Thursday, July 07, 2016

Defending the second escarpment in Cyrenaica on 5 April 1941

The commander of the 9th Australian Division, General Morshead, took responsibility for organizing the defense of the second escarpment in Cyrenaica on 5 April 1941. A composite organization consisting of most of the 2/48th Battalion had moved east on the road to Maddalena, and was guarding the pass. This was where the northern road from Barce runs up the escarpment. The 2/15th Battalion held the southern pass. This was to the east of Barce. The 2/17th Battalion set up a defensive position about three miles east of the 2/15th. The plan was for the 2/13th and 2/48th Battalions to move into positions behind the 2/48th and 2/15th Battalions. The 2/24th Battalion was to move to the Wadi Cuff. The engineers prepared demolitions to destroy the road that they had just built. The 2/13th Battalion was in position to the south of the Wadi Cuff. The 9th Australian Division was augmented by the 104th RHA, which was just added to the division. The Australians now had two British artillery regiments, the 104th RHA and the 51st Field Regiment. The Australians now also had another support group unit, the 1/KRRC. They would guard the left flank. Late on 4 April 1941, Cyrenaica Command received news of reinforcements being sent. They included part of the 11th Hussars, the reconnaissance unit of the 7th Armoured Division, the 1st RTR, the 18th Australian Brigade, and the 107th RHA. The 11th Hussars had 32 armored cars. The 1st RTR had 33 tanks. Early on 5 April, General Neame drove to visit the forward units. O'Connor was going to the Wadi Cuff to supervise the preparation of a defense. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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