A well argued alternative history of the North African Campaign. The author has researched the critical battle and the path from there in an interesting alternative approach – Highly Recommended
NAME: Disaster in the Desert, An Alternative History Of El Alamein And Rommel's North African Campaign FILE: R2976 AUTHOR: Ken Delve PUBLISHER: Greenhill Books, Pen and Sword BINDING: hard back PAGES: 201 PRICE: £19.99 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: WWII, World War II, World War 2, Second World War, North Africa, Malta, El Alamein, 8th Army, Afrika Korps, logistics, air power, Montgomery, Rommel
IMAGE: B2976.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y2kjccvp LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A well argued alternative history of the North African Campaign. The author has researched the critical battle and the path from there in an interesting alternative approach – Highly Recommended Alternative histories can be fun and some have a serious side, as in this book. The alternative history hinges on what might have happened if something had been different, weather, command decisions, logistics, luck. In the case of the North African Campaign, the Italians should have been able to roll through the British forces to take the Suez Canal. They had the numbers and the equipment but the British out-fought them and started to drive them rapidly West, taking large numbers of prisoners as they went. As it turned out, Wavell was running short of supplies as his lines of communication extended, although the British command of the Mediterranean allowed them to resupply. What halted the British was the steady withdrawal of troops and equipment, to attempt to help the Greeks, and the lack of resupply from Britain. Once an army slows down and halts, it either digs in or retreats. As the Italians had retreated, the British in their turn began a retreat as Rommel was introduced into the equation. Initially, Rommel surprised the British by taking a new tactical approach. However, as he kept repeating the same trick, his surprises became unsurprising and by the time he got to El Alamein his tactics were fully understood by the British and the new commanders had his measure. They also enjoyed a significant upgrade in equipment and had built a considerable volume of supplies and reinforcements. Rommel could have changed his tactics and surprised the British again but he did not, so part of the reason for his change in fortunes was a lost opportunity resulting from a command decision. However, the critical factors remained logistics and the excellent British logistics position was not a happy accident. The Royal Navy commanded the Mediterranean and that meant the survival of Malta. The island did more than just survive, because supplies and new aircraft, fast attack craft and submarines made her ability to intercept German and Italian supply convoys heading to North Africa ever greater. This was not just numbers but quality also. From having to depend on three obsolete naval Sea Gladiator biplanes for defence, Malta had been receiving new Hurricanes and Spitfires, together with the fuel and ammunition to operate them against the German and Italian bombers. In addition to these fighters, Malta was also receiving patrol and attack aircraft, such as the formidable Beaufighter, to attack not only the shipping convoys to the Axis troops in North Africa, but also to attack transport and combat aircraft being flown across from Sicily. This seriously impeded the logistics for Axis troops in North Africa. While the Axis logistics were being hit hard, the British were managing to ship in large quantities of material, including the latest US tanks and self-propelled guns, together with more troops from the Commonwealth and from the British Isles. That meant that the British were able to outgun the Germans and Italians and maintain this superiority through the length of a full campaign. The final nail was the large Anglo American amphibious force that was landed in Tunisia and the decision of Vichy French forces to go over to the Allied side. Rommel was now in a pincer that would cut his force off from any further reinforcement, as the British chasing him West towards the new Anglo-American force were able to achieve and maintain superiority in armour and, critically, in air power to protect their own force and to provide close support against German targets. Of course, as with almost every conflict, the margins were narrow enough for a series of different factors to have changed the balance in favour of the Axis. That essentially is what had happened before as the armies chase up and down the desert coastal strip. The two major factors in favour of the Allies was that they had learned the lessons well from the earlier battles and the industrial might was also on their side.