Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More on the withdrawal on April 6 and 7th, 1941

We note that General Gambier-Parry never saw General O'Connor's withdrawal order. The 3rd Armoured Brigade commander had, but his brigade was short of fuel. Brigadier Rimington and his second-in-commmand were injured in a car rollover, on their way to Maraua, and lost control of their brigade. The Germans took them prisoner, during the advance. The 3rd Armoured Brigade withdrew towards Derna, and in the process, impeded the Australian withdrawal. This is a slight expansion on what we have already written.

Early on April 7th, Colonel Ponath's kampfgruppe was headed northeast towards Derna. One of the retreating Australian battalions had seen them on the track from Mechili. Colonel Ponath's group reached the vicinity of the airfield that was 6 miles from Derna. He was engaged by a force that included elements of the 5/RTR, lead by their commander, Lt-Col. Drew. The 5/RTR's last four tanks were knocked out, but they provided enough cover for the rest of the group to withdraw.

Brigadier Harding, perhaps the most senior officer of the Cyrenaica Command who was still free, arrived at Tmimi early on April 7th. He suspected that Generals Neame and O'Connor were prisoners of war. In fact, he was correct. The generals had left Maraua at 8pm in one car. They drove up to Colonel Ponath's group and were captured.

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