Who fought the Desert War

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

  1. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Don´t forget as members of the Western Desert Forces the Poles and Czechs who fought alongside the 9th Diggers at Tobruk.

    This from Axis History on the movements of the Poles and the Czechs.

    Axis History Forum • View topic - Czech Btn in Tobruk

    206 Czechs from were stranded in Beirut at the time of the French surrender. On June 29 they moved to a camp near Tel Aviv with British help. Here a Czech unit was formed and was originally designated the 4th Czechoslovak Infantry Regiment, under Col. J Kores. Its 1st battalion (1st - 4th co.) was commanded by Lt Col Klapalek.. It was commanded by Colonel Klapalek.

    On 1/11/40 this Czech unit was designated Czech Infantry Battalion No. 11/east with 1st Inf, 2nd &3rd cadre, 4th officers co.

    Feb 41 battalion moved to the Egpytian coast at Mersa Matruh.
    15/6/41 advanced with 23 Inf Bde (4th Indian Div) into Libya as part of Operation Battleaxe

    23 Inf Brigade including the Czechs shifted to Lebanon mid July 1941 as part of 6th Infantry Division

    Garrison duties in Aleppo until October 14. After requests for a more active role it moved to Tobruk.

    The Czech infantry battalion was one of the units that replaced the Australian 9th Division in Tobruk Other units were the British 70th Division and the Polish Carpathian Brigade. It arrived as part of Operation Cultivate (15th - 25th October).

    It was now 785 men strong with 4 companies. It manned the western perimeter of Tobruk with the Poles.

    10/12/41 seige lifted, Czech 2nd co. acts as XXX corps protection during advance to Antelate.

    7/4/42 battalion returns to Palestine

    22/5/42 becomes 200th Czechoslovakian Light AA Regiment -east, serving in Haifa and Beriral.

    According to one source early in 1942 it suffered heavy losses in an air raid and was therefore pulled back in April.
     
  2. Tommy46

    Tommy46 Junior Member

    Reference all this 7th and 4th Armd Bde rivalry...Both arrived in N. Africa at the same time and helped complete the same job, so both can equally claim the "Desert Rat" sobriquet should they wish. I do remember that as a serving member of 4th Armd Bde back in the 80s/90s, the Bde magazine was called the Jerboa and featured the traditional 4th Armd rat design on the cover...Far more attractive than the 7ths (LOL). Seriously, the reason for the resentment from many 4th Armd Bde soldiers of the desert campaign was that Montgomery made a point of allying himself with the 7th, and ignoring the equally good work of the 4th. Perhaps he disliked the 4th Bde commander? He was known to be a very spiteful and petty man, and was very unpopular with his peers, especially those who had talent and threatened his ego. This nonsense even carried on through to the first Gulf war in 91, all the papers perpetuated the myth that the "Desert Rats" were the 7th. The 4th were again pretty much ignored in this myth building process. Every soldier that gave service during the N. African campaign, be they Allied or Axis deserves rememberance. There are a huge amount of regiments that don't get a mention in any of the campaign memorials, i wonder how those men felt about being forgotten??
     
  3. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    The Australian troops at Tobruk were the three brigades of the 9th division plus the 18th brigade of the 7th division.

    The "RATS OF TOBRUK" name had nothing to do with any particular desert animal.

    The English traitor Lord Haw Haw conceived the name when he said that they lived like "RATS" under the ground in an attempt to demoralise the Australian troops.

    His attempt failed miserably as the Aussies wore this as a badge of honour.

    The 9th division were given permission to alter their colour patch to reflect their time in the Siege of Tobruk by having a "T" embedded.

    colour_patch_ 2nd-48th.JPG

    This is the patch of the 2/48th which was the most decorated Australian battalion of the war.

    Decorations


    • 4 VC
    • 4 DSO
    • 11 MC
    • 10 DCM
    • 23 MM
    • 39 MID
     
  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    7th and 4th Armd Div rivalry...
    ....Seriously, the reason for the resentment from many 4th Armd Div soldiers of the desert campaign was that Montgomery made a point of allying himself with the 7th, and ignoring the equally good work of the 4th...

    I don't understand those comments as there never was such a thing as the 4th Armd Div.
     
  5. Tommy46

    Tommy46 Junior Member

    I don't understand those comments as there never was such a thing as the 4th Armd Div.

    Cack handed fool that i am, i did in fact mean 4th Armoured Brigade...Apologies for any confusion, but the point of my argument still stands:)
     
  6. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tommy46 -
    I don't think your arguement stands as Monty never struck me as being so small minded that he would differentiate between two bdes of the same division - he left both bdes in Italy and took 23rdBde with him to the Uk with 7th Armoured -neither was he disliked by his peers as equally talented - as very few were as professional as he was - his main trouble was that he just could NOT tolerate incompetence - which was all around him most times -that's why he fired so many - this was summed up by Lt.Gen Lumsden in his club in London after Monty fired him before Medenine - " the desert is not big enough for two S**ts "
    Cheers
     
  7. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    "- his main trouble was that he just could NOT tolerate incompetence -"

    In this case - he would have it difficult in today' s world..... :)
     
  8. Tommy46

    Tommy46 Junior Member

    Tommy46 -
    I don't think your arguement stands as Monty never struck me as being so small minded that he would differentiate between two bdes of the same division - he left both bdes in Italy and took 23rdBde with him to the Uk with 7th Armoured -neither was he disliked by his peers as equally talented - as very few were as professional as he was - his main trouble was that he just could NOT tolerate incompetence - which was all around him most times -that's why he fired so many - this was summed up by Lt.Gen Lumsden in his club in London after Monty fired him before Medenine - " the desert is not big enough for two S**ts "
    Cheers

    May i suggest you read "Peace and War" A Soldiers Life by General Sir Frederick Morgan. In it describes Monty as an admirable leader and commander, but had the habit of rubbing his seniors up the wrong way. He was constantly falling out with other officers, and was never shy to place himself in the spotlight, especially where the news media were concerned. His self publicising irritated many of his peers and degraded their honest efforts at the same time. Morgan appears to like him very much, but does feel he lacked a certain amount of tact. Interestingly, Monty's victories in N. Africa and Italy brought he and Morgan together again, for it was Morgan that organised and prepared all the groundwork for operation overlord, but Monty who came in and in effect, stole much of the credit. Monty could get away with demanding more. Morgan was not particularly upset or bitter by this, because he believed that Monty was the right man for the job. He could get the required eqiuptment and men, and that was all that mattered...Still seems strange that Morgan and his team have been pretty much forgotten, and their contribution ignored. Your revisionist view of Monty is interesting, but does not tell the whole story. Thankfully his talent as a commander was as big as his ego, but that does not mean everybody liked him, including those he felt were competant. I noted that Monty always tried to stay on the right side of the Americans? Even when denigrating other British officers efforts, why would that be do you think? And which officers did he consider incompetent??
     
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tommy 46 -
    might I suggest to you that before you go slamming Monty because you have read Freddie Morgans thoughts - take great a big bag of salt with you - as one or other of you have it as wrong as one can get.....Monty did not rub his superiors up the wrong way as he only had Alex and Alanbrooke as superiors until the Americans finally joined us in November 1942 -and he did have a low opinion of Auchinlek as a Corps Commander in the uk and a few more - and while he thought Alex was short of brainpower after having him as a student at the Staff College - he thought the world of Brookie and took a great deal of scolding from him. as Boy Browning said - after being rollocked by Brookie - "that's the worst rollocking I have ever had - but what a man !"
    Everone knows that Morgan acting as Cossac arranged a lot of the detail prior to Monty going home and enlarging the piddling little invasion which the Cossac staff had been working on for a couple of years - as it turned out - Monty's plan was successful - we can only surmise that the original plan would have probably failed as it was indeed touch and go for a while at least according to Monty's other "friends" - Tedder and Coningham, when they tried their best to get rid of him in July.

    So don't give me that rubbish about Morgan liking Monty and that Monty sucked up to the Americans - he had had enough of them even in the desert when he was fighting not only Rommel but Tedder - Coningham - and the US Brereton and it was only when those three swanned off to Algiers to get close to Eisenhower - and Lt.Gen Lumsden back to the UK after Medenine -that Monty was able to recruit Broadbent and both come up with the "cabrank" theory of fighter support for Tanks as a British Blitzkreig - which was successful both at El Hamma and Tunis long before the Cossac staff thought about it !

    Then the debacle of the Sicily planning with Bedel Smith - Patton et al - Monty had his way - and again a successful invasion - spoiled by Patton avoiding battle and running off to "liberate " Palermo which no one needed meanwhile 8th army were having a very hard time trying to capture the Catania airfields.

    So yes perhaps Monty did upset a few Americans as he thought MOST of them were incompetent as many of us also did - at the time - he spent a great deal of time training Bradley only to have him turn against him on September 1st '44 when Eisenhower took over the land Battles - and in so doing - extended the war by at least six months .....

    so the best advice I can offer you is to have that book well shredded ..so no one else gets confused !

    Cheers

    Morgan couldn't wait to get himself a cushy berth on Eisenhowers staff
     
  10. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Kuno - you got that right as Monty would have died a thousands deaths at the stupidity and incompetence all around us to-day..it is unbelievable
    Cheers
     
  11. Tommy46

    Tommy46 Junior Member

    Tom Canning,
    Firstly calm down man, before you have a coronary! Nobody was denigrating Montgomery's ability, just his methods of getting them done. As much as you try to defend his actions, it does not change the fact that he enjoyed the limelight. The Kudos he gained was well merited, but are you saying that it was he who did it all by himself? He did very much ally himself with 7th Armd Bde, probably without realising it. But there is no doubt that the men of the 4th Armd Bde felt they did not receive their dues from Montgomery. As for Monty improving the piddling plan by Morgan and his staff, that statement alone highlights the point i'm making. Monty turned up and said it will only work if we enlarge it from Three Divisions to Five, so we need more of everything. That would be the same more of everything that Morgan had been requesting for two years. Excuse the cliches But god is in the detail, and from little acorns etc...Montgomery was the right man in the right place and proved his reputation by achieving his aims, through his force of will upon both his British superiors and probably more importantly the Americans. Most people on here know of Morgan, which is no surprise. But the general public don't why would they? He and his team were overshadowed by Montgomery and never got their deserved credit. Monty was a superb commander, but was not Churchills first choice to command the 8th army. Brooke was his patron which explains his devotion to him. When Monty took command of the 8th army, he held all the cards due to Brooke being very tight with Churchill. This in turn allowed him far more license than many other officers. Which raises the questions, What would have happened if Gott had not been killed in Egypt? Would we have still won the desert war? Was Monty a better commander than Wavell? Wavell was virtually commanding three fronts, as commander in the middle east. His brilliant strategy of "flexible containment" could have put an end to the Italians support of The Afrika Korps. Which in turn would have removed the Italian Armoured Divisions from the campaign and probably shortened it quite considerably, if not totally. It was only the decision to remove many of his troops to Greece that allowed the Italians off the hook. A great opportunity was lost to end the desert war before it started. Having said that Wavell was another supporter of Monty's appointment.
    I assume you were referring to Auchinleck when raising the issue of incompetence? Was Auchinleck as bad a commander as he was made out? After all, he spent most of his service time in India and proved his worth in organising the supply lines for the 14th Army during the Burma campaign. I raise this point only to highlight that certain commanders were probably better to stick with what they knew, rather than accept the posts foisted on them by their government and superiors. As General Slim said in referring to Burma "Without him (Auchinleck) and what he and the army of India did for us we could not have existed, let alone conquered". Perhaps much of the fault lay with Churchill and his superiors for appointing the wrong man to the wrong position? As i stated before, i am not decrying Montgomery or his abilities, they can never be doubted or denied. His track record proves that! But your assertion that he was not unpopular with many of his peers does not hold water. He treated many of them with contempt because they did not hold the same views as him. And when push came to shove, he nearly always got his way, because his patron Brooke had the ear of Churchill. Which in turn built up a lot of resentment towards him. That is not a criticism of the man, just an observation of the mans practices. You also referred to the planning for the Invasion of Sicily as a debacle. How precisely do you work that out? The plan was sound, it was the execution that failed. He took risks and got away with it. Had he not been so lucky, the consequences could have been catastrophic. However, before you quote it, i know it was Napoleon who said he would rather have a lucky general than a good one, and that's a fair point. Monty was both good and lucky. As for your assumption that Morgan disliked Montgomery, think again. He respected him as a soldier and commander, and appears to have liked him as a person. That does not mean that they agreed on every operational subject or the manner in which they were carried out. He believed that Monty was the only man capable of leading the troops through Overlord. Remember that they first encountered each other when Monty was a mere Brigadier commanding the 9th Infantry Bde in 1938. Morgan as G.S.O 1 was invited to attend an officers week hosted by Monty at Tidworth in in the same year. They appear to have hit it off quite well, apart from monty's insistance that he should have Gin, and Morgan refusing. Morgan was very enthusiastic of Monty as a commander during this exercise and states "This particular tour de force held us entranced enough through the working hours of a week. As the leaders only house guest, i was privelaged to receive considerable overtime, both early and late. Every minute of it was of the utmost value as we were instructed in every conceivable aspect of the whole art of war". "I was privileged to marvel for the first time at an exercise of the type of which Monty has made himself so great a master, and from which so many people have benefitted so greatly over the years that have followed". Doesn't sound exactly vitriolic from Morgan does it? He doesn't seem particularly jealous either. Perhaps i'm reading it wrong? Perhaps you misunderstood the tenure of Morgans book when you read it, (you did actually read it didn't you?) That being the case, I'm sure your vision may have been impaired from that high horse you appear to be sitting on!!!...The only doubts that Morgan lays at Montgomery's feet is his lack of planning for the post war period. He appears to have made no plans at all for the resettlement of refugees, in respect to food, clothing and housing etc, instead preparing for the winter war of 45 which didn't, and was never going to happen. This disregard for the resettlement of these displaced people proved that he was a superb wartime general, but a decidedly average, if not inept peactime one. He should have gone back to blighty after the fighting ceased because he did not have the political skills or the patience of a Alan Brook to cope with the dirty game that is politics. As Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 46-48, he barely conversed with his fellow chief officers, and very often sent his 2i/c (VCIGS) to attend the staff meetings. When Monty left the post of CIGS, he was replaced by Slim. But had hoped that one of his old staff officers (General Crocker) would get the job. He complained to PM Atlee that he had promised him the job, and was told curtly to "Untell him". I'm not making this up, Just stating the facts that we know. Therefore, i think i'll take the word of someone who was actually there, rather than someone who wasn't...TA!!!!
     
  12. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Tommy 46 -
    There is little use in your insulting me as I spent 40 years in various levels of Sales - and have been insulted by experts.....

    From that knowledge gained in those 40 years I learned not to argue with people whose mind is already made up -and closed - I may not have been there at that time you quote - but I wasn't too far away and so from my high horse I shall declare you the WINNER !
    Cheers !
     
  13. Tommy46

    Tommy46 Junior Member

    Tom Canning,
    It's a shame you're so easily insulted, that was never my intention and it's a shame you took it so. Although i'm still trying to find the post where i actually insulted you?? It would be a strange world if we all held the same views would it not? I think that we actually agree on more than we disagree, but have decided to dig our heels in as protest to each others contrary views. I just assumed that you knew Morgan, what with you referring to him as Freddie in your response previously.:lol:

    As for your assumption that my mind is closed? Now who's being insulting? If you can give me a decent debate without resorting to condescension then we may get somewhere, but i fear that is beyond us at this point...Shame really?

    I'll leave it there fella!!
     
  14. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Dear Colleagues;

    May I come back to the old subject. After I have read this thread again, I am still not sure, what term I shall use to describe the opponents of the Axis firces in North Africa in 1941.

    British
    Australian
    New Zealanders
    Rhodesians
    Indians
    Nepalese
    Poles
    Chechs
    Greeks
    Free French

    I just cannot list all of them each time. Could I not use "Allied Forces" instead?
     
  15. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    I believe the generally accepted term is

    'British and Commonwealth' Forces



    Dear Colleagues;

    May I come back to the old subject. After I have read this thread again, I am still not sure, what term I shall use to describe the opponents of the Axis firces in North Africa in 1941.

    British
    Australian
    New Zealanders
    Rhodesians
    Indians
    Nepalese
    Poles
    Chechs
    Greeks
    Free French

    I just cannot list all of them each time. Could I not use "Allied Forces" instead?
     
  16. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Hot air manufacturer

    Nepalese
    Poles
    Czech
    Greeks
    Free French


    I believe the generally accepted term is 'British and Commonwealth' Forces

    Are you sure? :)
     
  17. martin14

    martin14 Senior Member

    Are you sure? :)


    The term ' Allied ' doesnt enter common use until the US joins the war
    in November '42.


    Even Wiki uses..

    A back-and-forth series of battles for control of Libya and parts of Egypt followed, climaxing in the Second Battle of El Alamein when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, delivered a decisive defeat to the Axis forces and pushed the Axis forces back to Tunisia. Following the Allied landings in North West Africa, Operation Torch, in late 1942 under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower, and after Allied battles against Vichy France forces (which subsequently joined the Allies), the combined Allied forces encircled the Axis forces in northern Tunisia and forced their surrender.
    note the change in vocabulary.

    and so, za vlast ;).. maybe I am more sure
     
  18. Kuno

    Kuno Very Senior Member

    Just got a mail telling that the New Zealanders were not Commonwealth then but a Dominion.
     
  19. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  20. andy007

    andy007 Senior Member

    Kuno, That is correct. However we were still in British Commonwealth, even though our status was that of a dominion and not a colony. I am not sure on the political qualifications of being in the Commonwealth, but having the British Monarch as our head of State qualifies us (and of course being a former British colony etc).
     

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