Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The British plan for an offensive in 1942

Because of the pressing need for the British to base aircraft in western Cyrenaica, a plan was prepared that envisioned a force of "three armoured divisions, two armoured brigade groups, one army tank brigade, and three infantry divisions" by mid-April 1942. This plan was made as early as February 1942. A tank superiority of 3:2 was needed to fight the Germans, due to the inferiority of the Crusader tank. There was increasing pressure from the staff in Britain to launch an early offensive, but the commanders in North Africa, including General Auchinleck resisted an attack before a superior tank force could be assembled. The goal was not just to take Cyrenaica but to advance into Tripolitania. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The plan with respect to Tobruk

In February 1942, General Auchinleck had told General Ritchie to do everything possible to keep Tobruk from capture. What General Auchinleck resolved not to do was to have a division in Tobruk and have the Axis forces surrounding the fortress. The intent was to withdraw to the frontier rather than allow a division to be tied down and put at risk. The commanders in chief concurred, apparently, at least in February. February to May would be spent in building up the tank forces for a new offensive that would reconquer the western Cyrenaican airfields. They were desperately needed to allow convoys to run to Malta and to operate against Axis shipping. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The plan to invade Malta in early 1942

Taking the island of Malta would have been a much more difficult task than taking Crete, a year before. While Crete was taken by airborne forces, Malta would require troops and equipment landed from sea. The first stage would have 8300 men landing on the island by landing craft. These initial troops would be supported by artillery and tanks also landed. Supplies and reinforcements would follow, also by sea. The Italian fleet would prevent British surface ships from reaching the island. There would also be a flotilla of German submarines to protect the attacking forces and to prevent reinforcements and supplies from reaching Malta. Germany would also supply Italy with "40,000 tons of oil fuel and 12,000 tons of aviation spirit". Three corps were allocated for the attack. The one Airborne Corps had one German and one Italian airborne division. Of the other two corps, one had two Italian divisions and the other would have three. Additional forces included six independent Italian battalions, "two tank battalions, some armoured cars, self-propelled artillery, motor-cyclists and ancillary units and a few German tanks". Between 370 and 470 tranport aircraft would carry the airborne forces. These would include 155 Italian SM.82's, the rest being German Ju-52's. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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