Wednesday, July 27, 2016

6 April 1941 at Mechili

Around midday on 6 April 1941, a squadron of the Long Range Desert Group commanded by Major Mitford arrived at Mechili. The squdadron was divided into two parts. The part commanded by Major Mitford captured the Italian officer in charge of several guns that were firing on the fort. That stopped the gunfire. The LRDG was to stay outside of Mechili and operate nearby. An unfortunate development was that the one 25-pounder gun at Mechili was sent off to join the 2nd Armoured Division. After all, the enemy force was not present in any numbers yet. Two aircraft that had taken off from the airfield near Mechili had flown south to the column that now included Rommel. They reported that there was a substantial force at Mechili. Rommel's first instinct was to push and attack. He sent Ponath off with ten vehicles towards Derna to get behind the British. He sent a lieutenant and his men off towards the track from Mechili to Derna. Rommel planned to concentrate the Africa Corps at Mechili. Rommel wanted to attack at Mechili by 3pm. 6 April was an important day. The campaign in Greece started on 6 April. The Germans invaded Greece that day. In Cyrenaica, Rommel's move against Mechili caused an order to withdraw from western Cyrenaica. They considered evacuating Tobruk, but Wavell ordered that Tobruk be held. Earlier on 6 April, a King's Dragoon Guards patrol drove towards Msus to investigate. They reported a large group moving east. They reported back to the headquarters and stayed in contact until they were forced to leave. Lt-General Neame, not knowing what was happening, left his headquarters to visit the 9th Australian Division and the 2nd Armoured Division. He met with Major General Morshead of the 9th Australian Division, and showed just how out of touch he was, as he was in denial that there was a big German push into western Cyrenaica. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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