Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Prime Minister is angered

Churchill, as always, was pressing for a premature offensive in the desert. General Auchinleck presented the reasons why such a move would be risking disaster. Churchill, in fit of pique, wanted to bring Auchinleck back to Britain to confront him. Auchinleck argued that he did not want to be absent from the theater, as he did not want anyone but himself to be responsible for even a short period. In a compromise, Sir Stafford Cripps, who was travelling to India, was diverted to the Middle East to meet with Auchinleck and his commanders. The Vice-CIGS, General Nye, was also present. They met with Auchinleck and were convinced that he was correct. One factor ignored by the Prime Minister and others in Britain was the urgent need for training of raw troops. Churchill was extremely displeased, but he grudgingly accepted the date of mid-May 1942 for the offensive against Rommel's forces. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Middle East was to be further stripped of forces

The Middle East was informed on 17 February 1942 that they would lose the 70th Division, which was to be sent to the Far East, in the face of Japanese advances. They were also warned that they were likely to lose the 9th Australian Division, as well. At the same time, Alan Brooke, the CIGS, warned General Auchinleck that a division in Iraq would be withdrawn to India. At best, one more division was would be sent from Britain to the Middle East before the fall of 1942. The Chiefs of Staff in London was ready to assume a defensive posture in the Middle East in order to stop the Japanese offensive in the Far East. In response, General Auchinleck replied that an offensive in the Western Desert prior to 1 June would put the entire enterprise in North Africa at risk. The one spot that the Chiefs of Staff were determined to protect was Malta. They were prepared to commit a considerable force to pass a convoy through with supplies and arms. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A shortage of Ordnance Workshops in the Middle East

One of the continual complaints in the Middle East from mid-1941 onwards was the long period required to return damaged tanks to action. Besides the inherent shortcomings of the Crusader and other tanks, a major factor was the scarcity of Ordnance Workshops. This shortage was acknowledged, but a series of events thwarted sending more to the Middle East. In October 1941, the commanders had decided that replacement drafts were more important than Ordnance Workshops, so they were bumped from several convoys. Only two were in transit by March 1942. Another workshop was blocked by the intended convoy being diverted to the Far East. The ongoing battle between the commanders and staff in Britain, who desired an attack as quickly as possible and the commanders and staff in the Middle East, who did not want to attack until they had prospect of success. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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