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New Zealand Medical Services in Middle East and Italy

The Plan of Battle

The Plan of Battle

The broad intention of the British offensive was the destruction of the enemy forces in North Africa. This was to be accomplished in two phases: the recapture of Cyrenaica, and the invasion and conquest of Tripolitania. Crusader campaign was planned to carry page 254 out the first phase, and timed to forestall an intended operation by the enemy to capture Tobruk. The offensive began on 18 November.

Eighth Army had two corps under its command to carry out the operation. Thirteenth Corps, which consisted mainly of infantry, included NZ Division, 4 Indian Division, and 1 Army Tank Brigade. Thirtieth Corps, which was the armoured corps, comprised 7 Armoured Division, 1 South African Division, and 22 Armoured Brigade.

The first objective of CRUSADER was the destruction of the enemy's armoured forces and this task was given to 30 Corps, which was to advance from the Maddalena area, threaten the enemy forces investing Tobruk, and so compel the enemy to deploy his armour. The enemy's armoured forces were then to be engaged and destroyed wherever they were met. In the meantime, 13 Corps was to advance and isolate the enemy forces in the frontier area and prevent them from assisting in the battles to the west. Later, it was to drive westwards and join forces with 30 Corps. The relief of Tobruk was only incidental to this plan, but was to be carried out by 30 Corps in conjunction with a sortie by the Tobruk garrison according to how the battle progressed.

The New Zealand Division, as part of 13 Corps, had the initial task of isolating enemy forces in the Sollum-Bardia sector of the frontier defences. Its 6th Brigade, which was equipped as a special mobile force, had to be ready to proceed to engage the enemy in the Gambut-Bir el Chleta area or to move to reinforce 30 Corps.

As the campaign progressed these plans were considerably altered. That which had at first been incidental to the plan, the relief of Tobruk, became the major objective and the New Zealand Division was used to achieve it.