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leccy
07-05-2011, 05:58 PM
Found these quotes about the 9th Australian Infantry Division who defended Tobruk for 242 days in 1941. They tend to be overlooked in Britain at least so here is what the Germans thought of them.

A captured veteran of the early European campaigns stated:
"I cannot understand you Australians. In Poland, France, and
Belgium, once the tanks got through the soldiers took it for
granted that they were beaten. But you are like demons. The
tanks break through and your infantry still keep fighting."

A German battalion commander wrote:
The Australians, who are the men our troops have had opposite
them so far, are extraordinarily tough fighters. The German is more
active in the attack but the enemy stakes his life in the defense
and fights to the last with extreme cunning. Our men, usually easy
going and unsuspecting, fall easily into his traps especially as a
result of their experiences in the closing stages of the Western
[European] Campaign.
The Australian is unquestionably superior to the German
soldier:
1. in the use of individual weapons, especially as snipers
2. in the use of ground camouflage
3. in his gift of observation, and the drawing of the correct conclusions from his observation
4. in every means of taking us by surprise....

Lt. Gen. Erwin Rommel was also impressed by the Australians. He said:
Shortly afterwards a batch of some fifty or sixty Australian prisoners were marched off close behind us-immensely big and powerful
men, who without question represented an elite formation of the
British Empire, a fact that was also evident in battle. Enemy resistance was as stubborn as ever and violent actions were being fought
at many points.

9th_part1.pdf (http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/download/csipubs/9thaustr/9th_part1.pdf)
9th_part2.pdf (http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/download/csipubs/9thaustr/9th_part2.pdf)

Rising Sun*
07-05-2011, 08:15 PM
A captured veteran of the early European campaigns stated:
"I cannot understand you Australians. In Poland, France, and
Belgium, once the tanks got through the soldiers took it for
granted that they were beaten. But you are like demons. The
tanks break through and your infantry still keep fighting."

Less a case of Aussies fighting like demons than a carefully thought out and well executed defence which deprived the Germans of their previous advantages of an armoured blitzkrieg attack.


During 10-14 April 1941 and from 30 April to 4 May 1941, the newly formed 9th Australian Division repelled two major German Africa Corps tank assaults against their defensive posi tions around the strategic fortress at Tobruk, Libya. The 9th Division, although relatively untried, rushed from Palestine to North Africa in order to help delay the German attack on Egypt (see map 1).

During both engagements, the Australians fought from a static defense in depth. Australian infantrymen occupying the first line of defense allowed the German tanks to pass through their initial perimeter into extensive minefields. British and Australian artillery and antitank gunners, deployed well to the rear of the infantry and supported by British tanks, then engaged the German tanks with devastating direct fire. As the
German infantrymen, artillerymen, and machine gunners following the tanks passed through the perimeter, the Australian infantry, lying in wait on the flanks, moved in behind them with rifle fire and bayonets. At the same time, British fighter planes overhead, supported by antiaircraft artillery, attempted to fight off the attacking
German dive-bombers and fighter aircraft.

At the conclusion of the Easter Battle, known German and Italian losses were 150 killed in action (KIA), 250 prisoners of war (POWs), 29 tanks destroyed out of 112 available,1 and 17 aircraft destroyed.2 The Tobruk garrison losses were twenty-six KIA, twenty-four wounded in action (WIA), four tanks destroyed, one aircraft
destroyed, and one artillery gun disabled.3

In the second action, the Battle of the Salient, known German and Italian losses were 167 KIA, 574 WIA, and 213 missing in action (MIA). Out of eighty-one tanks available, twelve tanks were destroyed and thirty-two were damaged but recovered. The garrison had 59 KIA, 355 WIA, and 383 MIA.4

In both battles, the German's combined arms attack featured tanks, infantry, engineers, artillery, and close air support. Their armaments were superior to Australian weapons in all categories except artillery, where the Australians possessed a marked advantage. Because of their edge in arms, the Germans were stunned by their defeat at the hands of the Australians. The Germans had rarely failed before, never encountered such defensive tactics, nor faced such a determined opponent. The accuracy and efficiency of the British artillery and antitank gunners and the discipline of the Australian infantry-who held their ground and fire until the German infantry and gunners advanced into a killing zone-had defeated the German blitzkrieg tactics. http://www.scribd.com/9th-Australian-Division-Versus-the-Africa-Corps-an-Infantry-Division-Against-Tanks-Tobruk-Libya-1941/d/35516907

Rising Sun*
07-06-2011, 04:40 AM
Found these quotes about the 9th Australian Infantry Division who defended Tobruk for 242 days in 1941.

There is a quote attributed to Rommel when Hitler was pressing him to advance. Hitler said something to the effect that there was only a division of colonial (i.e Australian) troops facing Rommel. Rommel replied along the lines "They are not colonial troops. They are Australian soldiers. Give me two divisions of them and I will conquer the world for you."

While it has often been quoted, I've never been able to track down the source so I don't know if it's true.


They tend to be overlooked in Britain at least so here is what the Germans thought of them.

If they're overlooked in Britain, then the British are probably also overlooking the critical part played at Tobruk by British artillery and armour.

Rising Sun*
07-06-2011, 04:44 AM
leccy

My last link might have been to the same article you linked. My computer won't load your links (I'm in temporary accommodation and relying on wireless internet, which seems to have problems with some sites and downloads) but when I reduce it to the main site it comes up as the same one which was the original source for the article to which I linked, while the article to which I linked contains your quotes. Sorry if I've just come into the same article by the back door.

leccy
07-06-2011, 06:14 AM
They are reports from on here. Quite a lot of post war analysis from the US Military covering around 100 years of military action and thinking.

http://www.cgsc.edu/

More specifically this part of it.

http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/CSI/CSIPubs.asp

I loved the comments that the Germans made about the Australians and yes the Desert War before The Battle of El Alamein and in fact afterwards is very overlooked by the public. Montgomery was the hero and everything was losses before then with rubbish kit.

You tend to have Dunkirk, BoB, D Day, maybe Operation Market Garden and The Ardennes Offensive. The US contribution over shadows the USSR by a long way. Italians were all cowards along with the French. Lots of stereo types. Its not for nothing Slims 14th Army was called the Forgotten Army even during the War.

leccy
07-06-2011, 06:28 AM
Rising Sun

Just had a look at your scribd and yes its the same book. I just dont get on with scribd very well takes forever to load and annoying to log into to download stuff.

Rising Sun*
07-06-2011, 07:14 AM
I loved the comments that the Germans made about the Australians

One of your quotes is revealing in an unexpected sense, where the German battalion commander describes his troops as easy going and unsuspecting, which is the exact opposite of the stereotypical German soldier.


and yes the Desert War before The Battle of El Alamein and in fact afterwards is very overlooked by the public. Montgomery was the hero and everything was losses before then with rubbish kit.

And inadequate forces, thanks to one of Churchill's ill-conceived strategic blunders in diverting forces, including the Australian 6th Division, from North Africa to Greece where they were defeated at the same time they could have been much better and possibly decisively used against Rommel.


You tend to have Dunkirk, BoB, D Day, maybe Operation Market Garden and The Ardennes Offensive.

All of which have infected the public consciousness through cinema, while Tobruk and North Africa more generally have been largely neglected apart from some very good British films focusing on small aspects, such as Ice Cold in Alex and The Hill, which were really dramatic pieces which could have been set anywhere and which did nothing to illuminate public historical knowledge. To the limited extent it bothers to deal with it at all, US cinema tends to deal with North Africa as preliminary, or peripheral, to D Day and subsequent events, such as the treatment of the Kasserine Pass in The Big Red One (which was an unfortunate title in some circles in Australia, where a 'big red one' refers to part of a gentleman in a state of arousal).


The US contribution over shadows the USSR by a long way.

Well, it's the Russians' fault for not correcting the record by doing their own war films and exporting them to a sympathetic West during the Cold War. ;) :D


Italians were all cowards along with the French.

I can't recall sources, but I've read several memoirs and various histories of Australians in North Africa who record that the good Italian units fought as hard and as well as any other nation and gave as good as they got. The same with the French, such as at Litani River.

However, popular knowledge prefers to focus on Italian officers with nice dinner settings in the field (not unknown in the British Army at the time, while there were significant issues arising from some senior Australian officers bringing their wives to North Africa - or in some cases having affairs there while keeping their wives out of North Africa - while everyone below them was denied that privilege). There were well documented instances of such things, but it didn't necessarily follow that those officers were cowards or incompetent.

The problem in comparing Italian and Vichy French troops with their Allied opponents is that the Italian grunts were often smart enough to see no point in fighting a war which was not to their or their families' benefit, while the Vichy French at all ranks were in the difficult position that even if they did not support the Vichy regime they were still patriotic French and they and their families could be jeopardised by opposing the Vichy regime. Meanwhile, the Australians were all volunteers a long way from home and whose actions could not put their families at risk of retribution by a regime or occupying force sympathetic to their enemies.


Its not for nothing Slims 14th Army was called the Forgotten Army even during the War.

That reflects, in part, Churchill's, and Roosevelt's, focus on the 'Germany first' strategy which relegated the war against Japan to the second rank.

Montgomery was a great commander, along with scores of others on both sides in WWII, but just as flawed as all the rest in their own ways.

So was Slim but, given the circumstances, resources and aims of his command, he did more with less in worse country against a worse enemy than Montgomery did, and with vastly longer lines of communication and often not all that much flowing along them.

Which brings me to the popular knowledge of BoB, D Day etc compared with Slim's command and achievements, which are largely unknown just about everywhere nowadays outside reasonably serious students of WWII history.

leccy
07-06-2011, 09:08 AM
I have read numerous accounts of Italian troops who fought very hard especially in the Artillery and Armoured Corps which had a different Espirit to the Infantry. Its too easy to blame troops who surrender without many losses but in reality they were completely out gunned and matched by the Commonwealth Forces in Africa at the time and had no wish to go to war for a Dictator (who made it a crime punishable by death to desert despite him being a deserter prior to WW1) it is also slightly Ironic that in 1911 he was jailed for campaigning against the Italian war in Libya denouncing it as Italy's "imperialist war".

It is not so much different to the fall of Singapore yet even that is treated more factually than the early Italian campaign and Wavells response in the more common media. Maybe because it was the British winning one and the other was

I love Ice Cold in Alex, watched it a couple of days ago again. not to be forgotten the great propaganda film from 1944 'The Rats of Tobruk' .

Rising Sun*
07-06-2011, 09:23 AM
I have read numerous accounts of Italian troops who fought very hard especially in the Artillery and Armoured Corps which had a different Espirit to the Infantry.

I don't know about those differences in the Italian Army, but as a general observation if infantry's willingness to fight in any army is less than artillery and armour then that army is ****ed long before it takes the field.

Kovalski
07-06-2011, 10:08 AM
I don't know about those differences in the Italian Army, but as a general observation if infantry's willingness to fight in any army is less than artillery and armour then that army is ****ed long before it takes the field.

There was a very close relation between morale of Italian troops and the distance to the frontline.

pdf27
07-06-2011, 01:33 PM
And inadequate forces, thanks to one of Churchill's ill-conceived strategic blunders in diverting forces, including the Australian 6th Division, from North Africa to Greece where they were defeated at the same time they could have been much better and possibly decisively used against Rommel.
One of the dangers of only looking at one theatre of war. The British gained in other ways from helping the Greeks, notably in getting control of the Greek merchant fleet at a time when tonnage sunk during the battle of the Atlantic was a real concern for the future of the war. Had we abandoned the Greeks, a Vichy-style regime in Athens (or even just the Greeks switching sides) was a real threat. The North African theatre was always secondary to all sides (since it doesn't really lead anywhere), while control of the Atlantic was critical to the outcome of the war.

leccy
07-06-2011, 02:28 PM
I don't know about those differences in the Italian Army, but as a general observation if infantry's willingness to fight in any army is less than artillery and armour then that army is ****ed long before it takes the field.

In the fighting for the frontier forts and when the Commonwealth forces chased them back to Beda Fomm the battle reports I read say that the Italian Infantry fought while the Artillery and Armour were fighting but would give up very quickly on there own. The Artillery seemed to be particularly good at inspiring a spirited defense despite the extremely obsolete guns they were largely equipped with at the start.

Byron
07-10-2011, 09:08 PM
I don't know about those differences in the Italian Army, but as a general observation if infantry's willingness to fight in any army is less than artillery and armour then that army is ****ed long before it takes the field.

The Italian army wasn't any different than other armies in the field in that some units were very good and others very bad. There are plenty of reports of Italian units fighting very well against the UK forces in Africa and the Soviets in Russia as well. I've even read reports where the German forces fighting with the Italians in NA broke while the Italians continued to fight.

The fact of the matter is that the Italian forces did not care for the war and they were poorly outfitted for it. If you compare the equipment with which they went to war to the other nations, you'll be surprised they bothered to put up a fight at all! It's notable that, once the better units of the army (the Ariete, RECAM troops and later the Folgore paratroops, which were considered as good as the German and UK paras) arrived in NA with Rommel, they performed admirably in most circumstances, even with poor to very poor equipment. Even the non-motorized infantry units often fought very well after the army received an influx of better troops and equipment (re: it was not all the arrival of the Germans).

Back to the original thread: I did a bit of research (for the game Panzer Leader) on the forces in the NA campaign some time ago and came away with the understanding that the Australians were among the best troops, if not the best troops, on either side of the conflict. They were tough as nails, to put it simply.

Rising Sun*
07-11-2011, 06:19 AM
Back to the original thread: I did a bit of research (for the game Panzer Leader) on the forces in the NA campaign some time ago and came away with the understanding that the Australians were among the best troops, if not the best troops, on either side of the conflict. They were tough as nails, to put it simply.

Probably not inherently tougher than any other nation's soldiers of similarly diverse civilian backgrounds, but perhaps more committed as members of an all-volunteer force than some of their opponents. The presence of a good proportion of WWI veterans in the ranks and among officers probably helped to stiffen the newer soldiers. A wider consideration is at http://www.awm.gov.au/journal/j29/civils.asp

Panzerknacker
01-02-2012, 12:02 PM
Newsreel showing the australian defenders of Tobruk:

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=51976

MJ1
01-03-2012, 10:34 PM
We had an Australian 105mm battery supporting us in January of 1968. they were always Australians first allies second and some of the best thieves in the RVN. They also would shoot so close we found their 105 airburst shells stuck inside our perimeter and EOD told us the rounds were dated 1949 through 1952. they fired from the Southwest so we knew who shot them and I will tell ya with out the final fire it would have been a lost cause. Two US units and our normally loyal ARVN 105's and 155's would not fire the mission on our wire. The Australians didn't miss a beat and said WTH and got on with it.
they also stole a 1950's Dodge 3/4ton 4X4 and two M14's from us. Fair trade.

royal744
08-26-2013, 01:40 PM
I have read numerous accounts of Italian troops who fought very hard especially in the Artillery and Armoured Corps which had a different Espirit to the Infantry. Its too easy to blame troops who surrender without many losses but in reality they were completely out gunned and matched by the Commonwealth Forces in Africa at the time and had no wish to go to war for a Dictator (who made it a crime punishable by death to desert despite him being a deserter prior to WW1) it is also slightly Ironic that in 1911 he was jailed for campaigning against the Italian war in Libya denouncing it as Italy's "imperialist war".

It is not so much different to the fall of Singapore yet even that is treated more factually than the early Italian campaign and Wavells response in the more common media. Maybe because it was the British winning one and the other was

I love Ice Cold in Alex, watched it a couple of days ago again. not to be forgotten the great propaganda film from 1944 'The Rats of Tobruk' .

I really dislike denigrating the French with statements that they were all "cowards". Free French forces fighting under the British in the Western Desert gave a very good accounting of themselves and famously made a stand at Bir Hakim. Free French forces fighting under Eisenhower and various allied generals fought well and bravely in Europe, and Free French forces came out of central Africa under General De Lattre de Tassigny and made the arduous trek north to join the British in their fight against Rommel.

There were, iirc, Italian Divisions that fought hard in the Western Desert and in east central Africa in spite of usually having worse equipment, less mobility, and less motivation to fight than their German counterparts - they were often poorly officered as well, but not always.

Further, while it is true that El Alamein was a great victory, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Montgomery had an advantage of around 10 to 1 in tanks, artillery, aircraft, and multiples in available combat troops, not to mention supplies of feul at the time that Montgomery launched his offensive. It would have been a tremendous scandal if he had lost with those kinds of numbers in his favor. Still, it counts as a decisive victory because it was the first step in kicking the Axis out of Africa entirely. Performance of the green American troops coming from the other side was initially poor, it improved considerably over time in spite of such disasters as occurred at Kasserine Pass, proving that in retreat, the Germans were still quite lethal.

Back to the topic, the Australians did yeoman service for the Empire, to the point of loyally walking down the gunbarrel in Greece and holding fast in Tobruk. All the while, their forces were thousands of miles from their own Gathering Storm which, happily for all (except Churchill, of course) they insisted on having back. Australians are more like Americans than the English will ever be, but there just aren't enough of them. Too bad.

Sometimes a brush too broad misses the mark.

Rising Sun*
08-27-2013, 08:46 AM
Back to the topic, the Australians did yeoman service for the Empire, to the point of loyally walking down the gunbarrel in Greece and holding fast in Tobruk. All the while, their forces were thousands of miles from their own Gathering Storm which, happily for all (except Churchill, of course) they insisted on having back. Australians are more like Americans than the English will ever be ...

During and up to the Tobruk period, the average Australian, or at least the non-Irish Catholic descent ones, largely thought of themselves as British in a distant outpost of the Empire and loyal to its King Emperor. Our governments generally reflected that view until Prime Minister Curtin, disappointed and frustrated by, in his quite legitimate view, Churchill's failure to live up to various guarantees of naval and military support in the face of Japan's advance on Australia, famously looked to America for support.


... we refuse to accept the dictum that the Pacific struggle must be treated as a subordinate
segment of the general conflict. By that it is not meant that any one of the
other theatres of war is of less importance than the Pacific, but that Australia
asks for a concerted plan evoking the greatest strength at the Democracies'
disposal, determined upon hurling Japan back.

The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily
one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the
direction of the democracies' fighting plan.

Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks
to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the
United Kingdom.

We know the problems that the United Kingdom faces. We know the constant threat
of invasion. We know the dangers of dispersal of strength, but we know too,
that Australia can go and Britain can still hold on. ...
http://john.curtin.edu.au/pmportal/text/00468.html

This is commonly interpreted as announcing a shift in allegiance from Britain to America, but in context and in light of Curtin's subsequent comments confirming Australia's allegiance to Britain, it represents only a pragmatic recognition of the fact that Australia was facing invasion by Japan and that America was the only nation able to help Australia resist invasion, and that Curtin desperately wanted that help. Curtin's original announcement and much later gradually backing away from it also reflects a hostile and then gradually improved relationship between Churchill and Curtin, which flowed from Churchill's attempts to use Australian forces for Churchill's defence of Churchill's conception of the British Empire while, after Japan attacked and headed south after defeating every British force it encountered, Curtin's focus was, quite reasonably, somewhat narrower. As for Roosevelt and America, it suited them to use Australia as a base to stem and then repel Japan's advance, although Eisenhower in an early assessment considered letting Australia go.

The allegiance to Britain remained strong after the war, as I well remember as a primary school kid in the 1950s when our school atlases had an impressive number of countries still coloured pink as part of the (rapidly declining) British Empire. What went with it was a belief in the superiority of British culture, values etc compared with lesser nations, America included.

Against that was the personal experience of many Australians in contacts with Americans during the war, which ranged from contempt by some for the usual resentful "they're over paid, over sexed and over here' reasons to gratitude for them being here to resist Japan. The latter was the case with my grandparents who, like many other Australian families, regularly invited American servicemen to their homes for meals and social contact and found them delightful guests. The tradition continued in my family well after the war, and I'm still a bit pissed off that subsequent family upheavals resulted in me losing a genuine American sailor's gob cap given to me by an American sailor hosted by my parents in the late 1950s.

I think the real change for the bulk of the current population came not from positive or negative views from Australians who had contact with Americans during the war but the more gradual and more pervasive effects of the presentation of American culture and values with and after the advent of television here in the mid to late 1950s, which resulted in an avalanche of American programs from the late 1950s onwards. This presented daily in their living rooms a new and wider world to Australians who generally were fairly parochial to that point. The powerful presentation and penetration of American culture and other things American continued with the arrival of Colonel Sanders, MacDonalds and so on during the 1960s and 1970s, along with the Vietnam War and the Cold War where our governments and many of our people had common interests, and where many people in both nations opposed those interests. The end result is that Australians probably have as much in common with Americans now as they did with the British during WWII. But the same could be said for the British now having much more in common with Americans than they did in WWII. It's all part of a general fusing of English speaking culture, which is not to say that we're all one big, happy family, but the differences are much less than they were in WWII.


but there just aren't enough of them. Too bad.


Not my fault.

I've offered to breed with countless Australian women but, to the nation's loss, I've been rebuffed.

Rising Sun*
10-25-2013, 09:25 AM
Been reading a bit more widely lately.

Anyone else see a relationship between the Australian defence of Tobruk and Alexander's defeat of Darius III at Gaugamela nearly 2,300 year earlier?