Monday, March 14, 2016

The situation on 20 March 1941 in Cyrenaica

The British and Australians were left with the original plan for defending Cyrenaica on 20 March 1941. Generals Neame and Gambier-Parry had acted to keep a permanent presence at the fort at El Agheila. They had the 1st King's Dragoon Guards forward. They were "two miles east of Marsa Brega with a squadron to the south at Bir el Ginn". There were some Australian light anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank guns (very few), and some British light anti-aircraft guns. They patroled with one armored car and one anti-tank gun. From 20 March, one platoon of motorized infantry would stay at the El Agheila fort at night. The infantry actually was to the south so that they could watch for a German approach. They also had a plan to ambush approaching Germans. Early on 23 March, they surprised some Germans. The anti-tank guns managed to knock out three German vehicles. They had surprised a larger force with armored cars, tanks, and field guns. The Germans had intelligence that the experienced divisions had been replaced by much less experienced units. Rommel flew to Germany to consult with the "German High Command". He planned a larger attack on 24 March 1941. Rommel was asking for more forces to be sent, but the current plan was only for the 15th Panzer Division to be sent in May. The high command was thinking about all their plans and was not particularly ready for Rommel to do anything to large that might interfere. In late March, both the British and Germans were using dummy tanks to give an illusion of strength. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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