Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Australian discipline on 31 March 1941

General Neame had seen General Morshead a stinging letter complaining about the lack of discipline in Australian troops. General Morshead thought that the letter had a distinct anti-Australian tone and was unfair. About 31 March 1941, General Morshead took steps to answer the letter from Neame. He was forwarding the letter to General Blamey, the head of the Australian forces (AIF). Morshead wondered why the British didn't arrest the Australians who were acting poorly. General Morshead ordered the men to place civilian towns and cities, and even camps, out-of-bounds. They reiterated plans for a system of passes to go to Benghazi or Barce on business. Post-war, General Neame had written complimentary words about the Australians serving near Benghazi.

At the same time, Rommel was concerned about the work of the 2nd Armoured Division preparing defenses that would be hard to attack if they waited for them to be completed. He decided that they had to attack with the small force that they had to prevent having to face stronger defenses. The Germans would use the 8th Machine Gun Battalion to relieve the 3rd Reconnaissance Unit for scouting. They planned to take Mersa Brega on 31 March 1941. They would take Gialo on 2 April. They planned a small airborne attack.

The main addition to the British force defending Cyrenaica was the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, now with three battalions mounted in motor vehicles. They lacked any artillery, however. They also had "A" squadron of the Long Range Desert Group. They had reached Barce on 30 March. Other forces were added, including a machine gun company, a company of the French Motor Battalion, and one battery of anti-tank guns. The 5th RTR had also arrived, but on several dozen of the 52 cruiser tanks had reached the front. The rest had broken down on the way. The total tank strength of the 2nd Armoured Division was some 68 tanks of mixed types. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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