Thursday, July 28, 2016

The situation takes a bad turn on 6 April 1941 in Cyrenaica

Lt-General Neame's decision to go and visit units on 6 April 1941 was a particularly poor choice. He left Lt-General O'Connor at the Cyrenaica Command headquarters while Neame was out of touch with events. He was able to visit the 9th Australian Division and then left to try and find the 2nd Armoured Division. This was at a time when Rommel and the German Africa Corps was on the move against the British forces. Neame did not realize what was happening. If he had, he would have stayed close to the headquarters so that he could be in touch with rapidly moving events. Major General Morshead, the 9th Australian Division commander believed that his division should pull back to Gazala, while Neame wanted them to pull forward to defend the escarpment. Almost immediately after Neame had left the 9th Australian Division headquarters, General O'Connor phoned to tell them that Mechili was being attacked and the division should prepare to withdraw to Derna.

The 2nd Armoured Division continued to be in a bad state. The 3rd Armoured Division continued to have problems. The brigade commander could not find his division commander. You had the 5th RTR firing by mistake on the 6th RTR. Later in the morning on 6 April, the 2nd Armoured Division was moving to the east towards Mechili. Later in the afternoon, the division headquarters continued to move towards Mechili, but the armored brigade and support group turned north towards Derna.

After General O'Connor had heard about the enemy movement towards Mechili, he went to the airfield to talk with returning pilots. This was at Derna. He heard that there were three enemy columns on the move. One column had left Msus, one had left Agedabia, and one near Gialo in the south. There was actually even more happening, because at Acroma, near Tobruk, they had seen Germans. The Indian 18th Cavalry drove off the enemy troops and captured some Italians. From them, they heard that there were more enemy troops moving forward. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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