Sir John Valentine Carden survives.

Well they left some wrecks they will be heading on to Cario or Alexandria to get a look at by the engineers and the rest of the armoured corps.
 
29 March 1941. Benghazi, Libya.
29 March 1941. Benghazi, Libya.

The German reconnaissance in force at Ras el Ali and the attack on the oasis at Marada focused the minds of XIII Corps. General O’Connor had still been thinking of attempting the planned limited advance starting on 1 April, even if it was just the fifty miles to Nofilia. He was tempted to aim for Sirte, just over 170 miles from his main position, and was hopeful that it might be possible, but would be happy with Nofilia. The slow build-up of supplies had continued, even if most everything else was still crossing the sea to Greece. O’Connor judged that the arrival of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade at Marsa al Brega was the final component of his plan.

He wanted the Indian Brigade and one of the Cruiser Tank Regiments to advance inland through the desert, parallel to the coastal road. The 16th Infantry Brigade, with the other two Cruiser Tank Regiments would advance straight up the road. The Australian 24th Brigade was moving up to replace the British infantry battalions, and the Valiant I Infantry Tanks of 40th Bn RTR would remain in place at El Agheila as a fall back position in case anything went wrong. Otherwise, they would move forward to wherever the next line was to be held, until the next attack could be mounted.

Two Infantry Brigades and one Armoured Brigade was the equivalent of a Division, which O’Connor considered just about adequate for the job. He had managed to put together enough motor transport for it, helped enormously by the Indian’s coming fully equipped with their own. This left some of Morshead’s Australians short, but not completely immobile. O’Connor would have preferred if he had one Division going along the coast road and another through the desert, but he didn’t have the men, stores, or the transport. As before the 16th Infantry Brigade would engage any enemy forces, and if stuck, the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade would come from the south and get in behind the enemy positions.

The reconnaissance efforts of the Royal Dragoons had been splendid, along with whatever the RAF had been able to do, shorthanded as they were. The probes by the Germans had seemed to convince them that the British positions were too strong to be taken easily. The Dragoons had noted that the Germans and Italians seemed to be using Sirte as their main forward base, and were digging in there. O’Connor believed that if he could hit them there before they were too well established, it would keep them off balance. He would need to pause again for some time to allow supplies to be moved forward before he could try for Buerat.

The one thing that bothered the British General was the lack of air support. Air Marshall Longmore had had to commit the vast majority of his force to Greece, leaving the numbers of squadrons available to support O’Connor too few. Likewise, the Royal Navy were fully committed to Operation Lustre, and so O’Connor wouldn’t have the inshore squadron to support the movement along the coast. The inshore squadron was much weakened with HMS Terror being severely damaged and under repair at Alexandria. With the Luftwaffe having air superiority for the most part, the advancing forces would be at a great disadvantage. All his pleas to General Wavell for more air support had been met with the Commander-in-Chief wishing he could help, and sending more signals to London outlining the problems, but able to promise nothing.

There was progress on getting the new American-built Kittyhawks ready for delivery to Egypt, but O’Connor really didn’t want to wait that long. General Wavell had flown to Benghazi and met with O’Connor and his senior officers to go over the plan, before giving the final go-ahead. Knowing that it couldn’t be long before the Germans moved on Greece, and convinced that the result of the German probes at Ras el Ali and Marada would see them digging in rather than attacking, Wavell felt it would be better to postpone O’Connor’s attack. In another month, one of the Indian Divisions would have arrived back from East Africa, and the big convoy with the tanks for 7th Armoured Division would have arrived from England with more men and material. The situation for the RAF would also hopefully have improved. Holding where they were for another four weeks wasn’t what O’Connor wanted to hear, but Wavell believed giving 22nd Armoured Brigade, 16th Infantry Brigade and 3rd Indian Motor Brigade time to exercise together, while the Australians held the front line, would be beneficial in the long term.

It was Air Marshall Longmore’s promise that come the beginning of May, he would be able to provide O’Connor with the same level of support he’d enjoyed when destroying the Italian army, that convinced O’Connor to agree with Wavell’s plan. In the meantime, O’Connor could continue to amass supplies, prepare to receive an Indian Infantry Division, and hopefully, the re-equipped 7th Armoured Division into XIII Corps, and plan that the attack at the beginning May would aim at least as far as Buerat.
northAfrica.jpg
 
Ah logistics, logistics, logistics 😕

The race of desert Tortoise and the mountain Hare is still ON 🐢 🐰but postponed for a while :rolleyes:
 
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Without an accurate assessment of the strength of the German army units as well as the reinforced Italian army and especially with facing enemy air superiority then postponing the attack seems like the most prudent move. I don't think the Axis forces will be able to easily push back these better armed and supplied ATL British and Commonwealth forces. Though they will try. I'm guessing the current lines won't move much for the immediate time being. If and when the British do launch their May offensive I think they will have a rough time of it with very limited success. Then what?
 
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Oh, dear.

I think O'Connor might find his attack breaking down and a quick counter attack bounces him out of his forward positions. Let's hope the German
lose too much in the process to pursue further. Or that his forces hold their nerve.
 
O'connor might get beaten to the punch if everyone knows who is in charge and that may not be a bad thing. The delay may give the Germans the mistaken impression that Britain is purely on the defensive. That may catch the Germans out if they attack a force capable of stopping them cold that is also ready to advance.
 
That all seems very logical. Given that the German/Italian forces in Tripolitania appear to be better equipped, better organised and better supplied than the former Italian Army of Egypt and given the shortages of supplies, equipment and air cover, going off half-cocked looks too risky, especially when the best you can hope for is getting halfway to Tripoli. And the British probably aren't expecting the Germans to send significant extra forces to North Africa.

Now we're going to get an idea of who's on the other side - Rommel (if he's there) is not likely to settle for sitting still and watching the British get stronger.

Regarding German knowledge of the Valiant - German intelligence in Britain was non-existent, but their network in Egypt was pretty good, so they almost certainly know the Valiant exists, that it comes in two versions, and that one of them has been issued to the armoured brigades as a cruiser tank. They've probably got a fair idea of how many tanks (of all types) the British have as well. Regarding performance, in some actions the only Italians to come back were the ones that ran away fastest, so there are no doubt some fairly hysterical rumours doing the rounds that the new British tanks have heavy-cruiser armour, drive at 50kph off-road, are armed with 75mm autocannons etc etc but there are also going to be a good few Italians who saw the Valiant in set-piece attacks at Tobruk or Bardia and got away to report that it's like a faster Matilda, and similarly hard to hurt with light/medium AT.
 
One thing to keep in mind with the current situation is that if the German General is competent they will know they have to attack.

The thing about the African theatre, in OTL and theirs's, is that time favours the British side. The longer the German's wait the more forces they will have to fight and the British forces have a lot easier of a time building up and being supplied than the Germans do.

A competent General would note this and realise that they can't fight a slow war and realise that their only real chance of success is an early all or nothing. And then probably run out of supplies long before reaching their destination. Whoever was handling Rommel's logistics and somehow made it work as long as it did pulled off a borderline miracle.

Competent leadership on the Italian and German parts would have seen the Italians evacuate their colonies early on and the Germans refuse to send troops. Short of getting the French Colonies to actively side with them, the Italian chance of holding their colonies long term was about as much as the Germans had in WW1. All that the Germans throwing troops into Africa did with the help of Rommel not being an idiot, is turn it into a long, drawn out affair.
 
We know who are the British Commanders are. Who is the German commander? Is it Rommel or is it someone a whole more cautious?
 
We know who are the British Commanders are. Who is the German commander? Is it Rommel or is it someone a whole more cautious?

Has it been stated how large are the German forces being deployed in Libya? Was this already described in an earlier posting? That will largely determine what the Germans and Italian will attempt to do. Even with a very able commander like Rommel.
 
Germany can't spare any more forces for the side show of a side show that was North Africa in early 1941 than they actually sent Otl. Not if they're going to invade the Soviet Union as planned. Saving Mussolini's sorry arse isn't worth postponing Barbarossa to Hitler.
 
In this ATL perhaps the Germans would send less troops then OTL. Part of the reason being they'll have a harder time defeating the Allies in Greece then OTL. Hitler may decide he doesn't need quite as many Italian forces in Russia and "advise" Mussolini to send more to Libya. With a few German support units and some Luftwaffe squadrons.
 
I too see this delay as being good for the British. Either the Germans hit them when the British formations are in defensive positions and can keep trading as well as they insofar have, or the British get more intel on what their enemies have and likely build up stronger and better forces, as I don't see the nazi high command sending many additional forces to south Africa unless they start seeing hard-fought victories or if all other presently ongoing continental conflicts are resolved.
 
I too see this delay as being good for the British. Either the Germans hit them when the British formations are in defensive positions and can keep trading as well as they insofar have, or the British get more intel on what their enemies have and likely build up stronger and better forces, as I don't see the nazi high command sending many additional forces to south Africa unless they start seeing hard-fought victories or if all other presently ongoing continental conflicts are resolved.
I'm still wondering who they sent to command the German forces. The first German general officer that was sent to take a look at the situation in Libya was a certain Friedrich Paulus...
 
I suspect that on New Year's Day 1943 he wished he had grabbed the position going.
Seems as though Paulus was destined to end up a POW one way or another. No doubt he would have preferred being a prisoner of the Allies. Being held in a nice cushy manor house in England. With lots of cordial talkative company. And hidden listening devices everywhere.
 
2 April 1941. Suda Bay, Crete.
2 April 1941. Suda Bay, Crete.

The men of the 51st Bn RTR had been reunited after their various efforts partly in East Africa and recently at Giarabub. The A11 tanks had served the army well, but they had obviously been superseded by the Valiant I Infantry Tank. However, there were still enough to fully equip one Squadron, and the 51st Bn RTR had ‘acquired’ from 7th Armoured Division enough Mark VI Light Tanks, A9 and A10s, that weren’t completely ready for the knacker’s yard, to bring them up to strength. When 1st Armoured Brigade had sailed for Greece, there had been talk of sending the 51st Bn RTR to support the 2nd New Zealand Division, the work at Giarabub had cemented some ties between the two units. The problem was that, even although the tanks were still ‘runners’, they were getting close to being worn out, and there wasn’t a big stock of spare parts to keep them going.

When HMS York and the other ships in Suda Bay had been attacked on 26 March, some more thought had been given to increasing the protection of the island of Crete, and particularly of the new airfields being created. There was also the question of the planned attack on Rhodes, which would benefit from having some tanks as part of the invading force. Someone on Wavell’s Staff had the idea of sending the 51st Bn RTR to Crete, firstly to strengthen the garrison there, and have them prepared to take part in the invasion of Rhodes. When the idea had been discussed, General Wilson in Athens, when approached about it, had agreed that strengthening Crete was no bad thing.

The plan was for the Royal Marines Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation to be responsible for Suda Bay, and it was due to arrive in mid-April on the convoy coming from Britain. Until it did, it was clear from the Italian attack, that the defences of Suda Bay needed to be strengthened. Since the men and tanks of 51st Bn RTR were something of an oddity, sending them off to Crete would at least put them to some kind of use. Someone had suggested sending off a Squadron or even a couple of Troops to Cyprus, but this was quashed, but the idea would be revisited if the Germans invaded Turkey.

Getting the tanks from the ship on which they had been carried was originally planned to happen in the main port of Heraklion, but the commander of the 51st Bn RTR worried that all his tanks might not make it all the way to Suda Bay and the airfield at Maleme, a drive of the best part of 90 miles over poor roads. Instead, they had arrived in Suda Bay, where they were swung out onto a barge, then brought ashore. Once the last tank had reached dry land, the job wasn’t yet done. The Battalion’s Light Aid Detachment needed to be unloaded, with fuel, spares and ammunition.

Brigadier Ord Tidbury, in his dual role of Commander of CreForce, and Commanding Officer of 14th Infantry Brigade, (which made up the lions share of the army’s garrison on Crete), invited Lt-Col Eric Clarke, CO 51st Bn RTR, to come and have a chat about how best to make use of the tanks. Like most of the infantry formations in the Middle East, 14th Infantry Brigade were poorly supplied with Motor Transport. Three Battalions were far too few for the job of protecting the island, and without enough transport, and the unbelievably poor road network, each Battalion were guarding a particular area, but unable to support one another. When Lt-Col Clarke gave his new Commanding Officer his report on the condition of his Battalion, Tidbury was underwhelmed. His hope had been to have the tanks act as a mobile reserve, able to move from one threat to another, at least more rapidly than his infantry.

Clarke understood Tidbury’s frustration, but suggested that he could put together one Squadron of fifteen tanks, along with his HQ Squadron, that were the best runners. Tidbury could use this as the basis for a counterattacking force, if he got any more troops and transport these could be added to it. Clarke then suggested that each of the three airfields should have five of the A11s permanently on station. While their mobility was limited, if they were simply protecting a fixed installation, that wouldn’t handicap them too much. Lastly, the third Squadron could be broken up, with each Infantry Battalion having some tanks on hand in their immediate areas. Working with the Carrier Platoons, it would give each of the Battalion Commanders a decent mobile capacity within their sectors. Tidbury agreed that this would provide a good use for the tanks, all things considered. He noted that having tanks with their radios working would actually enhance the communications, something he was constantly worried about.

With this agreed, Clarke went back to his newly established HQ, and tried to sort out just how exactly they would sort out this plan. The idea of getting some of the tanks to Heraklion would be a difficult feat, unless they could be put back on the ship and sail up the coast. There was a reasonable commercial port there, which would cope with unloading the tanks. It would be inconvenient and time consuming, but that was why they’d been shipped to Suda Bay in the first place. Clarke was sorry that he hadn’t had his chat with Tidbury before the unloading had been finished. B Squadron’s OC was given the responsibility for all the tanks going back to Heraklion. A Squadron would take over the best of the A9 and A10 tanks and be based at CreForce HQ, while C Squadron’s OC, whose A11s would be split up between the airfields, would be based at Retimno, and have responsibility for all the tanks in that sector. It wasn’t a great plan, but it would have to do in the meantime.
 
Hoo boy, something tells me the Fallschirmjäger are in for a rough time.

I do wonder though, how does that compare to the OTL forces? Are the Matilda Is' pom-poms likely to see them do better than the OTL Matilda IIs against the paratroopers?
 
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And with the pom-poms of the A11s they've also increased the AA capability of the airfields as an A11 has managed to shoot down an a/c once.
 
Hoo boy, something tells me the Fallschirmjäger are in for a rough time.

I do wonder though, how does that compare to the OTL forces? Are the Matilda Is' pom-poms likely to see them do better than the OTL Matilda IIs against the paratroopers?
I'm not sure it really matters. According to the wikipedia page on the Order of Battle, they only had two Matildas and ten Light Tank MKVI. That appears to have been their entire tank force (correct me if I am wrong). Furthermore, reading through the page and the number of Royal Artillery detachments who are marked as fighting as infantry as they don't have equipment.

Here? They have a 15 tank strong mobile reserve (until the tanks crap out on them...). Another 15 tanks split into three detachments of five tanks each at each airfield. And then another squadron (15 more tanks?) divided between various infantry battalions.

Do the Fallschirmjäger have anti-tank weapons? The order of battle lists two battalions as part of the 7th Flieger Division and 5th Gerbirgs Division (1 each) and both Divisions also have an artillery battalion, but the question is whether those were landed by airdrop or not, or if they came in later (or even at all).

Capturing the airfields was what let them bring in enough reinforcements to win OTL. I suspect it will not be so easy ITTL.
 
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