Friday, October 15, 2010

Churchill gives Auchinleck guidance

On 12 July 1942, the Prime Minster, Winston Churchill informed General Auchinleck that there no available divisions that could be sent to the northern front by October. At this date, there still had to be negotiations with the Americans about future plans and dispositions. Churchill recommended beating Rommel as the best solution for now. The General Staff expected that the winter would postpone the threat in the north until spring 1943.

Churchill had long been an Auchinleck supporter. He had from early on encouraged him to take command of the army in the field. Auchinleck had always thought that taking command of the army would cause the overall theater command to suffer, so he kept looking for subordinates to fill in as proxies in the army command. By May 1942, Churchill had become increasingly irritated that Auchinleck would not step in and command the army when Churchill had urged him to do so. By the time of his visit to the Middle East in the fall of 1942, Churchill decided that new commanders were needed in the Middle East to fight Rommel. He would move Auchinleck to a different command in the area (Iraq and Persia). Churchill wanted General Brook, the CIGS, to theater commander, but he demurred. Instead, Harold Alexander was become theater commander with Lt-General Gott as the 8th Army commander. These plans were disrupted when General Gott was killed when a Bombay was intercepted by German fighters, was forced down, and destroyed. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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