Monday, April 18, 2016
Mersa Brega falls on 31 March 1941
The German main force was moving on Mersa Brega by early afternoon on 31 March 1941. Cemetery Hill was hit hard by German dive bombers. That was followed by an attack by tanks and trucks with infantry. The British 25pdr battery and anti-tank guns fired on them and forced them to pull back. The British commander wanted to chase them, but ran out of time when the next attack came. This time, the attackers were all tanks and came close, but could not get past a sand ridge that was close to the British. They were fired on by British guns. Some tanks were knocked out and others were bogged down in the sand. There were two more dive bomber attacks late in the afternoon. By 5:30pm, German artillery was firing on the British positions. Infantry and tanks were moving forward with Rommel on the scene, deciding to attack to "the north of the coast road". By 6pm, the Germans were successful. By 7pm, they were in Mersa Brega. The 2nd Support Group was forced to withdraw from the position. They moved back about 8 miles. They had mounted a counter-attack before withdrawing, and had some success, but lost eight carriers. The defenders of Mersa Brega had lost 55 men. There was now nothing to stop Rommel from reaching Benghazi or Tobruk. During the night, the 2nd Support Group had moved back to a position about 20 miles in front of Agedabia. They expected a battle there the next day. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.