Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Nothing but confusion on 4 April 1941

General Wavell had left Lt-General Neame in command in Cyrenaica, with Richard O'Connor as just an advisor. When Neame heard about the attack on the 2/13th Battalion at Er Regima, he issued orders for pulling back from the lower escarpment. This was at about 8:30pm on 4 April 1941. The 9th Australian Division was to move to the escarpment at Barce and hold that until pressed by the enemy. He ordered the 2nd Armoured Division to withdraw to Tecnis, except for the forces at Msus. The forces there were to drive north to Charruba. These orders actually just confirmed the movements already underway. The 2nd Support Group moved by desert track to avoid tying up the road. As noted by the 2/17th Battalion, the roads were congested and "choked" by vehicles moving rapidly. The 2/24th Battalion was one of the last units to learn that they were to withdraw. They had refused a ride from a transport unit because they had not been authorized to withdraw. When they saw armored vehicles approaching, they blew their demolitions. They left a rearguard and then moved to Baracca. They finally got their orders to withdraw at 11pm. The commander of the 2/13th Field Company asked for the battalion to withdraw immediately, by foot, so he could destroy the bridge from Baracca to Barce. The battalion commander only was ready to withdraw at 3:15am. They had a few vehicles, so they packed men into those and withdrew. That allowed the engineers to carry out their demolitions. The 2/24th eventually met 20 trucks and were able to unpack the men and move more comfortably. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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