About Major General Michael O'Moore Creagh
Major-General Sir Michael O'Moore Creagh KBE MC, (16 May 1892–1970) was a British soldier who served in both the First and Second World Wars. He commanded the 7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, between 1939 and 1941.
Creagh was born on 16 May 1892 and educated at Wellington College. He entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and was then commissioned into 7th Queen's Own Hussars in 1911.
First World War
By the end of the First World War, Creagh had served as an aide de camp to divisional commander Home Forces (1914–15), as a staff captain in France (1917–18) and a brigade major (1918–19).
Creagh stayed in the British Army after the war and commanded 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars 1934-38.
Second World War
On 4 December 1939, Creagh took over the Mobile Force stationed on the Egyptian frontier, from Major-General Sir Percy Hobart who was retired by General Archibald Wavell. In February 1940 the unit was renamed 7th Armoured Division and Creagh's tenure of command of this division was the longest of any of its commanding officers.
Creagh led the division through its earliest triumphs against the Italians after they entered the war on 10 June 1940. Under Marshal Rodolfo Graziani the Italians invaded Egypt and advanced 60 miles to Sidi Barrani where they halted. It was here that Creagh's 7th Armoured Division fought its first major battle in the Operation Compass counterattack on 8 December, joining with 4th Indian Division in the Western Desert Force (WDF) to mount the attack. As a result the Italians were driven back quickly into Cyrenaica, the eastern province of their colonial territory, Libya.
Bardia and Tobruk
The small port of Bardia fell to advancing British, Australian and Indian forces in the WDF under the command of General Sir Richard O'Connor, followed as the new year of 1941 came in, by Tobruk as the Italians retreated along the Via Balbia, the metallised coastal road that led back to Benghazi and Tripoli. This was the top half of a semicircle, the bottom straight line of the semicircle was formed by rough rock-strewn desert, unpromising territory for armoured and mechanised military units like 7th Armoured Division.
Creagh's division was to travel via Mechili, Msus and Antelat (the bottom of the semicircle), while the Australian 6th Division chased the retreating Italian Tenth Army along the coast road round the Jebel Akhdar mountains to the north (the curve of the semicircle). The poor terrain was hard going for the tanks, and Creagh took the bold decision to send a flying column - christened "Combe Force" - south-west across the virtually unmapped Libyan Desert. Combe Force, under its namesake Lieutenant Colonel John Combe of the 11th Hussars, consisted of 11th Hussars, a squadron of King's Dragoon Guards, 2nd Battalion The Rifle Brigade, an RAF armoured car squadron, anti-tank guns from 3 Royal Horse Artillery and 'C' battery 4 RHA. The force totalled about 2,000 men.
On 5 February, Combe Force succeeded in cutting off the Italians at Sidi Saleh and Beda Fomm. The small force held the Italians long enough to be joined by the armour of 4 Brigade on 6 February. The bulk of the Tenth Army surrendered the next day as a result of this successful blockade of their path.
On 3 September 1941, Creagh was replaced as commander of the division by Major General William Gott following the costly failure of Operation Battleaxe.
From 1941 to 1942, Creagh commanded the 3rd Armored Group. He retired from the Army in 1944.