Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Major moves by Rommel early on 5 April 1941

Early on 5 April 1941, Rommel ordered a major mechanized force to advance on Msus from Antelat. A machine gun battalion moved from Soluch towards Msus. The RAF reconnaissance aircraft reported these movements to Cyrenaica Command. The mechanized force included the 5th Armored Regiment and forty tanks from the Ariete Division. They were accompanied by field artillery and anti-tank guns. When Lt-General Neame received the report of German forces east of Msus, he decided to withdraw on Derna. Major General Morshead was aware of what was transpiring and returned to his headquarters and issued orders for an immediate move to Derna. Cyrenaica Command was confused about what was happening. They first ordered the 9th Australian Division to stand fast and then decided to have them withdraw. The 1/KRRC thought that the Germans were not near Msus when they actually were. The machine gun battalion was also very close to Msus. The reality was that the Germans were not yet in Msus but were about to reach the place. About this time, Rommel was receiving erroneous air reconnaissance reports as well. Much of the Africa Corps was driving along the Trigh el Abd. During the night, Rommel tried driving the Trigh el Abd with his lights on and was bombed by British aircraft. He turned his lights off after that incident. Early on 5 April, the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade was fired on by Germans from a distance. The Indians were quickly able to drive them off. The German records do not record what unit was involved in attacking Mechili. During the day on 5 April, one 25pdr gun arrived, the only artillery that the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade had. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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