Sunday, August 07, 2005

The attack on the airfield, near Derna, was the 2/11 Battalion's first combat experience

The 2/11 Battalion, from the 19th Australian Brigade, was from west Australia, according to Gavin Long. They had not seen any real action until the attack on the airfield near Derna. At 1:30pm on January 25th, 1941, Captain Honner's company moved forward . They quickly outfought some Italian motorcyclists, and then kept moving under heavy fire, until they needed to take cover. On lesson learned from the capture of Bardia was the advantage offered by swift movement. Neither the Northumberland Fusiliers nor the anti-tank guns were able to get close enough to help. Captain Honner personally reconnoitered the forward positions to determine the location of the Italian machiner guns and artillery. Private Graffin lay in the open and fired a BREN gun at the Italian positions. Honner's men were able to find a 3in mortar and 6 bombs, and brought that to the forward position. Honner hoped to overrun the buildings after nightfall. A few mortar bombs did the trick, and they were able to reach the hangers in the dark. While Honner's company was fighting, Captain Egan's company was able to move across a corner of the airfield to the escarpment overlooking Derna. After the fight, Captain Honner's company had lost 2 killed and "21 wounded severely enough to be sent back to the field ambulance and beyond". This is based on the account in To Benghazi.

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