After Beda Fomm

Discussions on alternate history, including events up to 20 years before today. Hosted by Terry Duncan.
Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 1772
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 11 Nov 2013 21:34

Gents,

Now I almost wish I hadn't mentioned 3-tonners! :oops:

Norm, Andreas,

Have either of you seen references or suggestions of references that might get us any further ahead in answering at least some of Norm's questions?

1. How many trucks were in the Middle East before the war broke out?
2. How many arrived per month after the declaration of war?
3. What was the average wastage rate?
4. Which units arrived with vehicles and which without?
5. How many trucks per month came from the US, Canada, South Africa and India?
6. What were the vehicle requirements of an infantry or tank division in the Western Desert in 1940/41/42/43?
7. How many trucks were there in a second or third line transport company and what vehicles did they use 3 ton/5 ton/10 ton?

I've seen letters from Montgomery talking about the advance to Tripoli in 1943 in terms of divisions and logistic lift - similar discussions would have taken place in late 1941 before Crusader wouldn't they?

Regards

Tom

Tom from Cornwall
Member
Posts: 1772
Joined: 01 May 2006 19:52
Location: UK

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 11 Nov 2013 21:38

Norm,
In regard to my claim that O’Connor could have gone on to Tripoli and your and David’s counter claim that lack of transport or the condition of the transport, or the distances involved, or all three, would have prevented a forward move I would remind you that when the advance was stopped at Agheila the main elements of O’Connor’s forces turned round a drove 1,000 miles back to Cairo. If they could do that then why could they not go on the 450 miles to Tripoli?
Firstly, they would have been in essence "withdrawing" along an already established line of comms so would have been drawing from established supply dumps, etc, rather than having to take stores along with them.

Secondly, I thought most armoured units left their tanks in the desert? I'm not as sure of this point though!

Good, detailed post though. You tell 'em! :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 11 Nov 2013 22:13

Norm wrote:Now Urmel turning to your contribution and your statement that I don’t understand the distances involved: YES I DO. I know exactly how far it is from Cairo to Mersa Matruh and from Matruh to Tobruk and from Tobruk to Benghazi and from Benghazi to Agheila and importantly from Agheila to Tripoli and all the other towns, villages and water holes that became significant in the progress of the Desert War. Moreover I fully understand that virtually everything units needed to survive and fight; water, food, ammo and petrol had to be carried by truck. However, distances between supply hubs and end users varied as did the going, the condition of the vehicles and the amount and carrying capacity of the supply echelons.
Well in fairness I said 'underestimate', and I think we have an important data point in that in January 42 13 Corps was simply not adequately supplied. End of. This despite Tobruk being fully operational as a port.
Norm wrote:In regard to my claim that O’Connor could have gone on to Tripoli and your and David’s counter claim that lack of transport or the condition of the transport, or the distances involved, or all three, would have prevented a forward move I would remind you that when the advance was stopped at Agheila the main elements of O’Connor’s forces turned round a drove 1,000 miles back to Cairo. If they could do that then why could they not go on the 450 miles to Tripoli?
Because he didn't have to fight his way back to Cairo, and he was moving back on his supply line, instead of away from it.
Norm wrote:Nor did he have to rely completely on truck borne supplies coming all the way from Matruh. For a start off he did not arrive at Agheila completely devoid of supplies or short of vehicles. Both 7AD and 6AID had enough supplies and vehicles for their immediate needs, the Australians had just captured and taken into their ownership over 700 vehicles at Tobruk, moreover 7AD had just captured an Italian column at Beda Fomm of over 1,000 vehicles many stacked high with food and petrol. Furthermore there was abundant water at Benghazi, Derna, Tobruk, Mersa el Brega and Agheila and, when they advanced, there was a good water source at Sirte all they had to do was drink it fill their water bottles with it and refill their water trucks with it; not difficult.
How long are those vehicles going to last without spares? How long does it take to take them away from those who captured them and distribute them to those who need them (not the same people). The water at all of these places still needs to be supplied over hundreds of miles.
Norm wrote:David please note, Tobruk was opened almost straight away after its capture, moreover within a few days of the Beda Fomm battle the Royal Navy were able to land 2,500 tons of petrol and 3,000 tons of other supplies at Benghazi, this info was taken from Raugh, p 123, but there are loads of sources which confirm supplies were quickly landed at Tobruk, Derna and Benghazi after their capture.
And how much did they need on a daily basis? The Germans in autumn estimated about 600 tons per day for a force that about equalled probably two divisions and was supplied over a similar distance. What were the means of getting the supplies to the forward units? How would increasing the strength of the forward units impact that? It was a 6-day lorry turn-around from Tobruk to Mechili according to the report added below (160km, 100 miles).
Norm wrote: In addition a petrol and ammunition supply point was quickly established at Derna.
Given the characteristics of Derna harbour, that was probably worth the proverbial bucketful of warm spit. :) Only submarines, destroyers, motor schooners, and vessels <500 tons could use that harbour.
Norm wrote: Furthermore, the Navy guaranteed to land double the amount of supplies they were already landing at Tobruk if they were needed. The Navy’s view on supply was that although it would not be easy they were confident that they could supply O’Connor’s army of two divisions if he decided to advance on Tripoli.
Double of what number? Again, with the distance from Tobruk to Agheila and then Sirte, that's not the best place. The key question would have been what they could get into Benghazi by sea, and out by land.
Norm wrote:Urmel what relevance has the state of an Indian brigades transport in February 1942 got to do with a possible advance on Tripoli by two divisions in February 1941?
It's a data point.
Norm wrote:It is no use saying the Germans needed just under 5 vehicles per man in autumn 1941.
Why not? Again, it's a data point. That's the about of M.T. they had, and it was not enough.
Norm wrote:Where did this information come from what units were involved did this figure include tanks, motor bikes and support units?
http://rommelsriposte.com/2011/06/01/mo ... -nov-1941/
Norm wrote: On what basis is the calculation made that it would have taken 20,000 vehicles to move 8 Army in late 1941 and what relevance does it have to the amount of vehicles required by O’Connor anyway? And again where does this information come from?
It's a simple calculation. It's probably not very relevant.
Norm wrote:And if you all know so much why not tell me how many trucks were in the Middle East before the war broke out? How many arrived per month after the declaration of war? What was the average wastage rate? Which units arrived with vehicles and which without? How many trucks per month came from the US, Canada, South Africa and India? What were the vehicle requirements of an infantry or tank division in the Western Desert in 1940/41/42/43? How many trucks were there in a second or third line transport company and what vehicles did they use 3 ton/5 ton/10 ton?
All good questions. Not that I have the answers.

Here's some information, from 3 CLY War Diary (Cruiser regiment) for October 41 - that's what they went into battle with, I have no idea if that was what they were supposed to have:

Trucks: 93
66 – 3 tonners.
2 – 3 tonner Fitters lorries.
18 – 15 cwt trucks.
4 – 15 cwt Water Trucks.
2 – 8 cwt trucks.
1 – 15 cwt Office truck.

Light vehicles: 9
8 – Utilities
1 W/T van.

2 RGH reported 112 B Vehicles.

So for 22 Armoured Brigade just the three cruiser regiments gets you to 300 trucks, for four cruiser/army tank brigades outside Tobruk you get to 1,200 for the armoured regiments alone.

Central India Horse 114 trucks and lorries, 20 other vehicles.

For a 3-battery regiment I count 82 trucks here, excluding tractors (60 for a 2-battery regiment): http://nigelef.tripod.com/fdregt41.htm

I have 10x3 bty, 9x 2 bty. 88 trucks for a medium regiment (there were two) Total first line trucks for these would be 1,536.

I am getting close to 3,000 trucks already, without considering the infantry battalions, brigade transport companies, AT-regiments, second line divisional transport and 3rd line transport, and the RAF.
Norm wrote:making ill informed petulant outbursts never will.
Quite right.

Here's some proof that the advance to Beda Fomm was already undertaken on a shoestring, at least in the view of the Quartermaster. Note in particular the 'wondering what to eat the next day', indicating that the captured supplies may not have been very plentiful (and in any case, the POW presumably were fed and watered as well). Unfortunately I lost the record marker on this one, I think it's in WO201.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 11 Nov 2013 23:34

Here's some part of the answers. This is from Dec 41. No idea what a divisional "P" Coy is? Petrol? Seems a lot of vehicles. But in any case, 120 M.T. of unspecified type per 3rd line company.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 11 Nov 2013 23:41

And another one... 22 3/4 transport coys in 13 Corps and 8 Army pool would be 2,730 trucks at 120 trucks per coy. We are now coming up to 6,000, and we are still missing all divisional, brigade, infantry battalions, LAA, AT, the whole of 30 Corps, 70 Division, engineers, railhead, armoured car regiments, Force E, and the RAF.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 12 Nov 2013 00:26

In order to maintain from Tobruk in Benghazi a force as follows:

22 Guards Brigade with 2 battalions
1 field regiment
engineers
1 AT bty
1 LAA bty
1 lt. Fd Amb
1 AC regt
2nd line transport

Total 5,354 men, 1,152 motor vehicles.

Daily requirement was 86.7 tons:
48.4 tons rations and POL
23.3 tons ammunition
15 tons water

Supplied from Tobruk ignoring the water, this would require 287 trucks, or about 2.5 5-ton coys, with a 10-day turn-around on the Tobruk-Benghazi run (700miles return). Benghazi - Brega is probably a four-day turn-around, so if you have to supply from Tobruk you are now looking at about 400 trucks. So if the RN can supply all you need at Benghazi, life becomes much easier. You now only need one coy for this, but you really don't have anyone in the forward area (sound familiar?).

Two infantry divisions would be about six times (32,000 men), but you need a margin for the tanks. A two-division force, including one division of tanks, I guesstimate at about 10 times the requirement (note there are no tanks here, so the POL requirement, which is the biggest part, is much less than it would be), and I think that's generous.

So from Benghazi to Brega, about 140 miles by road, 10 5-ton coys, or 1,200 trucks. From Tobruk to Brega you would need 4,200 5-ton trucks to keep two divisions of which one includes armour supplied. This is additional to the trucks in the two divisions (say, 6,000), trucks required at base in Benghazi and elsewhere in theatre. For every 70 miles you move forward, you add 600 trucks to supply such a force. How long can you keep that up? For the distance to Tripoli from Brega, you are adding 450 miles = 3,857 trucks. Note these are all 5-ton trucks. If you use 3-ton trucks, your truck numbers just shot up by 40%, i.e. you now need 5,400 3-ton trucks to get these two divisions from Brega to Tripoli. You still need 5,880 3-ton trucks to keep the base in Brega supplied if you operate out of Benghazi. Your RAF support is still in Benina, by the way, or more likely El Adem.

Once you plan to get into serious combat, you also need to stockpile. But let's not go there.

Happy to be corrected on the math. It's based on the calculations for BenCol. See here: http://rommelsriposte.com/2010/07/30/be ... -planning/ - the numbers I am using are a bit different, they are based on a different document in the folder.
Last edited by Urmel on 12 Nov 2013 01:01, edited 1 time in total.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
David W
Member
Posts: 3432
Joined: 28 Mar 2004 01:30
Location: Devon, England

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by David W » 12 Nov 2013 00:59

Norm.
and that is because, even I, dummy that you think I am, after nearly forty years of research,
Your words, not mine. As it happens, I have great respect for your contribution to this thread, and I'm sorry that you interperated my input as insulting.It was not meant as such, also I did not know you were/are an engineer.

I wrote what I wrote, because you "seemed" to be saying that a lack of transport was not an issue, when I felt that at least the quality if not the quantity was an issue due to wear & tear.
Indeed I say in my opening response to Tom, not that you will have read it, “3 tonners and large quantities of transport of all types would have been crucial if any advance on Tripoli were to be made”.
I have read it. Please don't make negative assumptions, it does you no credit.
David please note, Tobruk was opened almost straight away after its capture, moreover within a few days of the Beda Fomm battle the Royal Navy were able to land 2,500 tons of petrol and 3,000 tons of other supplies at Benghazi, this info was taken from Raugh, p 123, but there are loads of sources which confirm supplies were quickly landed at Tobruk, Derna and Benghazi after their capture. In addition a petrol and ammunition supply point was quickly established at Derna. Furthermore, the Navy guaranteed to land double the amount of supplies they were already landing at Tobruk if they were needed. The Navy’s view on supply was that although it would not be easy they were confident that they could supply O’Connor’s army of two divisions if he decided to advance on Tripoli.
Not sure why you singled me out for that paragraph? But I'll take it as a compliment. :thumbsup:
There has been too much ill will caused by confusion in this thread already.

There is much to learn here, if we will listen to others. And I'm listening......

Norm
Member
Posts: 9
Joined: 31 Oct 2013 15:14
Location: Yorkshire

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Norm » 12 Nov 2013 15:44

Hi David and Urmel

Thanks for getting back with some more constructive contributions. As you say David there is much to learn here and I also am listening. As for your contribution Urmel and the very comprehensive contribution to the debate you have made I will, of course, get back to you as soon as I can and correct your figures. Unfortunately I am going on holiday on Friday and have a lot to do between now and take off so my full reply will not be for about two weeks. I will, however, try and counter some of your figures before I go. You say "Here's some proof that the advance to Beda Fomm was already undertaken on a shoestring, at least in the view of the Quartermaster" and include a situation report to give your argument some weight. The report you site relates to the situation at the end of the first three days of Operation Compass in December 1940. As you will no doubt know by the time O'Connor reached Agheila in early February the transport, food, ammunition and general supply situation, had all changed, and, against all the odds, for the better. As you mention the quartermaster at that time had to contend with thousands of prisoners, the fourth Indian div was pulling out and virtually all the supply companies were engaged on this work. The whole of O’Connor’s force was, in fact, in total confusion.

However, as the situation settled down things began to improve. 6 AID came forward with their newly issued vehicles, although these vehicles were only issued on a basic scale, and replaced 4 IID who had old and battered trucks. Because there was a two week pause in operations the fitters of 7 AD had time to service their tanks and trucks. Moreover, the supply situation was greatly improved by the use of ten ton trucks captured from the Italians. Consequently when they embarked on the reduction of Bardia in January 1941 the whole force structure was better supplied and maintained.

Now before we go any further I think it would be helpful to us all if you could rubbished my comments now and then I can counter and perhaps in this way we can move forward.

Regards Norm

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 12 Nov 2013 15:55

Norm wrote:The report you site relates to the situation at the end of the first three days of Operation Compass in December 1940.
Well, that's unfortunately wrong. The second of the three pictures, with the tile 'the final Q problem' refers to the situation in early February, and clearly indicates that nothing had improved, or that any improvements that had been made had been lost again.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 1722
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Gooner1 » 12 Nov 2013 18:10

Tom from Cornwall wrote:Gents,

Now I almost wish I hadn't mentioned 3-tonners! :oops:

Norm, Andreas,

Have either of you seen references or suggestions of references that might get us any further ahead in answering at least some of Norm's questions?

1. How many trucks were in the Middle East before the war broke out?
2. How many arrived per month after the declaration of war?
3. What was the average wastage rate?
4. Which units arrived with vehicles and which without?
5. How many trucks per month came from the US, Canada, South Africa and India?
6. What were the vehicle requirements of an infantry or tank division in the Western Desert in 1940/41/42/43?
7. How many trucks were there in a second or third line transport company and what vehicles did they use 3 ton/5 ton/10 ton?

I've seen letters from Montgomery talking about the advance to Tripoli in 1943 in terms of divisions and logistic lift - similar discussions would have taken place in late 1941 before Crusader wouldn't they?

Regards

Tom

Good questions Tom. Many, many hours of fun at Kew for someone :D

I have just the one data point to add and that is losses in Greece of Lorries were some 8,000.

BTW lorries were vehicles with a carrying capacity of 3 tons or more, below that they were trucks.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 13 Nov 2013 14:44

1. How many trucks were in the Middle East before the war broke out?
2. How many arrived per month after the declaration of war?
3. What was the average wastage rate?
4. Which units arrived with vehicles and which without?
5. How many trucks per month came from the US, Canada, South Africa and India?
6. What were the vehicle requirements of an infantry or tank division in the Western Desert in 1940/41/42/43?
7. How many trucks were there in a second or third line transport company and what vehicles did they use 3 ton/5 ton/10 ton?
I'll pass on 1-5.

6. Impossible to say almost at divisional level. You probably need to discuss this at the regiment/brigade level, since divisions would be given extra support depending on the operation they undertook.
7. From the records of Bencol, it appears the number is 120 in the reserve motor companies (and these would be assigned either as 2nd line to the division, or as 3rd line to the corps/army pool if I understand the system correctly), and the vehicle type could be either of 3/5/10 tonner, although again for Bencol the assumption seems to be that they were 5-tonners.

I also just counted the number of Reserve M.T. Coys in 30 Corps on 18 November. 10 coys in total (incl. 2 South African), so 1,200 trucks/lorries right there. In addition water companies, petrol companies, L.o.C. companies, ammunition companies, and several 'P' companies, as well as trucks organic within FMCs. Then the division/brigade transport, divisional companies, brigade companies. And after that the regimental trucks. And that's for two divisions. After that you have 13 Corps with two divisions and a tank brigade, 2. S.A. Division, 22 Guards Brigade, and Oasis Force.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4046
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: The "lost" battle of Mersa el Brega, Libyan desert, 31 M

Post by Urmel » 17 Nov 2013 10:19

Gooner1 wrote:BTW lorries were vehicles with a carrying capacity of 3 tons or more, below that they were trucks.
Ellis' British Army Handbook has the following definitions:

- trucks are <1 long ton carrying capacity (1,016kg)
- lorries are >30 cwt long ton (presume a long cwt = 1,524kg
- van is a truck with a fixed top
- tractor is a towing vehicle

My guess is that if a manufacturer had proposed a vehicle with a load-carrying capacity >1,016 but <1,524kg, some War Office bureaucrat's had would have exploded.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
ClintHardware
Financial supporter
Posts: 682
Joined: 21 Jan 2011 12:17

Re: After Beda Fomm

Post by ClintHardware » 27 Nov 2013 16:03

550 Company has two pages of their Operation Instruction No. 1 issued by the Commander RASC of 7th Armoured Div at Mena Camp in Egypt on the 4th April.

I have attached it as a pdf to keep the layout but I thought it was interesting because it lists the numbers of vehicles, their types and weights, and if they had been attached from other companies. It also shows how 550 was organised for the return to Cyrenaica including 50 rounds .303 per man in the company. The 30-cwts were thought of as lorries by 550 but Ellis' list sounds logical.

4th and 7th Armoured Brigades remained in Egypt re-equipping whilst 7th Support Group met up with the 1st Tower Hamlets Rifles and elements of 2nd Support Group H.Q. with 1st KRRC, 4th RHA and the 11th Hussars under Gott to continue fighting on the border into May under Brigadier Gott. Some of 550 got caught in Tobruk and remained under 9th Division servicing the Ammunition Dumps see WO 169/2253. Perhaps some were also with Gott's above units that were being referred to as "Support Group" and also "Mobile Force" at this time until 7th Sp Gp fully came forward (various unit War Diaries were using both designations).
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Imperialism and Re-Armament NOW !

Return to “What if”