Monday, March 07, 2016

Movements from 22 March 1941 to strengthen the 9th Australian Division and the 2nd Armoured Division

The 2/13th Battalion was to move by night to the area east of Benghazi, but the transport missed the meeting point, so they ended up traveling by day. They had been the target of air attacks which were ineffective. An artillery regiment was moving up to join the 9th Australian Division. Another, the 104th RHA moved forward to the 2nd Support Group. The 9th Australian Division got their engineers back, after they had been assigned to Cyrenaica Command since the middle of January 1941. Most of the 26th Australian Brigade moved up to Gazala. The Australian Official History criticizes the armored regiment arrangements with the captured Italian tanks and worn-out cruisers and light tanks. This meant that when the Germans attacked, the tanks were not really ready for action. The most reliable armored vehicles were the Marmon-Herrington Mk.II armored cars. The Official History says that their suspension was unequal to the strain of desert travel. They were only lightly armed, however. They had a Vickers machine gun, a Bren gun, and a 0.55-inch Boyes anti-tank rifle. The German armored cars were greatly superior to the British cars (manufactured in South Africa). The KDG diarist credited them with a 37mm gun, but in fact, they only had a 20mm gun and a machine gun. The Germans had the large eight-wheeled cars with faceted armor and the smaller four-wheeled cars with a 20mm gun that also had faceted armor. The situation in the air meant that the British were also out-matched. The Germans already had 90 fighters and 80 bombers in North Africa by late March 1941. We have seen that on 20 March 1941, the 2nd Armoured Division became responsible for the forward defense in Cyrenaica while the 9th Australian Division was pulled back. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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