Book Review: Memoirs of the Second World War (Part 3)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Germans made plans for the invasion of Britain.  These plans were called "Operation Sea Lion;" however, due to difficulties, they were forced to postpone these plans indefinitely.  
The most decisive "difficulty" for the Germans was their failure to win the Battle of Britain. This battle raged from July 10th through October.  British convoys were harried, aerodrome installations were attacked, and London and centers of industrial production were indiscriminately bombed (from September 7th to November 3rd an average of 200 German bombers attacked London every night).  There were fires throughout London; homes, businesses, and even the House of Commons did not escape the unceasing bombing.  However, Goering made the mistake of switching from one target to the next, granting the first target relief just when it was needed most.  The Royal Air Force fought well and defended their homeland.  The British made small raids on Berlin in retaliation.  

The United States continued to help Great Britain with arms supplies.  But Britain faced a problem, how was she to pay for so many weapons?  The United States started the Lend-Lease policy.  As Churchill said, "There was no provision for repayment...What we had was lent or leased to us because our continued resistance to the Hitler tyranny was deemed to be of vital interest to the great Republic."

In North Africa, the over 300,000 Italians were preparing to attack Egypt.  As soon as war was declared, the British attacked Italian frontier posts and did well in many small, sharp encounters. On September 13, the Italian invasion began.  They invaded in a remarkable parade, and the British gave a fighting withdrawal, taking a heavy toll on the Italians who stopped their advance at Sidi Barrani and settled there for 3 months.

On December 6th, the British army started their advance, and on the 9th, the Battle of Sidi Barrani began.  By 10 o'clock on the 10th, a battalion headquarters reported that it was impossible to count prisoners on account of numbers, but "there were about 5 acres of officers, and 200 acres of other ranks."  Sidi Barrani was recaptured that afternoon and by December 15th, all enemy troops had been driven out of Egypt.  Next, Bardia was taken, then Tobruk.  The Desert Army in 6 weeks had advanced 200 miles and taken 2 seaports, 113,000 POWS, and more than 700 guns.  The great Italian army in North Africa now scarcely existed.  

The Battle of the Atlantic began, and U-boats boded a deadly peril to Great Britain, biting at her lifeline of supplies across the Atlantic.  Ships had to travel in convoys and had to be protected by an escort, but still, losses were great until effective means were developed for fighting the U-boats.

Yugoslavia and Greece fell in spite of Britain's efforts.

And then Rommel was appointed in early 1941 to command German troops sent to Libya.
Rommel believed in the offensive.  The Italians tried to hold him back, but he would not listen to them.  Rommel attacked and took Agheila and then Benghazi.  His attack was a surprise both to his superiors and Great Britain.  Churchill paid him credit by stating, "We have a very daring and skilful opponent against us, and, may I say across the havoc of war, a great general. "

Part 4 will be posted soon.