Operation Crusader

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Warlord, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Warlord / John -
    Having re-read John's statement - I see that I read it all wrong - blame the time of day when I read it ........

    I have no record of Monty actually saying that he wanted rid of the professionals - to elevate the War Duration types to save his status.

    Contrarily he sent for Leese and Horrock's - both very much professional soldiers and left Lumsden in charge of his newly founded Corps de Chasse.

    Now Lumsden was an old cavalryman - his brigadiers were also cavalrymen - only a few were Tank men i.e. Gatehouse - Caunter - so when they were called upon to act - after the breakthrough at El Alamein - they failed....but couldn't really be fired as there was no one else until Medenine !

    One bright star was "pip" Roberts of 3rd RTR - who was then sent off to 6th Armoured Div to take charge of 26th Armoured bde - and did well - and thus given 11th Armoured Div in Normandy where again - he did well as did many other Tank men- Robert "crispy" Crisp - Joly - Kennard - "loopy" Hinde -many more who had been held back by the cavalrymen - the 1st - 3rd -4th - 5th and 7th RTR were full of good Tank men - they came into their own after El Hamma - in March '43 to the end....

    While it is true that Monty had no hesitation in firing incompetents - he was not stupid and recognised a good soldier when he met him - and that is why we won !
    Cheers
     
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    he did well as did many other Tank men- Robert "crispy" Crisp - Joly - Kennard - "loopy" Hinde -many more who had been held back by the cavalrymen

    Clearly the exception proving the rule: Looney Hinde was a light cavalryman through and through, a dashing 15/19 Hussar! His armoured experience was as 2i/c of Monty's own Divisional Cavalry Regiment in the BEF. He was perhaps insulated from the cruiser v infantry tank controversy as the Div Cav's role remained much the same whether they were in a saddle or a tin.

    Without digging into the books, I do have a suspicion that Hobart holds a degree of responsibility for the cruiser mentality and its consequences. After all, the cavalry only did with cruisers what the tankies told them they should do, didn't they? Not that any of that changes what happened in Crusader.
     
  3. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    IMO, he's asking if you know if Monty said something like that he quotes.

    He'll pop-up sometime, and will clear this thing up... :unsure:
     
  4. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    After all, the cavalry only did with cruisers what the tankies told them they should do, didn't they? Not that any of that changes what happened in Crusader.

    Interesting point, the "cavalry mentality", present, it seems, everywhere, from mount design to tactics.
     
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Idler -
    you may be quite correct in laying some of the blame on Hobo for the cruiser mentality but what he had to work with - as well as the low impression of his C-in-C-
    was not really geared for fighting anywhere except in the sea sands of the desert with an enemy of Italians who were were even worse off regarding armour - Rommel was nearly two years away from entry to that theatre...

    Regards Looney Hinde - at the time of the BEF - we again had not seen the Blitzkreig and the Cavalry were still in charge notwithstanding the efforts of Fuller - Pike -Liddell-Hart -Crocker -Hobart and others - there was a lot to learn - but not too many bothered to learn the lessons - which the British had developed - that was the main problem and it took nearly three -October '42 ? years to re-educate the British Army and even longer to get full co-operation of the RAF with the Cab Rank- El Hamma March '43....!

    My own last regiment of 16/5th Lancers left their horses in Egypt on the way home from India to be mechanised - in 1940 - then they still landed in Algiers with Valentines with two pounders - November 1942 ....! but by then - they were Tank men and finally had Shermans with 75mm.guns - 1943...!

    Cheers
    Cheers
     
  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Warlord / Idler -
    when you have enough time to read another view of the Crusader Battle - you won't go wrong to read "Brazen Chariots" by Bob Crisp or Crispy to most and his role in Crusader with 3rd Tanks - ISBN - 0 - 393 - 32712 - 4
    Cheers
     
  7. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Warlord / Idler -
    when you have enough time to read another view of the Crusader Battle - you won't go wrong to read "Brazen Chariots" by Bob Crisp or Crispy to most and his role in Crusader with 3rd Tanks - ISBN - 0 - 393 - 32712 - 4
    Cheers

    Read it around a year ago, Tom, and sure it's a good one.

    Pitt's job is helping me to place it into the context of the battle, and now I understand some things much better.
     
  8. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Tom, this is one of my biggest questions:

    Why didn't the concept of the Jock column become a norm in the Commonwealth armies of those early days? It at least provided some sort of the balance the Axis (German) units had, and I say "sort of", because, e.g., you can't compare the 2pdr peashooter en-portée with an 88 towed or self-propelled.

    Jock columns were alive and well in the early days, and they rather contributed to the problem of dispersion of force, and certainly did not do anything to help the Commonwealth cause, rather harming it. They were just too weak for anything but being a nuisance. But being a nuisance has never won anyone a battle. You just get smacked down.

    Have a look at the OOBs here to get the idea:

    Reorganising 7 Support Group for the Pursuit – 13 Dec 1941 « The Crusader Project

    A German Kampfgruppe would normally be organised around a combat-capable formation, at least a battalion, and preferably a regiment (Brigade). Jock Columns came nowhere near that.

    Regarding your reading, I highly recommend Cyril Joly's 'Take These Men'. A fictionalised account of 3 RTR.

    All the best

    andreas
     
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Andreas -
    You got that right on both counts - on the Jock Columns and Cyril Joly;s "Take these men"
    Cheers
     
  10. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Jock columns were alive and well in the early days, and they rather contributed to the problem of dispersion of force, and certainly did not do anything to help the Commonwealth cause, rather harming it. They were just too weak for anything but being a nuisance. But being a nuisance has never won anyone a battle. You just get smacked down.

    Have a look at the OOBs here to get the idea:

    Reorganising 7 Support Group for the Pursuit – 13 Dec 1941 « The Crusader Project

    A German Kampfgruppe would normally be organised around a combat-capable formation, at least a battalion, and preferably a regiment (Brigade). Jock Columns came nowhere near that.

    Regarding your reading, I highly recommend Cyril Joly's 'Take These Men'. A fictionalised account of 3 RTR.

    All the best

    andreas

    I was referring to the concept of the multidisciplinary task force against the idea of individual armor, infantry, artillery, etc., outfits, more than to their size, because I have to admit that even though Pitt's job list several OOB's for Jock Columns, I didn't pay enough attention to the fact that they were rather small outfits :blush:.

    I did have in mind that they began life as oversized raiding parties, but did not link up both ideas.
     
  11. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    Hi Warlord

    Unfortunately the Jock columns weren't really combined arms. They usually missed the tanks. So you would see a lot of sniping with guns, and not much else. They kept Axis forces harassed and confused them, but that was really not enough, given the effect that splitting what would otherwise have been a potentially hard-hitting force caused in terms of problems.

    You can see that very well in the first Gazala battles of Dec 41, where 7 Sp Gp was operating Jock columns with no tanks, while 4 Armoured Brigade was too coy to engage the Axis armour (and rightly so), because they were not a combined arms force, and therefore even numerical superiority of 2:1 was not sufficient to give Gatehouse the confidence that he could overcome the remnants of Axis armour. If a proper combined arms doctrine had been existed, 7 Armoured Division might have been able to end the war in North Africa there and then.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  12. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Hi Warlord

    You can see that very well in the first Gazala battles of Dec 41, where 7 Sp Gp was operating Jock columns with no tanks, while 4 Armoured Brigade was too coy to engage the Axis armour (and rightly so), because they were not a combined arms force, and therefore even numerical superiority of 2:1 was not sufficient to give Gatehouse the confidence that he could overcome the remnants of Axis armour. If a proper combined arms doctrine had been existed, 7 Armoured Division might have been able to end the war in North Africa there and then.

    All the best

    Andreas

    Maybe my mention of the Jock column as a most needed predecessor of later-in-the-war outfits like the American Combat Command, wasn't exactly the most fortunate to illustrate my point, but your answer refers dead-on to where I wanted to get to: Infantry got massacred because enemy armor just rolled over it unhidered; tanks were turned into blazing coffins because they didn't have artillery support to take out the Paks; and artillerymen were peppered to death because there were no supporting outfits to face the panzers; all deadly doctrine deficiencies that if dealt with out-of-the-box thinking (by the standards of British brass of the time), would have saved a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

    There were practical examples galore during Crusader:

    The rout of the Springboks during Totensonntag happened because 7 Support and 22 Armoured were just too far (and slow, and timid...) to intervene; when they finally reacted, the Nazi steamroller was already out the other side of the infantry box, on its way to the Southern Escarpment lip.

    The Kiwis faced a prolonged ordeal on the Trig Capuzzo pocket because there were no armored formations strong or organized enough left to support them effectively, and HQ turned to what surviving formations it had, infantry; the remaining Springboks were ordered to help, but they were helpless to intervene against the panzers, with nothing heavier than their ubiquitous Marmon-Herringtons, and Pienaar was bl**dy doing everything he could to prevent his troops from ending up like 5 Brigade, and that included staying out of someone else's brawl.

    Also, pitiful attempts at integration of services were harmed by equipment not suited to modern requirements or battle conditions (happened during the whole war, not only in Crusader), like the 2pdr, the thin-skinned cruisers, and the thick-hided but too slow Matildas.
     
  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Warlord -
    can only agree with you 100% on all points but would hesitate on the timidity of 22nd Armoured - at that time it must have been devastating to know with some certainty that the next time you stuck your head up - it would be your last ! As the next attack was again similar to that of the Light Brigade at Balaclava - with similar results against bigger guns than you could dream of- it should be recalled that we still had that same problem in the North of Italy in September 1944 at the Gothic line battles - in spades and we also had both Panthers - Tigers and the redoubtable 88.mm's.......
    This timidity of 22nd must have been overcome as they were the Brigade of choice for 7th Armoured Div for the NWE campiagn - leaving 4th and 7th Armoured Bde's as well as 23th to us in Italy.....
    Cheers
     
  14. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    I know they're only cavalry but it's a bit unfair to damn them for launching suicidal charges and for being too timid!
     
  15. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Warlord -
    can only agree with you 100% on all points but would hesitate on the timidity of 22nd Armoured - at that time it must have been devastating to know with some certainty that the next time you stuck your head up - it would be your last ! As the next attack was again similar to that of the Light Brigade at Balaclava - with similar results against bigger guns than you could dream of- it should be recalled that we still had that same problem in the North of Italy in September 1944 at the Gothic line battles - in spades and we also had both Panthers - Tigers and the redoubtable 88.mm's...
    Cheers

    See? No combined arms concept, and the poor Springboks, all alone facing an iron armada, paid dearly for that.

    However, you were inside a tank under fire, and I haven't, so I'll take your comment at face-value, considering that by Totensonntag Crusaders had already proven their un-worthiness against anything bigger than a pea-shooter.
     
  16. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    However, you were inside a tank under fire, and I haven't, so I'll take your comment at face-value, considering that by Totensonntag Crusaders had already proven their un-worthiness against anything bigger than a pea-shooter.

    But the same is true for any tank fielded at that time, except for the T-34 and the KV-1. The German tanks were vulnerable to the 2-pdr and very vulnerable to the 25-pdr. Let's not even mention the poor Italians in their M13s... Eggshells with hammers, most of the tanks in 1941.

    The Matilda II was vulnerable at 600m to the German 5cm PAK38, which was a very common gun in DAK during CRUSADER (96 of them present, I think). See: German Firing Trials against the Matilda II « The Crusader Project Better than the Crusader for sure, but still not a great idea to go up against a German gun line unaided.

    To me these complaints about the Crusader not being invulnerable and therefore not worth anything in battle have a ring of workmen blaming their tools about them (I am referring to commanders, not the men inside the tanks!), although they may also have been caused by the tank having been 'oversold' to the tank units. 2 RGH in their history claim to have been surprised about its vulnerability.

    What killed Crusaders and tank crews in large numbers was faulty doctrine, and the same thing would have killed the same men in a better tank. The Crusader tank was okay in terms of armour, and the gun was still adequate in late 1941 (when the Germans fielded 50L42 guns and the Italians 47/32s). It wasn't a great tank by any means, and it could have been better armoured and upgunned, but if Tom and his colleagues had been sent into battle with the same Crusaders but as part of a combined arms force, they would not have lost as many tanks and comrades in my view. The Germans proved that in the desert.

    This view is in my mind confirmed by the fact that when the same tank regiments were given a much better tank (the Grant), they kept losing that one in large numbers as well, until they figured out a better way of employing them.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  17. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Andeas
    again you are quite right in saying that the main problem was the "Cavalry" tactics we had up until after Medenine when the main cavalry leaders were fired - the main one stated in his London club when talking about Monty that there " was no room in the desert for two s****"
    He was right - Tank men came into their own when he went !
    Cheers
     
  18. John Lawson

    John Lawson Arte et Marte

    Tom, sorry about that, but being a good old boyo, you worked it out.

    Cheers

    John
     
  19. Springbok

    Springbok Junior Member

    Hi Warlord.
    Wow what interesting info on Operation Crusader.
    I only joined up yesterday as I'm trying to find as much info on my late father-n-law Charles Dalton WASON, South African Irish, part of 5th SA Infantry Brigade. I never met him as he passed on some years ago. My wife knows virtually nothing of his wartime exploits so your comments on what they had to face are extremely interesting.

    Regards

    Ivan.
     
  20. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Hi Warlord.
    Wow what interesting info on Operation Crusader.
    I only joined up yesterday as I'm trying to find as much info on my late father-n-law Charles Dalton WASON, South African Irish, part of 5th SA Infantry Brigade. I never met him as he passed on some years ago. My wife knows virtually nothing of his wartime exploits so your comments on what they had to face are extremely interesting.

    Regards

    Ivan.

    Welcome aboard, mate. Do you know if he was a Sidi Rezegh survivor? 5 Infantry sure took a clobbering there.

    Several blokes around here have access to graves registration information, etc., etc., so maybe they'll be able to help in tracking down your in-law wartime exploits.
     

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