Wednesday, August 22, 2007
The initial retreat from western Cyrenaica
Major-General Frank Messervy was temporarily in command of the 1st Armoured Division after General Lumsden had been wounded in an air attack. He commanded the initial withdrawals. General Messervy had wanted the 200th Guards Brigade to block the coast road, but the brigade commander had sent the 2nd Scots Guards to Antelat, as they were without artillery or any other support. The 2nd Armoured Brigade was sent to a position about 12 miles north of Giod el Matar, which is directly east of Agedabia. By the first evening, the 1st Support Group and the 200th Guards Brigade were positioned along a front between Agedabia and El Haseiat. General Godwin-Austen, the 13th Corps commander, took a pessimistic view and ordered that troops in Benghazi be prepared to abandon the city. He was right, as the whole western Cyrenaican front was about to collapse. All he had was the 4th Indian Division to try and slow Rommel's advance up the coast road. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.