THE ‘ATOMIC’ DESPATCH: FIELD MARSHAL AUCHINLECK, THE FALL OF THE TOBRUK GARRISON AND POST-WAR ANGLO-SOUTH AFRICAN RELATIONS

Andrew Stewart

Abstract


In January 1948, a despatch written by Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck
was published in London. These detailed military operations involving British
Commonwealth forces had taken place between November 1941 and August 1942 in
the Western Desert of North Africa. Initially submitted to the War Office (WO) five
years before, a complex and often bitter political dispute helped ensure that the path
of this despatch towards publication would prove a tortuous one. The key reason
behind the delay was the South African government’s complaints about references to
the Tobruk garrison, which, in June 1942, whilst under the command of a South
African general, had been forced to surrender to German forces. The drafting of the
despatch had begun almost as soon as the final battles had concluded. As a result of
his reverses at the hands of General Erwin Rommel and the latter’s Afrika Korps, the
then General Auchinleck had been dismissed by the British Prime Minister Winston
Churchill in August 1942, during the so-called ‘Cairo Purge’, to be replaced by
General Sir Harold Alexander. Alexander declined the offer of the newly created
Persia and Iraq command and departed for India, where he later became
Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, turning his focus to the completion of his
account of recent events.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5787/36-1-44

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Copyright (c) 2018 Andrew Stewart


ISSN 2224-0020 (online); ISSN 1022-8136 (print)

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