Tuesday, May 03, 2016

More about the situation on 2 April 1941

As the Germans were advancing in early April 1941, the 9th Australian Division was lacking information. They were also not ready to fight. The right was held by the 26th Brigade, which only had the 2/24th Battalion. They had only obtained enough transport to move the 2/48th Battalion forward from Gazala. They arrived at Baracca at 5pm. By 3 April, they were ten miles from Tocra, near "an Italian settlement".

General Wavell felt compelled to visit Barce and the Cyrenaica Command headquarters. He was having one of those periodic exchanges with Churchill in London. Wavell had directed General Neame to keep his armor in being, even if that involved withdrawing from Benghazi. That got a negative response from the Prime Minister. Churchill had suggested bringing General O'Connor forward. In fact, Wavell decided to replace Neame with O'Connor. The situation was such that Neame being so far from the action, that he did not have effective control. One goal was to keep the 2nd Armoured Division concentrated, rather than to scatter the division. General Gambier-Parry was going to withdraw on El Ablar. The coast road had the disadvantage that the supply dump at Magrun was destroyed by the 2/3rd Australian Field Company. Neame was still in command and ordered demolitions at Benghazi in preparation for withdrawal. Demolition charges were exploded at Er Regima. They blew the minefield, as they expected, so they laid new anti-tank mines at the pass. On the morning of 3 April, Wavell and Neame met with General Morshead, of the 9th Australian Division, and passed on the news that O'Connor would arrive to take over Cyrenaica Command. O'Connor came by plane with Brigadier Combe. He landed at El Adem and sent word to the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade that they should be ready to send two regiments to Mechili. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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