Andy H wrote:
JBond wrote:Sure, if it was formed on 27 Jan that changes everything. It is worth noting that there does not seem to be any mention of this combat group in the 4th Indian report quoted above. So while it may have been established in some form or other, it does not seem to have had any impact whatsoever on ops.
I dont have the benefit of having that specific file so I have no context to fairly respond to your post.
However the mere absence of P Force within the report proves in itself nothing. Given the fractious nature of the combat I would suspect that many units aren't mentioned specifically and it would be a dangerous conclusion to state that their impact can only be measured by there inclusion (or not) in a report.
On a general note regarding sources. It does prove something if the report in question is a report on the combat ops of 4th Indian Division during the period in question, written by its staff, shortly after the event (dated 17 May 42), for obvious reasons. Unless you believe that the 8th Army was a self-organised anarchic commune, in which units formed and disbanded at their leisure. Of course at the Coefia roadblock it was quite possible to come and see the violence inherent in the system, so maybe it was?
Regardless, with the corrected date it is possible to find some confirmation in the report.
1) On 27 Jan 8 RTR, 4 SA Fd Rgt and one bty 7 Med Rgt were ordered forward to Benghazi from Barce, but had trouble moving owing to wet state of ground.
2) On 28 Jan a local protection force was formed in Benghazi with 2 coys 1 Welch, and 11 Bde AT coy. This was joined by elmts. 8 RTR as they arrived and 1 troop 4 SA Fd. Note nothing on 57 LAA Rgt.
Morning air recce on 28 Jan showed an enemy column moving north of Sceleidima, approaching el Abiar. 8 RTR, Div HQ protection company 4 Indian Division (2 Mahrattas) and 11 Bde AT coy were turned to meet it. Note this means they did not actually join P Force.
In the afternoon the decision was made to give up Benghazi. 8 RTR was ordered to move to Sidi (unreadable, could be Mahium) and join 5 Brigade there which was to secure the escarpment. Because they moved in a circuit from Regima to el Abiar they encountered no enemy even though German troops were already to the north of their course. 8 RTR joined 5 Brigade during the night 28/29 Jan.
Further during the afternoon the garrisons of 1 Welch on the passes are reported to have been over-run. It is not clear whether these are the same elms. 1 Welch as in P-Force, but one would suppose so.
3) On evening 31 January 8 RTR was withdrawn from the Division.
So the bottomline is that reality was far more messy than the entry in Steven's book suggests, and the force had no impact on operations that is discernible to me at least, and may never have been in existence in the form suggested in the source you have.