Major Ground Commands and Commanders

Here is a list of the major (above divisional level) ground force commands, and who was in charge of them on 18 November 41 or when they were established.


  • Comando Supremo – Mussolini, Ugo Cavallero
  • German Forces in the Mediterranean – Albert Kesselring (from Dec 41)
  • Axis forces in Africa – Ettore Bastico
  • Panzergruppe Afrika – Erwin Rommel (from end of January 42 redesignated Panzerarmee Afrika)
  • Deutsches Afrika Korps – Ludwig Cruewell
  • Corpo Armata di Manovra – Gastone Gambarra
  • XXI. Corpo Armata – Enea Navarrini
  • X. Corpo Armata – ? (from ?)


  • Commonwealth Middle East – Sir Claude Achinleck
  • 8th Army – Sir Alan Cunningham (from 24 November Neil Ritchie)
  • 30 Corps – Willoughbie Norrie
  • 13 Corps – Reade Godwin-Austen
  • Tobruk Fortress – Ronald Scobie

6 thoughts on “Major Ground Commands and Commanders

  1. I think Auchinleck informally fired Cunningham late afternoon on 24 November, after an outright staff mutiny (Galloway + Belchem) prevented C. from precipitating a catastrophic rout by sending out a break-off-the-battle-and-retreat order; that’s how close R’s oft-criticized “Dash to the Wire” came to winning the battle, and maybe a whole lot more more. Eve Curie, who was in the tent with Coningham and Auchinleck at the time, has a searing account on this. Then Auchinleck himself ran things for a day, and back to Cairo on 25th, and appoints Ritchie on 26th. Nothing about this vital mutiny in the OH (Med and ME, Vol. III, pp. 54-61) or anywhere else, all of which have a merely “worried” Cunningham calling in Auchinleck and Auchinleck “reluctantly” superseding him on the 26th. In other words, the Official Version has the pivot point of CRUSADER…completely wrong.


  2. What made Auchinleck choose Cunningham? A gunner with no armour experience – were there no corps commanders in UK with at least training experience of commanding armour?



    • Hi Tom, sorry I missed this one. Cunningham was chosen because of his performance in East Africa. He was supposed to have one of the most experienced armour commanders as GOC 30 Corps with him, Major-General Pope ( Furthermore, it is in my view likely that Brigadier Russell, CO of 7 Armoured Brigade who was also killed in the crash, was better qualified for his job than Brigadier Davy, who took over from him.

      All the best



  3. Andreas,
    East Africa performance? But what about his performance? Not a tank in sight, nor a huge amount of fighting on the Kenya front from what I understand. I guess he was as good a punt as any other Britsh commander at the time but why not make Norrie or Godwin Austen the Army Commander and Cunningham a Corps Commander?




  4. Regarding Rommel: Oberleutnent Harald Kuhn, a company commander in 5 Pz Regt said:
    Everything about him was out of the ordinary: His personal courage, his energy level, his imagination, his military good fortune but also his need to be in control, his ambition and the ruthlessness with which he brought those qualities to bear. The self-indulgence of that type of personality also brings great danger with it. If it does not succeed in establishing a basis of trust between it and its surroundings, it becomes all too easily arrogant, impatient, distrustful, unjust and-lonely. Overestimating oneself and arbitrariness seldom allow a relationship of trust develop and lead to the loss of a clear view of reality.

    Whenever we saw and heard that Rommel preferred to be far to the front on days of combat in order to direct individual tanks and assault detachments, instead of making decisions in his headquarters, which the overall situation demanded, or when he once again demonstrated that he had completely underestimated or incorrectly estimated the enemy, then we asked ourselves whether he really was such a great military leader

    On the other hand, Rommel was of the opinion that a good knowledge of the terrain and the enemy’s positions, as well as the better view of the battlefield, often decided a battle more than greater tactical ability.

    The quoted parts are just below the picture of Rommel. Chapter 6 deals with actions in 1941.
    Rommel is respected, but his flaws are also recognized.


    • Hi Ken

      I would be surprised if Rommel was deeply popular with PR5. He treated the regiment quite harshly at times. If you can get a hold of Kriebel’s book, who was Ia in 15.PD, it also has quite a differentiated view.

      All the best



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