Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The consequences of the relief of the Australians from Tobruk

The withdrawal of the Australians from Tobruk and the transport of the relieving forces placed a great strain on the Royal Navy and the air force. The first step was to bring in the 1st Polish Carpathian Brigade to replace the 18th Australian Brigade. Every night, convoys ran with destroyers and fast minelayers. They had cruiser escorts "to give extra anti-aircraft protection". The navy took damage to "the cruiser Phoebe and the destroyer Nizam". The British 6th Division was now the 70th Division. In late September, the 16th Infantry Brigade Group was brought in, as well as the HQ of the 32nd Army Tank Brigade and the 4th RTR. The 24th Australian Brigade was withdrawn. In mid to late October, the rest of the 70th Division was transported to Tobruk and almost all of the remaining Australians were withdrawn. The situation at sea, given the increased German air presence made the cost of withdrawing the last few Australian units prohibitive. They were left for the time being. In the process of the withdrawal, the navy lost the fast minelayer Latona, the destroyer Hero was damaged, as well as the gunboat Gnat. The oiler Pass of Balhama and the storeship Samos were torpedoed and sunk by submarines. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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