O'Connor of Alamein?

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O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CCB » Sat Jul 14, 2007 1:40 am

What if Richard O'Connor had escaped capture in April 1941 and was commanding 8th Army at the onset of Operation Venezia. Would the Panzerarmee chased the 8th all the way back to Alamein?
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CSO_Talorgan » Sun Jul 15, 2007 12:44 pm

Now there's a damn good question!

Didn't O'Connor grasp modern (then) mobile tactics in a way that no other British commander (with the possible exception of Slim) did?
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby sample » Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:52 pm

At first, i don't think he would place his troops in "boxes": the italians were deployed in the same manner at the start of Operation Compass and proved easy prey; also he would anticipate the large southern manouver made by
the Afrika Korps, the Italian XX Motorized Corps, and the German 90th Light Afrika Division as he did with the Combe Force and the subsequent battle of Beda Fomm
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby JimRM2 » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:27 pm

CSO_Talorgan wrote:Now there's a damn good question!

Didn't O'Connor grasp modern (then) mobile tactics in a way that no other British commander (with the possible exception of Slim) did?


Yes he did. One of his relatives who used to frequent the CSO forums and play CC (not sure if he's around anymore) had some anecdotes about all that, that suggested he was quite the maverick and rather disliked for his tendency to standout and not follow the "party line" as it were. It really served him and the Brits well. They should've listened to him more. Quite ahead of his time.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CSO_Talorgan » Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:37 pm

... But that's the trouble with mavericks in whatever field. Nobody wants their nice, comfortable careerist boat rocked.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby JimRM2 » Wed Jul 30, 2008 4:57 pm

True. And tough to see that line between subjectivity and objectivity, fact and fiction. There was a quote I'd heard a while back. Something like The fine line between insanity and genius is success.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby flamethrower » Wed Jul 30, 2008 11:59 pm

JimRM2 wrote: The fine line between insanity and genius is success.


sounds like you might have direct experience with that Jimbo... (I'm cheating - I know you do)
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CSO_Talorgan » Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:03 am

JimRM2 wrote:The fine line between insanity and genius is success.


This is good.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby JimRM2 » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:50 pm

flamethrower wrote:sounds like you might have direct experience with that Jimbo... (I'm cheating - I know you do)


I found the oringal quote. I had it slightly off. sorry.

"The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success."
— Bruce Feirstein


In the process I found another one that more fits your reply FT. "I don't suffer from insanity, I enjoy it." Couldn't find the author.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby sample » Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:44 pm

This could be a side note but recently i've read some materials about British tanks deployed, the tactics used and the organisation of armoured units; it appear that the main problem was not the aparent poor quality of British tanks or the infantry/cruiser tank concept; i will refer at first to Operation 'Crusader' wich aimed to relief the Tobruk besieged garison; time and again the tanks of 7th armoured division, the desert rats, attack without infantry, artillery and air support axis positions losing many tanks in proces [the main battle tank was 15 crusader with a decent AT gun compared with the early models of panzer mk III]; this division was too tank heavy: 6 tanks regiments and only 2 motor batalions compared to the german counterparts - 2 tank batalions and 4 motorised/mechanised batalions in each panzer division.
In 1944 during Operation 'Goodwood', British armour, constrained by the terrain behind the start line, committed the same error that had characterized it in the desert. Individual tank battalions fought unsupported and in succession, rather than fighting together as part of all-arms battlegroups. Here are conflicting reports: Dempsey directed his Corps Commander (including O'Connor) to move the tanks ahead, leaving behind everything else including the infantry, engineers, artillery etc until all the tanks were across. Others blame O'Connor for this decision but the result was predictable: unsupported tank units could not easily root out dug-in towed guns, although a combined-arms team of tanks, infantry and self-propelled artillery might have had much better luck.
Only after this failure Maj.Gen. 'Pip' Roberts, commander of 11th armoured reorganised his unit in battlegroups with one tank batalion with one infantry batalion (also the guard armoured division was reorganised in the same manner - the Irish battlegoup was to lead the XXX Corps during the Operation Market Garden) and the results of this during subsequent battles and liberation of belgium proved that this was the most effectiv way to deploy tanks.

Back in the desert, a more balanced organisation, two tank regiments with 2 motor batalions per brigade (at that time the Eitgh Army had more than enought manpower and tanks to do so) with proper artilery support would have been decisive in Operation 'Crusader' or battles for Gazala line.

I apologize for possible errors regarding grammar or spelling, however English is not my native language.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby schrecken » Thu Aug 14, 2008 9:13 pm

You would think that after four years of fighting the obvious advantages of combined arms organization would have become apparent to the British.

Only that by the time of "Goodwood" they were fast running out of men to fill the infantry role... hence the deployment of the over abundant tanks in the assault role.


The early war penchant of the British to seperate tanks into cruiser/infantry/support classes was finally dropped when they learned the hard lesson you never have the right piece of equipment available at the required place when it's needed..... oh and those 2pdr guns with no HE available..must have been like driving around in a coffin.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby JimRM2 » Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:09 pm

Sample what you're saying is correct from what I've read and as Schrecken pointed out there were good reasons behind the utilized organization. The infantry ranks were growing thin. However the role of the tank was still considered by the stodgy leadership contingent as that of WWI. Slow and plodding. O'Conners philosophy, which over time proved accurate, was more of how armor is used today, as Talorgan pointed out.

I suppose we need to consider the realities of how conversations like that go. Not sure if you guys do this but when I view history I tend to view it with a filter that somehow people were different and thought
differently. So much so it's almost difficult to know really what they were thinking. Recently I've revised that and have forced myself to look at history as if it was no different than today except for the technology and trappings. I don't know if it is the way we're taught in school or the emphasis that is given to focusing on the differences in beliefs, clothing, manner of speaking, etc.. It emphasizes the differences making history seem that much more removed from how things are today. But for some reason I keep coming back to the thought and hunch that I'll bet the tone isn't much different than it is today. People are still people.

Why am I rambling on about this? Point being when we consider what the conversations were like, about topics like the one we're discussing, I feel it's important to realize it's not much different than conversations we have about problem solving today. People in the group divide into camps in the same way, the political maneuvering is the same not to mention the non-competitive interaction such as practical application of logic, determining the best way to organize and use resources, etc.

So I'm certain they argued endlessly about how to apply the limited resources they had. The lack of infantry was likely a large part of the conversation not to mention transportation for that infantry. Which is
likely why the "old guard" held on to their outmoded way of thinking on armored tactics. Perhaps it was a lack of willingness to take risks on untried or hotly debated concepts especially where lives and precious resources were concerned. Being a designer and artist I tend to look at things in a solution oriented way rather than let fear get the better of me. Not enough men? No transportation to do lightning armor strikes? Find a way! Put them on the tanks and jump off at the front lines. Ya know? Riskier but it allows me to think outside the proverbial box and find solutions otherwise thought as too risky or wreckless. When they work they're groundbreaking. I tend to think O'Conner was more of that ilk. Perhaps not as much as someone like myself but when held up next to someone from the British WWII leadership it was likely a stark contrast. Which IMO is more a testament to the man O'Conner was.

Not trying to take away from any achievements of his contemporaries or belittle their service or contribution or use too broad a brush. There were folks across the board of all manner of opinion, performance, etc.. Can't blame them for making decisions based on preventing loss of lives. However, in the culture of "not rocking the boat" you could possibly consider that somewhat neglegent and putting personal career before performing the job properly. I think there have been many accounts pointing this out. Books and movies.

Not sure how right I am about all this. Just kinda thinking out loud.
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CSO_Talorgan » Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:10 am

The retrospectoscope is a very powerful instrument and we have to take our hats off to the guys who did it all for the first time, who found out which tactics worked. They did not have computer simulations to try things out on, nor our knowledge.

Think too of "tactics" in your own life or profession. We will all be experts in some technical aspect which five or ten years ago still had to be figured out.

On the other hand, Britain underwent a social revolution in ~ the '60s. The Army became much more professional at around the same time. Were the two linked; and would the top brass of, say, 1982 have fared any better if they had been somehow sent back to the Western Desert?
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby JimRM2 » Wed Aug 20, 2008 5:17 pm

Or also called "Monday morning quarter backing" right? ;D Good points!
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Re: O'Connor of Alamein?

Postby CSO_Talorgan » Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:12 pm

JimRM2 wrote:Or also called "Monday morning quarter backing" right?


I think so.
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