27.5.42

Cutting from the D. Express of 26.5.42:

CAIRO, Monday. – General Auchinleck, in a drive against red tape hindering the war effort in the Middle East, has sent this letter “to all officers and headquarters of this command”: -

“An extract from a letter written by Wellington from Spain about 1810 to the Secretary for War, Lord Bradford:

“’My lord, if I attempted to answer the mass of futile correspondence that surrounds me, I should be debarred from all serious business of campaigning.

“’So long as I retain an independent position I shall see to it that no officer under my command is debarred, by attending to the futile drivelling of mere quil driving in your lordship’s officer, from attending to his first duty – which is, as always, to train the private men under his command.’”

General Auchinleck [1] adds: “I know that this does not apply to you; but please see to it that it can never be applied to you or to anyone working under you.” – A.P.

This is printed in the papers and even given out over the air, but, after all, the operative fact is taht no one does or can talk like that to the War Office nowadays.

More rumours that Molotov is in London. Also cryptic paras in the papers suggesting that this may be so (no mention of names, of course).

[1] General (later Field Marshal) Sir Claude Auchinleck (familiarly known as ‘The Auk’) (1884-1981), served in World War 1 in the Mesopotamian campaign. In World War 2 he took part in the failed Norwegian campaign in 1940. In July 1941 took over the Eighth Army from Field Marshal Wavell in North Africa. Despite some success, he lost the confidence of Winston Churchill and was transferred to India. There he organised with considerable success the training of forces for the Burma Campaign and the supply of materials for the Fourteenth Army.

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One Response to 27.5.42

  1. Claude Auchinleck learned the hard way that one did not dispute military facts with Churchill, whose estimate of his own expertise few impartial judges have found warranted. When Auchinleck refused to go on the offensive with what he had in reserve, and despite having stopped Rommel at the First Battle of El Almein, Churchill sacked him. His replacement was killed, shot down by the Axis and so Montgomery was appointed. Montgomery immediately told Churchill that he too could not be expected to mount an offensive with what he had. Montgomery, famously unpleasant, wrote in his self serving post War memoirs that Auchinleck had planned to retreat east across the Suez Canal. This enraged Auchinleck and legal action was threatened, with what outcome I am uncertain.

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