Tuesday, March 08, 2016
The British knew that they were in trouble in late March and early April 1941 in Cyrenaica
General Neame, who was the commander for Cyrenaica, was very unhappy with the arrangements that were in place to defend against a German attack. He recognized an immediate need for more motor transport, since without it, the 2nd Armoured Division was very immobile. The tank situation was poor, due to the mechanical condition of what they had. General Neame had a wish list that included a squadron of infantry tanks (Matilda II's), two companies of motor transport, more signals men and equipment, another cruiser tank regiment, a motor infantry battalion, more artillery of all types, and air support. He also noted that what he would really like would be a motorized infantry division to replace the 9th Australian Division, which would train near Tobruk. General Wavell replied that all that was available would be the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, with just two battalions, and some more transport. Neame's backup plan was to place supply dumps in western Cyrenaica, so that the armored division would have available supplies close to their positions. The priority for the 2nd Armoured Division was to hold onto Mersa Brega. They continued to rely upon intelligence estimates that put any German advance into early April 1941. The 9th Australian Division would try to hold the area east of Benghazi. They would let the Germans onto the plain, but try to hold the escarpment area to contain them. The new British plan was to avoid an armored battle, rather than trying to fight one that they might well lose. The main question was if they should try to block the Germans at El Agheila or at Mersa Brega. El Agheila did have a fort that was some 25 miles to the southwest from Mersa Brega. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.