Monday, June 13, 2016

An uneasy day on 4 Apirl 1941 in Cyrenaica

In the area east of Benghazi, the men were feeling very uneasy about their situation. Cyrenaica Command was out of touch with reality. They had no idea of where the Germans were or what they were doing. General O'Connor had decided to keep the Australians on the escarpment to impeded any German advance. At the wadi at Er Regima, the three companies of the 2/13th Battalion. The battalion commanders had two battalions forward, one on the right and one on the left. They left an undefended gap in the middle. They third company was held in reserve. While they had been promised some 25pdr guns, all they had were four 4.5in howitzers. They also had a machine gun company. The day before, Hurricanes of the RAF flew out to the east from where they had been based. They flew out of an airfield at Benina, at the foot of the pass at Er Regima. There had been a great deal of traffic from units that were withdrawn from the west. They had heard explosions from the demolitions fired by various engineer units. All they could do is watch the road and wait for something to happen. On the afternoon of 4 April 1941, a column could be seen driving out of Benghazi towards their positions. The vehicles included tanks, armored cars, and troop-carrying trucks. There were two groups of tanks in line abreast heading for the pass. The howitzers and some captured Italian mortars fired on the tanks. They knocked out one light tank with a mortar round. They hit other tanks, but did not knock them out. The tanks withdrew, but the infantry dismounted in preparation for an assault. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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