as not-unexpected dug in besiegers fighting from behind barbed wire and minefields. The 1st RTR and 4th RTR, along with the 2nd Black Watch succeeded in taking the "Tiger" area in intense fighting. A major mishap that occurred in the process was when the 15th Panzer Division ran into the leaguering 4th Armoured Brigade and succeeded in dispersing the brigade. Alec Gatehouse remained free, but the brigade was temporarily eliminated as a coherent fighting force. In Brazen Chariots, Robert Crisp describes this event. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ian Paterson has a good narrative of events in the Crusader Battle

On the Battles 1941 page, Ian Paterson has a good narrative of events in the Crusader Battle. The page is very ambitious, covering all actions for the 7th Armoured Division in 1941. His assessment of the situation on 23 November 1941, early in the day seems quite accurate:

By dawn on 23rd November, 7th Armoured Division was in considerable disarray. The 4th Armoured Brigade was scatted everywhere, the 7th Armoured Brigade had only 15 battle worthy tanks, with the 22nd Armoured Brigade reduced to 34 Crusaders. The Support Group was virtually non existent. If the Division was to survive these scattered and battle weary elements needed to be concentrated.

General Gott had completed the scattering of his division that had been partially planned by 30th Corps and the army commander. That enabled the Germans to overwhelm the scattered pieces.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The situation after four days of the Crusader Battle

We have seen that General Gott's deviation from the plan expended the 7th Armoured Brigade without really achieving anything substantive. He allowed the two German panzer divisions to fight the unsupported 7th Armoured Brigade. Rommel's plan was working. He had ordered General Crüell to use the concentrated German panzer divisions against the British armoured brigades, individually. General Gott played into Rommel's hands by fighting with the 7th Armoured Division brigades dispersed. Ordering the breakout from Tobruk without having defeated the Germans, as planned was a major error that almost cost the British the battle. As we shall see, the situation eventually got so out of control that General Auchinleck intervended and won the battle.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The 7th Support Group on 21 November 1941

The 7th Supprot Group was heavily engaged on 21 November 1941. The Support Group commander was Brigadier "Jock" Campbell. The 7th Support Group, at this date, consisted of the following units:

1st Battalion, KRRC
2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade
3rd Regiment RHA (anti-tank)
60th Field Regiment, RA
one battery of 51st Field Regiment, RA

This is based on the footnote at the bottom on page 45, in Vol.III of the Official History.

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