The Sheer Luck Of German Forces In World War II
German forces accidentally blocked a British car which had three generals who controlled the Allied war effort North Africa
A car raced towards a British position. German and Italian units outflanked the vehicle and halted it in the fierce heat of North Africa. The German soldiers asked the passengers of the car to get out.
To everyone’s surprise, the car passengers were three British generals who were in charge of Allied operations in North Africa. Low on morale and under a constant push from Germans, this arrest was a massive blow to Britain.
North Africa had been a hotbed for colonization of European countries for centuries.
After the end of World War I, European superpowers carved out Africa. With the rise of fascism in Italy, Mussolini became the dictator of Italy and promised that Italy would return to its glorious Roman Empire period with colonies in Africa.
Italy invaded Libya, Ethiopia, and was at the gates of Britain’s most valuable client state in North Africa, Egypt. At the start, Britain didn’t interfere with Italy’s expansion in Africa as it had a more significant threat at its shores.
Germany had gobbled up most of Europe and prepared for Operation Sea Lion, an amphibious landing and invasion of Britain. Britain withheld many of its fine troops and tanks, including most of the Canadian Army, in the island nation in fear of a German landing.
Enter Erwin Rommel:
Italy’s advance towards Egypt alarmed British as Suez Canal, the most strategic point of transport for Britain, was under direct threat.
If the Suez canal fell to the Italian army, then raw materials from Asia had to travel around the Cape of Good Hope in waters infested with German U-boats. Britain and the commonwealth forces started an attack and effectively drove the Italians back to Libya.
Hitler feared that Italy might lose in Africa and sent his crack General Erwin Rommel and four Panzer divisions to save his ally. On arrival, Rommel changed the tide of war, and the British were on the run as the city after city fell for German and Italian forces.
In an escape from encirclement three British generals John Frederick Boyce Combe, Richard O’Connor, and Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, traveled in a car towards Egypt. These three were the command center of the entire British effort in North Africa.
The German units outpaced and blocked the car only then they realized that they had caught the entire British command of North Africa. Britain offered to trade the release of captured generals for captured Italian generals, but Rommel turned down the offer.
Rommel’s blitzkrieg in the North African desert, combined with the three generals’ capture, came as a massive blow to Britain. The three generals were made prisoners of war and placed under arrest in Italy.
They made several attempts to escape, but they were not fruitful. After Italy surrendered to Allied forces, they were released. In the entirety of World War II, this event came as a sheer moment of coincidence.
After the battle of El Alamein and American landings, the German Italian forces were on the back foot until their elimination from North Africa. The drive went on to liberate Italy and finally ended in Berlin.