Sunday, April 03, 2016

29 March 1941

Interestingly, Libyan Arabs were allied with the British. There were some Libyan battalions holding locations in the rear. They did have a problem with Arabs pilfering telephone wire. The real problems were communications and the lack of motor transport. The division signals unit was back at Gazala. Things were so bad for communications that the Australians had to use civilian telephone wires. The lack of transport meant that only five of eight battalions were in position. The battalions in position were largely immobile. One battalion, the 2/48th, was sitting at Gazala, waiting to be able to move forward to the 26th Brigade area. The lack of transport left the 24th Brigade at Tobruk. On top of all that, General Neame sent General Morshead a letter complaining about the conduct of Australian troops. The allegations including looting and other forms of misconduct. The misconduct included drunken Australian soldiers. The Australians needed military police to crack down in the lack of discipline, but there were none. The only unit was left in the rear. General Morshead had asked to have the provost company brought forward, but the British had not responded. Undisciplined Australian soldiers running loose in the rear had become increasingly common and was giving the Australian army a bad name. Something needed to be done. We have seen that in June and July, 1941, the problem still existed, despite the good performance of Australian troops fighting the Vichy French. The British seem reluctant to arrest the Australians. General Morshead said that they needed to know who the offenders were so that they could be disciplined. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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