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Old August 27th, 2012, 02:03 AM   #1
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First battle of Al Alamein, General C. Auchinleck and Purge of Near Est Command in Au


During Rommel offensive in the spring 1942, and devastating battle of Gazela in May-June 1942 and failure to defend Tobruk , Gen N. Ritche , commander of the 8 Army was relived from command 25 June 1942 and General Claude Auchinleck , Commander in Chief of the near East theatre took control of shattered 8 Army in the Western Desert.
Under his command, 8 Army fought victorious First Battle of El Alamein. Rommel offensive was stopped and the frontline was stabilised.
Regardless this obvious success, Gen. Claude Auchinleck and many senior officers were dismissed by Winston Churchill in August 1942.
Was this action by WC justified?

Below is a copy of letter send by W.C. to his Deputy and the letter of dismissal to Gen. Claude Auchinleck;

  • As a result of such enquiry as I have made here, and after prolonged consultations with Field-Marshal Smuts and C.I.G.S. and Minister of state, I have come to conclusion that a drastic and immediate change is needed in the High Command
  • I therefore propose that the Middle east Command shall be reorganized into two separate Commands, namely:
a) “Near East Command” comprising Egypt, Palestine and Syria, withits centre in Cairo, and
b) “Middle east Command’ comprising Persia and Iraq, with its centre in Basra or Baghdad.
The Eight and Ninth Armies fall within the first and the Tenth Army within the second of these Commands.
  • Gen. Auchinleck to be offered the post of C-in-C the new middle East Command. The title remains the same, but its scope is reduced. It may however become more important later. It also preserves Gen. Auchinleck association with India. It must be remembered that gen. Wavell’s appointment as C-in-C India was for duration of the war, and that the India Office have always desired that Auchinleck should return thereof possible. I know of nothing that should prevent the eventual realization of this plan, though of course no promise can be made in respect of events which are unforeseeable.
  • Gen Alexander to be commander –in Chief the Near East
  • gen. Montgomery to succeed Alexander in TORCH.
  • Gen. Gott to command the Eight Army under Alexander
  • Gen. Corbett to be relieved as C.G.S middle East
  • Gen. Ramsden to be relieved as G.O.C XXXth corps..
  • Gen. Dorman-Smith to be relieved as Deputy C.G.S
  • It will be necessary to find two corps commanders for Eight Army in place of Gott and Ramsden
  • The above constitute the major simultaneous changes which the gravity and urgency of the situation here require. I shall be grateful to my War Cabinet colleagues if they will approve them. Smuts and C.I.G.S wish me to say they are in full agreement that amid difficulties and alternatives this is the right course to pursue. The Minister of State is also in full agreement. I have no doubt the changes will impart a new vigorous impulse to the Army and restore confidence in the Command, which I regret does not exist at present time…





The letter of Dismissal delivered to Auchinleck by Churchill envoy, Colonel Ian Jacob


Dear general Auchinleck,



On june 23 you raised in your telegram to the C.I.G.S. the question of your being relieved in this command, and you mentioned the name of General Alexander as a possible successor. At the time of crisis for the Army, His Majesty’s Government did not wish to avail themselves of your high-minded offer. At the same time you had taken over the effective command of the battle, as I had long desired and had suggested to you in my telegram of May 20. You stemmed the adverse tide, and at the present time the front is stabilized.
The war cabinet have now decided ,for the reason you yourself had used, that the moment has come for changes. It is proposed to detach Iraq and Persia from the Middle Eastern theatre. Alexander will be appointed to command the Middle East, Montgomery to command the Eight Army, and I offer you the command Iraq and Persia, including the Tenth Army, with headquarter in Basra or Baghdad.
It is true that this spheres is today smaller than the Middle East, but it may on a few months become the scene of decisive operations, and reinforcement for the Tenth Army are on their way. In this theatre, of which you have a special expierence, you will preserve your association with India. I hope therefore that you will comply with my wishes and directions with the same disinterested public spirit you have shown on all occasions.
Alexander will arrive almost imminently, and I hope that early next week, subject of course to the movements of the enemy, it may be possible to effect the transfer on the Western battle-front with the utmost smoothness and efficiency.

I shall be very glad to see you at any convenient time if you should so desire.
Believe me
Your sincerely
Winston S. Churchill
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Old August 27th, 2012, 03:56 AM   #2
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The full title should read:
First battle of Al Alamein, General C. Auchinleck and Purge of Near Est Command in August 1942
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Old August 27th, 2012, 04:19 AM   #3

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Interesting that Auchinleck had offered to go earlier, I had always thought him hard done by when reappointed... Alway thought he was capable of what Monty did given the same tools. Like Tobruk, when the smaller more mobile Afrika Corps could not get their roll on they were at a distinct disadvantage. Monty proved that when he put the Australians at them near the coast. Once Rommel had to commit his last reserves to stop them, Monty knew they were finished.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 05:27 AM   #4
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Events as they turned out say that Churchill was justified in replacing Auchinleck.

Auchinleck was a true gentleman, he did not stand up for himself against Churchill. The Auk was confident that he could beat Rommel who said that Auchinleck should not have been sacked.

The trouble with Auk was that he was a poor judge of picking his commanders. His choice of Cunningham as army commander was disasterous. In the fighting after Rommel's failed 'dash to the wire offensive', Cunnigham lost his nerve and suggested a British withdrawal. Auk suggested that the Germans were in a worse state than we were and ordered Cunningham to continue the offensive. This proved to be correct because Rommel broke off the fighting and retreated back to where he had started.

Auk replaced Cunningham who immediately went to hospital suffering from nerves. Auk replaced Cunningham with the unflappable Ritchie who was guarenteed not to lose his nerve. During the lull in the fighting Auk's COS Dorman- Smith a brilliant but abrasive Ulsterman, visited Richie and came to the conclusion that Richie was not up to the job. Dorman-Smith recommended to Auk that he be replaced, but Auchinleck refused. Dorman-Smith wrote that 'we will pay dearly for this.' He said words to the effect that Ritchie looked the part but he had little brain.

The unflappable Ritchie thought he had plenty of time to prepare for Rommel's next move and therefore was caught napping when Rommel attacked at Gazala. Rommel's attack drove the British back and he captured Tobruk.

Alan Brooke COGS said that Rommel, ' is out generaling Ritichie.' Rommel said of the British Guards brigade, 'after it had been subjected all morning to the combined fire of every gun we could bring to bear, this brigade was almost a living embodiment of the virtues and faults of the British soldier - tremendous courage and tenacity combinded with a rigid lack of mobility.'

The Germans drove the British back to El Alamein were Auchinleck on his chosen ground made a stand. Ritchie was sacked.

When Churchill visited Auchinleck in the desert Auchinleck did nothing to impress Churchill which did not help his cause, and Churchill was not impressed. Auchinleck's camp was flea ridden hot and dirty, and no special food or drink was laid on for Churchill which was not the way to treat him.
Auchinleck's words and manner cut no ice with Churchill either. So he was sacked. Auchinleck never wrote anything or defended himself and died aged 90.

It has to be said, and this is not reported or covered enough when assessing Rommel's success in the desert : Rommel had vital intelligence of all British positions every morning together with their strengths and which regiments or formation they were. It is noticable that after this intelligence was denied him in June before 1st El Al he had no further success.

The story of how Rommel got his intel on British troop movements and positions is a story for another time.

The British had their successs against Rommel before Ist El Al, many people don't realise this.

BTW when Churchill visited Montgomery in the desert his camp was next to the sea with cool breezes wafting in and there was a plentiful supply of his favourite food brandy and cigars, that was they way to treat Churchill, even though Montgomery strongly himsef disaproved of drinking and smoking.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 06:36 AM   #5

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Auchinleck is an underrated commander.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 06:38 AM   #6
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Commanders matter. Ritchie and Auchinleck were bad.

Ritchie was a poor commander lacked Nerve, and Will, he was unable to impose himself on his subordinates, One of the truely really bad commanders, may have been a good staff officer but totally failed when willpower and firmness was needed.

Auchinleck - picked Ritchie, man management and Judgement about men is a key ingredient of command.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 07:05 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by pugsville View Post

Ritchie was a poor commander lacked Nerve, and Will, he was unable to impose himself on his subordinates, One of the truely really bad commanders, may have been a good staff officer but totally failed when willpower and firmness was needed.
I think its unfair to comment on this without taking context into consideration. When he was appointed, the fortunes of the British were at their lowest ebb, similarly to what they were when Bill Slim took command in Asia. Its a case of "wrong place wrong time".

Sure, in terms of being able to rectify this mindset, he proved to be the wrong man for the job, however he didn't have the strongest army in terms of confidence.

It must be noted, that even though he was dismissed from his command, it was not his last command and he was given another chance during D-Day, which should show the esteem he was held under at CIGS. Alanbrooke was an excellent officer and judge of men, and he believed Ritchie to be good enough to have another chance.

Quote:
Auchinleck - picked Ritchie, man management and Judgement about men is a key ingredient of command.
Auchinleck was a daring commander, and he got some good results, including driving Rommel back. Its unfair to judge him on his error in picking Ritchie, because he himself wanted a more flexible grasp on command, and he took responsibility for his later failures.
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Old August 27th, 2012, 06:04 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rehabnonono View Post
Interesting that Auchinleck had offered to go earlier, I had always thought him hard done by when reappointed... Alway thought he was capable of what Monty did given the same tools. Like Tobruk, when the smaller more mobile Afrika Corps could not get their roll on they were at a distinct disadvantage. Monty proved that when he put the Australians at them near the coast. Once Rommel had to commit his last reserves to stop them, Monty knew they were finished.
The problem for the Afrika Korps at El Alamein wasn't its size. The British outnumbered it at Gazala as well, and in the previous major battles. The problem was geography. Rommel did best when he had a wide expanse of traversable terriain with which to manuver. It allowed him to strike around the flanks of the British and thus making the victory at Gazala so spectaculer and even making the British victory in Operation Crusader so tough for them.

At El Alamein, Rommel didn't get that. There was a great depression that his tanks couldn't manuver through without taking a massive detour that would remove them from the fighting altogether. The region was a geographic bottleneck where Rommel would have to attack head on in order to force the British to retreat. But, given Hitler's obsession with the Soviet Union, there was no way Rommel would get the quality German reinforcements that he needed...

And Rommel knew this before even going into Egypt that his supplies would be extremely limited and his only likely reinforcements would be Italians. Now, the Italians under Rommel did outstandingly well, and far better then Italian units under other Axis commands, but they were still subpar in comparison to German or Allied units. Their guns weren't as strong, their tanks weren't as well armed or armored, and they lacked much of the capacity to move their men as well as the other WW2 factions could...

Kesselring even warned Rommel that a continued advance would extend his supply lines and that he wouldn't likely receive any German reinforcements until the Battle of Stalingrad could be successfully concluded. Eventually Kesselring ordered Rommel to stay in Libya and sit on the defensive and let the British attack him. It was a sound strategy, as Rommel would retain the open flank that would allow him to outmanuver his enemy, but given the success of the Battle of Gazala and the rapid fall of Tobruk, Rommel pressed on into Egypt, believing that the British were beaten...

And while technically, they were, Rommel didn't have the supplies to push them into the Middle East. He had to stop for lack of supplies and allowed the British to recover and take up the El Alamein positions. Monty would even pull further back then Auchinleck had to a point where the geographical bottleneck was even tighter. This set up the set-piece battles that Rommel didn't have the men or equipment to win.

As such, El Alamein is a strategic mistake on Rommel's part, and likely caused by the fact that Gazala battle went so dramatically in Germany's favor.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 01:08 AM   #9
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Rommel was sent adequate supplies of materiel, the problem was that the RN and RAF sank most of the ships carrying them.

Apart from the fact that Rommel was being supplied unkowingly by an American colonel of all British positions each day, the problem with British tactics was that their tanks would always attack the German tanks, who time and time again would retreat until the British tanks were in range of their 88mm gunline where these deadly guns, the best anti tank gun in the whole war, would devastate the British tanks at ranges far greater than the British guns had.

The Germans although outnumbered had far better weapons. The British had nothing like the German 88mm and the British tanks had peashooters for guns, they had to get very close to be effective against better German tanks. their rounds would bounce off German tanks. This state of affairs changed with the delivery of American Grants and Shermans. But they still could not compete with the German 88mm anti tank gun, it was deadly at great ranges as well.

British tactics were faulty they fell time and time again for Rommel's ruse of drawing them on to his gun line and then outflanking them. Until Montgomery arrived. He immediately sized up the situation and said of the British tactics, 'they're hunting, they're chasing a fox, they'll go alright, i'll give them that, but they're chasing a fox, I will not have it'.

Montgomery never wanted to out run his supplies and he was well aware of what those 88s could do that's why he would not let his tank commanders race ahead as they wished to in the chase of Rommel.

It was around the time of 1st El Al that Rommel lost his intel on the British and Bletchley Park was able to supply Montgomery with intel on German intentions.
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Old August 28th, 2012, 01:47 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boy Blue View Post
Apart from the fact that Rommel was being supplied unkowingly by an American colonel of all British positions each day, the problem with British tactics was that their tanks would always attack the German tanks, who time and time again would retreat until the British tanks were in range of their 88mm gunline where these deadly guns, the best anti tank gun in the whole war, would devastate the British tanks at ranges far greater than the British guns had.

The Germans although outnumbered had far better weapons. The British had nothing like the German 88mm and the British tanks had peashooters for guns, they had to get very close to be effective against better German tanks. their rounds would bounce off German tanks. This state of affairs changed with the delivery of American Grants and Shermans. But they still could not compete with the German 88mm anti tank gun, it was deadly at great ranges as well.
.
British had equal or better gun-3,7"AAgun. There were more of these guns in Africa than German's 88mm but British used them only in AA role. a Great lack of flexibility in planning. QF 3.7 inch AA gun - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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