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 Auchinleckwas published in London. These detailed military operations involving BritishCommonwealth forces had taken place between November 1941 and August 1942 inthe Western Desert of North Africa. Initially submitted to the War Office (WO) fiveyears before, a complex and often bitter political dispute helped ensure that the pathof this despatch towards publication would prove a tortuous one. The key reasonbehind the delay was the South African government’s complaints about references tothe Tobruk garrison, which, in June 1942, whilst under the command of a SouthAfrican general, had been forced to surrender to German forces. The drafting of thedespatch had begun almost as soon as the final battles had concluded. As a result ofhis reverses at the hands of General Erwin Rommel and the latter’s Afrika Korps, thethen General Auchinleck had been dismissed by the British Prime Minister WinstonChurchill in August 1942, during the so-called ‘Cairo Purge’, to be replaced byGeneral Sir Harold Alexander. Alexander declined the offer of the newly createdPersia and Iraq command and departed for India, where he later becameCommander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, turning his focus to the completion of hisaccount of recent events.
Published
2011-08-08
Section
Articles