P Force and Benghazi operations

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Urmel
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P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Urmel » 26 Sep 2010 08:25

Point 7 is certainly wrong, since by 30 January Benghazi had been given up. I have serious doubts this unit was ever formed, and even if so, it did not exist for more than a day, since on 31 Jan 8 RTR was withdrawn from 4th Indian (see WO201/560).

The above post is made in response to this post of mine within the British Ad-Hoc Forces sticky
1) P Force Lt-Col Roger Peake
2) 4th Indian Division
3) 30/01/42
4) ?
5) 8th Royal Tank Regiment, 1Bty 7th (Medium) Regt RA, 4th South African Field Regt RA, 2 Coys Welch Regt, 2 Bty's 57th Light AA Regiment and a carrier Sqn Central India Horse
6) ?
7) The force was formed for the purpose of defending Benghazi against enemy forces which might strike across the escarpment or along the fair weather road from Barca
8.) Fourth Indian Division by Lt-Col G.R.Stevens
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: P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Andy H » 26 Sep 2010 16:40

Hi JBond

Just changed my date to the 27/1/42 as the formation day.

P Force intial mission was as stated originally but events overtook it and I'm unsure as to how much of 8th RTR & 7th Med Regt RA actually operated with the force given the heavy rain that fell where these units were positioned (Barce area) at the time. However P Force did exist and with the order for Benghazi to be evacuated it was tasked on the 28th "covering the main road through Benghazi and the by-pass around the town along which 7 Brigade columns must pass" At 1900hrs part of P Force under Peake himself headed against the German roadblock at Coefia (north of the city). However they were unsuccesful along with other units in moving the Germans.

With the position in Benghazi hopeless Brig Briggs sent messages to the breakout columns of 7th Brigade about his plans, a similar message was sent to Peake. Peakes party were in 'existence' till at least February 2nd when they met the mixed force coming from Coefia under Lt-Col Lavender.

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Re: P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Urmel » 28 Sep 2010 07:22

Sure, if it was formed on 27 Jan that changes everything. It is worth noting that there does not seem to be any mention of this combat group in the 4th Indian report quoted above. So while it may have been established in some form or other, it does not seem to have had any impact whatsoever on ops.
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: P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Andy H » 28 Sep 2010 13:40

JBond wrote:Sure, if it was formed on 27 Jan that changes everything. It is worth noting that there does not seem to be any mention of this combat group in the 4th Indian report quoted above. So while it may have been established in some form or other, it does not seem to have had any impact whatsoever on ops.
Hi JBond

I dont have the benefit of having that specific file so I have no context to fairly respond to your post.

However the mere absence of P Force within the report proves in itself nothing. Given the fractious nature of the combat I would suspect that many units aren't mentioned specifically and it would be a dangerous conclusion to state that their impact can only be measured by there inclusion (or not) in a report.

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Re: P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Urmel » 28 Sep 2010 16:33

Andy H wrote:
JBond wrote:Sure, if it was formed on 27 Jan that changes everything. It is worth noting that there does not seem to be any mention of this combat group in the 4th Indian report quoted above. So while it may have been established in some form or other, it does not seem to have had any impact whatsoever on ops.
Hi JBond

I dont have the benefit of having that specific file so I have no context to fairly respond to your post.

However the mere absence of P Force within the report proves in itself nothing. Given the fractious nature of the combat I would suspect that many units aren't mentioned specifically and it would be a dangerous conclusion to state that their impact can only be measured by there inclusion (or not) in a report.

Regards

Andy H
On a general note regarding sources. It does prove something if the report in question is a report on the combat ops of 4th Indian Division during the period in question, written by its staff, shortly after the event (dated 17 May 42), for obvious reasons. Unless you believe that the 8th Army was a self-organised anarchic commune, in which units formed and disbanded at their leisure. Of course at the Coefia roadblock it was quite possible to come and see the violence inherent in the system, so maybe it was? ;)

Regardless, with the corrected date it is possible to find some confirmation in the report.

1) On 27 Jan 8 RTR, 4 SA Fd Rgt and one bty 7 Med Rgt were ordered forward to Benghazi from Barce, but had trouble moving owing to wet state of ground.
2) On 28 Jan a local protection force was formed in Benghazi with 2 coys 1 Welch, and 11 Bde AT coy. This was joined by elmts. 8 RTR as they arrived and 1 troop 4 SA Fd. Note nothing on 57 LAA Rgt.
Morning air recce on 28 Jan showed an enemy column moving north of Sceleidima, approaching el Abiar. 8 RTR, Div HQ protection company 4 Indian Division (2 Mahrattas) and 11 Bde AT coy were turned to meet it. Note this means they did not actually join P Force.
In the afternoon the decision was made to give up Benghazi. 8 RTR was ordered to move to Sidi (unreadable, could be Mahium) and join 5 Brigade there which was to secure the escarpment. Because they moved in a circuit from Regima to el Abiar they encountered no enemy even though German troops were already to the north of their course. 8 RTR joined 5 Brigade during the night 28/29 Jan.
Further during the afternoon the garrisons of 1 Welch on the passes are reported to have been over-run. It is not clear whether these are the same elms. 1 Welch as in P-Force, but one would suppose so.
3) On evening 31 January 8 RTR was withdrawn from the Division.

So the bottomline is that reality was far more messy than the entry in Steven's book suggests, and the force had no impact on operations that is discernible to me at least, and may never have been in existence in the form suggested in the source you 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: P Force and Benghazi operations

Post by Urmel » 23 Oct 2010 14:58

I have now had a look at Col. Peake's own report about his escape from Benghazi, the first two pages of which cover his force and the situation at Coefia.

He states that the composition of the force varied, but that by 1530 hrs on 28 November he had two coys 1 Welch, plus the carrier platoon of the CIH under him (of which only three carriers seem to have stayed with him).

He never commanded the force in any battle-type situation. Instead, when he had conferred with Lt.Col. Lavender of 4/16 Punjab who tried to break through at Coefia, he handed over his force to him (to which by now seven AT portees had attached themselves), and that was it. When Lt.Col. Lavender decided he had to surrender, Peake and some other officers made their way out on foot, without any cigarettes(!). He eventually escaped.

WO201/2488
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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