Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fighting at Er Regima on 4 April 1941

The situation at Er Regima on 4 April 1941 quickly deteriorated. Handley's company had German infiltration through their area. The battalion commander sent the carriers to the right flank. This was at the wadi to the north of the rail line. The battalion commander used what little transport he had to bring forward two platoons from A Company. They were supposed to back up one platoon, but ended up behind D Company, instead and were engaged. As organization was lost, Lt-Col. Burrows sent Major Turner to the battle area to try and gain control again. When the two platoons got into position, a German tank approached, but was knocked out by an anti-tank rifle. A private rushed the tank with his Bren gun, fired from the hip, and killed one German and captured the other two. The Bren was nominally a light machine gun, but Australians often picked them up and held them while they fired. The battalion commander now brought one company, not previously engaged, into the fort. They would be needed to cover the forward men as they pulled back. From Simmons platoon, they were caught by the Germans in old Italian sangers and only five men escaped. As the day got later, it was getting dark. The fighting closed in on the fort. The Australians were becoming overwhelmed by larger German numbers. British howitzers fired their remaining ammunition and retreated. The battalion commander decided to move back down the road and hope to meet approaching transport. Reinforcements in the form of two companies of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers arrived along with an anti-tank company. They machine gunners had not been able to lay down fixed lines of fire, so they figured that they would be of little help. Lt-Col. Burrows had organized the men to be able to both block and to be in position to withdraw. The expected transport had not arrived. The battalion commander at that point had some men to block the road while the rest withdrew. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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