North Africa question

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Milosh, Sep 23, 2010.

  1. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    #1 Milosh, Sep 23, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2010
    Could the British have stopped Rommel.

    That is, if instead of stopping at El Agheila, the British forces had continued the ~400 miles to Tripoli thus denying ports for Rommel to land his troops at.
     
  2. Markus

    Markus Banned

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    IIRC the reason why Crusader and to a lesser degree Compass were stopped at El Agheila was overstretched british LOC. Just like the Axis had a hard time supplying their forces east of Tobruk, the Brits had similar problems in the western Cyrenaica.
     
  3. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

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    I think the best chance of stopping Rommel was to have completed the defeat of the Italian Army in 1941. Without ports there is no way the Afrika Corps can land in Africa. Unfortunately with the Italians on the ropes the available forces were split with a large portion of the best troops sent to Greece. General O'Connor the man on the spot wanted to carry on and beat the Italians first and then go to Greece but Churchill overuled him and his General Staff and split his forces with disastrous consequences for Greece and the British forces in the eastern Mediteranean theatre.
     
  4. Civettone

    Civettone Active Member

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    If you read von Mellenthin, the Chief of Staff of Rommel, it becomes clear that many of Rommel's successes are due to British blunders. The British stuck to old fashioned and predictable tactics and their commanders were too prodent.

    VM may not be the most unbiased person, and yet he does not give all the glory to Rommel. Quite meaningful, I think.

    As such it is actually a surprise the Germans got as far as they did. Only after the British became more agressive, especially in the air and sea and thereby disrupting German logistics, did the Germans lose the initiative and were fighting for their survival.

    Kris
     
  5. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I would agree, and Churchill, as was his way, ignored many dire warnings about splitting forces to lend support to his Greek allies. Unfortunately, the perceived political need to support Greece over-ruled the commonsense imperative to annihilate the Italians. Had this been done, Italy may well have sued for peace, with it's African army destroyed the nation may well have lost it's stomach for a fight, maybe even for Mussolini himself.
     
  6. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    a letter written by Leopold Amery, Secretary of State for India, to the CIGS on February 1, 1941 (which was never sent);

    “ .... the Germans and Italians have probably ruled out a rapid advance on Tripoli as beyond Wavell's powers. They may do so all the more if, as is likely, he finds himself held up in the broken country between Derna and Benghazi [NB, he wasn't]. On the other hand I doubt whether there are any technical difficulties about the advance beyond Benghazi, the first few hundred miles of which are along a motor road most of it close to the sea, and through sheer desert. I doubt whether a rapid advance, even with a comparatively small mechanised force, would meet any serious resistance the greater part of the way, especially if the heavier stuff, infantry, artillery, etc, and stores came along by sea. For Wavell in his particular situation, sea transport should take the place that troop-carrying lorry transport did for the Germans last May; but with this difference - that our troop-carrying vessels cannot only support the mechanised advance, but even, if necessary, go ahead of it for the purpose of outflanking the enemy. Similarly, in our light balloon-tyred armoured fighting vehicles we have something which can move across the desert a good deal faster than the Italians can, and so should be in a position to out-flank them on the land side as well. All this taken together suggests that against a swift rush Wavell will find no serious resistance, or if he does, can envelop and mop it up as he mopped up Bardia and Tobruk.

    The biggest danger facing such an advance is if the Germans are given time to establish a powerful air force in Tripoli. But this means not merely flying the aircraft across, but somehow shipping across from Sicily all the cumbrous ground establishments required. No doubt they are thinking of doing this, but they may well be too late if Wavell comes along much faster than they expect......” (John Connell, Wavell, page 322).

    What forces were available to the British and Italians in mid Feb 1941?
     
  7. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Rommel had several things in his favor in N. Africa: luck, a very large part of any battle; audacity, as he attacked in completely unexpected ways that tradition-bound British generals couldn't even conceive of; and fear, after a few spectacular wins, mere mention of the fact that he was on his way was enough to dishearten the British troops, and on several occasions (the locations slip my mind right now) the British gave up easily defensible positions just before the Afrika Corps would have been forced to retreat themselves. Over-stretched supply lines and British interference with said supplies/reinforcements in the Med are what finally did Rommel in. On an equal footing, I think he would have defeated Montgomery.
     
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