The War Illustrated No 139 Vol 6 October 16th 1942

ROMMEL’S BACK-DOOR—Axis bases and ports in Libya—have been vigorously attacked by the R.A.F. of late weeks. Our bombers brilli­antly backed up the daring attack on the Italian outpost of Gialo made by raiding columns of the 8th BArmy. y courtesy oj I'he Daily Express cast ol' Leningrad, at Rzhev and to some extent at Voronezh, maybe greatly extended. EGYPT The lull on the El Alamein front, after the defeat of Rom- mel's offensive, continued urftil another full moon excited expectations of operations on a larger scale than patrol activities and artillery exchanges. The lull was, however, to some extent broken by the combined raid on Tobruk on Sept. 13-14 which, though expensive, must have seriously damaged Rom m el’s supply organization, for Tobruk had become his main base. The raid simultaneously carried out on Benghazi and Barce by a force that had started from Kufra oasis must, if not equally damaging, have been even more disconcerting. K A raid by a land force 500 miles behind his front is a trouble no general is likely to consider a serious possibility. Now that it has occurred it will probably lead to further dispersion of Rommel's forces, both land and air. The great length of his com­munications must in any case have necessi­tated considerable dispersion of his fighting aircraft on protective duties, but now as well he will probably have to employ greater numbers of machines on somewhat wasteful reconnaissance patrols. The raid on the Gialo oasis will not, presumably, affect the communications of Rommel's main forces, but it may have upset his plans if he con­templated an attempt to recover Kufra. Both the Tobruk and Benghazi raids are a welcome indication of the offensive spirit at Middle East H.Q., although they were mainly harassing operations. FAR EAST The landing of small o contingents, evidently intended to reinforce parties which had taken refuge in the hills, was followed by a larger scale Japanese attempt to recapture the Guadalcanal aerodrome. The attempt was defeated, but if it had succeeded it would probably have provided an opportunity for a still heavier counter- stroke. The appearance of a strong Japanese naval force, and its retreat when attacked from the air, is not easy to explain but it seems probably that it was in the neighbour­ hood ready to take action if the recapture of the aerodrome had been effected, thereby depriving the Americans.of a near-by shore- based umbrella. As it was, failure to capture the aerodrome may have made the Japanese unwilling to take risks with their fighting ships. Japan has lost the temporary liberty of action she secured at Pearl Harbour, and I believe her strateey henceforth will be mainly defensive, aim­ing at maintaining possession of territory she has secured. For that object her fleet must be kept in being, but ready to accept action only under con­ditions when she pos­sesses a superior shore- based umbrella. Such offensive operations as she may now under­take will have mainly a defensive purpose and will be carried out by her army and air force without involving risks to her navy. Her operations in Chekiang had that character, and if, despite renewed as­surances of neutrality, she attacked Russia, it would be so as to gain greater security against air attack. Attacks on Australia or India, on the other hand, could not be undertaken without exposing her navy to great risks. Her attempt to take Port Moresby is, I believe, with a view to closing the Torres Straits to Allied counter-offensive operations, and not a step towards invasion of Australia. The attempt on Port Moresby has been checked for a time at least. The old theory that mountain passes are best defended at their exits .has been proved still valid. At the exits the defence has better communica­tions and greater freedom of manoeuvre, while the attacker is still cramped by the moun­tains. The New Guinea jungle may prevent the advantages thus possessed by the defence being fully exploited, and it would be unsafe to assume that air action will prevent, though it may slowdown, the deployment of Japanese forces strong enough to test the defence seriously. There does-not, however, seem to be much cause for anxiety. MADAGASCAR There is little to be said about the Madagascar operations beyond that they were admirably planned and executed. Antananarivo, the capital, was entered by British troops on Sept 23, and the situ­ation was reported to be quiet. M. Annet, the Vichy France governor-general, fled into the interior with a view to maintaining resistance, but it is to be hoped that the French will now accept the terms offered. WAR AT SEA The successful pas-¦•¦¦ sage of the North­ern convoys was a wonderful feat, and furnishes fresh proof that even the most vulnerable targets under the most unfavour­ able circumstances can be given a lartw- measure of protection by the Navy and the Fleet Air Arm. The latter has now evidently aircraft of a quality up to requirements. The menace of the U-boat still remains, and however much it maybe reduced it will remain so long as the Germans can find crews to face the desperate risks entailed. IN MAJUNGA, the important port on Madagascar’s west coast, which capitulated to our forces after little opposition on Sept. 10. British officers are seen chatting with the wounded commander of the Vichy garrison, after the civil and military authorities had arranged the surrender of the place. PAGE 259 Photo, British Official: Croun Copyright ADVANCING INTO ACTION for the first time, these men of a famous English County regiment are moving past the wrecked and burning hulks of enemy tanks during a fierce engagement in the Western Desert. inFighting the barren wastes of Egypt, our troops have adapted them­selves magnificently to the difficult conditions prevailing. Photo, British Official: Crown Copyright
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