The British Order of Battle for Operation Crusader 1941-42 WW2

The lack of a proper British tank doctrine
in the interwar period directly dictates the order of battle for Operation Crusader. Somehow,
this was the first major British victory against the Germans in WW2 – on land. And
it was the first time the British used a full army in North Africa. In the aftermath of
Operation Battleaxe, Wavell was gone, the Western Desert Force was renamed, and a new,
more formal structure was given to the British forces. Today we’re going to explore that
structure and find out why the British went into battle with a lopsided force. This is the British Order of Battle for Operation Crusader. We’ll start at the theatre level, with Commander-in-Chief
Sir Claude Auchinleck’s Middle East Command. The command centre itself was located at Cairo,
Egypt. However, Auchinleck finds himself practically running Crusader after the first week. So
this isn’t some out-of-touch general, hundreds of miles behind the lines. Auchinleck is a
central character. He spends the pre-battle period fighting against Churchill, who’s
constantly asking him to attack-attack-attack. He’s the one who comes up with the concept
for the Crusader plan, and he’s also at Eighth Army HQ after the first week of battle,
making several big decisions that directly impact the course of the battle. Auchinleck
has plenty of experience – fighting in the First World War, and had led the Operation
in Norway in 1940 (but wasn’t blamed for the failure, because it was doomed-to-fail
anyway). Prior to his appointment to the Middle East on the 2nd of July 1941, he had been
Commander-in-Chief in India, intervening decisively in Iraq in early 1941, to help Wavell out.
However, Auchinleck was an Indian Army officer, not a British officer, which meant he didn’t
know many of the officers and generals he was commanding in the Middle East. This leads
him to make some bad decisions, such as appointing generals who were really not up to the task.
He wasn’t a tank-man, as the Indian Army at that time didn’t have any tanks.
Since Crusader was designed to be a tank-battle, the British were effectively being led by
a general who didn’t understand tank-warfare. However, he wasn’t the only one. In charge of the newly established Eighth
Army was Lieutenant General Alan Cunningham. This was the hero of the East African Campaign,
where Cunningham had decisively defeated the Italians with just 4 brigades of infantry
under his command. And while his victory was swift, and his fame eclipsing O’Connor’s
more-impressive victory over the Italians during Operation Compass, Cunningham was also
completely out of his depth. During Crusader, he commanded an entire army, with two corps,
and tanks. Just like Auchinleck, Cunningham had never commanded tanks before, and new
very little about much modern technology, including the radio. In fact, he was the one
who decided to organise the army the way it ended up being – with the tanks separate to
the infantry element. He was also irritable, and showing signs of stress prior to the battle.
He was the one who decided which version of the Crusader plan he wanted to execute, and
that his version of the plan would engage the Germans in a decisive tank battle. So,
this is a guy who didn’t know anything about radios and tanks, leading his army into a
tank battle. Therefore Eighth Army was split into two corps, and
the tank element of that army was the newly formed 30th Corps, led Lieutenant General Willoughby
Norrie. This was the same 30th Corps which ended up going through the war and taking part in
the Sicilian Campaign, the Normandy Campaign, and Operation Market Garden. It didn’t have
the rampant boar insignia yet, but I’ve decided to use it anyway to make it stand
out from the other units. It’s first commander was actually Lieutenant General Vyvyan Pope
– a British army officer who had developed several ideas about tanks before the war.
Unfortunately he was also killed in an air crash in early October 1941. This meant that Norrie
took over barely a month before Crusader began, and Norrie was actually more of a cavalry guy.
Norrie was the guy in charge of 1st Armoured Division in England, but he didn’t have
a lot of experience commanding tanks, and had no experience fighting in the desert. By the way, this was the same Norrie who would become the Governor of Southern Australia, and later
the eighth Governor-General of New Zealand. The main thing to know about Norrie – except
the fact that I don’t have a good relevant portrait of him for the unit card – is that
he was highly critical of elements of the Crusader plan laid out by Cunningham. He cast
so many doubts on the plan, that Cunningham decided to accompany Norrie into the battle, just
in case some of the flaws proved to be true. And spoiler alert – yeah they turned out to
be right. 30 Corps had two divisions, and two independent
brigades under Norrie’s command. The first division was Gott’s 7th Armoured Division.
Major General William Gott, went by the nickname ‘Strafer’ – in previous videos I’ve
been calling him “stray-fer”, but it’s not, it’s actually pronounced “strarr-fer”,
after the German phrase “Gott strafe England” (God save England). Prior to Crusader, ‘Strafer’
Gott had commanded 7th Armoured Division’s Support Group (a mostly artillery unit, which
we’ll get to), taking part in Operation Compass, Operation Brevity (which he did command)
and Battlease. Therefore Gott was an artilleryman experienced in taking on German tanks with
artillery, so you’d think he’d put two-and-two together and have some idea on how to tackle
German tanks in the most-effective way – with artillery.
But no. This is probably the one guy who should have realised that tanks should not take on
tanks (which is what Rommel and other German commanders on the Eastern Front had already
concluded), and that the best way for the British-especially to take out German panzers
was with their anti-tank and artillery guns – especially their 25-pounder-artillery pieces,
which Gott had been in command of. And this is the problem with Gott. If you want to know
why the British couldn’t beat the Germans in the desert for the first period of the
war, Gott is the central character you need to study. Some people love him, and some people
hate him – either way, this guy is an mediocre commander, who gets promoted over and over
again, after failing over and over again, without ever really grasping the tactical aspects
needed to win this war. And he was now in charge of 7th Armoured Division going into
Operation Crusader – which was a tank battle. 7th Armoured Division has 3 Brigades and 3
regiments under its command. The first is Brigadier Davy’s 7th Armoured Brigade. The
brigade consists of 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, 6th Royal Tank Regiment, and 7th Queen’s
Own Hussars Tank Regiment. These are all equipped with various types of British cruiser tanks,
but mostly A-13 Covenanter tanks, and A-15 Crusader tanks. Also as part of Davy’s brigade
was the 4th Royal Horse Artillery Regiment (minus one battery), 4th Battery of the 1st
Light Anti-Aircraft Battalion, 3rd Troop of the 102nd Northumberland Hussars Anti-Tank
Royal Horse Artillery Regiment, and “A” Company of 2nd Battalion of The Rifle Brigade.
Starting with 141 tanks, 7th Armoured Brigade would be battered during Operation Crusader,
and actually withdrew to Egypt late in November, having given its remaining tanks (perhaps
as few as 10) to the other two brigades. The second brigade of 7th Armoured Division
was Brigadier Scott-Cockburn’s 22nd Armoured Brigade. This brigade was actually from 1st
Armoured Division, Norrie’s former division, which had been asked to join the Crusader
offensive but hadn’t actually arrived from the British Isles when the operation got under
way. This is why 22nd Armoured Brigade has a different logo – although in this case, teh logo is actually 22nd Armoured Brigade’s own logo, rather than 1st Armoured Division’s, which was
a charging rhino. This unit had 3 Yeomanry regiments armed with
155 Crusader tanks. It consisted of 2nd Royal Gloucester Horse Hussars Tank Regiment, 3rd
County of London Yeomanry Tank Regiment, 4th County of London Yeomanry Tank Regiment, C
Battery of the 4th Royal Horse Artillery Regiment, 2nd Troop of the 102nd Hussars Anti-Tank Regiment,
“B” Company of the 1st Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 3rd Battery of
1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battalion, and “M” Battery of 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment. 22nd Armoured
Brigade was the only armoured brigade from 7th Armoured Division to survive the battle,
but ended the battle, not with the Crusader tanks it started out with, but with American
built M3 light tanks. I’ll explain why in a bit. The third brigade in 7th Armoured Division
was Brigadier Jock Campbell’s 7th Support Group. This was the unit Gott had come from,
and it was basically a mixed infantry and artillery force. Jock Campbell is actually a very interesting figure, who had lead a Flying Column – which was a Battlegroup, or Kampfgruppe equivalent for the period – against the Germans. After his superb leadership of this Flying
Column, Flying Columns were then nicknamed “Jock Columns”, and the name stuck. Basically, these were
small independant mixed groups which were effective if used correctly, in raiding, scouting or
harassing missions. But they tended to disperse and dilute British strength during the battles.
So there is this argument on whether they were any good or not. Either way, Campbell
played a crucial and inspirational role during Operation Crusader, which earned him the Victoria
Cross. He really became a legendary figure in the desert war, who survived the battle,
but was killed in a car crash in late February 1942. Campbell’s Support Group consisted of Sydney
de Salis’s 1st Battalion of The King’s Royal Rifle Corps; 2nd Battalion, The Rifle
Brigade; 3rd Anti-Tank Royal Horse Artillery Regiment; 60th Field Regiment Royal Artillery;
and one Battery from 51st Field Regiment Royal Artillery. The 25-pounder artillery that this
unit used were the most effective weapon the British had against the German panzers, and
these would get into the thick of the action during Crusader. Also as part of 7th Armoured Division was
11th Hussars Recon Regiment, 1st Kings Dragoon Guards Recon Regiment, and the attached 6th
South African Armoured Car Regiment from 1st South African Division. All these were armed
with armoured cars – although I’m not certain, but I think they’re mostly Humber Armoured
Cars. These were armed with 2-pounder anti-tank guns (like all British armoured fighting vehicles
at the time) but were out-gunned and out-armoured by the German armoured car equivalents – although
they could still take them out. Therefore 7th Armoured Division was a tank-heavy
force, with only a small amount of infantry in its Support Group. When you compare this
tank-heavy formation to the German panzer divisions, you’ll find that the Germans actually
have a lot more infantry within their tank formations. And (I’ll come back to this
when we do the Axis units in Crusader) Rommel actually requests, not more tanks, but more infantry
to support his two panzer divisions in North Africa, because he understands that tanks
alone cannot win this war (as I’ve said in previous videos). For those of you looking
for proof that British armoured doctrine was not as advanced as the German doctrine, well here it is. I’ll come back to this later. The next division in 30 Corps was Major General
George Brink’s 1st South African Division. This was the main infantry element of the
corps. Brink had lead his division in East Africa under Cunningham, and had fought in
German East Africa in the First World War. Again, an infantry commander, not a tank man. 1st South African Division had two brigades,
the first being Brigadier Pienaar’s 1st South African Infantry Brigade. Pienaar is
a controversial figure, who would lead his brigade in a very unique way during Operation
Crusader. Somehow, despite his very . . . unusual performance, he would later go on to command
1st South African Division. I’ll say no more for now, and leave the drama for the
main Battlestorm Crusader video. 1st South African Infantry Brigade consisted
of 1st Duke of Edinburgh’s Rifle Battalion; 1st Royal Natal Carbineers Battalion; 1st
Transvaal Scottish Battalion; 4th Battery of 1st South African Anti-Tank Regiment; 3rd
Company of President Steyn’s Machine Gun Regiment. Pienaar’s 1st South African Brigade
would survive Operation Crusader, which isn’t surprising considering what Pienaar did. This was unlike Brigadier Bertram Frank Armstrong’s
5th South African Infantry Brigade, which was practically wiped out during the operation.
This is what prompted Pienaar to act the way he did during the remainder of the battle.
Armstrong had First World War experience, and had commanded it throughout the East African
Campaign. He and his staff would be taken prisoner during Crusader, but Armstrong survived
the war. Sadly I can’t find a photo of him. 5th South African Infantry Brigade consists
of 1st South African Irish Battalion; 2nd Botha Battalion; and 3rd Transvaal Scottish
Battalion. 5th South African Infantry Brigade would not survive Operation Crusader. The remaining units of the division were President
Steyn Machine Gun Regiment; B Company of Die Middlandse Machine Gun Regiment; 1st South
African Anti-Aircraft Regiment; 4th Field Artillery Regiment; 7th Field Artillery Regiment;
and 3rd South African Armoured Car Regiment. Oh, and the whole division is motorized. So those are the two divisions in 30 Corps,
but there were two independent brigades in there too. The first of which is Brigadier
Alexander Gatehouse’s 4th Armoured Brigade Group. The reason it gets the name “group”
is because it was 4th Armoured Brigade, plus some extra units on top of that, and was designated
flank support to the second corps in Eighth Army – even though it was part of 30 Corps.
Yeah, confusing. This brigade has 165 of the newly arrived US M3 light tanks. In-fact,
these were all the M3’s Eighth Army fielded at the time outside of Tobruk. I’ll just
point out now that, at least according to the Chieftain, the M3’s were never nicknamed
Stuarts by the US troops, or Honey’s by the British. So I’m just going to refer
to them as M3’s from now on. Alexander (or Alec) Gatehouse was a tank officer, and was
probably the most experienced tank-officer the British had in the desert. He had commanded
a battalion of tanks in World War 1, and had been an instructor at Sandhurst, and was Commandant
of the Mechanization Experimental Establishment at Farnborough between the years 1933 and
1937. He had a reputation of being a tank-specialist, but wasn’t really a theorist. He knew how
to command tanks, and understood tank warfare was different to cavalry warfare. Now, according
to the historian Barnett (who is somewhat biased), because of Gatehouse’s experience,
his brigade was lead in the German style. So basically it used its anti-tank guns with
the British tanks. It could be true, but I’ve no further evidence to back that claim up. So take it with a pinch (grain: US) of salt. 4th Armoured Brigade Group consisted of Lieutenant
Colonel H. D. Drew’s 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars Tank Regiment; 3rd Royal Tank
Regiment; 5th Royal Tank Regiment; 2nd Royal Horse Artillery Regiment; 102nd Northumberland
Hussars Anti-Tank Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (minus one battery); the 2nd Scots Guards
Infantry Battalion; and 122nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment. 4th Armoured Brigade would end up
giving most of its surviving M-3 tanks to 22nd Armoured Brigade and withdrew from the
battle in late December. The second independent brigade of 30th Corps
is Brigadier John Charles Oakes Marriott’s 22nd Guards Infantry Brigade. This brigade
was ordered to protect the supply dumps of 30 Corps, and thus didn’t really get involved
in the Crusader operation until the final stages of the Axis retreat. It consisted of 9th The
Rifle Brigade Battalion; 3rd Coldstream Guards Battalion; 51st Field Artillery Regiment;
12th Battery of 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment; and One Anti-Tank Company (but I’m not sure
which). So that is Norrie’s 30 Corps. Essentially,
this is a very tank-heavy force, with only three infantry brigades. And only two of these
(the South African Division) really take part in the battle. This means the main attacking
British corps – according to the plan – doesn’t really have a lot of infantry support, which
leads to problems. We’ll come back to why this happened and why it was a problem towards
the end of the video. The second corps in Eighth Army was Lieutenant
General Alfred Reade Godwin-Austin’s 13th Corps. This was the same Godwin-Austen who
had commanded British forces in Somaliland in 1940, and he’s another interesting figure.
Overwhelmed by large numbers, he had been forced to evacuate his small force, taking
260 casualties, but inflicting 2,052 casualties on the Italians. Wavell defended Godwin-Austen’s
evacuation and loss of East Africa, saying it was the correct thing to do under the circumstances.
Churchill was enraged, saying that the small casualties sustained by the British was evidence
that Godwin-Austen hadn’t put up a tough fight. This wasn’t true though, but Churchill
never forgave Godwin-Austen for this, and possibly not Wavell either. Godwin-Austen
would fight successfully in charge of a division in East Africa under Cunningham, and was brought
along when Cunningham moved to North Africa. Godwin-Austen would survive the battle, and
the war, but not Churchill’s wrath, which would come to haunt him in 1942. 13th Corps had two divisions at the time,
the first being Major General Freyberg’s 2nd New Zealand Division. Someone once asked
me why I always play the New Zealand National Anthem when I mention Freyberg. The reason
is because this guy wanted all New Zealand troops to be united under one command (his), rather
than be split up across different units like in the Long Range Desert Group, and he later
became the 7th Governor-General of New Zealand – and the first New Zealander to be appointed
the position. This is the same Freyberg who was in command of Crete during the battle,
ignoring Ultra intelligence saying he should expecting an airborne assault and instead prepared
for a naval landing. Freyberg’s division would end up playing a crucial and central
role during Operation Crusader, but suffers heavy casualties. Freyberg was enraged by
the actions of another officer, but I’ll wait until the battle video itself before
I give you the details. Freyberg and his division sulked back to Egypt in the closing stages
of the battle. It would survive and it would go on fighting in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Freyberg had three brigades under his command,
and the first was Brigadier Lindsay Inglis’ 4th New Zealand Infantry Brigade. This consisted
of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Peart’s 18th New Zealand Infantry Battalion; Lieutenant
Colonel Hartnell’s 19th New Zealand Infantry Battalion; and Lieutenant Colonel Howard Kippenberger’s 20th New Zealand Infantry Battalion. Kippenberger would go on to edit the New Zealand Official History of the Second World War, and while I don’t have any of the 51 book series,
you can tell it was better edited than the British official history because it at least
tells you the names of the unit commanders. Thanks Playfair for failing spectacularly
at this. The second brigade of Freyberg’s division
was Brigadier James Hargest’s 5th New Zealand Infantry Brigade. Hargest would be captured
during Crusader, and apparently refused to salute Rommel. He escaped captivity in 1943,
but was killed by artillery in 1944. His brigade consisted of Lieutenant Colonel Harding’s
21st New Zealand Infantry Battalion; Lieutenant Colonel Leslie Andrew’s 22nd New Zealand
Infantry Battalion; and Lieutenant Colonel Romans’ 23rd New Zealand Infantry Battalion. The final brigade of the 2nd New Zealand Division
was Brigadier Barrowclough’s 6th New Zealand Infantry Brigade. With First World War experience,
Barrowclough was a lawyer between the wars, becoming a partner in a law firm. After Crusader,
Barrowclough would command 3rd New Zealand Division in the Pacific Theatre, but was discharged
from the military in 1945, eventually becoming Chief Justice of New Zealand and being knighted
by Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. His brigade consisted of Lieutenant Colonel Clayden Shuttleworth’s
24th New Zealand Infantry Battalion; Lieutenant Colonel Burton’s 25th New Zealand Infantry
Battalion; and Lieutenant Colonel Satterthwaite’s 26th New Zealand Infantry Battalion. In addition to the three infantry brigades,
Freyberg’s division also had Lieutenant Colonel Gwilliam’s 27th New Zealand Machine-Gun
Battalion; Lieutenant Colonel G. Dittmer’s 28th Maori Battalion; 4th Field Artillery
Regiment; 5th Field Artillery Regiment; 6th Field Artillery Regiment; a New Zealand Engineer
Battalion; 7th Anti-Tank Regiment; and 14th Light AA Regiment. I’ve decided to use the
Maori flag for the Maori regiment just to give it some distinction, even though the
flag itself wasn’t designed until 1990. But it’s a cool flag. The second division in 13th Corps was General
Frank Messervy’s 4th “Red Eagle” Indian Division. A cavalryman in the Middle East
during the First World War, Colonel Messervy had commanded troops in East Africa in 1941,
but was soon promoted to Brigadier and commanded 9th Indian Infantry Brigade of 5th Indian
Division during the Battle of Keren in early 1941. Having only been Brigadier for a just
a few weeks, Messervy was given command of 4th Indian Division. His cavalry background
was seen as good enough to put him in charge of 1st Armoured Division at Gazala, but was
soon dismissed and sent to India, where he would be immediately recalled and put in command
of 7th Armoured Division. He was then sacked after failing “disastrously” as a tank
commander. He would then command 7th Indian Division in the Burma campaign, playing a
central role there. Messervy’s 4th Indian Division has three
brigades, the first of which was Brigadier Dudley ‘Pasha’ Russell’s 5th Indian
Infantry Brigade. This consists of three battalions – 1st Battalion of The Buffs Regiment; 3rd
Battalion of 1st Punjab Regiment; and 4th Battalion of 6th Rajputana Rifles. Brigadier
Dudley Russell, or ‘Pasha’ as he was called, had fought in the first world war, fighting
in Palestine. He fought in East Africa in 1941, and helped negotiate the surrender of
the Duke of Aosta. Russell would go on to command 8th Indian Division in Iraq and then
Italy, and after the war, 5th Indian Division as well, before retiring with his American-born
wife to the Bahamas. The next brigade in 4th Indian Division is
Brigadier Harold Briggs’ 7th Indian Infantry Brigade. This consisted of 1st Battalion of
Royal Sussex Regiment; 4th Battalion of 11th Sikh Regiment; and 4th Battalion of 16th Punjab
Regiment. Born in England, Briggs was drafted into the Indian army in 1914, and fought in
Mesopotamia and Palestine. Briggs, or ‘Briggo’ as he was known, would go on to command 5th
Indian Division at Gazala, which is why he and his division ended up back in India, having
been seen as failures. Briggs would then fight in Burma during the Arakan Campaign of 1944
and 45. He later retired to Cyprus, although he gave support to some counter-terrorist
operations going on there. The last brigade is Brigadier Andrew Anderson’s
11th Indian Infantry Brigade. This consists of 1st Battalion of 6th Rajputana Rifles;
2nd Battalion of Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders; and 2nd Battalion of 5th Mahratta Light Infantry.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any information on Anderson at all. The other elements attached to the division
were an Indian Engineers Battalion (not sure which); 65th Anti-Tank Regiment; 57th Light
Anti-Aircraft Regiment; 1st Royal Artillery Regiment; 25th Royal Artillery Regiment; 31st
Royal Artillery Regiment; Central India Horse Battalion; and 2nd New Zealand Cavalry Regiment
(which was a small tank force from from Freyberg’s division). This last bit is interesting when
you consider Freyberg wanted all New Zealand units to fight together, and was complaining
over and over during the planning stages of Crusader for tank support to be given to the
infantry element – 13th Corps. Yet here was his tank element being taken from him and
given to the 4th Indian Division. It’s probably just coincidence, but I like to imagine this
was done on purpose. 4th Indian Division had taken part in Operation
Compass in 1940 to 41, so the previous winter. But at the time it had been under
the command of Major-General Noel Beresford-Peirse, who had later gone on to command the whole
of the Western Desert Force. So it was a very experienced division, but had a new commander
who had been hastily promoted two ranks in the previous couple months. Therefore, would
Messervy’s 4th Indian Division perform as well during Crusader as it had under Compass? So, those were the two divisions of 13th Corps,
but there were several other units attached to it. The first was Brigadier Watkins’
1st Army Tank Brigade. This unit was equipped with 132 infantry-tanks, which were slower
and thicker-armoured tanks compared to the faster cruisers. Roughly half of these tanks
were Matilda Mark II’s, with the other half being the newer Valentine tanks. The Matilda’s
were heavily armoured, and seemingly impervious to Italian artillery, but super slow, and
were easily defeated by the German 88mm guns. The Valentines were originally designed to
be cruiser tanks, so were faster than Matildas, but slower than normal cruisers, and not as
heavily armoured as Matildas either. So Valentines ended up not really being suited to either
the infantry, nor cruiser roles. Either way, Watkin’s brigade would support the infantry
as they advanced on Axis forces along the coast. 1st Army Tank Brigade consisted of
8th Royal Tank Regiment, armed with both Matildas and Valentines; 42nd Royal Tank Regiment armed
entirely armed with Matildas; and 44th Royal Tank Regiment armed with both Matildas and
Valentines. The other units attached to 13th Corps were
7th Medium Artillery Regiment; 8th Medium Artillery Regiment; 64th Medium Artillery
Regiment; 86th Medium Artillery Regiment; 65th Norfolk Yeomanry Anti-Tank Regiment;
and 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment. 13th Corps would play a vital role in the Crusader battle,
and without this corps, it’s doubtful victory could have been achieved at all. So these are the two corps of Eighth Army,
but there were also several other units that took part in Crusader. The first was Major
General Ronald Mackenzie Scobie’s British 70th Infantry Division, which was actually
the Tobruk Garrison. It had replaced most of Morshead’s 9th Australian Division, although
some of that division still inhabited Tobruk. Scobie was the son of an Indian Civil Servant,
and fought with the Royal Engineers from 1914, getting wounded twice in the First World War. He was actually Deputy Director of Mobilization at the War Office when war broke out. Scobie ended up as British
commander in Greece in September 1944, where he played an active role in the pre-Greek
Civil War era, although it really was the beginning of the Civil War in Greece itself. At Tobruk
Scobie expected Rommel to attack – and indeed, Rommel was planning to attack Tobruk on the
20th of November. But Scobie was also ordered to plan to break out during Crusader, which
began on the 18th of November. If all went well, he would join with advancing British
forces from Egypt. Scobie’s division consisted of three brigades,
the first of which was Brigadier Chappel’s 14th Infantry Brigade. Chappel had three battalions
– the 1st Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Battalion; 2nd Black Watch Battalion; and 2nd York & Lancaster
Battalion. He also had the 2nd Company of 15th Australian Battalion, which hadn’t
been evacuated from Tobruk along with the rest of the Australian 9th Division. Chappel
also had one company from 56th Anti-Tank Regiment (but I’m not sure which one it was). The second brigade was Brigadier Lomax’s
16th Infantry Brigade. Lomax would go on to to command the 26th Indian Infantry Division,
and briefly the 14th Indian Division, fighting around Arakan against the Japanese. His brigade
at Tobruk consisted of the 2nd King’s Own Battalion; 2nd Leicestershire Battalion; and 4th
Queen’s Royal Battalion; a portion of 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers Battalion (which
I assume means a company); and one company from 56th Anti-Tank Regiment, but again, I
don’t know which one. The final brigade of Scobie’s division was
Brigadier Cox’s 23rd Infantry Brigade. This consisted of 1st Durham Light Infantry Battalion;
Lieutenant-Colonel Nichols 1st Essex Battalion; 4th Border Battalion; a portion of 1st Royal
Northumberland Fusiliers Battalion (again, probably a company); 2nd Company of the 13th
Australian Infantry Battalion (which again, hadn’t been evacuated either); and a company from
56th Anti-Tank Regiment. And the other units of Scobie’s division were
– one Royal Engineer Battalion of unknown designation; 144th Field Artillery Regiment;
1st Royal Horse Artillery Regiment; 104th Royal Horse Artillery Regiment; 107th Royal
Horse Artillery Regiment; 69th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment; and the King’s Dragoon Guards
Recon Regiment. But Scobie wasn’t just a divisional commander.
He was also the commander of the whole of the Tobruk garrison. So, he had his division
to command, but he also had two attached brigades as well, which didn’t fit into his division,
but he was still in command of. The first was Major General Stanisław Kopański’s
Polish 1st Carpathian Brigade. This has 6,116 men, but they weren’t all Polish, as you’re
about to find out. Kopański would rise to command the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division, and eventually
become Chief of Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. After
the war, Polish forces were redesignated the “Polish Resettlement Corps”, and Kopański
had to find work and homes for the Polish veterans unwilling to go back to Communist-occupied
Poland. He himself remained as part of the Polish-government in exile until he died in
1976. His brigade consisted of the 1st Carpathian
Battalion; 2nd Carpathian Battalion; 3rd Carpathian Battalion; Carpathian Machine Gun Battalion;
Carpathian Field Artillery Regiment; Carpathian Anti-Tank Regiment; Carpathian Engineer Company;
and the 11th Czech Infantry Battalion. Yes, a Czech battalion. British forces really were
an international force, with Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Poles, Czechs, South
Africans – and this isn’t including the British themselves, which had English, Scots,
Welsh, Irish, as well as elements from all over the empire. And we’ve already seen Free French forces fighting with the British in previous battles of the North African Campaign, although not as part of Operation Crusader. But this really was a Crusade of multiple different nationalities. I don’t know why,
but I wanted to point that out. I just find that really interesting how all these people
could work together for a common cause. The other brigade Scobie had attached was
Brigadier Willison’s 32nd Tank Brigade. This had 32 cruisers, 25 M3’s, and 69 Matildas
at the start of the battle. It consisted of 1st Royal Tank Regiment, equipped with the
old A-10 cruisers; Lieutenant Colonel Walter O’Carroll’s 4th Royal Tank Regiment, armed
with Matildas; and D Squadron of 7th Royal Tank Regiment, with 3 Matildas. This then,
is Scobie’s Tobruk Garrison. As part of Eighth Army, there was also Brigadier
Reid’s “Oasis Force”, which was a diversionary force designed to strike into the desert flank
through Jalo towards the coast. It was under command of Brigadier Reid, who was in charge
of 29th Indian Infantry Brigade Group. This consisted of the 1st Worcester Battalion;
6th Company of the 13th Frontier Force Battalion; 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Punjab Regiment;
2nd Field Artillery Regiment; 60th Field Artillery Regiment; 7th Medium Artillery Regiment; C
Battery of 73rd Anti-Tank Regiment; 1st Light Anti-Air Regiment; 6th Light Anti-Air Regiment;
Brigadier Cooper’s 6th South African Armoured Car Regiment; and 7th South African Recce
Regiment. A Scotsman who’d fought in the First World War, Reid had moved to the Indian
Army between the wars, and had fought in East Africa. After been captured in 1942, he escaped
Italian prison in 1943, and became commander of 10th Indian Division, and was actually
wounded in combat in 1944. His brigade group would try and distract Rommel’s attention
from the main action to the north, but ultimately would fail to do so. Eighth Army also had 2nd South African Division
in reserve, commanded by Major General Villiers. This consisted of three brigades, the first
was Brigadier Borain’s 3rd South African Infantry Brigade. This had the 1st Imperial
Light Horse Battalion; 1st Royal Durban Light Infantry Battalion; and the 1st Rand Light
Infantry Battalion as part of the brigade. Borain would be blown up in a minefield in
January 1942, but by some miracle, he was saved by the medics, and spent the rest of
his life in and out of hospital due to his injuries. The next was Brigadier Hayton 4th South African
Infantry Brigade, with the Umvoti Mounted Rifles Battalion; 2nd Royal Durban Light Infantry
Battalion; and the Kaffrarian Rifles Battalion. The final brigade was Brigadier Cooper’s
6th South African Infantry Brigade. This consisted of the 2nd Transvaal Scottish Battalion; 1st
South African Police Battalion; and the 2nd South African Police Battalion. The other units of 2nd Division were Die Middlande
Machine Gun Regiment; a unit of South African Engineers; 2nd South African Light Anti-Aircraft
Regiment; 1st Field Artillery Regiment; 2nd Field Artillery Regiment; 5th Field Artillery
Regiment; 2nd South African Anti-Tank Regiment; and 7th South African Armoured Recce Regiment.
This division would take Bardia during Crusader, but would be trapped and mostly wiped out
when Tobruk fell in 1942, and was thus disbanded. There were a few more units as part of Eighth
Army’s initial order of battle. These were the Long Range Desert Group (a small but successful
raiding force); 10th New Zealand Railway Construction Company; 13th New Zealand Railway Construction
Company; and the 4th South African Armoured Car Regiment. There were also more units arriving in early
December as reinforcements. Elements of Lumsden’s 1st Armoured Division, including 12th Lancers
Regiment (with armoured cars), and 2nd Armoured Brigade (with 60 M3’s and 106 Crusader tanks).
The Royal Dragoons (with armoured Cars). 38th Indian Infantry Brigade. 150th Infantry Brigade.
And 50th Divisional Reconnaissance Battalion, all arriving in early December. Reinforcements arriving in mid December, mostly
to take out Bardia and Axis frontier garrisons, included – The New Zealand Divisional Cavalry
Regiment, equipped with light tanks and Bren carriers. The 67th Medium Royal Artillery
Regiment. The 68th Medium Royal Artillery Regiment. 211th Medium Royal Artillery Battery.
The 7th South African Field Royal Artillery Regiment. And 1st Carpathian Field Artillery
Regiment. And so, this is the British Crusader Order
of Battle. Note though that there’s definitely a split between the tank and infantry elements,
with barely any infantry in with 30 Corps. This would have a massive impact on the battle,
resulting in heavy tank losses for the British. And you might be asking yourself – why did
the British split their tanks from their infantry? Why would they handicap themselves like this? Well, it was because British armoured warfare
between the wars hadn’t really been fleshed out. The main proponent of British armoured
doctrine was Major General Sir Percy Hobart, the guy who’s writings inspired Heinz Guderian,
and the same Hobart who would later go on to create the “funnies” tanks. Hobart
had actually created 7th Armoured Division – it was his brain child – but Hobart was
an eccentric character who believed that tanks could win battles all by themselves. With British
doctrine split between the infantry, cavalry and then the emerging armoured forces, it
seems Hobart was trying to show that tanks were important on the modern battlefield,
and that they didn’t need any other support. But what this meant was that, when Cunningham
arrived and started to organise his forces for Operation Crusader, not having any tank-background,
he looked to Hobart for advice. So with Hobart’s ideas, Cunningham decided to split his force
into two corps, one with mostly infantry and one with mostly tanks. This causes so many
issues during the battle as well as in the planning stages, and it’s because the British
as a whole had neglected tank warfare in the interwar period, and hadn’t hammered out
a sufficient combined-arms doctrine. And now, they were having to do this while fighting
the Germans, specifically Rommel, armed with panzer divisions which had large infantry
elements as part of them. There are many reasons for this neglect in doctrine. To list a few
– you have interservice rivalries between the infantry, artillery, cavalry and tank
units. You have a regiment system that reduced innovation. You also have an army officer
corps dominated by the upper-class, who favoured cavalry – at least up until Blitzkrieg proved
itself. But the point is this, the British were going into Operation Crusader with a
lopsided force – similar in some ways to the Soviet tank-heavy Mechanized corps at the
Battle of Dubno in 1941 (the biggest tank battle of the war). Considering that Crusader
was designed to be fought as a purely tank vs tank engagement, with an infantry follow-up,
the whole plan was based on a flawed and immature concept that tanks could and should engage
enemy tanks alone. As the Germans, and Rommel, had already learned, this was not the purpose
of tanks. Tanks on their own, with little infantry support, is a bad idea. And the British
were going into Crusader with a serious flaw in their order of battle, as you will find
out in the main Battlestorm Operation Crusader video, coming soon. Over the next few weeks I’m going to be
concentrating on videos related to Operation Crusader. I must have somewhere in the region
of 30 or 40 books on this topic now, and it’s all thanks to the support of my Patreons,
who’ve allowed me to amass them. In two weeks time, we’ll look at the Axis order
of battle for Crusader, after I’ve done a much needed video on Kamfgruppen next week.
Crusader will probably be the biggest Battlestorm Documentary I’ve made so far, and it will
be full of nitty-gritty details. These details come from the books, and I need more of these books for all the battles I’ll be covering in the future. Please consider supporting me on Patreon and
make these videos as good as they can be. You’ll find the link to my Patreon page in the
video description, and the sources I’ve used for this video in the pinned comment
in the comment section below. Thanks for watching, thanks for supporting, bye for now.