Thursday, July 28, 2022

Responsibilities in April 1941

 The Australian historian puts the blame for lack of preparation on the higher commanders of which the most obvious man to blame was General Wavell. We would be tempted to blame the man at the top, Winston Churchill,

The lowest level commander General Weston, had very immediate issues to deal with. There were about 50,000 men who had been evacuated from Greece. They needed accommodated and fed. The first soldiers from Greece along with "civilian refugees" came to Crete starting on 23 April. Larger numbers arrived on Crete starting on 25 April. They often needed basic supplies, such as blankets and tents. Men were forced to sleep on the ground. They had their clothes and "great coats". The men were taken to areas in groves of olive trees. There was nothing for the men to do but rest. The men were used to drinking beer. The strong Greek wine was a problem. Combat units landed as complete organizations, had no tools to use to dig "field works". They had to use petrol tins for cooking. There was an intent on having new arrivals join other men from the same organization. 

This is based on the account in "Greece Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Crete became more important by early 1941

 From Decemder1940 until April 1941 there were many command changes for Crete. A maor decision was made on 1April to make Suda Bay a fleet base. Because of that decision "the Mobile Naval Base Defence Organization" was sent to Crete. In the event, only 2,000 of the8,000 men in the organization actually were in Crete, before the invasion. 

By late May 1941, Crete had16-3.7in, 16-3in, 36-40mm light AA, and 24 search lights. This waslessthan what the authorities thought was needed. Because of the collapse in Greece, Crete was the main strong point opposing the German advance in the Balkans. "Troops from Greece were being hastily landed". 

The thinking was that two brigades were needed in Crete and all units from Greece should  be sent to Egypt. The new Crete commander was making decisions, while General Wavell was independently making decisions about Crete. Wavell's staff thought that they needed three brigades in Crete. Theywanted to immediately send supplies for two brigades to Crete. 

 This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

British and Greek forceson Crete

 The island of Crete was not easily defended. There were three air fields,  located near thr towns. Suda Bay was the only port that could handle large ships. My ship anchored in Suda Bay in 1977. Ourship was a thousand-foot long aircraft carrier. 

In 1941, there was only one road for motor vehicles and it ran east-west and ran along the north shore. There were also five roads that ran north-south. 

The British had put forces on Crete in November 1940. There were two infantry battalions and many anti-aircraft guns, About the same time, the Greeks sent their division from Crete to fight in Albania. There had been a proposal to put an Australian brigade on Crete, but it didn't happen. There was a British commando unit temporarily located on Crete. Winston Churchill talked about hiring Crete citizens to expand and improve the air fields. 

In February 1941, the14th Brigade had three battalions. Greece, howeve, rhad pulled most of their soldiers from Crete..

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Events in April to May 1941

 The advance of Rommel's force in North Africa in early 1941 was a serious problem for the British. Mr. Churchill liked to be seen ordering actions. What he ordered necessarily were actions that he could understand. His first idea was to interfere with Rommel's supply line. He ordered the Mediterranean Fleet to make the hsrbor at Tripoli unusable. Atypical Churchill suggestion was to sink thebattleship Barham to block the harbor entrance. Instead, the fleet bombarded Tripoli. 

Churchill's next idea was to send a convoy with tanks through the Mediterranean Sea. The convoy sailed and arrived in Egypt. One ship with tanks was lost, but the rest arrived. This was the Tiger convoy. General Wavell anticipated Churchill and on 10 May ordered six infantry tanks and 15 light tanks sent to Crete. 

Crete is notable for a mountain range on the south coast that touches the sea. In the northare three flat areas used for agriculture.  One area is near Suda Bay and the  capital Canea in the west. Another area is some30 miles east of Canea at Retimo. In the east is Heraklion, a port and the largest town. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Iraq in May 1941

 The German effort in Iraq seemed to be greater than it actually was. The German air force was concentrated against Crete.  The Germans were only sending weaponsfrom Syria and using minimal air power. When the Germans tried to send an agent to Iraq who was to be in chargeof sending suppliesto Iraq, his plane was shot down by Iraqi antiaircraft fire and the agent was killed. A German major was sent to Damascus to look at airfields both in Syria and Iraq so that two German squadrons could be sent. 

After May 13, German aircraft operated from Erbil and Mosul. Eventually, some Italian aircraft took part. Operations included an attack on Habbabiyah. By 28 May, there were only one fighter and one bomber still operational.  The Iraqi's allied with Germany and Italy were angry at the meager support the had received. The French weapons sent from Syria were worthless to the Iraqi's. The Iraqi's especially needed gold to buy support, but the Germans did not send any gold. General Halder wrote on 30 May that due to lack of preparation and the German inability to provide "effective support", the Iraqi "show" would "peter out". The only good that cae of it for the Germans was that the British "were spread critically thin".

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Disturbances in the Middle East fromApril 1941

 One piece of good news for the British was that the war in east Africa ended with the Italian surrender. That meant that units freed up could be moved north. The next issue was that Iraq would be destabilized. In response, the Germans would ship arms to Iraq. 

The Pie Minister hoped to arrest the regent. The regent escaped to Basra and then to Transjordan. In response, an Indian brigade was sent to Basra. General Auchinleck was the commander in India. He now was in charge of the forces sent to Iraq. The government in Iraq tried to forbid any mor units besent to Iraq as long as the brigade was in Basra. The British ignored that order and added more soldiers at Basra. 

The Iraqi government decided to make trouble at Habnaniya, an RAF training base. The Iraqi's laid siege to Habbaniya. The British were able do enough to put the Iraqi force on the defensive. As the situation heated up, General Wavell was put in charge of operations in Iraq. A force was brought to the H.4 pumping station. 

Eventually, the Iraqi's were pushed back to Baghdad. A friendly government was installed and the unfriendly elements were forced to go yo Persia. The whole 10th Indian Division was now at Basra. 

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, ans Syria" by Gavin Long. 

Monday, July 04, 2022

Events that would drive future action

 While the fighting was happening in Greece, Rommel's army was pushing to the east. This action kept any further units from being shipped to Greece. The 2nd Armoured Division lacked effective leadership. The division commander was captured at Mechili. The Indian motor brigade mostly broke out of Mechili and headed towards Tobruk. The armored brigade from the 2nd Armoured Division managed to reach Tobruk. The 9th Australian Division also reached the former Italian fortress at Tobruk.

The Australians were able to secure the perimeter at Tobruk and proceeded to onduct a tenacious defense. 

In the chaotic conditions following the German capture of Mechili, you had British Generals driving in the dark, unsure of where they were. Generals Philip Neame and Richard O'Connor made a wrong turn and drove into a German ambush, where they were captured. Previously, at Mechili, General Noel Beresford-Peirse had surrendered to the Germans during collapse of the defense. 

East of Tobruk, both Salum (or Sollum) and Halfaya Pass were occupied by Rommels forces. The Germans set up an eastward facing defensive position that included 88mm guns used in an anti-tank role, with 50mm PAK38 and 37mm anti-tank guns

This is based on the account in "Greece, Crete, and Syria" by Gavin Long.

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