Monday, February 01, 2016

An unfortunate situation in February 1941

General Blamey's desire to send the best Australian troops to Greece meant that the Western Desert was left in a difficult situation. The 9th Australian Division had the most newly-recruited troops and were about to face the Germans. The 20th and 26th Brigades had been taken from the 7th Australian Division, which was their home unit. The Australian Official History mentions that the 18th Brigade wore their 6th Australian Division patches through the rest of the war. Division identity was a meaningful thing, and the former 7th Division brigades had thought that they had lost their better organization and had been moved to a higher numbered division, the 9th. A meeting was held on 26 February where the reorganization was said to be "temporary". The men had been "trained to fight", but their leaders were not yet trained to lead. The 20th Brigade was the first 9th Australian Division brigade to move west. They were mainly moved by train to Mersa Matruh. By 4 March, they had reached Tobruk. Two days later, they were west of Derna. They had passed Benghazi on 8 March. Not much later, the 20th Brigade arrived at Agedabia to take over from the 17th Australian Brigade. The plan was for the 2nd Armoured Division headquarters to be in charge at Agedabia, but they were not in place yet. The 17th Brigade was still in place at Marsa Brega, a name with which we are very familiar, being long-time students of the North African campaign. Marsa Brega had sand dunes, "rolling ground", and marshes. That seems rather unexpected for desert terrain. Brigadier Rimington and the 3rd Armoured Brigade were to protect the area south of Marsa Brega from attack. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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