Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rommel moves forward as the British withdraw in early April 1941

The British were withdrawing in the face of the German attack. The 2nd Support Group initially moved some 30 miles north of Agedabia. The 3rd Armoured Brigade was now east of Agedabia. They had two units forward. The 3rd Hussars were to the right while the 5th RTR was to the left. A squadron from the 6th RTR was guarding the rear of the 3rd Hussars. By 1pm, the 5th RTR could see German vehicles following them. The King's Dragoon Guards could see German armored cars moving towards Antelat. After seeing the British withdrawal, Rommel was compelled to take action. He ordered his division to attack Agedabia and take it. He also wanted the small port of Ez Zuetina. While the Germans were advancing, General Neame was trying to slow down the British withdrawal and stay in control. Neame was leaving the 2nd Armoured Division divided into two groups that were too far apart to support each other. General Gambier-Parry replied back to Neame that he should have the option to commit his armored brigade if an opportunity presented itself. General Neame was too far from events to know about what was happening. By now, the 3rd Armoured Brigade had only 22 cruiser tanks and 25 light tanks. The tanks were breaking down at a rate of about one per ten miles traveled. By 4pm, the 3rd Armoured Brigade was still moving back towards planned defensive position. The 5th RTR was slowed by having to stay with a composite battery from the 1st RHA, which could only move at 7 miles per hour. There was still a 6th RTR presence at Beda Fomm, where they had been waiting. They had about 40 Italian tanks. They were ordered to move forward to Antelat. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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