Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

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Peter89
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Peter89 » 26 Jul 2022 09:00

Urmel wrote:
26 Jul 2022 08:40
Peter89 wrote:
26 Jul 2022 05:47
Urmel wrote:
24 Jul 2022 14:41
Peter89 wrote:
23 Jul 2022 08:19
Urmel wrote:
22 Jul 2022 09:28


Which issues (other than air support, which is well documented by Bechtold) were addressed? They ended up getting a lot more stuff and additional formations, but that was in the pipeline anyway, they didn't have to lose BATTLEAXE for that to happen.
The crucial point was to get familiar with desert warfare: how do they translate the material superiority into battlefield victories? That went beyond getting more stuff. Issues of maintenance, logistics, medical care, artillery preparation, night actions, CCC were all on the table. The guys in London realized that Wavell was not faking his requirements, those needs were true. Both were important factors.
I honestly don't see much of this. The first training pamphlet came out in September, and it was light, not unit-specific. The next ones (armour, motor battalions, possibly armour/artillery) didn't come before November 1941, and time for the troops to digest them was close to nothing. Maybe one exercise worth. These pamphlets were quickly re-issued and new ones came out in short order through CRUSADER and after into early 1942. There was a very systematic lessons-learned exercise after CRUSADER, much of which has survived in Kew.

So I don't see the failures of BATTLEAXE translate into a better army that could substantially improve its performance based on the experience. The whole performance during CRUSADER is testament to that. Allied forces remained as incompetent and badly led on the whole as they had been before. They were rescued by the fact that they had more stuff to throw at the Axis, and that the Axis command tried to out-incompetence them, and did very well at that, not because they had learned some deep lessons.
Yes, but were these training pamphlets on the pipeline before Battleaxe? Did they build on the experience gathered there?
I think it is certain that they did, since BATTLEAXE was the first major engagement with German forces and there are circumspect references to it in the No.1 pamphlet. My point is that with the first of these coming in September, and the following ones not before November, there is little impact they could have had on the performance of Allied troops in CRUSADER. See the ToC here and consider the breadth of stuff they cover and the number of pages they cover it in.

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 9.39.40 AM.jpg

No.10, Admin Lessons, did not appear until March 1942 and drew specifically on CRUSADER.

I maintain there simply wasn't time for them to digest things from BATTLEAXE systematically. I'm happy to be convinced otherwise, but I haven't seen evidence in the files that makes me think I am wrong on this. Having said that, I haven't systematically looked for it either.

That's before we get into the fact that BATTLEAXE was practically a reinforced division operation, while CRUSADER was an Army level undertaking, so entirely different needs and challenges, and the first time they did this in the face of the enemy since World War 1. So the applicability of any lessons was correspondingly limited as well.

I suspect the purpose of the pamphlets may well have been to impart information on the vast number of new troops arriving in the desert (Kiwis, South Africans, lots of troops from the UK, 70 Division), rather than teaching old dogs new tricks.
You are most certainly right about this. Thank you.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Urmel
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 26 Jul 2022 10:40

Thanks Peter. There's a guy I met through Twitter, James Halstead, who I think is researching the whole issue of learning in the British Army for his PhD at Brunel. There's also Sam Wallace at Leeds who is looking into Tunisia and elements of his work touch on this as well.

Other than French's 'Raising Churchill's Army' I haven't seen anything on the matter, and that just deals with the home forces directly. The matter of learning and absorbing lessons in the field in North Africa remains underresearched, I think. But as I am not focusing on it, I may just be missing a whole wide discussion somewhere.
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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Urmel
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 28 Jul 2022 10:18

Here's a link to the Bechtold paper I mentioned.

https://www.academia.edu/76227095/A_Ste ... r_Doctrine

It is arguable, and can be shown in the primary documentation, that structuring air support and ground-based air defense were major lessons learned from BATTLEAXE that was applied in CRUSADER with very beneficial results.
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: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Peter89 » 29 Jul 2022 09:20

Urmel wrote:
28 Jul 2022 10:18
Here's a link to the Bechtold paper I mentioned.

https://www.academia.edu/76227095/A_Ste ... r_Doctrine

It is arguable, and can be shown in the primary documentation, that structuring air support and ground-based air defense were major lessons learned from BATTLEAXE that was applied in CRUSADER with very beneficial results.
Thanks Urmel, interesting read!
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

Tom from Cornwall
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 30 Jul 2022 20:27

Urmel wrote:
26 Jul 2022 10:40
The matter of learning and absorbing lessons in the field in North Africa remains underresearched, I think. But as I am not focusing on it, I may just be missing a whole wide discussion somewhere.
Hi,

Have you seen this?
WO201-357 - Title Page.JPG
If you find a wide discussion please point us to it as it is an endlessly fascinating subject - to me at least. :thumbsup:

Regards

Tom
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Urmel
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 30 Jul 2022 21:36

No, I haven't. For some reason I have 355, 356 and 359, but missed 357 and 358. :roll:

Do you have that one?
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: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by ClintHardware » 31 Aug 2022 08:49

This topic has strayed far from its original title. I will add to the straying with a quote from Agar-Hamilton and Turner's The Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941 from bottom of page 22 "Garrisoned by non-motorized Italian infantry with German support, the line provided a useful means of employing the numerous static Italian troops in North Africa, but in November 1941 General Cunningham proved that the Frontier positions could be by-passed with ease and would not interfere with extensive operations in their rear. It would be necessary, of course, to mask them."

So much for "like".
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 31 Aug 2022 13:40

CRUSADER literally failed in its ultimate aim because they only masked the border instead of opening up the coastal route. Agar Hamilton and Turner can of course not say that because that was a South African failure.
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: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by ClintHardware » 19 Sep 2022 13:38

Urmel wrote:
31 Aug 2022 13:40
CRUSADER literally failed in its ultimate aim because they only masked the border instead of opening up the coastal route. Agar Hamilton and Turner can of course not say that because that was a South African failure.
Interesting theory.
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2022 23:35

Which sentence are you referring to? The first is a factual observation. The first part of the second is what I would call 'grounded theory', and the second is a factual observation, although in fairness Norrie should be blamed foremost for not leaning on 2 S.A. Div. to get the job done.
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: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by ClintHardware » 01 Nov 2022 15:13

I was referring to your second sentence - why must we be led to believe that they could not say that? Where is the basis of that or is it an opinion and if so where from?

In respect of your first sentence I have no problem with the failure of Crusader, but as yet I have not assessed if masking the border instead of opening up the coastal route is a cause, and if so, to what extent.
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 02 Nov 2022 09:22

In 1957, when the book appeared as part of the effective official history series, two 2nd division veterans were in the top positions in the South African armed forces. Gen. Klopper was Chief of Staff of the South African armed forces and Gen. Grobbelaar was Army Chief.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_S ... ary_chiefs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pieter_Grobbelaar

In 1941 Klopper was Chief of Staff of 2 South African Division, responsible for the operations around Bardia. Grobbelaar commanded 7 S.A. Recce, the divisional reconnaissance battalion, two squadrons of which were also at Bardia, even though he was not.

Both of them clearly had a vested interest in what the history was saying about their division. People are welcome to believe that they would have stayed away from influencing this history. I don't find that idea remotely credible, especially given the fight Klopper had to go through to restore his reputation after the war.
Last edited by Urmel on 02 Nov 2022 22:40, 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

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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by ClintHardware » 02 Nov 2022 19:44

That's very useful background. I will wait to see how the war diaries of ground units describe events and then compare those with written accounts of what happened to gain an understanding of how reliable those accounts are.

I am currently working on the 87 pages of AIR 23/1181 Crusader Air Operations - a fascinating collection of details of Crusader from the air with probably all the problems of inaccuracy that comes from impressions of what was achieved and happening on the ground. You have probably read it Urmel.
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Re: Tobruk outside perimeter area april 1941

Post by Urmel » 02 Nov 2022 22:40

It's a useful document but needs to be read with the relevant Italian and German documentation alongside.
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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