3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

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MarkN
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by MarkN » 12 Aug 2015 12:18

Brevity wrote: So, we don't know the initial number of Cruisers in Tobruk, delivery info by Jentz seems incomplete, and some Cruisers were shipped out.

This will be a hard one to solve. Anyone has more info?
Oh yes!!!!

And it seems those 6 cruisers due to be evacuated were not, and were ultimately repaired in Tobruk and put to use.

However, please understand that the total number of cruisers in Tobruk were not all survivors of 2nd Armoured Division. This is key to understanding the numbers...

Start of any research has to be the official history/ies. The British OH is devoid of any information on this point. No surprise there! The Australian OH, on the otherhand, appears to provide us with everything on a plate...
Image
Image

And in respect of 5RTR, it says...
Image

To summarise, the AusOH suggest 26 cruisers were already in Tobruk under repair, 2 made it back from the desert and 11 arrived with 1RTR. Thus, after 1RTR's arrival, a grand total of 39 should exist - in varying states of serviceabilty and utter disrepair.

However, when you delve through the files held at Kew, a slightly different set of numbers comes out. But not that different.

After the (abject) failure of 2nd Armoured Division, Churchill demanded weekly updates on the tank state in the ME. The numbers put before him were often contradictory and on more than one occasion he was compelled to question the data. Given the attidude and information gathering efforts of staff officers in Cairo (despite them being pre-war professional officers), it is hardly a surprise that the numbers frequently didn't make sense.

Here are a selection of returns that highlight certain changes to the tank state in Tobruk and the poor efforts in Cairo.
18 April 1941
Image
MarkNote1: the total was 21, 4 have been lost (see Brevity's notes above) leaving 17. This numbers represent the 11 arriving with 1RTR (A9/10, A10/1) and the first 6 A13s out of workshops.
MarkNote2: The 4 lost were all A9s of 1RTR

17 May 1941
Image
MarkNote3: Sorry for the quality. I think I sneezed as I took the photo.
MarkNote4: Now there are 24 shown in Tobruk of which the note to the right states 7 are in workshops. This fits perfectly when you consider 17 (see previous) plus 7 equals 24.
MarkNote5: Despite what seems to be symetrically perfect, it ignores the fact that an A10 was lost in the battle of 1 May!!!!

15 June 1941
Image
MarkNote6: Now we have 30 showing in Tobruk. And, the footnote reads...
Image
MarkNote7: A nice dovetail with Brevity's postings above. However,...

12 July 1941
Image
MarkNote8: This number (30) repeats until the beginning of August (from 15 June) when it drops to 28. 28 is the number which is recorded from then until the beginning of December.
MarkNote9: I suggest this is evidence that those 6 awaiting evacuation never left and (some) were fixed in situ.

And finally, to help us understand a bit more detail as to where all these cruisers came from, we have an entry in 1RTR WD
Image
MarkNote10: On the day I went 2 skool, we woz lucki 2 do sum maths, so I lernt to do sums. Grand total recorded: 28 A9/6, A10/9 and A13/13.

MarkNalysis1: 6 A9s remaining ties in with the 10 arriving with 1RTR less the 4 lost in the early battles.
MarkNalysis2: The 9 A10s remaining indicate that 7ArmdDiv left some behind in February and March. How many? From known serials operating in Tobruk and careful scrutiny of 5RTR WD and others, it seems just a single A10 was CS version of 5RTR. (This contradicts my earlier analysis of few months past where I suggested it could be as many as 4). Thus, and don't forget the A10 burned out on 1 May, suggests 9 of the cruisers in Tobruk were A10s ex 7ArmdDiv.
MarkNalysis3: All the A13s seem to be ex 2ArmdDiv: 7ArmdDivHQ, 3ArmdBdeHQ and 5RTR.

MarkNalysis4: MarkNalysis1-3 show a total 'start figure' of at least 33 (A9/10, A10/10 and A13/13) of which 14 appear to be ex 2ArmdDiv (A10/1 and A13/13). However, this is shy of the AusOH total by 6. It is also shy by 2 of the 35 suggested in the returns I've posted above. Remember, there is good indication that 30 remained after at least 5 had been lost! This suggests at least 2 cruisers, of unknown type, were also lurking in Tobruk - probably never used due to state of disrepair. Were they additional A10s left behind by 7ArmdDiv or a couple of A13s from 2ArmdDiv with completely broken engines. Or were there 6 as suggested by the AusOH? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that there were indeed 6, not 2, unknown cruisers lurking in Tobruk and not accounted for by my appreciation above.


And finally, my take on the 'definitive' reconcilliation sent by AFV Cairo to London Stats...
The total crusiers assumed to be in Cyrenaica (64) is the total establishment of 2ArmdDiv (A10CS/6 + A13/58). I have goodish evidence that at least 1 remained in Egypt and never made it forward. However, the 19 seems to be a simple, lazily simplistic, calculation of the 30 tanks then assumed to be in Tobruk (check the dates) less the 11 sent with 1RTR.

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Brevity » 13 Aug 2015 06:39

Great research Mark, thank you.

That makes the situation much more clear :milsmile:

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by MarkN » 13 Aug 2015 17:49

You're too kind. :)

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Aug 2015 20:29

Mark,

Very interesting, many thanks for posting.

Before we get too critical of the staff officers in Cairo (Blackadder would have approved though :D ), we should consider Richards was pretty short-handed (from WO169/952 - which is I guess where some of your docs came from?):
SECRET
Subject:- A.F.V. Staff – G.H.Q. Middle East.
BM/AFV/1.
?C.G.S. (through B.G.S.)

1. With reference to the attached cable to the War Office may I make a special request please for one officer to be appointed to my staff now.

2. At present I have a G.2 and myself. One of us is generally out of the station on visits to Units, lecturing to outside Units, or attending conferences in some other theatre of war (Nairobi, Pretoria, etc). That leaves one at headquarters. There is no security phone in the office and most of my work is done by visits to other Offices. The result is that nobody is left in the Office to answer the telephone much to the annoyance of the person at the other end.

3. I am constantly asked questions by the War Office about causes of mechanical defects developed by A.F.V’s in the Middle East. To wait for this information to come back through the usual channels causes serious delay. The information is required in order to improve future design of tanks at home. The only means that I have of getting it rapidly is by D.O. letters to C.O’s, not a satisfactory method, or by sending one of my staff up to get it. That person should be forward with the troops most of the time. At present I have no officer to send.
BTW - the thesis that I referenced does suggest that the OH's (including those of our illustrious Commonwealth colleagues), although good places to start, should be treated with suitable caution.

Regards

Tom

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 14 Aug 2015 03:55

Brevity wrote:Great research Mark, thank you.

That makes the situation much more clear :milsmile:
I agree.

I also agree with Tom. The staff situation as well as the chaos in the WD would have ensured that reliable information was hard to come by. I wouldn't be too comfortable to sit in judgement on this, it is enough to observe the facts (the memos are most likely wrong), rather than to speculate about the abilities of those who wrote them.
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

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by MarkN » 14 Aug 2015 13:01

Hello to Tom and Urmel,

You feel I'm being a little harsh on overworked and understaffed GHQ departments. When I read their products contained in numerous files held at Kew, I think I'm being very lenient.

In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source. They can be forgiven for being a bit out of date if major operations are ongoing. There is no excuse for not knowning, or not bothering to find out, what happened 2 months previously!!!

Moreover, the output for SD7 at the WO, later D.AFV WO was abysmal. The first 4 half-yearly report they issued are littered with inaccuracies that they seemed to have simply made up. And then, somebody in that office had the audacity to hand write a note that all the Appendices should be trashed as the reports themselves contained all the information relevent to future historians!!! It is those 4 documents which form the basis of much of the post-war historical literature regarding formations, numbers and losses of AFVs. It is no wonder that today, 75 years later, we still cannot be ceratin how many tanks were sent to France in 1939-40 and how many returned, nor how many were sent to the ME, lost, recovered etc etc etc.... The 'evidence' compiled by those that should know seems to be a creation rather than a compilation.

Now, whether it is incompetence, overwork or simply individual disregard for the need to be accurate with ones effort and output - or a combination of all of the above - is impossible for me to say. However, the product coming from AFV staff officers in London and Cairo suffers from extreme levels of inaccuracy and shows all the hallmarks of data invention (as opposed to research and compilation) in order to empty the in-tray with haste.

When the official histories were being written, the contradictions in the numbers were questioned by the authors. Documents at Kew show their correspondence. The department dealing with these enquiries was the Army Historical Branch in the Cabinet Office (headed by Latham). Their responses were incredible. Instead of checking and confirming the data, they assumed to raw data to be correct and then invented mathematical calculations and bizarre assumptions to prove the data!!!!

This makes our lives all the more difficult - but, at the same time, far more interesting. I personally like a good problem to solve. Although I understand how others can become very frustrated with the lack of certainty and definition to the data.

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 14 Aug 2015 19:17

Mark,

I see that you have made your mind up, and nothing will probably change it...
You feel I'm being a little harsh on overworked and understaffed GHQ departments. When I read their products contained in numerous files held at Kew, I think I'm being very lenient.

In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source. They can be forgiven for being a bit out of date if major operations are ongoing. There is no excuse for not knowning, or not bothering to find out, what happened 2 months previously!!!
But it's worth highlighting once again the challenge they faced:
SECRET and PERSONAL.

General Headquarters
Middle East
Cairo.

BM/AFV/75

19 Jan.41.

Dear.

1. Since writing to you on the 9th I have heard from Jerram. Unfortunately I cannot get up there at present to see him and the 7 Division as I am the only one in my office. My G.2 Knox-Peebles, is in South Africa seeing about modifications to the Marmon-Harrington Armoured Car. I have cabled Home Jerram’s remarks about eliminating all outside fitments. He also says the thick lump of armour over the drivers slit must be chamfered at the bottom edge as everything that hits the nose tends to blast this plate open. A similar piece on the turret by the loaders ear is unnecessary and dangerous for the same reason (I haven’t examined this). He is emphatic about the necessity for skirting plates. On no account should anything inflammable be carried in the tool lockers. It is also necessary to warm up the Besas before going into battle.

2. In my opinion it is vital to get out the Army Bde H.Q. with its workshops, R.A.S.C. Company and medical show. Jerram is suffering badly from lack of these. Jerram’s own words are “It is no fun being Corps troops in a Corps with no corps troops organisation”. He has tanks scattered about the desert from Matruh to Tobruk. There are numerous dead ones and their crews have to stay with them otherwise everything movable is stolen by British or Australian troops. These crews have to be fed and that of course is extremely difficult.
Appendix 1
General Headquarters
Middle East
Cairo.
BM/AFV/75
1 Mar 1941.
Dear
Many thanks for your D.O. letter of the 2 Jan 41. It has taken a long time to reach me. It must have come by the long route.

(g) There is little doubt about it that, after reading through some of the questions sent out by Gordon-Hall, people have no conception of the conditions under which we have been operating. A glance of the map of the Western Desert and Cyrenaica, provided it isn’t of the A.A. handbook type, should help one to appreciate the enormous distances and difficulties of getting any information through. A letter by Air often takes as much as 14 days to get back to Cairo. To answer a question like “What are the number and nature of tank casualties” is quite impossible to do accurately. The units themselves don’t even know for days on end. For example: The commander 7 Armoured Division was unable to tell me two days ago how many Cruisers he had destroyed during the operation, he thinks about three or four. I am sorry to be so long winded over this but I do want you to appreciate the situation out here. If I want to visit a unit in the forward areas it takes me away from this office for about ten days. You may say “take an aeroplane” but you are then stuck at the other end without a car. Units cannot spare one for you.
So, I feel that when you say that "In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source", you are expecting something rather extraordinary for 1941 - I guess they should have checked their e-mail for the daily tank-state and perhaps their GPS trackers to see exactly what state they were in and exactly where they were?

Personally, I'm just thankful that these records survived "Ash Wednesday"! :D

Regards

Tom

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by MarkN » 14 Aug 2015 20:52

Tom,

I believe their poor performance is inexcusable. You chose to find their ready-prepared excuses for their poor performance. :wink:
Tom from Cornwall wrote: So, I feel that when you say that "In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source", you are expecting something rather extraordinary for 1941 - I guess they should have checked their e-mail for the daily tank-state and perhaps their GPS trackers to see exactly what state they were in and exactly where they were?
Instant answers for daily updates were indeed not possible in 1941.

But my comments are based upon reading the documents they produced. And reading through those documents, AFV Cairo had already processed that information. The author of the note was unable to piece known information together, or too lazy to do so. Hence my criticism. Let me explain.

We know that any tanks in Cyrenaica must have been sent forward from Egypt. It is inexcusable if AFV Cairo doesn't know what tanks it's sent forward.

The tanks in Cyrenaica (incl. Tobruk) circa April 1941, could have come from 4 sources:
a) newly arrived 2nd Armd Div and sub-units,
b) left behind by 7th Armd Div in workshops Tobruk after their withdrawal,
c) left behind by 7th Armd Div after their withdrawal but being used by remaining units (3H),
d) taken in by 1RTR as reinforcements.

On 17 April, MajGen O'M Creagh, D.AFV Cairo wrote a report to DCGS Cairo (BM/AFV/60) on the tank state in the ME. Annex A shows a table with the first line being an "Ordnance Cencus Fig." (sic) for 1 March 1941. There is a line showing new deliveries since the census was conducted, a line showing estimated losses up to 12 April, a line showing the AFVs in Egypt depots and workshops as of 12 April and then an estimation of those serviceable with units.

Question: was the "Ordnance Cencus" actually carried out or made up?

If it were made up, then it just confirms the point I'm making - statistics created not researched and compiled. If the information is based upon an actual census of which tanks are held, where and by whom, then the information is readily available to AFV Cairo to ascertain which tanks, how many, where and who holds them.

From that census, they would know how many tanks were left behind by 7th Armd Div, how many were being held forward by 2nd Armd Div and how many were sat in Tobruk workshops.

And let's not forget, the report was written by the 7th Armd Div commander who ought to know what happened to his tanks.

So, the chap who wrote the note in June (JR/HJ), has the information at hand to answer (a), (b) and (c) and he most certainly should know what 1RTR took to Tobruk.

Then we move onto the losses. From Mid April, weekly updates on tank strengths were being compiled and despatched to London. Information from Tobruk may have been difficult to obtain, but what should have been there can be calculated from what's missing in Egypt. The losses were constantly being amended as more data flowed in. As mentionned above, initially estimated by MajGen O'M Creagh. On 9 May, Wavell cabled the WO saying the estimated losses in Cyrenaica and Greece was 105 cruisers and 135 lights. Who compiled these figures? How did they compile them? Or were they just made up?

Clearly, there was an ongoing process of reconciling what tanks remained, where they were and their serviceability status. The evidence is out there now. And that evidence was largely emanating from AFV Cairo. The paperwork was in their own office.

So, given all that, why in mid-June did JR/HJ write a load of nonsense?

And as an aside, perhaps the internet and email did exist then. Look at when the note is dated...11/6/41. Then look at the first paragraph. Seems the post took less than 24hrs to arrive. :wink: Or perhaps, that's just more evidence of the lax attitude to details and accuracy.

I don't criticise the performance of these individuals randomly; I criticise their performace based upon the information, statistics and documents they produce and set it against what they can reasonably be expected to know or be able to find out without to much effort. JR/HJ may not have been able to precisely state the exact details, but he could have done so much better than his guesswork.

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 19 Aug 2015 19:32

Mark,

I must confess that I do not expect you to be "lenient" - whatever that means. :D

I am, however, confused, but not surprised:

Now, whether it is incompetence, overwork or simply individual disregard for the need to be accurate with ones effort and output - or a combination of all of the above - is impossible for me to say...

I believe their poor performance is inexcusable.
So, if it was overwork, which as you say we cannot dismiss as it is impossible for us to know/say, you still find it inexcusable?

By the way, was it in the terms of reference to know where every single 'A' vehicle was, what state it was in, which unit was using it, or when it would be operational again?

Oh, and wouldn't the Ordnance Census have been carried out by the Ordnance Branch?

Regards

Tom

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Attrition » 19 Aug 2015 19:41

What percentage of the brigade escaped going into the bag?

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by ClintHardware » 22 Aug 2015 22:56

Anthony Heckstall-Smith in Tobruk: The Story of a Siege describes his arrival at Tobruk by sea during the early hours of the 13th April aboard one of five flat-bottomed ‘A Lighters’ of the W.D.L.F. and he describes them being partly loaded with tanks but they would seem to not be those of ‘D’ Squadron 7th R.T.R. whose Matildas would not land for another three days (IIRC). Sadly he does not give numbers or physical descriptions.
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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 06 Oct 2019 20:48

Can't be bothered to reread all this. On 18 July 1941 (tbc, working from memory as to the file) GHQ AFV MEF put out a note saying that 3rd Armoured Brigade no longer existed, and its remaining personnel had been re-assigned.
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

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Urmel » 06 Oct 2019 20:49

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
14 Aug 2015 19:17
Mark,

I see that you have made your mind up, and nothing will probably change it...
You feel I'm being a little harsh on overworked and understaffed GHQ departments. When I read their products contained in numerous files held at Kew, I think I'm being very lenient.

In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source. They can be forgiven for being a bit out of date if major operations are ongoing. There is no excuse for not knowning, or not bothering to find out, what happened 2 months previously!!!
But it's worth highlighting once again the challenge they faced:
SECRET and PERSONAL.

General Headquarters
Middle East
Cairo.

BM/AFV/75

19 Jan.41.

Dear.

1. Since writing to you on the 9th I have heard from Jerram. Unfortunately I cannot get up there at present to see him and the 7 Division as I am the only one in my office. My G.2 Knox-Peebles, is in South Africa seeing about modifications to the Marmon-Harrington Armoured Car. I have cabled Home Jerram’s remarks about eliminating all outside fitments. He also says the thick lump of armour over the drivers slit must be chamfered at the bottom edge as everything that hits the nose tends to blast this plate open. A similar piece on the turret by the loaders ear is unnecessary and dangerous for the same reason (I haven’t examined this). He is emphatic about the necessity for skirting plates. On no account should anything inflammable be carried in the tool lockers. It is also necessary to warm up the Besas before going into battle.

2. In my opinion it is vital to get out the Army Bde H.Q. with its workshops, R.A.S.C. Company and medical show. Jerram is suffering badly from lack of these. Jerram’s own words are “It is no fun being Corps troops in a Corps with no corps troops organisation”. He has tanks scattered about the desert from Matruh to Tobruk. There are numerous dead ones and their crews have to stay with them otherwise everything movable is stolen by British or Australian troops. These crews have to be fed and that of course is extremely difficult.
Appendix 1
General Headquarters
Middle East
Cairo.
BM/AFV/75
1 Mar 1941.
Dear
Many thanks for your D.O. letter of the 2 Jan 41. It has taken a long time to reach me. It must have come by the long route.

(g) There is little doubt about it that, after reading through some of the questions sent out by Gordon-Hall, people have no conception of the conditions under which we have been operating. A glance of the map of the Western Desert and Cyrenaica, provided it isn’t of the A.A. handbook type, should help one to appreciate the enormous distances and difficulties of getting any information through. A letter by Air often takes as much as 14 days to get back to Cairo. To answer a question like “What are the number and nature of tank casualties” is quite impossible to do accurately. The units themselves don’t even know for days on end. For example: The commander 7 Armoured Division was unable to tell me two days ago how many Cruisers he had destroyed during the operation, he thinks about three or four. I am sorry to be so long winded over this but I do want you to appreciate the situation out here. If I want to visit a unit in the forward areas it takes me away from this office for about ten days. You may say “take an aeroplane” but you are then stuck at the other end without a car. Units cannot spare one for you.
So, I feel that when you say that "In June 1941, all staff officers in AFV Cairo should instantly know how many tanks were in Tobruk, their serviceability state, their type and their original source", you are expecting something rather extraordinary for 1941 - I guess they should have checked their e-mail for the daily tank-state and perhaps their GPS trackers to see exactly what state they were in and exactly where they were?

Personally, I'm just thankful that these records survived "Ash Wednesday"! :D

Regards

Tom
Is that WO 169-952?
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

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 07 Oct 2019 22:06

Yes, I think so. I’ll check tomorrow.

Regards

Tom

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Re: 3rd Armourd Brigade Destroyed in the Desert

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 08 Oct 2019 08:18

I've just checked and yes, both letters are contained within WO169/952.

Regards

Tom

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