Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 31 Mar 2020 15:25

The older article on this question has been substantially updated, including new source material, to set out the validity of Rommel disobeying his orders, and an alternative scenario, had they been complied with.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... pril-1941/

Happy to see any comments.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15326
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Andy H » 31 Mar 2020 15:57

Hi

Interesting to note:-
On 15 April, von Brauchitsch is looking for ways to support Rommel, by adding German submarines and sending the airborne division to North Africa. Halder disagrees, noting that submarines should be Italian, and also that once in North Africa, the airborne troops would be footboard

Surely at this stage, Halder had been in discussions about the proposed invasion of Crete (Directive28 signed April 25th), so his excuse above was in part to shield any further discussion about AB troops being sent to NA!

Regards

Andy H

Richard Anderson
Member
Posts: 4514
Joined: 01 Jan 2016 21:21
Location: Bremerton, Washington

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Richard Anderson » 31 Mar 2020 16:13

Urmel wrote:
31 Mar 2020 15:25
The older article on this question has been substantially updated, including new source material, to set out the validity of Rommel disobeying his orders, and an alternative scenario, had they been complied with.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... pril-1941/

Happy to see any comments.
Excellent...the way a what if should be presented. You have a starting point that is both factually correct and an option that was considered at the time. I do think in your counter-factual you need to address more the possible effects of the campaign in the Balkans, Greece, and Crete on both British and German planning and possible operations in the May-June time frame.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 31 Mar 2020 18:47

Andy H wrote:
31 Mar 2020 15:57
Hi

Interesting to note:-
On 15 April, von Brauchitsch is looking for ways to support Rommel, by adding German submarines and sending the airborne division to North Africa. Halder disagrees, noting that submarines should be Italian, and also that once in North Africa, the airborne troops would be footboard

Surely at this stage, Halder had been in discussions about the proposed invasion of Crete (Directive28 signed April 25th), so his excuse above was in part to shield any further discussion about AB troops being sent to NA!

Regards

Andy H
Probably, although even without that he would have been aware of the lack of motor transport to actually move them.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 31 Mar 2020 18:49

Richard Anderson wrote:
31 Mar 2020 16:13
Urmel wrote:
31 Mar 2020 15:25
The older article on this question has been substantially updated, including new source material, to set out the validity of Rommel disobeying his orders, and an alternative scenario, had they been complied with.

https://crusaderproject.wordpress.com/2 ... pril-1941/

Happy to see any comments.
Excellent...the way a what if should be presented. You have a starting point that is both factually correct and an option that was considered at the time. I do think in your counter-factual you need to address more the possible effects of the campaign in the Balkans, Greece, and Crete on both British and German planning and possible operations in the May-June time frame.
Thanks Rich. I treat both of them as exogenous, since they are to some not going to affect the allocation of German troops, save for some infantry. On the Empire side, it is a question of whether the Tiger convoy would have taken the riskier route without this advance. Probably not. But that would just strengthen the case?
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15326
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Andy H » 31 Mar 2020 19:59

Hi

"which estimated that fifteen British divisions, including two armoured, were in North Africa, of which four to eight, including the armoured divisions, were in Libya. This was a considerable over estimate of the British forces then available, and also did not seem to consider the demand of the Greek expedition"

From memory much of the German Int came via the Italians and the used this as the basis of there British OoB!

In The Deceivers (Allied Military Deception in the Second World War) by Thaddeus Holt he makes mention of the Plan A-R (Attack Rommel) and the simply called 10th Armoured Division plan, whose aim it was to deceive the Germans in NA about British OoB. Plan A-R inc the fictional 1st SAS Bde, plus British Commandos recently arrived from UK and originally slighted for Op.Cordite. Whilst the 10th AD was used to cover the fact he wasn't due any armoured reinforcements for 3months. In fact a motorized Indian bde that had arrived, was nominally associated with 10th AD. This and FF Forces were also added to OoB, with the intent of feigning attack from the desert flank. In addition 2 dummy tanks a day were being produced, forming 3 RTR's by June'41.

Regards

Andy H

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 01 Apr 2020 06:57

3? I'm aware of F Squadron and 38 R.T.R. - which one was the third one?
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15326
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Andy H » 01 Apr 2020 11:08

Urmel wrote:
01 Apr 2020 06:57
3? I'm aware of F Squadron and 38 R.T.R. - which one was the third one?
Hi

It doesn't mention specifics and the only thing it goes onto mention is that 4th was formed in the November.

Regards

Andy H

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 01 Apr 2020 13:29

I’ll have a look see, must have missed one.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2016
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Gooner1 » 02 Apr 2020 12:29

I don't see the assumption that "The strength of the tank force on both sides is the decisive factor in the timing and outcome of any major operation" as being a sound one. If it were Tobruk should have fallen quite easily.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 02 Apr 2020 14:50

Disagree for the following reasons. The assumption is really reflecting the ability to force project over a wide distance. If he had started at Agheila with 280 tanks, rather than 120, more would have made it to Tobruk. In reality, by the time he got to Tobruk he had hardly any operational tanks left. If the attack on Easter Sunday had gone in with 140 tanks (allowing for 50% attrition) and a full regiment of infantry rather than an exhausted battalion, it would have been curtains for the garrison.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2016
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Gooner1 » 03 Apr 2020 12:26

Urmel wrote:
02 Apr 2020 14:50
Disagree for the following reasons. The assumption is really reflecting the ability to force project over a wide distance. If he had started at Agheila with 280 tanks, rather than 120, more would have made it to Tobruk. In reality, by the time he got to Tobruk he had hardly any operational tanks left. If the attack on Easter Sunday had gone in with 140 tanks (allowing for 50% attrition) and a full regiment of infantry rather than an exhausted battalion, it would have been curtains for the garrison.
If the Axis wait the 6-8 weeks for 15th Panzer to arrive its unlikely they'd get a relatively free pass at El Agheila/Mersa el Brega.
If Cyrcom chose to use this period of grace to make the very poor tank country of their forward positions a main line of resistance, I think the Axis will have a very tough job to break through it.

Also if the Tiger Convoy still gets routed through the Mediterranean, its probable that one or more of the ships would be diverted to Tobruk, if not Benghazi.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 03 Apr 2020 14:03

Well maybe, but as the article sets out, even with the Tiger convoy coming in there isn't sufficient margin for the Empire to gain superiority. They are also unlikely to do much south of Benghazi simply because of the supply line issues. Benghazi also wasn't really in use because of the inability of the RAF to cover it. Being weak at el Agheila wasn't a choice, it was a necessity, and I don't see that changing much, with the concurrent activity in Greece.

On the Axis side, having a few weeks extra will allow the Germans to figure out some weaknesses of their tanks, and address them, such as the sand filters. Meaning they will be able to take more tanks further when they set off. Also, since that's the plan, the Italians are going to play ball throughout.

Swings and roundabouts.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Gooner1
Member
Posts: 2016
Joined: 06 Jan 2006 12:24
Location: London

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Gooner1 » 06 Apr 2020 12:03

Urmel wrote:
03 Apr 2020 14:03
Well maybe, but as the article sets out, even with the Tiger convoy coming in there isn't sufficient margin for the Empire to gain superiority.
Yes but I don't agree with the assumption that the British forces need to have tank superiority, or even equivalence, to halt the Axis. As long as they have enough tanks supporting a strong defensive position held by infantry and guns.
They are also unlikely to do much south of Benghazi simply because of the supply line issues. Benghazi also wasn't really in use because of the inability of the RAF to cover it. Being weak at el Agheila wasn't a choice, it was a necessity, and I don't see that changing much, with the concurrent activity in Greece.
Well, almost by default, Cyrenaica would become priority for reinforcement by about the middle of April. Whether enough fighters and AA guns become available to make Benghazi viable as a port after then, I don't know, though April was a pretty good month for new fighter deliveries.
Likewise when enough transport arrives to support the defence at Agheila by at least two of the Australian infantry brigades backed by 2nd Armoured Division (-) happens, I don't know. Probably before the middle of May though I should guess.
Even without Benghazi providing much throughput, the British had still managed a build-up of stores in a number of Field Service Depots, the one at Mechili, where 3rd Indian Motor Brigade arrived in early April, apparently containing sufficient stores to support an armoured division for a month.

User avatar
Urmel
Member
Posts: 4355
Joined: 25 Aug 2008 09:34
Location: The late JBond

Re: Rommel's decision to advance on Tobruk in April 41

Post by Urmel » 06 Apr 2020 14:24

Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03
Urmel wrote:
03 Apr 2020 14:03
Well maybe, but as the article sets out, even with the Tiger convoy coming in there isn't sufficient margin for the Empire to gain superiority.
Yes but I don't agree with the assumption that the British forces need to have tank superiority, or even equivalence, to halt the Axis. As long as they have enough tanks supporting a strong defensive position held by infantry and guns.
There is no defensive position west of Alamein that you can hold against a determined enemy if you don't have the tanks to back it up. The experience in every one of the pushs, east or west, shows that.
Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03
Well, almost by default, Cyrenaica would become priority for reinforcement by about the middle of April. Whether enough fighters and AA guns become available to make Benghazi viable as a port after then, I don't know, though April was a pretty good month for new fighter deliveries.
At the same time as Greece is disintegrating? I doubt that. Also, there are no new tanks to be allocated by the middle of April. The first new tanks to arrive were on the TIGER convoy in May.
Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03
Likewise when enough transport arrives to support the defence at Agheila by at least two of the Australian infantry brigades backed by 2nd Armoured Division (-) happens, I don't know. Probably before the middle of May though I should guess.
Adding infantry without tank support is just a novel way of adding to the Axis POW count. 2nd Armoured Division was the one that disintegrated under the Axis counteroffensive, so not sure what that helps.
Gooner1 wrote:
06 Apr 2020 12:03
Even without Benghazi providing much throughput, the British had still managed a build-up of stores in a number of Field Service Depots, the one at Mechili, where 3rd Indian Motor Brigade arrived in early April, apparently containing sufficient stores to support an armoured division for a month.
And that's what they had there. So any reinforcement needs additional supplies. The relentless maths of supply applies to the Empire troops at Agedabia just as it did to the Axis troops at Bardia.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”