Sunday, May 20, 2007
British airpower in support of the army in early December 1941
By late November and early December 1941, the weather was less than ideal for air operations. There was considerable support, though, at this critical time. They benefited, though, from the restricted battle area near Tobruk. Air reconnaissance was able keep track of the battle and Axis movements. They saw the Trieste Motorized Division moving up to support the German battlegroup Mickl. Light bombers, escorted by fighters, much of the time, were able to make planned strikes. A sortie was one aircraft on one operation. A 1,029 sorties were flown in four days. This was independent of the "offensive sweeps" flown over the battlefield. For example, RAF Beaufighters made repeated low-level strikes on Axis airfields near the battle zone. A critical development involved the New Zealand Division, which was able to disengage and move to the east. They eventually were able to withdraw "back to the Egyptian frontier". The 1st Army Tank brigade with its ten remaining infantry tanks withdrew with the New Zealanders. A few New Zealand units withdrew into the Tobruk fortress area. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.