Thursday, June 23, 2016

Disaster at Er Regima and after from 4 April 1941

The 2/13th Battalion had the bad fortune to receive the German attack on 4 April 1941. The attack continued into the night after darkness had fallen. A company-sized group of Germans had quickly surrounded men. They mounted a bayonet charge and fired at the Germans. They ended up moving further into the mass of German troops. A few men managed to escape. A few men managed to get past the anti-tank ditch. The Germans responded by making use of a knocked out tank for cover and as a strong point. The battalion commander, Lt-Col. Burrows decided to withdraw to the second anti-tank ditch past the village. He hoped to meet the expected transport as it came up the road. As we have mentioned, the howitzers from the 51st Field Regiment fired their last ammunition and then withdrew. Some of the Germans had reached the ditch by the railroad station, so some men were sent to beat them back. Major Turner worked to organize the defense. There was a cross over the ditch east of the fort. The men set up a roadblock that they hoped would hold so that more of the battalion could pass through. Hill's company would act as a defense behind the ditch, while Lt-Col. Burrows organized men to hold a position further forward to give Hill's men time to setup their position. Burrows had expected transport to arrive at 7pm, but there was no sign of it. At 10:15pm, Burrows ordered everyone not in the blocking position to move to the east down the road. About a half hour later, the missing transport arrived. They were a company with Cypriot drivers. There were too few trucks, so the men were tightly packed in the vehicles, some even riding on a gun tractor. They passed through Barce, which was on fire. About ten miles past Barce, the men dismounted and dispersed, waiting for dawn. One platoon, back at Er Regima, had gotten free from the enemy, but had missed the battalion withdrawal. They went into the hills in the dark. On their own, they continued to move to the east. They never caught up with the others from their battalion. Two officers and 23 men reached Gazala. Only one man reached Tobruk to rejoin the battalion. The others were all captured by the Germans. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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