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The Crusader, Eighth Army Weekly, No. 46, Vol 4, March 15th 1943

C R U S A D E R C R U S A D E R OF THE WIHIOU O ctober 23 is a date that will live lor ever in the memories of Eighth Army men. great night barrage at Alamein that w as the prelude to Rommel's rout. The T h e flickering news-reel of day-to- d ay events is apt to leave one bewild­ ered rather than informed. So it is a good thing to sit down sometimes and retrace the pattern of the war to date — particularly when one’s fancy is not hampered by too much “inside in­ formation.” T o my mind the war falls naturally into two parts. The first has just ended — the end of the beginning, as M r Churchill called it. The second began on Oct. 23 last with the Battle of Alamein. T he first part covers the period when Germany held the initiative and called the tune to which we danced. It covers many phases, in each of which Germany had great successes but consistently failed to obtain her goal — the destruction of all her oppo­ nents, one by one. P a r i O n e Part one began with the conquest of Pol­ and in the winter of 1939. But in spite of this success Germany failed in her strategic object, which was to continue the conquest of Europe step by step “without a general war.” Poland was eliminated ; but the plan was spoiled by the fact that Russia had taken a part of Poland, and Germany, in­ stead of having the expected pause for fresh preparation, found she still had a war with England and France on her hands. Phase two of Part 1 was directed to the elimination of France and Britain. The ori­ ginal intention had been to accomplish this by other means and at a later date. It was probably for this reason that Germany was so careful to abstain from any serious at­ tack on France and Britain in the winter of 1939. H an d Forced Our failure t'o make peace on the fall of Poland forced Germany to anticipate her schedule. There followed the invasion of Norway, Holland and Belgium, culminating in the invasion and defeat of France. G er­ many now had airfields and ports in a half circle round a weakly armed Britain, who by all the laws of logic was defeated and must surrender. Britain did not surrender. Her objective once again eluded Germany’s grasp ; and so began the third phase directed specifically at our conquest by force of arms. T he plan was air attack, followed by invasion. T his plan was frustrated by the Battle of Britain, which made invasion too hazar­ dous for Germany with a powerful Russia in her rear. Germany therefore turned to Other means. As a long term policy she developed the u-boat campaign. Her main plan continued to be based on her army. The intention was to gain the Middle East and the Persian oilfields by a double at­ tack through Greece and Libya, o f which the former was to be the main thrust. Rom­ mel’s attack through Libya in the spring of 1941 met with swift success at first, but was upset by the heroic resistance of T ob­ ruk. The attack through Greece succeeded and led to the capture of Crete. It too, how­ ever. failed in its strategic purpose, because it took too long and cost Germany too many of her planes and airborne troops to enable the intended attack through Syria into Iran and Iraq to take place in time to fit in with the Iraqi rising. Germany therefore failed to get the Middle East and to cut the British Empire in two ; and she was also forced to postpone her attack on Russia. This attack must have been planned be­ fore and was probably intended to coincide with a successful drive into the oilfields of As we advance the Western Desert is rapidly becoming a great mem­ ory and we are entering upon a phase of the war when we of the Desert Army become part of a single campaign. » So vast is the landscape of this world war that it is sometimes diffi­ cult to see exactly how W E fit In. Here ERIC CASWELL, himself a ‘desert rat,” gives a concise review of the whole war to date and of the Desert Army’s part therein. Persia. Instead, it took place too late in the year and without the expected asset of a conquered Middle East. In consequence Germany, despite her great victories, again failed in her real objective — the capture of Leningrad and Moscow and the destruc­ tion of the Russian Army. Instead, she was caught in the Russian winter and the Rus­ sian counter-attack, and suffered great los­ ses. None the less she gained both great victories and great material assets and had inflicted serious losses on Russia. During the winter there followed bitter but indecisive fighting in Libya. Japan at­ tacked Pearl Harbour, overran the Pacific — and brought America into the W ar. T he fourth phase of Part 1 began with the second Ger­ man attack on Russia last sum­ mer. This attack differed from the first in that it was not merely part of a great strategic plan — it was also dic­ tated by stern necessities. The war had gone on too long. Britain was not only un­ beaten but was gro win g in strength — and ¦ . now had the Red Army cavalry m a n rn vast potential ready ior power of America rapidly growing be­ hind her. The war began to look as if it might be still a long affair. The old “war on two fronts" bogey loomed near. Germany could not afford to have a strong Russia fighting on her Eastern front — and she urgently needed the wheat and the oil which she had failed to get the previous year. The 1942 attack on Russia was intended to remedy this by crippling the Red Army and gaining wheat and oil. The attack again met with great successes.— Rostov, Sebastopol, and most of the Northern Cau­ casus were overrun and Stalingrad reached. But the Russian Army was not crippled. By going for all three objectives Germany had dissipated her strength and laid herself open to the present Russian counter-attack, which has already destroyed 113 Axis divi­ sions and is now in process of clearing the Germans out of the Caucasus and the Uk­ raine. The net result, therefore, of the 1942 Russian c a m ­ paign is that Germany, by go­ ing for every­ thing, got noth­ ing. Now this Rus­ sian attack fits in with Eighth Army’s break­ through at Ala­ mein and the landings in North Africa to mark the beginning of Part 2 of this war. The part i n which t h e Germans no lon- g e r call t h e tune, but are for the first time them­ selves on the defensive, desperately trying to parry the blows of the United Nations, and anxiously wondering where the next blow will fall. Part 2 is still in its infancy. It was born on the 23 Oct. 1942. It has, however, devel­ ambush with autom atic rifle instant use. Another turning point. Britain's Royal Navy had a m ajor role in the North African land­ ing. Picture shows landing craft leaving a transport off Algiers. oped sufficiently in this short time to enable us. to consider the future. 1 think that the most balanced picture can be obtained by trying to look at the situation from the German point of view. W hat is her position after three and a- half years of hard fighting, in a war for which she had prepared for years and launched like a thunderbolt against unpre­ pared nations whom she believed unready, and despised as weak and cowardly. ? Definitely worse than ever before. Her victories have taken a terrific toll of her manpower and her material, white many of her conquests are sources of anxiety rather than strength. A great nation inevitably falls from within. And Germany has now within her territories all the potential seeds of des­ truction — the hatred of conquered peoples, the slow disillusionment of her own. Re­ verses in Russia, in Africa, R .A .F. raids on her cities and her centres of production, all held their warning. And as her losses mount and creep above her power of replacement she sees the rising strength of the United Nations. The declaration of Casablanca that Brit­ ain and America will accept only the un­ conditional surrender of the Axis was our On© more to the score of a Spitfire pilot, while the Battle of Britain raged in 1940. Diagram matic m ap shows the climax of Germany's master plan for subjugating Britain by air attack. How bombers roared over southern England in "the amazing summer" of 1940. Just one more German bomber that met its end at the hands of the 'first of the few.' reply to their hopes of a negotiated peace. T he new German plan is, therefore, two­ fold : propaganda to split the Allied front ; and intensification of the u-boat campaign in a desperate attempt to beat us 'on the post’ by concentrating on our Achilles heel, our wide-stretched sea lanes. P r o p a g a n d a T rick s The propaganda drive is in full swing. Gobbels is using every trick to set Russians against British, British against Americans and Americans against Russians. No false­ hood is too ridiculous, no incident too tri­ vial if it provides a peg on which to hang a story which can disrupt our unity. At the same time the u-boat war is in­ tensified to bring us to our knees by cutt­ ing Britain and the scattered Allied armies from their sea-borne supplies. Now in this picture Tunisia fills a vital place. W ith an Army on each side of their two land fronts, dependent on a sea which they do not control for all their supplies, and hit from three sides-—Algeria, Tripoli, M alta—- from the air, the German’s position is nasty. And yet they go on reinforcing, sending more hostages to fortune in the shape of men, tanks and equipment, and giving air support at a time when all are badly want­ ed in Russia — and with the knowledge that to increase her stake here is probably to increase her final loss. T h e R e ason W h y is Germany doing this ? One reason, undoubtedly, is to protect South Europe from invasion and to give her time to prepare. No invasion is likely while Germany holds Tunisia. In my opinion, however, the over-riding reason is that the retention of Tunisia is an essential part in the u-boat campaign and the one element which makes it promise any success. So long as Tunisia is held the Mediterra- inean is virtually barred to our convoys. The sea route to the Middle East, India and Australia is so many thousand miles the longer, and the usefulness of our ships pro­ portionately the less. Furthermore, the dif­ ficulties of protection and the chances of successful u-boat attack are the greater. Therefore I believe that Germany will fight to the last man and the last minute to hold Tunisia. For Tunisia is the key to the whole of her u-boat campaign, which she regards as her one chance of victory. — 4 — - 5 -
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