Operation Crusader – Tank Warfare in the Desert, Tobruk 1941, Hermann Buschleb, translated David Dorondo

Operation Crusader – Tank Warfare in the Desert, Tobruk 1941, Hermann Buschleb, translated David Dorondo

This isn’t the place to go if you want an unbiased account of Operation Crusader. The author had been a staff officer in the German Army during the Second World War and later reached high rank in the post-war German army. Part of his purpose was to prove that the German military experience of the Second World War could provide useful lessons about how to beat the more numerous armies of the Warsaw Pact and to provide a useful guide for future officers. As a result German, and in particular Rommel’s achievements tend to be rather over-exaggerated. British units are repeatedly ‘destroyed’ but somehow keep on fighting, and if you didn’t know better you could reasonably assume from this book that Rommel actually won the battle, but then decided for entirely unrelated reasons to retreat from the Egyptian border, abandon the siege of Tobruk and pull back all the way to El Agheila at the opposite end of Cyrenaica! The author actually has Crusader ended at the start of December, something that would have come as something of a surprise at the time.

The background chapters are good – we get useful material on the campaign to date, the opposing sides and the future battlefield.

The main in the combat chapter is on Rommel’s leadership. There are sizable sections where we follow Rommel and his panzer divisions on their ‘dash to the wire’ and get less on the equally important fighting further to the west. While Rommel was off in the east, the siege of Tobruk was being broken and the foundations of the Allied victory being laid. However it is interesting to follow the battle from Rommel’s point of view. It is also worth noting that the author was clearly not that impressed with Rommel’s decision to accompany the Panzer Divisions on the dash to the wire, as it often saw him unable to communicate with his own HQ, reducing his control over the battle. 

The view of the British commanders is well balanced, with some coming across as rather impressive – Auchinleck in particular, whose decision to keep attacking contributed to the eventual Allied success. 

This is a useful translation of an interesting German account of the first two weeks of Operation Crusader, with good material on Rommel’s leadership

1 – Background
2 – The Situation to 18 November 1941
3 – The Situation in Context
4 – The Course of the Battle
5 – Conclusion
6 - Sources

Author: Hermann Buschleb, translated David Dorondo
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 128
Publisher: Casemate
Year: 1966 German original, 2019 English version

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