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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume I

Scale of Attack against Egypt

page 343

Scale of Attack against Egypt

Any attack delivered on Egypt must be a full-scale one. In addition to an attack along the Coast we should prepare to meet a desert motorised column of not less than one mobile Corps of two motorised Divisions, together with an Armoured Force covered by air reconnaissance and protected by fighters. This force could be supplied by load-carrying aircraft. To cross the desert with such a force it would be necessary to dump by aeroplane large quantities of water, food, petrol and oil. The estimated load that would be required to be delivered each day by air would be 1,300,000 1b. To dump this heavy weight of material would require either 650 aeroplanes doing one trip, or 325 aeroplanes doing two trips. It would be possible for the Germans and the Italians to produce this number of aeroplanes, as Germany alone has approximately 500 load-carrying planes of this type.

Thus, although it would be possible to supply a mechanised column by air across the desert to Assuan or Cairo, this operation would require a very large combined effort on the part of the Axis. Very large stocks of fuel would have to be concentrated near the border at an early stage. The maintenance of supplies to enable so large a force to move 100 miles a day would be a great strain.

There is another point: would the reserves of petrol be adequate to enable the Axis Powers to dump simultaneously and in advance the large quantities required in both theatres of war?