If after reading some books, surfing a few blogs and pondering a little I were asked to sum up the North African Campaign [CNA] during WWII, it would be thus:
“The CNA was a extended conflict conducted in relative isolation, yet impacted by geopolitical concerns of neighbouring and far flung areas, leapfrogging armaments capabilities, rotating force mixes, disparate leadership capabilities, changing tactics, complex logistics over vast geographies and all conducted surrounded by seas on all sides.”
By Seas I mean on one side a Sea of Sand on the other the Mediterranean. These Seas posed massive problems for which in the end the immutable nature of those very seas won out over mans will.
But what really happened? The CNA is complex and comprised of a series of operations with dashing names such as Lightfoot, Supercharge, and Compass. Of battles with exotic names such as Tobruk, Alamein and Beda Fomm. When we look at the 28 months of fighting there are enormous periods of inactivity too. These periods are induced by weather, sheer scale and the need for time to accumulate supply, men and tanks to do the bidding of the Generals.
Much has been written about the see saw nature of the entire campaign. Large swathes of land captured, resulting in over extended lines of communication. Able Generals then counter attack and roll up hard won gains in days or weeks. They too are then over whelmed by the tyranny of distance.
Many battles involved mis-matched sides. Always nice to be on the winning side of that equation, but not so much for the vanquished. In some battles a perfect storm of bad luck, inferior equipment, weak leadership and poor tactics caused massive losses to both sides.
Chronologically it seems that the Italian dream of rebuilding empire via the re establishment and expansion of territories in Africa to replicate the season of victory as in the 2nd Punic War lacked clear rational thinking, economic wherewithal and suitable armament but had no shortage of espirit de corps.
Italy at this stage had hitched its donkey led wagon to Hitlers Shützenpanzerwagen. While British and Commonwealth weaponry were lacking the punch of the German’s current technology of late 1940, the Italians were even further behind.
The war out of context makes little sense however. In the next post we will examine the Regional and Geopolitical aspects to place a framework around what happened and hopefully why. Plus how this relates to DAK2..I still struggle with that!