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Battles & Campaigns Whether it's an individual combat account or a massive clash of arms; the strategy, tactics & operations of WW II are open for discussion here.

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  #211  
Old 07 Apr 12, 08:52
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Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
Had they been available, which they weren't, they would have driven.
?? Had what been available. The Fifths war diary "indignantly reports 'superficial damage to tanks in loading (the rail flat-cars were too narrow)." The rail head actually stretched almost the way to Sollum by now.
That was 26th Jan. by the way.

On the reliability of 5th RTR A13s
"one day we moved and it was the slickest bit of work we ever did. For four days the Battalion covered over a hundred miles a day over desert that the w*gs wouldn't go on. At the end of the trip we were facing the Agheila salt flats and it was 30th March. Out of fifteen tanks in 'C' Squadron, fifteen got there." Jake Wardrop.


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Why are they going to be strung out? The forces mentioned are either in Tripoli or landing there.
Because the Axis were trying to establish a blocking position at Sirte. A bridgehead around Tripoli is a non-starter.
Hitler stated that he would stop German reinforcements if the British couldn't be halted.


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Not much of a band for the British in '42 and, based on what happened later, '41 either.
In '41 the British stripped the desert to embark on the Greek campaign. In 1942 the British stripped the desert because of the Japanese attack.
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  #212  
Old 07 Apr 12, 09:10
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
?? Had what been available. The Fifths war diary "indignantly reports 'superficial damage to tanks in loading (the rail flat-cars were too narrow)." The rail head actually stretched almost the way to Sollum by now.
That was 26th Jan. by the way.

On the reliability of 5th RTR A13s
"one day we moved and it was the slickest bit of work we ever did. For four days the Battalion covered over a hundred miles a day over desert that the w*gs wouldn't go on. At the end of the trip we were facing the Agheila salt flats and it was 30th March. Out of fifteen tanks in 'C' Squadron, fifteen got there." Jake Wardrop.
Other than the fact that 5th RTR weren't available this at least confirms that they would have been driven like the Cruisers of 3rd RTR so we can assume the same level of reliability.



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Because the Axis were trying to establish a blocking position at Sirte. A bridgehead around Tripoli is a non-starter.
What Axis forces. According to one of your more recent posts there were no Axis forces between O'Connor and Tripoli. Now we have these non-existent troops trying to establish a blocking position!

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Hitler stated that he would stop German reinforcements if the British couldn't be halted.
There would have been nowhere to land would there.

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In '41 the British stripped the desert to embark on the Greek campaign. In 1942 the British stripped the desert because of the Japanese attack.
And couldn't keep the forces they left in Cyrenaica supplied or the vehicles maintained properly.
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  #213  
Old 07 Apr 12, 10:27
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I must admire you boys digging up so many facts but you sure as hell are not getting them from Barrie Pitt's Crucible of War" which is very light on detail (excellent on the wider context of the war).

I remember that Pitt claims (can't find the passage) that if Wavell had not removed troops in the early part of Compass to fight in East Africa, O'Connor would have been at Breda Fromm a month earlier and have excellent prospects of taking Tripoli.

It all seems to hinge on a couple of weeks either way.

It also seems to me that we have double standards here. Applying conventional wisdom requiring build up of supply led Wavell to believe that the Rommel's attack would be at least four weeks away when in fact it was 24 hours later. All these careful arguments about lack of logistic supplies for the British are sticking to sound military practice but Rommel and O'Connor seem to ignore this and trust to luck which at this stage in the game seems to work fine.

So why can't O'Connor do the same as Rommel did - the Italians were careful not to carry out a burnt earth policy or destroy anything. The British troops were fired up and presumably just as capable of living off captured stocks as Rommel was later in the campaign.

PS in passing, I see that Rommel wanted to drive on to Mersa Brega to get at water supplies. I think you have to be careful about extrapolating later actions in this campaign when both sides tried to destroy supplies before retreating. At this stage the Italians did not even want Bengazi bombed because they had a lot of investment there.
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  #214  
Old 07 Apr 12, 11:58
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Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
Other than the fact that 5th RTR weren't available this at least confirms that they would have been driven like the Cruisers of 3rd RTR so we can assume the same level of reliability.

It's Wardrop of the Fifth.
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  #215  
Old 07 Apr 12, 12:11
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Originally Posted by Scupio View Post

It all seems to hinge on a couple of weeks either way.
It does really.

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So why can't O'Connor do the same as Rommel did - the Italians were careful not to carry out a burnt earth policy or destroy anything. The British troops were fired up and presumably just as capable of living off captured stocks as Rommel was later in the campaign.
Because although logistics are a factor in O'Connor's need to halt the bigger one is that his force is spent. A bit like Rommel after Gazala the further O'Connor drives on the more the over-extended engines, wheels, tracks, nerves etc. fray and break. The drive on Beda Fomm cost him over 80% of his tank force and the regiments Gooner refers to would have driven well over 1500 miles to join up with the main force. 5th RTR lost nearly half of its complement of Cruisers driving from near Tobruk and that's without the stresses and strains of combat.

The more detailed information, at least for me, is coming from works by Thomas Jentz, Michael Carver, Jon Latimer, Martin van Creveld and John Ellis. I don't yet have Pitt so I can't comment on him.
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  #216  
Old 07 Apr 12, 12:14
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
It's Wardrop of the Fifth.
Yes I know, and I see no reason why tanks of the same model that covered the same distances are going to have any different reliability record despite an interesting anecdote.

The figures I have come from Jentz and he is very specific as to how many runners 5th RTR had available after they'd crossed from El Adem to the forward positions in Cyrenaica.
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  #217  
Old 07 Apr 12, 12:38
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Thomas Jentz, Michael Carver, Jon Latimer, Martin van Creveld and John Ellis
Very impressive list - going to cost me a fortune!
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  #218  
Old 07 Apr 12, 13:11
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Originally Posted by Scupio View Post
Very impressive list - going to cost me a fortune!
That's what being a member here seems to be about - the amount of money I've spent acquiring reading material just to try and keep up over the last seven years or so is ludicrous! Not to mention the extra shelf space!!
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  #219  
Old 07 Apr 12, 18:32
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Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
The figures I have come from Jentz and he is very specific as to how many runners 5th RTR had available after they'd crossed from El Adem to the forward positions in Cyrenaica.
Yes, I wonder how many runners Pz Regt 5 would have after completing the reverse journey.

The advantage when you're advancing is that tanks that breakdown are fed into the repair and recovery system and some time later returned to its unit (or some other unit).

O'Connor looking at it that way might see 120 Cruiser tanks, maybe 150 Lights and a few dozen Italian M13s. Not all of these tanks being operational at the same time of course, but "General O'Connor was prepared to employ the Armoured Division as long as it had a tank that could run".
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  #220  
Old 08 Apr 12, 07:12
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
Yes, I wonder how many runners Pz Regt 5 would have after completing the reverse journey.
Well that we know.

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The advantage when you're advancing is that tanks that breakdown are fed into the repair and recovery system and some time later returned to its unit (or some other unit).
Of course that depends on the nature of the breakdown. The main workshops were back in The Delta and it might be instructive that none of the tanks lost by 7th Armoured during their last charge across the desert Beda Fomm were handed over when they were relieved to go back to Egypt for a rest and refit.

Quote:
O'Connor looking at it that way might see 120 Cruiser tanks, maybe 150 Lights and a few dozen Italian M13s. Not all of these tanks being operational at the same time of course, but "General O'Connor was prepared to employ the Armoured Division as long as it had a tank that could run".
Or maybe less than 30 worn out Cruisers, a few dodgy M13/40 and several dozen lights, all of which stood a good chance of failing to make it even close to Tripoli! As has been noted, O'Connor (at least at this time) shares many traits with Rommel and we know what happened to him when he chanced his arm in a similar fashion.
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  #221  
Old 09 Apr 12, 09:23
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Originally Posted by Full Monty View Post
Well that we know.
You might, I don't.

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Of course that depends on the nature of the breakdown. The main workshops were back in The Delta and it might be instructive that none of the tanks lost by 7th Armoured during their last charge across the desert Beda Fomm were handed over when they were relieved to go back to Egypt for a rest and refit.
The workshops in the Delta were third (or fourth line workshops) for tanks that could not be repaired by the Light Repair Section or the Divisional Workshops. Sending 2nd AD forward into the 'blue' could double the tanks repair facilities in the desert.
As to why 7th Armoureds tanks were not handed over - there was no one to hand them over to, plus of course, since it was thought that the tanks would not be needed again in the near future (except maybe in Greece), why not give them a full overhaul in base workshops?
How those tanks even got to the Delta if they were in such poor mechanical condition may be a story ..


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Or maybe less than 30 worn out Cruisers, a few dodgy M13/40 and several dozen lights, all of which stood a good chance of failing to make it even close to Tripoli!
A chance worth taking. The odds are with perhaps 300 tanks available some, at least, are gonna get to Tripoli.


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As has been noted, O'Connor (at least at this time) shares many traits with Rommel and we know what happened to him when he chanced his arm in a similar fashion.
The British at least had the good sense to build a last line of defence at Alamein (even if Auchinleck surrendered much of it without a fight). Nothing like that to protect Tripoli AFAIK.
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  #222  
Old 09 Apr 12, 12:29
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
You might, I don't....
The answer is more than 50% of the 5th Light's tanks were off the road in the roughly 1 week drive from El Agheila to Tobruk. Of some 83 tanks broken down 53 required new engines,... which the sand was eating up like butter.

As described the Cruisers were not as robust as the German kit. Rommel's initials drive was with 5th Light, Ariete and Brescia, he simply did not have logistics for more and the remaining Italian divisions had to follow in foot as supply became available.

This all bodes ill for a similar drive by O'Conner the other way. Logistics would limit the number of troops that could be supplied up front and the general poor mechanical reliability of British tanks would mean attrition starves the drive. Like Tobruk, everything comes to stop with the first strong position met along the coast,... and the Britsh to not have a mass of small leg infantry units to deploy forward and hold a siege line while a mobile corps defeats a professionally weaker opponent.

This was DAK's stock in trade, not XIII Corps. British would arguably not gain that level of competency until late in 1944. It is not simply a matter of of tanks, or units, or suplies or professional ability,... its all of these. The British were simply lacking in a number of the above but the ability to fight a combined arms battle against a German division with good Italians in support wa not in the cards in March or April 1941. Not over the distances involved.
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  #223  
Old 09 Apr 12, 14:26
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
You might, I don't.
Mmmm


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The workshops in the Delta were third (or fourth line workshops) for tanks that could not be repaired by the Light Repair Section or the Divisional Workshops. Sending 2nd AD forward into the 'blue' could double the tanks repair facilities in the desert.
As to why 7th Armoureds tanks were not handed over - there was no one to hand them over to, plus of course, since it was thought that the tanks would not be needed again in the near future (except maybe in Greece), why not give them a full overhaul in base workshops?
How those tanks even got to the Delta if they were in such poor mechanical condition may be a story ..
When 5th RTR got to Cyrenaica they were given the tanks 7th Armoured had handed over to divisional HQ. Seven Cruisers. The tanks that needed to return to the Delta did so in the same fashion that the Matildas that had done so earlier. Not really much of a story.

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A chance worth taking. The odds are with perhaps 300 tanks available some, at least, are gonna get to Tripoli.
Well, as pointed out, 300 is a very optimistic figure. Plus so many extra tanks throws out the logistical calculations you made so much of earlier in the thread. Slide rule and abacus anyone?

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The British at least had the good sense to build a last line of defence at Alamein (even if Auchinleck surrendered much of it without a fight). Nothing like that to protect Tripoli AFAIK.
Well, I wouldn't call 1st Alamein 'without a fight' but that's neither here nor there. Even without the defences Rommel would have struggled since the desert had reduced his force to some 30 serviceable tanks and 8000 men when he finally reached the position.
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  #224  
Old 10 Apr 12, 05:40
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Originally Posted by The Purist View Post
As described the Cruisers were not as robust as the German kit.
Rather contradicted by the the information you just provided.

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Like Tobruk, everything comes to stop with the first strong position met along the coast,... and the Britsh to not have a mass of small leg infantry units to deploy forward and hold a siege line while a mobile corps defeats a professionally weaker opponent.
Like Tobruk? Tobruk was a port.
The big danger to the Axis defending Tripolitania is that the British Armoured Division goes around their positions and then cuts the coast road - the artery.
Pretty much 7th Armoured's Standard Operation Procedure since the beginning of Compass.

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This was DAK's stock in trade, not XIII Corps.
Western Desert Force/XIII Corps stock in trade had been very successful. Their biggest mistake, apparently, was not to paint black crosses on their tanks.
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  #225  
Old 10 Apr 12, 06:06
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Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
Rather contradicted by the the information you just provided.
Both sides discovered the need to "tropicalise" their kit. Until that happened, reliability was measured in miles and not very large sums of them.

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Like Tobruk? Tobruk was a port.
The big danger to the Axis defending Tripolitania is that the British Armoured Division goes around their positions and then cuts the coast road - the artery.
Pretty much 7th Armoured's Standard Operation Procedure since the beginning of Compass.
Funny, same thing happened to the Eighth Army - twice.

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Western Desert Force/XIII Corps stock in trade had been very successful. Their biggest mistake, apparently, was not to paint black crosses on their tanks.
No. Their biggest mistake was to refuse co-ordination.
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