Combe Force

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Combe Force, or Combeforce, was an ad hoc flying column formed by the British Army for a specific purpose during the latter stages of Operation Compass. Combe Force was formed to cut across the open desert of Cyrenaica and cut off the retreating Italian Army which was travelling along the coastal road, the Via Balbia. Combe Force was formed for this one purpose during the early stages of the North African Campaign in World War II.


Combe Force was created by Major General Michael O'Moore Creagh towards the end of Operation Compass.

In early December 1940, the British launched the Operation Compass counterattack against the Italian forces which had invaded Egypt in September. At that time, the Italians advanced only as far as Sidi Barrani and established defensive positions there in a series of fortified camps. These camps were overrun during the initial stages of Operation Compass. As Operation Compass progressed, Italian garrisons in Bardia and then Tobruk were isolated and captured. By February 1941, the remaining Italian forces in Cyrenaica were withdrawing down the Via Balbia with the British 7th Armored Division and the Australian 6th Infantry Division close behind.[1]

Combe Force was created to cut across the open desert and block the escape route of the slow moving Italian columns as they traveled down the coastal highway from Benghazi.[2] Combe Force was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel John Combe.


Because speed was of the essence and because the available British tanks needed more time for replenishment, Combe Force was to consist of formations which utilized wheeled vehicles. The composition of Combe Force was as follows:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walker, Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts, pg. 64
  2. ^ Walker, Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts, pg. 64
  3. ^ Macksey, Beda Fomm: Classic Victory, pg. 135


  • Macksey, Major Kenneth (1971). Beda Fomm: Classic Victory. Ballentine's Illustrated History of the Violent Century, Battle Book Number 22. Ballantine Books. 
  • Walker, Ian W. (2003). Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts : Mussolini's elite armoured divisions in North Africa. Marlborough: Crowood. ISBN 1-86126-646-4.