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Claude Auchinleck

(1884—1981) army officer

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British field marshal. Auchinleck succeeded Wavell as commander‐in‐chief, Middle East, in July 1941. On 17 November the 8th Army, under Alan Cunningham, attacked westward into Cyrenaica. Rommel counter‐attacked on 22 November and Cunningham retreated, but Auchinleck took direct command and replaced Cunningham by Neil Ritchie on 26 November. The ‘Crusader’ offensive continued, clearing Cyrenaica by 6 January. Rommel counter‐attacked again on 21 January and drove the 8th Army back by 4 February. Churchill felt Auchinleck to be dilatory in offensive action and Rommel struck first in May 1942. By mid‐June the 8th Army's retreat, with the fall of Tobruk, became near rout. On 25 June Auchinleck took over command, organized a defence at El Alamein, and finally stopped Rommel. However, in August, Churchill flew to Cairo, and substituted Alexander and Montgomery respectively as C.‐in‐C. and army commander. Auchinleck ended his career as C.‐in‐C. of the Indian army. He refused a peerage, distressed by the partition of India.

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