Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The withdrawal on 31 March to 1 April 1941

The plan had been for the 2nd Armoured Division to move to the east and set up a new defensive position. The division, however, was too slow to move. At this point, the Germans were not following, however. The 2nd Support Group occupied a new position astride the coast road about 30 miles past Mersa Brega. The position had a marsh on the right, so that provided some protection. The armored brigade was on the left. The 3rd Hussars, with some artillery, tried to provide some protection to the withdrawal. By the morning of 1 April, the 5th RTR was down to 23 tanks. The armor was on the desert track to the east of the coast road. The King's Dragoon Guards were positioned towards the desert to watch for any German forces. General Neame visited General Gambier-Parry at Maaten el Baghlia. He ordered the armored division to withdraw towards Benghazi. By early afternoon, the withdrawal was in progress. General Neame had already ordered the troops at Benghazi to prepare demolitions at the harbor and to be ready for a withdrawal. Near Msus, troops from the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade encountered German troops. At a distance, they saw some strange vehicles. They might have been the Free French, but then they were recognized as enemy. They headed off to escape, and had a pursuer for some thirty miles. The acting commander of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade sent out a group towards the reported enemy force, but did not hear any more for three days. By the start of 2 April, the support group saw German activity in front of them. They had carriers scouting. The Germans attacked with forty tanks with infantry. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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