BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

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ClintHardware
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BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by ClintHardware » 18 May 2018 07:47

Major-General O’Moore Creagh left what appears to be an unhurried and thorough analysis of BATTLEAXE that he finished writing in August 1941 from the perspective of the 4th and 7th Armd Bdes and 7th Sp Gp, even though the 4th Armd Bde had fought under 4th India Division.

Three things stand out as missing: a) concern about 88s, b) any particular reference to 88s being effective and c) concern about the well thought out and equipped Axis positions. He does not dismiss them as such but reading between the lines he seems to know they can be overcome by methods not used by Commonwealth troops during Battleaxe such as smoke. Post war interest in this operation always focuses on 88s and Axis positions and has perhaps over emphasised them during the four days of combat (the 18th is often not given any coverage).

Let me know if you would be interested in reading his conclusions.
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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Tom Gale » 18 May 2018 12:33

Are you waiting for someone to blow a whistle Mr Hardware?

Slap it on the table and stop dancing about. Beware though if you start questioning the 88s this will turn into yet another long shite data storm. LOL I think I am going to enjoy standing back and watching what happens.

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Attrition » 19 May 2018 02:29

I wouldn't mind....

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by ClintHardware » 19 May 2018 05:40

Thanks Tom and Attrition. O'Moore Creagh's observations below.
In terms of the 88s I am analyzing the firefight moments and the tanks they could be responsible for. There are grey areas. I began this when I realized Lt.Col. O'Carroll was not an eye witness to the 'C' Squadron attack on Halfaya but had been listening in some miles away. The attack began at 0600, Major Miles' statement of his tanks blowing up was at 10.30 and at 1200 hours the 2nd Camerons saw two Matildas still in action in addition to the single Matilda and Light Tank that joined them. The often repeated statement or implied statement on this action is that 12 tanks were knocked out in seconds not hours. How do Matildas survive apparently in front of 88s? I don't have the answer but I believe it was by using cover and raised dust and distance and possibly smoke bombs but no contemporary witness has mentioned smoke in terms of 'C' Squadron at Halfaya. The Camerons do give the formation adopted by 'C' Squadron as they attacked which seems to be part of the longevity of their attack.

So here are Major-General O'Moore Creagh's final observations on BATTLEAXE:-



LESSONS FROM RECENT OPERATIONS.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM.
1. The major lesson is an administrative one involving the abolition of the B Echelon system of delivery once a day and replacing it by the normal system of Ammunition [?] points kept in being by a continuous flow.

It was realised after the BEDA FOMM engagement that a modification was necessary and a small reserve of [?] and Petrol under Divisional Command was organised. [?] the increased amn expenditure involved by serious fighting with [?] large armd formations, and the inclusion of a Bde of I Tanks [?] in the Division with a more limited amount of Petrol and Amn in their Tanks require a change of method.

The B Echelon method was evolved to meet a different set of conditions; it was economical in transport, but inadequate to fight hard with. The new system involved an increase of some 300 odd lorries and curtails the radius of action of the Division to 40 miles in front of the 3rd line. If the tpt is not available then the radius of action of the Division will need to be further reduced in ratio to the available tpt.

A properly organised 3rd line is essential to the proper functioning of the Division.

The details have been given in a separate paper forwarded direct to WDF in view of the urgency of organising and trying out this system before it has been applied in battle.

LACK OF RESERVE.
2. The whole basis of AFV movement is frontal pinning and wide flank movement with adequate reserves in hand to cover failure or exploit success.

This calls for 3 units in a Bde.

With only two Regiments the Commander has no means of keeping an adequate reserve or alternatively must keep half his force in reserve. Either alternative is wrong.

I consider that this organisation of the two Regiments in the Brigade had a considerable tatical effect on operations and was one reason why a wider outflanking movement could not be undertaken.

In addition since there was no reserve there was no opportunity for maintenance a factor which adversely affected the fighting efficiency of the machine and caused loss of tanks which could have been avoided.

In short it is dangerous to improvise armoured formations and if it is essential to do so then the penalities involved must be generally appreciated.

INCLUSION OF AN I TANK BRIGADE IN AN ARMOURED DIVISION.
3. This is the first occasion as far as I am aware that Cruisers and I tanks were intended to operate in close co-operation. In point of fact though I had staged a combined operation this failed to materialise and so no close co-operation took place, co-operation was distant rather than close.

There is no doubt that the inclusion of I Tanks in an Armoured Division give it a great punch, on the other hand they are slow. The necessary administrative arrangments to ensure their maximum mobility are positiviely too expensive in fact they are designed for infantry support and not for the mobile Armoured Div role.

The recommendation that I made last year that the Armd Div should consist of 2 Cruiser Bdes and one I Tank Bn Portee (on transporters) as a Divisional reserve is I consider the proper balance. If circumstances necessitate the composition of an Armd Div being one Cruiser and one I Tank Brigade then the Division is more suited to an offensive-defensive operation. It is not suited to offensive operations entailing long approach, wide manoeuvre and deep exploitation.

AIR CO-OPERATION.
4. There is no doubt that the whole problem of air co-operation has yet to be solved. TAC/R was disappointing on the whole though two facts of major importance were reported quickly and gave timely warning of major events. I am not in a position to judge whether this lack of information was due to shortage of trained pilots but I am convinced that there must be direct communication between the pilot and Div HQ either by R/T or message dropping. The former is the most satisfactory method since it is essential to hide Div HQ from enemy air which make HQ difficult to find. The system of signalling TAC/R information from Force HQ by wireless in cipher proved to be quite useless since the information is never received in time to be of any value.

I feel myself that the RAF never really got into the “ground picture” they operated from too far back. I suggest we want a senior RAF officer as an agent forward. He should be provided with an RAF Armoured Car and wireless communication back to operational HQ so that action can be taken on what he sees and hears.

I think we can learn a great deal from the GERMAN. As an instance 8 Fd Regt who were supporting 4 Armd Bde had a very effective shoot on Armoured Forces in the SULEIMAN – 207 area. Within half an hour of this operation they were subjected to a heavy dive bombing attack and suffered considerable casualties.

ENEMY TACTICS.
5. The enemy tactics are rigid and rather stereotyped. Envelopment is the main theme and his effort is normally developed on three main axis. In the defensive battle his policy is to draw our tanks on to his guns and to then counter-attack with his own tanks after we had disclosed our intentions. He sets himself a point and goes for it in strength but is slow to adjust himself to altered circumstances. It is this weakness that we must exploit by manoeuvre, and this implies good information (especialy as to what is going on behind our front). In principle touch must be kept with the head of his advance and counter-attack come from a flank. His envelopment should be dealt with from the outer columns inward.

In my opinion it is also important to get on to his forming up area and harass this operation by artillery fire possibly helped by the use of smoke. Every endeavour should be made to find his leaguer areas and harass him in these areas too. These two operations are suitable tasks for JOCK columns from the Support Group.

Finally evidence indicates that he attacks as a rule in the evening when the sun is in his favour and at a time when any success tends to create confusion. To this end he replenishes in the middle of the day a system which I consider renders him very sensitive to an attack.

ARTILLERY CO-OPERATION
6. I am of the considered opinion that 2 Regts RHA are necessary to support the Division. One Regt normally being allotted to the Support Group and one Regt to support any attack of the Armoured Brigade. I consider it important that 2 RHA should be included in the Division artillery. I do not consider we learnt any new lessons as regards the use of the 25-pr.

The organisation of the guns and infantry of the Support Group into small mobile and self-contained columns is sound, and for this reason I prefer the 6 gun troop and twelve gun battery organisation for Regt RHA.

I prefer having a Regt trained on RHA lines as there is no doubt that the technique of artillery supporting an Armd Div is different to the normal.

EQUIPMENT
7 (a) The A.9 and A.10 tanks have become a problem. Both these types are a pre-war design and although employed in FRANCE at the beginning of the war, were found unsatisfactory. The A.9 is very lightly armoured and too slow. The A.10 has better armour but is no match for the German Mk.3 as regards speed.

The result is that A.9 and A.10s cannot bring the GERMAN tank to battle unless the latter is prepared to accept an engagement. This he normally refuses to do unless the odds are considerably to his advantage. It also makes disengagement a very difficult operation. The troops have lost confidence in their ability to fight the A.9 successfully. I understand that we have only a few of this type left. I recommend that they should be used as HQ tanks and provide the detachments on Bde and Div HQ.



(b) CLOSE SUPPORT
The German Mk IV tank is an effective close support weapon to which we have no answer except dispersal and good use of ground. It shells accurately at 3000x and though it is not an A.Tk gun it causes sufficient damage to create crocks. A 3.7” How was provided as a close support weapon in the old medium tank but I understand that in the modern type of Cruiser it is replaced by a 3” Mortar with a range of 1000x.

We undoubtedly want a close support tank of the GERMAN type and should have our quota of close support tanks with a 3” Mortar.

(c) The shortage of wireless sets does not allow a set for every tank. This is fully appreciated but as and when they become available it is important to provide sets to full scale. I am convinced that the German thinks slowly [and] that our answer to his numerical superiority is a quicker wit and speed in manoeuvre and this implies good wireless communication. [Type] 14 sets should be provided as ‘house’ telephones between control and rear link sets in a tank.

(d) The A.15 is a good cruiser and although new to the Division was generally liked and caused no difficulties.

INTERCEPTION SETS
8. During the operation pretty reliable evidence was obtained of the GERMAN making full use of interception in the fwd area. Attempts have been made from time to time to put interception into operation ourselves, it has always failed owing to a shortage of wireless sets. It is strongly recommended that a special interception set should be issued to this formation and located at Div HQ for this purpose. We are able to provide the personnel for manning it.

CONSOLIDATION
9. It is an accepted principle in the employment of Inf tanks that they should remain on the objective no longer than is absolutely essential. Inf tanks having captured an objective should remain only until such time as the Inf Comd is satisfied that the objective is sufficiently consolidated for the release of the tanks to a rally. This is necessary to enable the tank units to carry out maintenance, to re-organise and replenish with amn, oil etc.

Owing to unforeseen circumstances this principle was not adhered to during and after the capture of CAPUZZO. Many tanks were also used as immobile pill boxes while fitters worked on minor faults. Had the situation been such as to allow the tanks to rally after CAPUZZO many of them would have been recommissioned in good time for the next day. As a direct example of this 13 tanks which only required unit fitter attention had to be abandoned.

CO-OPERATION WITH INFANTRY
10. The new technique of bringing up inf in lorries behind the tanks in attack is not only an excellent one but in this country is almost essential. I would, however, point out that the interpretation of the “inf at 10 mins call” (at 5000x) is not always adhered to. Its importance is stressed.

RECONNAISSANCE ELEMENT FOR AN ARMY TANK BDE.
11. In this operation a sqn 3H was put under command 4 Armd Bde. It did excellent service and reported enemy movements on the immediate front both accurately and quickly. In an operation of this kind, where big distances have to be traversed with open flanks and only a thin screen in front, it is considered essental for the Army Tank Bde to be provided with its own eyes.
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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Attrition » 19 May 2018 13:27

I think that's an example of what they call the Staff solution.

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Urmel » 20 May 2018 05:40

Attrition wrote:I think that's an example of what they call the Staff solution.
I think that's not quite fair. A lot of this stuff was fixed for CRUSADER, so I think these observations made a difference.

ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM.
Done - see here: https://rommelsriposte.com/2013/11/17/m ... mber-1941/

LACK OF RESERVE.
Done - all brigades had three armoured regiments

INCLUSION OF AN I-TANK BRIGADE IN AN ARMOURED DIVISION.
Recommendation not implemented but allocation of I-tanks changed and no longer with armoured division. In 1 Army Tank Brigade at the start of Crusader about 50% of the I-tanks could be moved on transporters.

AIR CO-OPERATION.
System for air support was much improved - see here: https://rommelsriposte.com/2011/12/30/c ... -crusader/

ENEMY TACTICS.
No information

ARTILLERY CO-OPERATION
Done - 7 Armoured Division had two full regiments (4 R.H.A. and 60 Field) and an attached battery from 51 Field Regiment under command. 4 Armoured Brigade had the full 2 R.H.A. (2 batteries) under command.

EQUIPMENT
Most of the older Cruisers were shifted to HQs, and those that were not were concentrated in 7 Armoured Brigade.

(b) CLOSE SUPPORT
Not done - outside the control of M.E.H.Q.

INTERCEPTION SETS

Done. 101 Special Wireless Section had detachments down to div HQs - see here: https://rommelsriposte.com/2010/11/01/s ... s-section/

CONSOLIDATION
Believe this was undertaken

CO-OPERATION WITH INFANTRY
No info

RECONNAISSANCE ELEMENT FOR AN ARMY TANK BDE.
Done - The carrier squadron of the C.I.H. was placed under 1 Army Tank Brigade HQ at the start of CRUSADER. These were ACV-IP armoured cars despite their name.
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

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by MarkN » 20 May 2018 16:52

Attrition wrote:I think that's an example of what they call the Staff solution.
Really? And what exactly is a "Staff solution" in your opinion?
Urmel wrote:I think that's not quite fair. A lot of this stuff was fixed for CRUSADER, so I think these observations made a difference.
O'Moore Creagh had led his division well during COMPASS. In fact, it was he who saw the opportunity to cut off the Italians at Beda Fomm and he - upon his own initiative - who launched the dash forward to effect it. O'Connor, when told that it was in motion, agreed fully with the move.

However, back in Cairo, he did not show any aptitude for forward planning or 'big-war' thinking - rather the opposite.

This write up, probably written in July 1941 not August as the original poster opines, shows a rather stodgy understanding and a prediliction for peacetime soldiering as a sound and irreplaceable footing for big-war manouvering. Take the 'lack of reserve' section as an example. 3 units in a brigade had always been, and continued to be - until it was found inadequate circa 1944 - the peacetime and wartime establishment of an armoured brigade: three identical armoured regiments. The idea that the forces needed to hold are identical to the forces need to outflank which are also identical to the forces needed in reserve is just pure stodge. A commander has to make do with what assets he has at his disposal; he cannot assume to be able to fight with the general-staff establishment solution. For BATTLEAXE O'Moore Creagh had just two armoured units at his disposal (2RTR and 6RTR) as there weren't any more Cruiser Tanks available to populate a third unit. But what is preventing the commander divvying up those two units into three components? Absolutely nothing! 7th Armoured Brigade had no 'reserve' because the commander and his superior, O'Moore Creagh, decided not to create one from the assets at their disposal. In effect, this entire section is an ettempt to shift blame for failure. Copy of Neame and everybody before him: I didn't have the forces that the general-staff establishment solution stipulates and thus I cannot be accused of failure...

PS.
2RTR was part-populated with A9 and A10 Cruiser Tanks because Neame and Gambier-Parry had already contrived to lose a majority of the A13s sent to the Middle East. All of 6RTR's tanks were new arrivals in Egypt as were B/2RTR's. A and C/2RTR were motoring the remaining handful of Cruiser Tanks that workshops had turned round after COMPASS.

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Attrition » 21 May 2018 00:17

I think that's not quite fair. A lot of this stuff was fixed for CRUSADER, so I think these observations made a difference.

I wasn't criticising, it reads like a logical and thorough analysis, particularly on the chronic problems of communication and inexperience.

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Urmel » 21 May 2018 03:24

Okay, thanks for the clarification.
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

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Urmel » 21 May 2018 04:08

MarkN wrote:[
PS.
2RTR was part-populated with A9 and A10 Cruiser Tanks because Neame and Gambier-Parry had already contrived to lose a majority of the A13s sent to the Middle East. All of 6RTR's tanks were new arrivals in Egypt as were B/2RTR's. A and C/2RTR were motoring the remaining handful of Cruiser Tanks that workshops had turned round after COMPASS.
That doesn't accord fully with my information. I have no A9s, and all A10s in 7 Hussars and Bde HQ.

http://rommelsriposte.com/2010/06/21/or ... n-crusader
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: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by MarkN » 21 May 2018 09:09

Urmel wrote:
MarkN wrote:2RTR was part-populated with A9 and A10 Cruiser Tanks because Neame and Gambier-Parry had already contrived to lose a majority of the A13s sent to the Middle East. All of 6RTR's tanks were new arrivals in Egypt as were B/2RTR's. A and C/2RTR were motoring the remaining handful of Cruiser Tanks that workshops had turned round after COMPASS.
That doesn't accord fully with my information.
That's because you are looking at a different timeframe.

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Urmel » 21 May 2018 13:12

That seems a reasonable explanation :)
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: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by MarkN » 21 May 2018 19:43

Urmel wrote:That seems a reasonable explanation :)
Indeed. :wink:

2RTR went to an all A13 establishment during August after A and C Sqn were converted onto type - but only after another load had just arrived from the UK. Mind you, they were all rather old examples that had spent several months jolling around the UK in the hands of 1ArmdDiv. 7H were supposed to have a single squadron equipped with A9 and A10 taking part in BATTLEAXE, but lost their mounts when they were stripped of their tracks to send up to the Western Desert as spares!

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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by ClintHardware » 26 May 2018 07:39

Hopeful statements of incompetent British AFV maintenance - missing so far....
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Re: BATTLEAXE Major-General O’Moore Creagh 88s & Axis Positions

Post by Urmel » 26 May 2018 23:45

What about the 16 Mk IVa that were issued to 2 R.T.R. 'unfit for action'?
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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