Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4143
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 06 Apr 2020 14:57

Also, just to note that Mechili is still 250km in a straight line from Agedabia, and probably more like 300 on desert tracks. So this doesn't really help you much. It's considerably closer to Tobruk, probably only half the real on the ground distance. Which tells you something about the struggle to maintain a forward force.

In January 1942 they started building the FSD at Msus, much further forward.
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: 1813
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Gooner1 » 06 Apr 2020 15:35

Urmel wrote:
06 Apr 2020 14:24
There is no defensive position west of Alamein that you can hold against a determined enemy if you don't have the tanks to back it up. The experience in every one of the pushs, east or west, shows that.
Yes, what the British didn't need was a superiority or even a near equivalence in tanks to hold a position. Tobruk April-November '41 show that.
At the same time as Greece is disintegrating? I doubt that. Also, there are no new tanks to be allocated by the middle of April. The first new tanks to arrive were on the TIGER convoy in May.
Planning for evacuation of Greece began in the middle of April. I doubt that much in the way of additional supplies were being sent by then. The British tanks that helped in the successful defence of Tobruk had either been in the workshops there or from workshops back in the Delta.
Adding infantry without tank support is just a novel way of adding to the Axis POW count. 2nd Armoured Division was the one that disintegrated under the Axis counteroffensive, so not sure what that helps.
Why wouldn't 2nd Armoured Div. support the Australians should they commit to defending at Agheila?
It is potentially a far better defensive position than Tobruk.
And that's what they had there. So any reinforcement needs additional supplies. The relentless maths of supply applies to the Empire troops at Agedabia just as it did to the Axis troops at Bardia.
No I was thinking what could be important about the arrival of 3rd Indian Motor Brigade at Mechili, is the addition of several hundred motor vehicles to get the supplies dumped there, forward.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4143
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 06 Apr 2020 16:51

1) Tobruk was a heavily fortified location. The Germans attacked it with the equivalent of a company of tanks and a battalion of infantry in the Easter battles, without detailed knowledge of the defenses. It's not comparable to any of the fighting in the open.

2) Yes, the tanks were in workshops or came in on tracks or lighters. But that was it. They only had 1 RTR (which took over the tanks in workshops, about 28 cruisers) and D Squadron 7 RTR (16 or 17 Matilda II) plus a number of Vickers Mk. VI. The cupboard was empty. It doesn't matter whether more tanks are sent to Greece because there were not more tanks other than what is in the article already.

3a) Agheila had been lost at this point, and the same for Mersa el Brega. The question is whether after taking el Brega, Rommel stops and waits for reinforcements, or as he did historically, he carries on.

3b) On the Empire side, the establishment of a FSD at Mechili makes it clear that no forward defense was contemplated. 2 Armoured Div. showed it's uselessness in April. If you want to make an argument why it would do much better in May, I am all ears.

4) The problem with a forward dump using the organic supply of 3 Indian Motor Brigade is that this de-motorises the brigade, and it is an inefficient use of trucks, as the Axis found out when they stripped their units of their organic transport. The supply mechanics are what they are. You need enormous amounts of trucks and lorries to undertake a large-scale dumping programme over these distances. You are looking at about 500km from Tobruk, one-way. I have written about this here: https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... mber-1941/
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: 1813
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Gooner1 » 07 Apr 2020 11:38

Urmel wrote:
06 Apr 2020 16:51
3a) Agheila had been lost at this point, and the same for Mersa el Brega. The question is whether after taking el Brega, Rommel stops and waits for reinforcements, or as he did historically, he carries on.
Well if the Axis take Agheila and Mersa Brega first before halting that changes the scenario entirely. The British were well aware that victory in Cyrenaica would now entirely depend on who had the larger 'fleet' and they knew it wasn't them. So effectively the British have been given the grace of several weeks to fully develop Tobruk as a defensive bastion, to remove as much as possible all the abandoned Italian equipment and supplies still littering the desert, reverse the forward dumping of supplies and prepare for the demolition and blocking of Benghazi harbour and everywhere else that might prove useful to the enemy in as thorough a manner as possible.
Sure the British might not take full advantage of this period of grace, but it is unsafe to assume they will act to Axis advantage.
The supply mechanics are what they are. You need enormous amounts of trucks and lorries to undertake a large-scale dumping programme over these distances. You are looking at about 500km from Tobruk, one-way.
Nearer 800 kilometres from Mersa el Brega to Tobruk by the coast road.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4143
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 07 Apr 2020 21:36

Well they historically did take both, and this was authorised by Berlin.

Fair points on how this may change the British approach, but important to note that the occupation of Agheila did not change it.

The coastal road is indeed longer. it's 500k on the desert paths (guesstimating).
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: 4143
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 07 Apr 2020 21:37

I've now also turned the blog post into a more considered and more fully referenced article which you may find of interest.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... offensive/
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

Ружичасти Слон
Member
Posts: 137
Joined: 24 Jan 2020 16:31
Location: Изгубљени

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Ружичасти Слон » 08 Apr 2020 12:42

Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03

Well, almost by default, Cyrenaica would become priority for reinforcement by about the middle of April. Whether enough fighters and AA guns become available to make Benghazi viable as a port after then, I don't know, though April was a pretty good month for new fighter deliveries.
On real history Cyrenaica was become priority on 31 march. How to make stronger if in imaginary history only was become priority in middle april?
Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03
Likewise when enough transport arrives to support the defence at Agheila by at least two of the Australian infantry brigades backed by 2nd Armoured Division (-) happens, I don't know. Probably before the middle of May though I should guess.
Was not likely and was not plan.

Wavell and senior officers was assume Germany attack in may. Real history build up of British defence was exactly like imaginary history. Only after 31 March was change.

Much help for you to understand situation when you can to read what Wavell was write. He was explain what was plan and what was forces. When you can to read other documents then you can to understand why Germany attack in may cannot be better for British but can to be much worse. Probably was to lose Tobruk maybe part of western desert but how much was considered all about Germany logisticals not British transport or tanks.

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”