Sir John Valentine Carden survives.

Operation Compass. Preliminaries. 5 December 1940. Bagush Box. Egypt.
Operation Compass. Preliminaries.

5 December 1940. Bagush Box. Egypt.

The arrival of the troops of 16th Australian Infantry Brigade by train had been completed the day before, the Brigade’s vehicles and heavy equipment arrived in a sandstorm during the night, completing the Brigade’s journey forward. With the 17th and 19th Brigades scheduled to arrive in the area over the next few days, 6th Australian Infantry Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force was about to put their training into practice. Various versions of plans had come and gone. At one point the 19th Brigade was going to wait at Alexandria and be moved forward by sea. However, things changed when General Wilson let slip to General O’Connor that General Wavell planned to transfer the 4th Indian Division to Sudan as soon as the planned attack succeeded.

O’Connor, taken aback, immediately made the argument that if the attack was successful, withdrawing the Indians would mean that the ability to exploit any success would be removed. Wavell, when confronted by this information, tried to reassure O’Connor that the Indians would be replaced by the 6th Australian Division. O’Connor knew it would take a certain amount of time for the Indians to be replaced with the Australians. Therefore, he argued, the 6th Australian Infantry Division should be brought forward, and be ready to replace the 4th Indian Division as soon as Wavell ordered them withdrawn, preferably on the fourth or fifth day, when they would need a rest anyway. He would prefer the Indians not be withdrawn at all, but if they absolutely had to be, he wanted the Australians in place and ready to take over. If the Australians moved up to the start line for Operation Compass once the 7th Armoured Division and 4th Indian Division moved off, then, they would be close enough to reinforce the success, or, in the worst case, cover the withdrawal of the Western Desert Force.

As an alternative, O’Connor wondered about the possibility of keeping the 4th Indian Division in Western Desert Force, and having the Australian 6th Division go to Sudan in their place, at which point Blamey had intervened. The orders he had from the Australian government were that the 2nd AIF weren’t to be used up piecemeal. I Corps was beginning to come together in terms of men and equipment, which the 9th Division would complete in due course. Sending the 6th Division to Sudan would undermine those efforts.

All this was thrashed out in stormy conference between the four generals, O’Connor (Western Desert Force), Wavell (GOC-in Chief Middle East Command), Wilson (GOC British Troops in Egypt) and Blamey (GOC 2nd AIF I Corps). The idea of Operation Compass had begun in Wavell’s mind as a raid, to knock the Italians off balance. Seeing how the Greeks had defeated the Italian invasion from Albania, O’Connor and Wilson could see that, with a bit of luck and enough punch, Compass could actually be a proper counter-attack which wouldn’t only throw the Italians out of Egypt, but possibly open up their positions in Cyrenaica to assault. Wilson had effectively presented this view and had, finally, managed to convince Wavell of the possibilities.


Wavell, with Greece, Sudan and Kenya to worry about, as well as Egypt, didn’t completely entertain such extravagant hopes of the operation as did Wilson and O’Connor. However, he was persuaded to make certain that if a big opportunity did occur, that the army was prepared ‘morally, mentally and administratively’ to use it to the fullest.

Wavell, therefore, in addition to ordering 6th Australian Infantry Division forward, he asked Blamey to bring his 7th Division up to as high a level of readiness as possible. Blamey thought it might well be January before they were fully prepared, but he could see that 6th Division would need to be allowed a rest sooner or later, so he agreed. Two Infantry Tank Battalions (40th and 44th Bn RTR) having arrived in mid-November were being readied for the North African theatre in the RAOC depots in the Delta. These would be available to reinforce the 48th Bn RTR by mid-December, creating an Army Tank Brigade. Wavell asked Blamey to have his two Divisions trained and ready to work with the Infantry Tanks as a matter of urgency.

Having decided to be as prepared as possible, Wavell then approached General Hutchison, Deputy Quarter-Master General, with the need to plan for Operation Compass to last for at least a month, not just the few days of the original plan. Hutchison’s plans therefore had been thrown into a degree of disarray. The stockpiles that had been built up in the Field Supply depots to last four or five days would now have to be vastly expanded. Just about every RASC unit in Egypt would be needed to for this. The Royal Navy would happily support the movement forward by sea of supplies if and when Bardia and Tobruk were taken. But what condition the port facilities would be in by then was anyone’s guess. Hutchison had therefore to plan for supporting the 7th Armoured Division, 4th Indian Division and then the 6th Australian Division; with the possibility of this becoming a Corps sized command; overland for at least a month. This would put enormous pressure on the supply chain. He needed assurances from Wavell that no further reinforcements would be sent to Greece during this operation, diverting limited resources away from the main effort. Wavell reluctantly agreed, mentioning various provisos that might well limit the promise.

Air Marshall Arthur Longmore, Air Officer Commanding in Chief Middle East, of all the senior commanders was being asked to spread his limited forces far too thin. RAF reinforcements were coming, the planes mostly being flown up from Takoradi in West Africa, while the men arrived by sea. Already he’d had to send squadrons to Greece, and now, with the expectation that Operation Compass would become a proper counter-attack rather than a raid, he had to add this to his already complicated equation. Stripping the Delta of its air cover meant that he’d been able to increase the level of support for O’Connor’s Western Desert Force. It was crucial to keep the Italian air force from being able to intervene, either beforehand with reconnaissance, or during with aerial attacks.

If Sidi Barrani was retaken, there was already an existing landing field there. It might need some work to make it operational, but at least it would give his fighters a base to move forward to. If Bardia and Tobruk really were objectives, then he would need support from the army engineers to fix up captured Italian fields, or create new ones to forward base his squadrons. This would be another headache for General Hutchison’s strained quartermaster department. Moving enough fuel, ammunition and spares forward, and all the other things RAF squadrons needed to keep them operational, was no small matter.

For each of the top commanders there was one over-riding need, the need for secrecy. For an attack to be made on the Italians to have even the slightest hope of success, at least initially, it had to have the element of surprise. If Egypt were a boat it would be very leaky indeed. Keeping the Italians from learning of the British plans had to be covered with subterfuge and slight-of-hand. The senior officers were aware that there was a real danger that keeping the secret from the Italians would mean that the British forces’ left hand would find itself not knowing what its right hand was up to at crucial moments. This was the most difficult of balancing acts, and there were all sorts of cover stories and false rumours being spread to keep the real story from being revealed.


NB Text in italic is from OTL, otherwise the rest is fiction. There is some dubiety in my sources about whether or not O'Connor knew the Indians would be withdrawn. Certainly in at least one book he is quoted as being completely taken by surprise, but I find that odd. The fact that Wavell wrote to Wilson on 28 November

"his belief that an opportunity might occur for converting the enemy's defeat into an outstanding victory. Events in Albania had shown that Italian morale after a reverse was unlikely to be high. Every possible preparation was therefore to be made to take advantage of preliminary success and to support a possible pursuit right up to the Egyptian frontier. 'I do not entertain extravagant hopes of this operation,' he wrote, 'but I do wish to make certain that if a big opportunity occurs we are prepared morally, mentally, and administratively, to use it to the fullest'." Official History
Wavell still sees it 'up to the Egyptian Frontier', but from my reading Wilson and O'Connor have higher hopes than that. So I've taken liberties, imagine that!
 
Or have the australians pitch a fit for some reason since they can see how pointless the greece campaign is going to be and they were the main force deployed by evoking the images of gallipolli could be another reason to cancel it.
Actually, the Australians were conned. If I can remember correctly, Blamey refused to allow the 6th Div and eventually the 7th Div to go to Greece because of his desire to maintain a Corps sized group of 3 Australian Divisions. They had been together in 1918, and they should be kept together for 1941. Also he had serious doubts about the wisdom of going to Greece.
However, as Menzies, the PM, was in London at the time and was attending the war cabinet meetings, he was assured by GHQ that Menzies had agreed with the plan to send Australian troops to Greece. When Menzies stopped off in Cairo on his way back to Australia, he was suprised to find that Blamey was planning on sending Australian troops to Greece. Apparently someone had interpreted Menzies attending the War Cabinet meetings as agreeing with Churchill's demand that troops be sent to Greece. By that stage, the embarkations etc were too far advanced for him to tell Blamey to cancel them and they went ahead.
It doesn't take too much imagination to suggest that Blamey fires off a cable to Menzies in London asking if he really had agreed to sending the Australians to Greece, and of course the Kiwis would also like to know about this?
Of course, there was still a lingering expectation by the British High Command that these colonials went where they were told and needed. What do you mean, they are independent countries? Rubbish, old boy! They will do as they are told. The French talk about Perfidious Albion, we talk about Bloody Poms!
So Far we have 6th AS Div already in the Western desert and 7th AS Div training up and 9th AS Div shipping back from the UK. All still rather short of equipment that had been promised them by the British. Still, scroungers anonymous can easily find signal equipment, trucks that have been abandoned, spare parts loosely guarded, (after all, who would want to steal spare parts?) as well as anything else not tied down.
Looking further ahead, 7th Div, with the exception of one bde in Tobruk,, but supplemented with some 6th Div units, were used for the invasion of Syria. Palestine does need a garrison so if 7th AS Div is Western desert, who garrisons Palestine and gets to take part in Op Exporter?
 
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Because the word 'crap', meaning excrement had faded out in Britain IIRC, but not in the USA.
It hadn't. "Crap" predates Thomas Crapper and Co. by quite a few centuries and is derived it seems from either the Dutch or the French for words other the ones used to describe excrement. Read the link I provided. American soldiers had no idea, absolutely no idea. Thomas Crapper had several Royal Warrants and Patents to his name. He was a superb sanitary engineer apparently.
 
Actually, the Australians were conned. If I can remember correctly, Blamey refused to allow the 6th Div and eventually the 7th Div to go to Greece because of his desire to maintain a Corps sized group of 3 Australian Divisions. They had been together in 1918, and they should be kept together for 1941. Also he had serious doubts about the wisdom of going to Greece.
However, as Menzies, the PM, was in London at the time and was attending the war cabinet meetings, he was assured by GHQ that Menzies had agreed with the plan to send Australian troops to Greece. When Menzies stopped off in Cairo on his way back to Australia, he was suprised to find that Blamey was planning on sending Australian troops to Greece. Apparently someone had interpreted Menzies attending the War Cabinet meetings as agreeing with Churchill's demand that troops be sent to Greece. By that stage, the embarkations etc were too far advanced for him to tell Blamey to cancel them and they went ahead.
It doesn't take too much imagination to suggest that Blamey fires off a cable to Menzies in London asking if he really had agreed to sending the Australians to Greece, and of course the Kiwis would also like to know about this?
Churchill had a high-handed reputation with the Dominion and Colonial troops. With the Australians, he assumed they were merely "colonials" and were subject to the whims of London. They were troops of a self-Governing Dominion. The Australian Government had created an agreement with the then British Government under Churchill's predecessor as to the employment of the 2nd AIF - they were to be kept together and no parceled out in penny sized dribs and drabs and Blamey was instructed thus. The idea was for the 2nd AIF to be a Corps of three divisions. The 6, 7 and 9 divisions. The 8th was to be sent to Malaya to defend Singapore. The 6 and 7 Divisions AIF were in position in the Middle-East come October 1940, the 9th was on it's way. Blamey got conned over Greece and Syria. The AIF was broken up and used as divisional forces.

Churchill acted in a similar manner in 1942 when he diverted the Australian troops returning from the Middle-East to Australia and decided that they were more needed in Burma. The Australian Government reacted badly and demanded they return home. Churchill was forced to comply. This was what was known as the "Battle of the Telegrams" and consisted of a series of furiously exchange telegrams between London and Canberra when Churchill's cupidity had been discovered. The biggest problem was that the ships they were traveling on were not "tactically loaded" in Port Said, such was the urgency attached to their return to Australia.
 
Actually, Greece offers a chance to simplify Logistics. If the armd Units sent there were all the A9/10/13s that were in Egypt, and they were lost, then that is a line of spares ands supports no longer needed in the Middle east? Still looks good on the world stage, Britain sends their best tanks to aid Greece! but simplifies things back in Cairo.
 
Churchill had a high-handed reputation with the Dominion and Colonial troops.
It's interesting that apparently he valued the Kiwis higher than the Australians. Perhaps he thought the Convict taint too strong in the Australians whereas the Kiwis were pure UK stock?
 
s. The 6, 7 and 9 divisions. The 8th was to be sent to Malaya to defend Singapore. The 6 and 7 Divisions AIF were in position in the Middle-East come October 1940, the 9th was on it's way. Blamey got conned over Greece and Syria.
Actually Syria was almost an Australian affair, as Laverack had command of I Aust Corps, first time they had really been able to act as such, and I have said, 7th with some 6th Div attachments fought there. One of my old units had the distinction of fighting all four of the King's enemies, Italians, Germans, Vichy French and Japanese.
 
Actually, the Australians were conned. If I can remember correctly, Blamey refused to allow the 6th Div and eventually the 7th Div to go to Greece because of his desire to maintain a Corps sized group of 3 Australian Divisions. They had been together in 1918, and they should be kept together for 1941. Also he had serious doubts about the wisdom of going to Greece.
However, as Menzies, the PM, was in London at the time and was attending the war cabinet meetings, he was assured by GHQ that Menzies had agreed with the plan to send Australian troops to Greece. When Menzies stopped off in Cairo on his way back to Australia, he was suprised to find that Blamey was planning on sending Australian troops to Greece. Apparently someone had interpreted Menzies attending the War Cabinet meetings as agreeing with Churchill's demand that troops be sent to Greece. By that stage, the embarkations etc were too far advanced for him to tell Blamey to cancel them and they went ahead.
It doesn't take too much imagination to suggest that Blamey fires off a cable to Menzies in London asking if he really had agreed to sending the Australians to Greece, and of course the Kiwis would also like to know about this?
Its a POD I like to use to prevent W force from being sent to Greece which obviously has positive implications for the allies in Crete and Op Sonnenblume and operation beyond that

With the NZ infantry Division with its full TOE sent to Crete and the Australians and 1st Armour Brigade retained in Egypt both retaining their full TOE and allowing the 2AIF to be maintained as a corps level force.

With Crete either held or the Germans not attacking it the RN does not suffer such heavy losses which again will have implications for the rest of 1941
 
Hopefully with Wavell reviewing the troops from a nice stand in Tripoli in early-ish 1941 as Benny the Moose wonders what the hell just happened.
What would be the ramifications of no Africa Corp being sent to North Africa if the British wind up the campaign in early 1941?
 
What would be the ramifications of no Africa Corp being sent to North Africa if the British wind up the campaign in early 1941?
If the campaign raps up quicker than OTL then I guess those units would he deployed to the eastern front. It would be a drop in a bucket there but a commander like Rommel would love command there.

On the flip side the Nazis could attempt to move force through Vichy North Africa though I don't know how well equipped they would be to make that passage saying the Commonwealth forces take Tripoli it would give the Navy another base to move out of as well so they could maybe intercept any Africa Corp units.
 
What would be the ramifications of no Africa Corp being sent to North Africa if the British wind up the campaign in early 1941?
Depends if Rommel gets captured or killed when Tripoli falls. The timing is extremely tight and Rommel's initial forces are not large and his orders are to stay on the defensive. The shift to Greece by Churchill was a disaster, but to be fair by the time Rommel attacked the British were at the end of a very thin logistical bit of string.
That said, I have often wondered on what would have happened if Richard O'Connor had never been captured. He was highly capable.
 
If the campaign raps up quicker than OTL then I guess those units would he deployed to the eastern front. It would be a drop in a bucket there but a commander like Rommel would love command there.

On the flip side the Nazis could attempt to move force through Vichy North Africa though I don't know how well equipped they would be to make that passage saying the Commonwealth forces take Tripoli it would give the Navy another base to move out of as well so they could maybe intercept any Africa Corp units.
Rommel's postwar reputation would not have been good if he was in Russia. The myth of the Clean Wehrmacht out there was just that - a myth.
 
What would be the ramifications of no Africa Corp being sent to North Africa if the British wind up the campaign in early 1941?
Possibly not a lot, the only place they might make a difference would be the Eastern Front but logistics means they probably cannot be deployed in a meaningful manner. They give some more resources/men but until 1943 the Axis are more logistically limited than resource ( the old camel problem meaning even more trucks don't really extend the viable distance from the railheads ).
 
Well that's an important update.
To summarise and make sure I am reading it right. In addition to the British already having more and better tanks in theatre and having absorbed some of the lessons of France to make the army a more effective fighting force.
  • The 6th Australian division is already in position to replace the 4th Indian division.
  • The Australians in general are all getting more prepared for battle. This may well see them fight as a Corps at some point during Compass or just after. That likely prevents any Australian troops being sent to Greece if they are all either in combat or acting as a reserve.
  • The Australians are doing extra training working with tanks, further increasing the combat effectiveness of the WDF.
  • The supply situation is being looked at to enable a longer operation to happen from the start. This means more supplies are going to be ready but some thought will have been given to moving those supplies forward to the troops who need them.
  • Preparations are already being made to quickly convert and supply captured airfields for British use.
These are all the changes from OTL in the latest post if I am reading it correctly.

Now if I am reading this correctly that means that Britain is in a position to have a more overwhelming success early on in Compass due to the stronger and better trained forces. That will lead to fewer supplies being used early in battles so the Logistics aren't stretched quite as much. On top of that the Logistics will be stressed less overall than OTL due to the better preparation already carried out. As that carries on the British will be able to advance quicker than OTL. That leads to things like avoiding battles that occurred in OTL as the Italians have not had time to react. In addition places like Tobruk and Derna will likely be captured sooner than OTL so that again opens those ports quicker.
To cut a long post short the British are in a position to win and win big much sooner that OTL due to a better situation snowballing.

This is looking like it could be VERy decisive, add to that the likelihood of the Australians being a combined force so not being able to be moved about piecemeal like they were OTL. That probably means they all stay with the WDF, so all the Australians will have combat experience and experience working with tanks.
 
The Afrika Korps started arriving in Libya at the end of February and I don't see that changing TTL unless the British advance so far and fast the Germans decide it isn't worth sending anyone.
Given that date for the arrival of the Afrika Korps there is no way the British can win in North Africa before they arrive, short of them deciding not to show up. That is so remote a possibility it isn't worth considering.
 
The issue is still logistics rather than fighting , hell having a extra divison actually might be a issue actually logistics wise . Troop numbers are only useful for siegeing cities mainly to be honest in the early campaign . And it should still end up at the same place as in otl , maybe abit further and abit earlier but there was a reason why o`connor stopped there in otl .

The question is more , will you avoid the greece campaign and its logistical diverisions and would rather try to kick the axis out of north africa . If brits dont let the italians retreat from tripoli towards vichy north africa you could even avoid axis using vichy north africa then hopefully and clear them out by summer i imagine at the latest. After that i think you should get distracted with kicking vichy out of syria and north africa for the rest of 41 and probably invade italy in 42 . Maybe do as i suggested earlier and invade the toe of italy especially if there arent strong german forces in italy rather than doing sicily and then italy as in otl. Maybe leak the target is sicily so that the italians reinforce that from southern italian forces and make the fight easier that way ?

But if you are going to greece , maybe try evacuating more than in otl so you can set up more free greek units wich should be rather useful for fighting in italy i think since in otl there was 40k of unformed up greek troops on crete . The main issue was that the greeks didnt want to withdraw from albania and only had like 2 passes from wich to retreat from and the germans motorised units got to there rather fast and basicly got most of the greek army to surrender to them rather than the italians after the greeks realized their situation.
After that the campaign was over and brits and greeks basicly fought rear guard actions at each defensive line to buy time to evacuate the british and greek forces .
Also please use the new armored divison you sent to the middle east to greece since thats diffrent from otl i think and keep the 7th intact near bengazhi preferably refitting to reply to rommels adventures . Basicly have rommel succeed in driving the brits back but run into brits armored units near bengazhi and rommel gets introduced to the valiants with rather bad results . And also dont let o`connor be captured , the brits were really hurting for a good commander until they decided on montgomery by accident really since he was apparently a 2nd choice in otl to the guy who was supposed to get promoted.
 
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Maybe do as i suggested earlier and invade the toe of italy especially if there arent strong german forces in italy rather than doing sicily and then italy as in otl. Maybe leak the target is sicily so that the italians reinforce that from southern italian forces and make the fight easier that way ?
Nope, you need to capture Sicily to have a hope of running convoys though the Med.
 
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