6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

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eduard
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6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by eduard » 18 Sep 2009 10:51

Which axis units were involved in crushing the 6th RTR attempt on the 21st November to reach the tobruk lines??





From http://www.btinternet.com/~ian.a.paters ... es1941.htm

The CO of 6th RTR had led his RHQ, plus 'B' and 'C' squadrons in an attack across the Trigh Capuzzo and in the valley north of the airfield where they ran into strong defensive positions and started to lose tanks. Despite this several tanks did reach the escarpment beyond Trigh Capuzzo, but as it was not possible to hold the position, they withdrew. Only 6 tanks from 6th RTR returned to the British lines and the losses were severe with the CO, the 2i/c, the two squadron commanders missing (later reported as killed), and four other officers, along with many tank crews, after the regiments 'Charge of the Light Brigade' in their attack north to meet the Tobruk force at El Duda. By the end of the day 6 RTR were reduced to only seventeen tanks under command of Captain Longworth, from 'A' Squadron

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David W
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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by David W » 19 Sep 2009 00:50

Difficult question to answer, as their war diaries for November 1941 are missing.

It would appear that they charged at dug in guns, 88's are quoted (aren't they always!).
But I can't place a FlaK Abt in the vicinity at the time?

In short, I don't know! :?

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 Sep 2009 01:45

The Panzer Tracts book on 'the Dreaded Threat (8.8cm)' has a section on the gun in the Desert. On page 39 it describes the actions of 3 Flak/Reg 33 attached to Pz Reg 8 (15th Pz.D.) It reports being in action around the Trigh el Abd and Bir el Barrani on Nov 20th and Point 193 near Bir Nbeidad on the 21st. They fired 77 rounds on the 20th but the range was too great to observe results. On the 21st they fired 35 rounds and claimed 4 Cruiser tanks.
On 22nd Nov they fired 65 rounds and claimed 6 tanks. 23rd Nov saw 242 round expended for 9 tanks claimed.

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 10:51

David W wrote:Difficult question to answer, as their war diaries for November 1941 are missing.

It would appear that they charged at dug in guns, 88's are quoted (aren't they always!).
But I can't place a FlaK Abt in the vicinity at the time?

In short, I don't know! :?
I doubt they were dug in, since they could only have been there over night. Additional to the 88s, an AA would have a heavy company with Pak 35/36 or Pak 38 (37mm or 50mm), either of which would be bad news for the older cruisers of 6 RTR.
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: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 11:18

One other thing, KTB Div.z.b.V. states that on 19 November a 10cm gun battery (10cm K18), fully capable of AT defense, was subordinated to S.R.155. These could theoretically have been available to defend against the attack by 6 RTR, I guess. The penetration capability of the 10cm K18 was very similar to that of the 88.
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: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by dor1941 » 19 Sep 2009 13:16

The only source I've found to elaborate on this issue with 6th Royal Tanks was Agar-Hamilton and Turner ("The Sidi Rezegh Battles 1941", pp. 175-177). The plan required the infantry of Brigadier Campbell's Support Group to assault the Sidi Rezegh escarpment with the support of the tanks, "..and after the attack 6th Royal Tanks 'would establish a squadron astride the Trigh Capuzzo' ". XXX Corps was then to bring up 5th South African Brigade to exploit the opening and advance to Ed Duda and join up with the Tobruk sortie. What actually happened was that after Campbell's infantry took the escarpment from Infanterie-Regiment 155, "...6th Royal Tanks (less A Squadron) then drove down the escarpment past the tomb of Sidi Rezegh...Rommel, however, was in the area that morning, watching carefully over the investment of Tobruk: he reacted rapidly to the new threat and threw in Reconnaissance Unit 3 [Aufklarungs-Abteilung 3], reinforced by four 88's, to face the British tanks. 'All tanks which crossed the escarpment', reported General Norrie, 'were knocked out', and the attack came to a standstill."
This account makes it clear that 6th Royal Tanks advanced well beyond its original planned objective but doesn't state who ordered it to do so. Brigadier Davy of 7th Armoured Brigade had left 6th Royal Tanks with Campbell to execute the plan, but he had reservations about how his tanks were ultimately used. "Brigadier Davy believes that it was 'a tactical error to have ordered the 6th Royal Tanks to go beyond the Trigh Capuzzo to an objective which was not immediately to be occupied by our own riflemen and before there was a reasonable certainty of being joined on it by the leading troops of 70th Division' ".
Other sources suggest German artillery near Belhamed (part of Arko 104) contributed to the losses of 6th Royal Tanks.

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 14:21

I think that is the voice of hindsight speaking. Davy's original report from December 41 states quite clearly 'orders were issued by me about midnight', and these orders included for 6 RTR to attempt to occupy and thereby cut the Trigh Capuzzo with one Squadron, and there is no mention of any infantry support for this. Campbell only took over operations when Davy had to focus on the threat from the south next morning. I do not think that, considering the spirit of the tank regiments at the time, infantry support would have been considered necessary (see what happened with 22nd AB two days before), and it is conceivable that no order to go beyond the escarpment was given by anyone, but instead that this was an order or misreading of orders by the Colonel of the regiment - and since both he and his 2i/c died, we'll never know for sure. It is also not clear to me that, if the squadrons had not advanced beyond the escarpment, their losses would necessarily have been less, since then they would have tried to do what tanks can not do, namely occupy ground, and there is no guarantee that a German counterattack, pushing AT guns forward, would not have inflicted similar casualties on two unsupported tank squadrons.

It was not totally pointless however, since 6 RTR claimed about 300 POW and 5-6 enemy tanks (although I agree with Agar-Hamilton and Turner that these were most likely Italian L3 tanks), and together with what the KRRC and 14 Brigade had already done, this must have contributed considerably to writing down Axis forces in the sector. Still, that is scant consolation.
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: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by dor1941 » 19 Sep 2009 15:47

Since Brigadier Davy specifically objected to the order which doomed 6th Royal Tanks, it might be more logical to look to his chief, Major-General W.H.E. Gott ( or Norrie of XXX Corps, if we're going to speculate) as the source of the order. Davy had commanded armour on the desert since Compass (unlike his superiors) and understood that tanks alone should not be expected to hold ground-one squadron "astride" the Trigh Capuzzo might at least expect the fire support of the 42 25-pdrs on the Sidi Rezegh airfield.
Incidentally, Mr. Bond, your comment about what happened to 22nd Armoured Brigade (at Bir El Gubi) was the result of a direct order from W.H.E. Gott :o .

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 16:35

As I said, Brig. Davy did not object to the order in his report in Dec.41. He did so when he wrote his book, but since both Campbell and Gott were dead by then, it is not really cricket to blame the SNAFU on Campbell, in my view, unless he really has evidence. This is even more the case since in his Dec 41 report he accepts that it was his mistake not to stop 6 RTR participating in the attack, since it prevented him from concentrating his tanks (and he claims he had already stopped 7 Hussars from participating, so he could have done that).

Also note that only one squadron and RHQ were destroyed north of the Trigh, the other ws destroyed south of it, when trying to cover 'the attack' (presumably the attack by RHQ and the other squadron across the Trigh).

Gott's order was, according to his report, for a "limited attack". I don't have the war diary, so that may also have been written to cover things up.

As I outlined above, it is not a foregone conclusion that a halt on the Trigh Capuzzo would not have lead to the destruction of the two squadrons. In fact, given the events of the day, one could argue that even a cancellation of the attack might not have saved them. See what happened to 7 Hussars who were taken out of the attack and faced the full weight of the German attack:
Operational Report 7 Queen's Own Hussars December 41

So I am afraid I do not think that based on the documentary evidence from Davy's own contemporary report his claim appears to be difficult to verify, and some of it simply does not stand up.

Summing up:

a) Gott claims to have given an order for a limited attack.
b) Davy executed this by giving orders at midnight 20 November to 7 Hussars and 6 RTR to support the infantry attack, and for one squadron 6 RTR to advance on and cut the Trigh Capuzzo. Davy himself therefore did launch 6 RTR onto the Trigh without considering infantry support.
c) The Germans attacked with from the south about 100 tanks, 7 Hussars were taken out of the attack, the KRRC and a coy of the 2nd RB successfully took their objectives, under command of Brig. Campbell
d) One squadron and RHQ of 6 RTR advanced across the Trigh Capuzzo and was destroyed.
e) Another squadron did not advance beyond the Trigh, but advanced westward to the south of it, and was destroyed.

These are the facts, based on Davy's own report, and Gott's report.

My view:
a) Given the situation on the airfield, there is at least a strong possibility that 6 RTR was not in touch with Campbell when the decision was made to advance across the Trigh.
b) He recognises this as a mistake in the lessons learnt of his report "Cruisers are not suitable for attacking enemy holding positions with A/Tk guns."
c) Whether fire support by the artillery would have rescued 6 RTR is an open question, in my view. Consider the map of the events in Agar Hamilton & Turner. 6 RTR put their head in a vice between (from the southwest) S.R.155, Bologna, Arko 104, AA 3, and Afrika-Rgt. 361. It was like the charge of the Light Brigade (it's Deja-Vu all over again), and it is hardly surprising that they were destroyed. To blame this on the order to advance north of the Trigh is a real stretch.
Last edited by JBond on 19 Sep 2009 20:02, edited 2 times 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

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 16:46

dor1941 wrote:Incidentally, Mr. Bond, your comment about what happened to 22nd Armoured Brigade (at Bir El Gubi) was the result of a direct order from W.H.E. Gott :o .

David R
A) One could argue that it was the result of stupid organisation and stupid tactics by a green formation, as well as faulty intelligence and a habit of discounting Italian combat ability. But!
B) According to 22nd Armoured Brigade war diary, that attack was a rioting success. "The results of the day were very satisfactory." (I wish I was making this up).

In any case, it does not change anything about my point: namely that British organisation and combat spirit contributed to extraordinary levels of tank losses at el Gubi, and may well have been behind the idea that sending 6 RTR off into the blue was a great plan. Davy's observation in his report that the British would be best off forming a commitee (great British civil service attitude!) to study German textbooks showed that after CRUSADER, he seems to have twigged that.
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: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 19 Sep 2009 17:14

David W wrote:Difficult question to answer, as their war diaries for November 1941 are missing.
They are only missing if you don't know where to look. If I were you, I'd check close to home. :wink:

21.11.41
0600 [...]Orders received for an attack to be made to the NW with 2 RB with orders to seize and hold the cross-roads at Sidi Resegh and make contact with 38th Bde (sic!) who were to attack from Tobruk towards Ed Duda. A Sqdn's task was to occupy Pt 167 (432404), establish 2 RB in that area and protect the left flank of the 60th who were making a similar attack on our right. B&C Sqdn's were to go through, capture cross-roads and link up with 38th Bde at Ed Duda.[...]
0830 [...]
1200 The Regiment being now out of touch with 7th Armoured Bde was put under orders of the Commander Support Group.[...]

Note the timing of the last, and the orders received.

Health warning, this was of course written sometime after the event by the war diarist, and considering the officer losses, the person(s) providing the information may not have been the best placed to do so, but presumably were the only ones left.
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: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by David W » 20 Sep 2009 00:22

Jbond.

Re "Missing" diaries. I was quoting from the 6th RTR website, which has all the "unlost" diaries on-line. They quote tham as missing. :?

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by dor1941 » 20 Sep 2009 01:24

JBond

I see no reason to question Brigadier Davy's veracity or to "blame" Jock Campbell for anything.

Such an immense amount of speculation violates my approach to historiography-I'm afraid I'm not the revisionist type.
I'll let the facts speak for themselves :) .

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 20 Sep 2009 09:36

All the facts I laid out can be verified at Kew.

I think you are measuring with two different rulers here, since it appears your speculation is okay, but that of others offends your idea of historiography. You wrote:
Brigadier Davy of 7th Armoured Brigade had left 6th Royal Tanks with Campbell to execute the plan, but he had reservations about how his tanks were ultimately used.
In fact, that is not exactly what Agar Hamilton & Turner say, it is your interpretation, or shall we say speculation, since the quoted passage never talks about Campbell, but about the tactical handling, so it could equally refer to the regimental commander. On reading the relevant parts of the contemporary reports it is clear that Davy considered it a mistake, but he considered it to be fundamentally his own mistake, not that of somebody else. But again, by the time he wrote his book he may have thought differently.

I have laid out all the facts as they appear based on the contemporary reports; it would be good if somebody had the full passage from Davy's book. Here is one more fact to be considered:

By the time Davy handed over operations north of the airfield to Campbell, 6 RTR had received their orders.

But for the moment we can just stick to the facts. They are that Davy post-war was prepared to voice a different opinion than Davy in December 41.
Last edited by JBond on 20 Sep 2009 09:49, 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

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Re: 6th RTR in CRUSADER who killed them..

Post by Urmel » 20 Sep 2009 09:37

David W wrote:Jbond.

Re "Missing" diaries. I was quoting from the 6th RTR website, which has all the "unlost" diaries on-line. They quote tham as missing. :?
They are wrong then. Appears to me that Liddell-Hart was not very organised, or just did not care about cleaning up behind him. :wink:
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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