Who fought the Desert War

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Kuno, Jan 24, 2009.

  1. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Colleagues; this is a subject I wanted to ask since a long time. It is commonly understood that the Desert War was fought between Rommel's Afrikakorps and Montgommery's Desert Rats.

    Now, we now that the German troops in Africa were definitely bot all Afrikakorps and not all of Monty's units were counted to the Desert Rats. But I don't want to discuss the units here.

    The Germans without the Italians could not have done what they have done - so personally I always mention them as the Axis / Axis troops (except, if a particular operation was only executed by either German or Italian units). But I would not say that on 26. May 1942 Rommel and his Afrikakorps attacked...

    From the other Side (at least in the reach of the German language), we always speak about the British Army / The British forces or in German "die Engländer".

    I don't want to flame or offense anybody - but that is wrong as well. British alone would simply have been lost in North Africa without Indians, Astralians, New Zealanders and South Africans. Those nations provided a more than considerable number of soldiers to the Commonwealth forces...

    ...would this be the correct expression? Commonwealth Forces.

    ----

    I don't want to include the US forces yet. I only talk about the Desert War before Operation Torch.

    Would really appreciate to read your opinion here.
     
  2. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Kuno,

    British and Commonwealth Forces is a cover all and correct way of expressing I think the Forces weighted against the Axis Forces.

    Like you say the sterotyped reports normally only mention the 8th Army Desert Rats and the German Afrika Korps, which is more than a little unfair on the other nations who contributed to the North African campaign.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  3. Kieron Hill

    Kieron Hill Senior Member

    The North African campaign before tourch was fought by the U.K.C.B.E.F.
    (United Kingdom, Commonwealth, British Empire, Force) :)
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Techincally the Desert Rats are only the 7th Armoured Division.

    So yes Kuno I totally agree with you.
     
  5. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    Yes, Kuno, you are right. The war in the Desert changed greatly and it wasn't just a conflict between the British and DAK. I think that's what makes it fascinating.
     
  6. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    North Africa was in some respects a mirror image of what was tajking place in Russia - a German / Axis force which had opportunity but lacked the resources to win - and one which when the tide turned fought a long retreat to a defeat which it could not escape.

    Completely agree with you Kuno Gb alone was not going to win in North Africa.
     
  7. Kieron Hill

    Kieron Hill Senior Member

    Techincally the Desert Rats are only the 7th Armoured Division.

    This age old argument still goes onto today and caused a right stir
    amongst units of this campaign and filled columns of the letter boxes of the Crusader and Eighth Army news, in the end they had to close the
    discussions boxes because it was taking up too much space. Owen is right in saying "Technically" because there were thousands of men attached to the 7th Armoured Division, for an example the Royal Signals who flittered from one division to another, some of whom were attached to the 7th Armoured for 2 years or more and were not allowed to wear the famous "Jerboa Rat" their argument was that they should be entitled to!

    Quotes from a newspaper of the time:

    Sgt E. Woodward HQ Sqn 7th Armoured Div - For month if not years I have suffered from reading about "Desert Rats" so now for a few facts.

    Q. What is a desert rat?
    A. A Jerboa
    Q. What Division wears for its flash the Jerboa or Desert Rat?
    A. THE 7TH ARMOURED DIVISION.

    For god sake non rats cease worrying about the 7th Armoured Divisions name and sign. It belongs to them and they're are proud of it.


    Cpl J.W. Forth of a Royal Signals Troop - I have noted with some amusement the discussion on the Desert Rats. The basic fact that seems to be missed is that no unit spends its time in the desert or anywhere else for that matter, without orders from higher up, and therefore, whether you spend eighteen months or eighteen hours in the desert is due to circumstances entirely outside individual control.

    Why not be good sports and think of something original like Desert Scorpions, the latter lives in the desert just as much as rats

    Above gives you a brief feeling of the strong arguments that were going on amongst Units/Divisions at the time, as I said the editor had to close the columns discussing this in the end.
     
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Above gives you a brief feeling of the strong arguments that were going on amongst Units/Divisions at the time, as I said the editor had to close the columns discussing this in the end.
    Sounds like the WW2 equivalent of this forum then!
    :)
     
  9. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    North Africa was in some respects a mirror image of what was tajking place in Russia - a German / Axis force which had opportunity but lacked the resources to win - and one which when the tide turned fought a long retreat to a defeat which it could not escape.

    Completely agree with you Kuno Gb alone was not going to win in North Africa.
    I had not thought of it in that light but your point makes perfect sense James.

    Kuno, you are absolutely right when you make the point that it was the Axis forces against British and Commonwealth forces.
     
  10. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Techincally the Desert Rats are only the 7th Armoured Division.

    So yes Kuno I totally agree with you.

    Quite correct Owen:

    The 7th Armoured Division were the Desert Rats .

    Historically, the 9th Australian Division are known as "The Rats of Tobruk". This is correct however the 18th Brigade of the 7th Division were there also. They are sometimes forgotten and do not get the credit that "they" deserve.
     
  11. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    So; "The Rats of Tobruk" are not the "Desert Rats" but some of the "Desert Rats" weare as well "Rats of Tobruk" ;-)

    Anyway - interesting choice since one would expect that a tank-unit would choose something like "The Lions of the Desert" or soem other sort of a powerfull animal...
     
  12. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Kuno,
    I remembered this and thought you might like it.

    MAIDAN SERENADE
    Gun-posts, Last Posts, up and down the coast road,
    Form fours, Mark IVs, rumours by the score;
    Strong tea, P.T., round and round the Maidan,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Tool kit, NAAFI kit, both of them are missing,
    Wagon lines, number nines, remove the signs of war;
    Camel tanks, “I” Tanks, scattered round the desert,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Brew up, Start up, mate your bloody mind up,
    Cold Shai, gun shy; a tin of “swanks” to four,
    Wadies, bodies; compass going haywire,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Insects, fair sex, enough to drive you crazy,
    "Slap-happy", "Flap-happy", drill parades galore;
    Side-hats, Ersatz, dig youself a slit trench,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Petrol tins, "all-ins", come and get your rations,
    Fouling, prowling, on from two to four;
    Benzine, Khamseen, sort that petrol stoppage,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Barbed-wire, "Stanna Shwyah", camoflage that shadow,
    Tight nut, hard butt, another desert sore;
    Scoff up, wrap up, where's my "Jerry" spoon gone,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.

    Pickets, biscuits, bully-beef for breakfast,
    Fuka, Stuka, Lunch is bully raw;
    Pick-axe, ack-acks, bully stew for dinner,
    Scots Guards and desert rats are kin for ever-more.
     
  13. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Sounds good.
     
  14. Kieron Hill

    Kieron Hill Senior Member

    Yes, Kuno, you are right. The war in the Desert changed greatly and it wasn't just a conflict between the British and DAK. I think that's what makes it fascinating.

    I think we can all agree that the North African campaign wasn't just a DAK and British affair and I couldn't agree with Paul more...Fascinating. Maybe some on here has the casualty figures for each individual country?
     
  15. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    History always seems to have a habit of only remembering the main protagonists and forgetting the lesser one who contributed as much. The Desert War was fought by multi-national forces on both sides.

    Cheers

    Paul
     
  16. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Some figures for the 9th Division.

    The 9th Division suffered heavy casualities at Tobruk - amounting to 832 men killed, 2177 wounded and 941 captured.

    Tobruk was the first place that the German Army had been beaten, and became a ray of hope for all the Allied nations. Indeed, the overall war situation was still extremely serious for the Allies, but Tobruk gave some hope.


    The 9th Division was involved in most of this fighting between July and September 1942, with casualties exceeding 2,500 men.

    The casualties of the 9th Division in the El Alamein battles equalled those of the entire British 10th Armoured Corps which was tasked with the breakthrough. Montgomery's first act after the battle was seen to be won, was to travel to 9th Division HQ and thank them for their redemption of the initially-failed 10th Armoured Corps attack. The commander of 30 Corps stated that the El Alamein breakthrough was "only made possible by the 9th Division's Homeric fighting".

    My fathers 6th division took Bardia and Tobruk and the 7th division numbers are mixed with the Syrian campaign where they defeated the Vichy French.

    I will see if I can sort them out.
     
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    So; "The Rats of Tobruk" are not the "Desert Rats" but some of the "Desert Rats" weare as well "Rats of Tobruk" ;-)

    Anyway - interesting choice since one would expect that a tank-unit would choose something like "The Lions of the Desert" or soem other sort of a powerfull animal...

    No , spidge refered to the 7th Australian Division.( I don't think any Desert Rats were at Tobruk.)

    As for choice of animal, maybe other nationalities would choose the lion but we British tend to be a bit different.
     
  18. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Senior Member

    Kuna,

    My maps of the battle of El Alamein show clearly that the Germans and British were BOTH in a minority on each side of the line.

    Can't give exact figures, but as far as actual units go this is correct.


    John.
     
  19. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    As for choice of animal, maybe other nationalities would choose the lion but we British tend to be a bit different.

    ...wasn't there a dragon once in a banner?


    Ah; and the other one King "Ratheart" ;-) ... no, sorry, "Lionheart" :)
     
  20. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Seriously; I would not see a negative image with the "Jerboa" at all. And as well not for the "Rats of Tobruk" in terms of real rats. They dug in but they were not to be driven off ;-)
     

Share This Page