Monday, February 08, 2016

The 3rd Armoured Brigade and 2nd Support Group in March 1941

The apparent British hope was that nothing would happen in Cyrenaica while they launched the Greek campaign. The 3rd Armoured Brigade had three units: the 3rd Hussars, the 6th RTR, and the 5th RTR. Most of the brigade was located at El Adem. The 5th RTR had old cruiser tanks. We believe them to have been A.9 Cruiser Mk.I and A.10 Cruiser Mk.II tanks. They lasted until the Crusader Battle in December. The 6th RTR was to be equipped with captured Italian M13/40 tanks. One squadron was actually at Beda Fomm being reequipped. The plan was to send the rest of the unit to Beda Fomm to get their Italian tanks. Remember that we are talking about March 1941. As we already mentioned, the 3rd Hussars had antiquated light tanks. While there was a newer version, the Light Mk.VIC with a 15mm Besa gun, like the Humber armored car, we believe that the 3rd Hussars had the older Light Mk.VIB tanks with a 0.50in machine gun. As for the 2nd Armoured Division Support Group, they were short of motorized infantry and artillery. They did have two Free French motorized companies as well as the 1/Tower Hamlets Rifles. The Tower Hamlets were very small for a unit that was nominally a battalion. They could field some 250 men to fight. The Support Group also had very little artillery. They had one anti-tank battery, for example. The field artillery was late to arrive. The 51st Field Regiment and the 104st RHA arrived very late in March 1941. The 51st Field Regiment was equipped with Great War vintage artillery. They had 18pdr guns and 4.5inch Howitzers, some of which were under repair. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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