Rommel vs Monty, Round 722

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Re: Rommel vs Monty, Round 722

Post by Gooner1 » 02 Jul 2006 15:45

Alter Mann wrote:The Round 722 is to indicate that this isn't the first time a thread has been started with the title "Rommel vs Monty."

From US Army FM 3-90, Tactics:
1-26. The commander should take the minimum time necessary in planning and preparing to ensure a reasonable chance of success. Reduced coordination at the start of the operation results in less than optimum combat power brought to bear on the enemy, but often allows for increased speed and momentum while possibly achieving surprise. The commander must balance the effects of reduced coordination against the risk that the effects of increased coordination will not match the enemy’s improved posture over time. The more time the commander takes to prepare for the operation, including improving his situational understanding, the more time the enemy has to prepare and move additional units within supporting range or distance. Additionally, it reduces the time his subordinates have to conduct their own planning and preparations. If the enemy can improve his disposition faster than the friendly force can, the delays in execution decrease the commander’s chances of success.
I've always had trouble with Rommel getting the short end of the stick at El Alamein. It's probably because I've never really been fond of Monty, but I also realize that air superiority was a significant factor.

Based on the bolded part above, Montgomery did exactly the right thing. Erwin didn't seem to have as good a grasp of the situation. Montgomery could just about wait forever before he attacked because I suspect he knew how little fuel had been making it across the Med. Rommel, on the other hand, had Commando Supremo's promises and little else.

After all these years of denial, I have to say that Montgomery proved to be the better tactician in this battle at least in that he delayed the start until he had what he felt was overwhelming superiority. Frankly, with this new view of the issue, I think he could have waited longer and still have had at least as good odds of winning. I just can't see Rommel's chances getting better with time.

Monty could not wait 'forever' before attacking Rommel at Alamein, Malta would have had to surrender unless a convoy got through from Alexandria by mid-November and for the convoy to get through safely they needed the protection of the RAF who needed the airfields in Cyrenaica.

For an example of a commander waiting forever before attacking, what about Rommel and Tobruk in 1941? Rommels last attack was mid-May and by the time he was ready for another go 8th Army had pre-empted him by Operation Crusader in November.

And, for what it's worth, the force ratio Rommel had over the defenders of Tobruk was far greater than Monty had over Rommel at Alamein.

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Post by Delta Tank » 02 Jul 2006 16:58

Gooner 1,
Gooner 1 wrote: And, for what it's worth, the force ratio Rommel had over the defenders of Tobruk was far greater than Monty had over Rommel at Alamein.
But, Tobruk was a fortress was it not? And it was in decent repair and that multiplies the combat value of a defender. This in no way diminishes the excellent defense by the Australian 9th Division (IIRC it was the 9th Australian).


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Post by Kingfish » 02 Jul 2006 17:13

9th Australian for the seige, but replaced by the British 70th when Crusader was launched.

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Post by Gooner1 » 02 Jul 2006 18:00

Delta Tank wrote:Gooner 1,

But, Tobruk was a fortress was it not? And it was in decent repair and that multiplies the combat value of a defender. This in no way diminishes the excellent defense by the Australian 9th Division (IIRC it was the 9th Australian).

Yes, but the German-Italian line at Alamein can be considered a fortress or at least a fortified line too. A comparison between the two positions would be very worthwhile.

In Tobruk there were never more than 4 infantry brigades, maybe 14 infantry battalions, to defend a perimeter of 16 miles. At Alamein the Axis had what? maybe 70 infantry battalions to defend a front-line of 50 miles or so?

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Post by jon prince » 02 Jul 2006 20:49

Legionnaire wrote:lol yes 1st airborne :oops:

In order for the 1st Airborne to quickly take the bridge (Arnhem), a jeep-mounted unit had been sent as part of 1st Airborne.
Unfortunately, most of the jeeps were lost when 38 gliders failed to arrive on the drop zone.

Therefore the advance into Arnhem itself was delayed but also had to be done almost entirely on foot. The few remaining leading vehicles were ambushed on the way to Arnhem. The job of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to move off in jeeps etc. in advance and secure bridges and roads. This they could not do after the loss of their vehicles. (The maps issued to officers also proved to be less than accurate, again delaying the troops).
Therefore, 1st Airborne was forced to advance into Arnhem on foot. Also, only half of the division had arrived on the first day due to the decision by 1st Allied Airborne Army to make only one drop on the first day.
(The Divisional commanders all requested two drops on the first day)

It was necessary for Arnhem to be taken quickly as once the Germans realised that an attack was taking place they could reinforce the town and bridge quickly and mobilise forces to deal with the invasion and make the airborne divisions job much harder taking and holding the bridge until XXX Corp arrived.
This is what Bittrich did, sending the 9th division to form a defensive line stop the airborne approach to Arnhem with only colonel frost and his 500 men managing to get there. (Speed was of the essence you see)

One figure I have been trying to find is the actual amount of jeeps lost.
The only reference I found was the vague term hundreds

So using the figure of a 100 jeeps lost think of how many men could have been transported so much quickly! (3 men per jeep 300! (obviously there is room for more but this is a very careful guesstimate as the original figure is not one I could find any where else))

As for the air support, I obtained that from the afore mentioned book. Once my friend returns my copy to me (I lent it to her) I will give the full quotation (I had to recollect the info from memory and admittedly it is a bit garbled).
Your figure of jeep losses is some what inaccurate, of 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron only 3 jeeps actually completely failed to arrive (2 of 2nd section, A Troop and 1 of HQ Troop) whilst 6 (4 of A Troop and 2 of D Troop) were delayed due to bad landings causing problems with the removal of vehicles from gliders. In addition the 4 jeeps of 9 Field Company Royal Engineers that was to form the 'Coup de Main' force with the Recce. Sqn. had been assigned to land in different serials which meant although they extricated their vehicles they were unable to link up with the Recce. Sqn. It seems that though the Sqn. overall was relatively complete (28 of 31 vehicles arrived), the poor state of A Troop (2 jeeps missing, 4 temporarily stuck in gliders) was taken as indicative of the state of the whole Sqn. (at least by post-war authors). The ambush of C troops vehicles at Wolfheze exasporated the situation as it effectively delayed the divisional drive on the northern route, though the centre and southern routes were off-course relatively clear and allowed troops to reach the bridge during the day. Incidentally the usual crew of Recce. Sqn jeeps was 4-5 men per vehicle, so 2 jeeps were 10 man section, it is quite possible to get 6 men on a jeep though, plus with use of trailers a total of 8-10 per vehicle.

The figure you mention of 38 gliders is actually close to the losses for the entire Division on the 1st lift, so actually includes many that had nothing to do with the initial 'race to the bridge' or did not contain jeeps at all. Also it has to be remembered that an Airborne division had relatively limited mobility in vehicles, what was there usually had a material rather than personnel transport role i.e. gun portee's, ambulances, signals/radio vehicles, shifting stores. What mobility there was resulted from the high physical fitness of the men when moving on foot, but it was also a prerequisite for an Airborne operation that the landings should be close to if not actually on top of the objective so that troops could establish themselves quickly in defence.

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