Tuesday, March 01, 2016

They expected an attack from the Germans in March 1941

General Morshead, the 9th Australian Division commander, made a presentation to General Wavell and General Dill, the CIGS. That presentation was well-received and had immediate effect. There was much concern about a coming German attack. The most positive thing happening at this time was the capture of the Giarabub oasis by the 18th Indian Brigade on 21 March 1941. General Wavell had instructed General Neame to fight a delaying battle and not to become involved in a fight. General Wavell was even ready to abandon Benghazi rather than have forces trapped and captured. At this time, on 20 March, Major-General Gambier-Parry had arrived to take charge of the 2nd Armoured Division and the area forward. The 2nd Armoured Division Support Group would replace the 20th Australian Brigade. They would move at night. A single battalion, the 1/Tower Hamlets Rifles was driven from Benghazi on 22 March and the Australian 20th Brigade was driven back to the area east of Benghazi at that time. There was an understandable effort to increase the strength of both the 9th Australian Division and the British 2nd Armoured Division. Oddly enough, the 5th RTR had been sitting at El Adem. They were finally ordered forward where they should already have been located. They were equipped with A.9 and A.10 Cruiser tanks, the only ones not sent to Greece. The problem is that they were to be driven forward. Later, they would have had tank transporters and could have gone that way, but this early, they didn't exist so they were breaking tracks. The 3rd Hussars were also in bad mechanical shape with about 30 Light Mk.VIb tanks (we think). The hope was that they could give the 6th RTR one light tank squadron and two M13/40 tank squadrons. The 3rd Hussars would have two light tank squadrons and one M13/40 squadron. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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