Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

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MarkN
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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by MarkN » 13 Dec 2019 00:17

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Nov 2019 17:09
The 7th Armd Div report flatly contradicts Roberts' later account though, doesn't it? The account in Raugh's book suggests that it was Messervy's unilateral decision to withdraw that concerned Wavell and that he thought that was a call that should have come from WDF - is it possible that Roberts conflated the two decisions?
Tom,

I've just found Wavell's version of the events. His words not Raugh's or some other storyteller.

He says he wanted to make the decision to withdraw or hold himself but wanted to get forward to speak to O'Moore-Creagh in person before he made the decision. It appears that he was first informed of Messervy's unilateral decision when he got to 7 Armd Div HQ and recognised it couldn't be reversed and thus gave his orders for the general withdrawal to go ahead.

There is nothing in this particular report to suggest he felt Beresford-Peirce should have made the call. He categorically states he wanted to make it himself.

I also found an interesting document laying out the siting of I./18.Flak.Abt's twelve 88mm guns and a breakdown of their success against the Cruiser and I tanks.

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Dec 2019 16:59

MarkN wrote:
13 Dec 2019 00:17
He says he wanted to make the decision to withdraw or hold himself but wanted to get forward to speak to O'Moore-Creagh in person before he made the decision. It appears that he was first informed of Messervy's unilateral decision when he got to 7 Armd Div HQ and recognised it couldn't be reversed and thus gave his orders for the general withdrawal to go ahead.
Thanks, which suggests that Wavell, despite the experience gained by the British during both O'Connor's campaign and then in the shambles of Rommel's first campaign, had an unrealistic expectation of the likely pace of events on the modern battlefield.
MarkN wrote:
13 Dec 2019 00:17
I also found an interesting document laying out the siting of I./18.Flak.Abt's twelve 88mm guns and a breakdown of their success against the Cruiser and I tanks.
That sounds interesting - is it a German source?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by MarkN » 13 Dec 2019 18:55

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
13 Dec 2019 16:59
Thanks, which suggests that Wavell, despite the experience gained by the British during both O'Connor's campaign and then in the shambles of Rommel's first campaign, had an unrealistic expectation of the likely pace of events on the modern battlefield.
Maybe.

He explains that everything seemed ok on the evening of the 16th, not perfect but nothing too serious to get agitated about. Beresford-Peirce had just returned from visiting both div commanders and he'd flown up to WDF HQ.

Then the comms went down. Wavell only notes they went down with 7 Div but we know it was with 4 Div too. He says the first message they got from 7 Div in the morning was garbled and had to be sent again. That was the 0930 message saying they (7 Div) were being driven back from the Omars and outflanked.

Based on that, he decide to fly forward and make a decision personally what to do.

He doesn't state categorically when (and from whom) he received the message that Messervy had decided to withdraw 4 Div. But, reading between the lines, and supported by other evidence, it points to getting the news from 7 Div when he arrived.

Was he slow to grasp what was going on? Perhaps. But he would have understood far better had he received the right information at the right time. I'd argue that if the comms had not failed overnight, he would have received a flow of messages from both div HQs of the German counter attack across the whole battlefield and been able to make a clearer and earlier decision. He may not even have decided, or needed, to fly forward.

Remember, the first clear message from 7 Div was at 0930 saying they were being pushed back and 4 Div was still silent. 4 Div only managed to get a clear message through to HQ WDF at 1115 saying they were already withdrawing - 5 mins after Wavell and Beresford-Peirce had left!

And then there is the belief the night before that things "seemed fairly satisfactory". What is that based upon? It is based upon unit commanders and lower grossly overclaiming their successes. If the amount of German armour destroyed was as great as claimed, there wouldn't be too great a worry. However, ....

In the round, there is enough in the evidence to finger Wavell for being behind the curve. The evidence makes him an easy target. However, l personally feel that if you dig a bit deeper to understand the context in more detail, he was trying to bat against a fast bowler whilst wearing a blindfold and one arm tied behind his back. The evidence shows he missed the ball and lost his stumps. Could he have done better?
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
13 Dec 2019 16:59
MarkN wrote:
13 Dec 2019 00:17
I also found an interesting document laying out the siting of I./18.Flak.Abt's twelve 88mm guns and a breakdown of their success against the Cruiser and I tanks.
That sounds interesting - is it a German source?
It's a British write-up based upon a combination of info from captured German docs and British battle reports.

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 13 Dec 2019 20:49

MarkN wrote:
13 Dec 2019 18:55
In the round, there is enough in the evidence to finger Wavell for being behind the curve. The evidence makes him an easy target. However, l personally feel that if you dig a bit deeper to understand the context in more detail, he was trying to bat against a fast bowler whilst wearing a blindfold and one arm tied behind his back. The evidence shows he missed the ball and lost his stumps. Could he have done better?
Mark,

Thanks for posting up those details. Very interesting.

My comments on Wavell were mainly based on the fact that he was C-in-C Middle East, and yet was acting more like a Corps Commander! If he didn't trust B-P, why put him in that position?

Regards

Tom

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by MarkN » 13 Dec 2019 21:25

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
13 Dec 2019 20:49
Mark,

Thanks for posting up those details. Very interesting.

My comments on Wavell were mainly based on the fact that he was C-in-C Middle East, and yet was acting more like a Corps Commander! If he didn't trust B-P, why put him in that position?
Wavell is generally regarded as keeping hands off and not interfering. Compared to Auchinleck's stepping in and taking over, twice, he was entirely hands off. Dive into the detail, and it's not such a simple construct.

During COMPASS, when O'Connor spoke with him directly about pushing on to Benghazi and his concern that his immediate boss (Maitland Wilson) might put the brakes on and the chance would be missed, Wavell decided to place O'Connor directly under GHQ ME command thus cutting out the HQ BTE go-between.

Back to BATTLEAXE. There is no indication in the report l have (and you will too soon) that he doubted Beresford-Peirce - he may have done, but it's not in this document. Of course, like my previous comment, the very fact that he chose to make the decision himself can be spun as evidence that he didn't trust Beresford-Peirce to make the right one. But that is just one of many possible interpretations of why he made the decision.

Taking this back to your initial intervention, Robert's post war recollections as appearing in his book do not accord with the historical evidence in many respects.

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by MarkN » 16 Dec 2019 18:56

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
30 Nov 2019 17:09
The 7th Armd Div report flatly contradicts Roberts' later account though, doesn't it? The account in Raugh's book suggests that it was Messervy's unilateral decision to withdraw that concerned Wavell and that he thought that was a call that should have come from WDF - is it possible that Roberts conflated the two decisions?
Tom,

Whilst killing time in Canterbury last week and dodging rabid brexiteers desperate to bad mouth anybody daring to suggest remaining in the uk might be a good idea, l fell upon a second hand bookshop with Connell's Wavell: scholar and soldier up for sale.

Just looked up what he has to say about BATTLEAXE. He quotes a lot of primary documentation - especially Wavell's cables to/from London and HQ WDF.

He writes:
When Messervy arrived at the airstrip Wavell's face was grim, but all he said was: "l think you were right to withdraw in the circumstances, but orders should have come from WDF."
This is then footnoted to Churchill Vol.III not a primary document. Where did Churchill get this from that Connell didn't find in his reasonably thorough research?

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 16 Dec 2019 20:08

MarkN wrote:
16 Dec 2019 18:56
desperate to bad mouth anybody daring to suggest remaining in the uk might be a good idea
Crikey, is Kent planning on becoming independent now as well?
MarkN wrote:
16 Dec 2019 18:56
This is then footnoted to Churchill Vol.III not a primary document. Where did Churchill get this from that Connell didn't find in his reasonably thorough research?
I think Henry Pownall prepared the drafts for this section of Churchill's memoirs - he certainly prepared a document called 'Comments on "Battleaxe"' in Aug 48. There is a short discussion in David Reynold's 'In Command of History'. I guess Pownall might have got it first hand from Wavell - I think they were both out east together at one point later in the war.

Regards

Tom

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by MarkN » 16 Dec 2019 20:24

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
16 Dec 2019 20:08
MarkN wrote:
16 Dec 2019 18:56
desperate to bad mouth anybody daring to suggest remaining in the uk might be a good idea
Crikey, is Kent planning on becoming independent now as well?
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Oooops!!!

From what l heard last week, it might be a good idea if they just sunk Kent with all aboard. The anti-remainer invective was quite vicious and vile at times. My friends neighbours are Polish and regularly have to peel stickers and posters off their cars encouraging them with various forms of insult to return to Poland.
Tom from Cornwall wrote:
16 Dec 2019 20:08
MarkN wrote:
16 Dec 2019 18:56
This is then footnoted to Churchill Vol.III not a primary document. Where did Churchill get this from that Connell didn't find in his reasonably thorough research?
I think Henry Pownall prepared the drafts for this section of Churchill's memoirs - he certainly prepared a document called 'Comments on "Battleaxe"' in Aug 48. There is a short discussion in David Reynold's 'In Command of History'. I guess Pownall might have got it first hand from Wavell - I think they were both out east together at one point later in the war.
Off the top of my head, l think Pownall became CinC Iraq & Persia Command.

Anyway, back to Wavell and WDF. I still haven't found anything to suggest he felt Beresford-Peirce was not doing his job properly. He may have done, but yet to see the evidence. The Connell quote reads to me only that Messervy should have been a bit more patient.

However, when one factors in the comms failure, patience was probably not a luxuary he felt he could afford.

Connell, again without being precise, implies Wavell and Betesford-Peirce only got to know of the withdrawal on arrival at O'Moore Creagh's HQ. But it is also clear he is getting this part of the story from the very same documents l am reading.

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 15 Jul 2020 07:38

The positions document referred to above probably does not exist and has been given here as bait.

Major R.C. Warlow-Harry commanding 27/28 Medium Battery produced a Positions Map of the Halfaya Defences from observations with a number of variations of Flak 88 positions that are interesting to compare to unit statements on the 15th June.
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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by Urmel » 15 Jul 2020 10:02

Dunno. Mark usually has the receipts.
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: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 15 Jul 2020 14:17

Urmel wrote:
15 Jul 2020 10:02
Dunno. Mark usually has the receipts.
De-Bait-A-BULL. Not seen any from that performance artiste
Imperialism and Re-Armament NOW !

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Re: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by Urmel » 15 Jul 2020 14:39

Well I have.
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: Major G. P. B. Roberts' assessment of BATTLEAXE

Post by ClintHardware » 15 Jul 2020 15:50

But the document does not exist.
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