Tom from Cornwall wrote: ↑
30 Nov 2019 17:09
The 7th Armd Div report flatly contradicts Roberts' later account though, doesn't it? The account in Raugh's book suggests that it was Messervy's unilateral decision to withdraw that concerned Wavell and that he thought that was a call that should have come from WDF - is it possible that Roberts conflated the two decisions?
One of the key problems identified was a serious communications problem - especially HQ WDF with div HQs. It boils down to distance, HQ WDF being located too far behind the fighting. Given that distance is known, and presumably the capabilities of their wirelesses, one has to question why this had not been identified before the battle and a solution - at least an alternative if the original system fails - put into place. Basically, poor sigs plan has alot to answer for.
Given that, l suspect that Messervy did indeed take the decision to withdraw uniliaterally because he was unable to get through to WDF for guidance/confirmation. But that's not to say he kept the decision to himself. The evidence clearly shows he informed HQ 7 Armd of his decisions in good time. 7 Armd were certainly not left in the lurch. The actual withdrawal was clearly coordinated.
What is not known is when Beresford-Peirce and Wavell came to learn of the decision: before they left HQ WDF, enroute, or did they get it from O'Moore-Creagh when they arrived at 7 Div Advanced HQ?
What was Wavell most troubled by? Can't say for sure. But, interestingly, the two double barrels are sacked and a recently promoted Colonel gets to carry on. Seems to indicate to me who Wavell though could still cut the mustard.
Roberts? He seems to have had a bit of bee in his bonnet on this issue. I mean, he goes out of his way to critique the author of the division's history with the obvious inference that he got it wrong and l know better because l was there approach. Yet, as we see, the divisional history is true to the evidence.
Possible explanation? Roberts indicates that he was not actually a party to the meeting itself; he was as far away as the headphones lead allowed. Did he hear - clearly - every word spoken? He job was to man the radio not evesdrop. Now, comparing O'Moore-Creagh's performance in BATTLEAXE to COMPASS, it's a different commander. Roberts infers he was indecisive and unwilling to make decisions even after being urged by his GSO1 or get forward to sort out the problems. Not like COMPASS at all where he identified and took it upon himself to start the Beda Fomm dash. I see a possibility that O'Moore-Creagh was suffering similarly to Cunningham a few months later. Burned out. Could it be that after Wavell and Beresford-Peirce had left, the O group lead by O'Moore-Creagh thereafter - attended by Roberts - was a a confused, contradictory and pretty wishy-washy affair that Roberts (mis)interpreted in the way that he did?