Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Action involving the withdrawing forces near Derna on 7 April 1941

Two fighter squadrons had been operating over the withdrawing forces up until 7 April 1941 and had been providing cover from German attacks. On the morning of 7 April, the German air force hit the columns on the roads. The 1st RHA had arrived at the Derna airfield around 10am. The plan was to reorganize the unit so that there was some organization instead of chaos. About the same time B Company of the 1/KRRC was trying to do the same thing nearby. Suddenly a group of German vehicles appeared from the south. They had one armored car, one gun, and three vans. Both artillery units got into action and engaged them. At almost the same time, one Australian anti-tank gun and a Bofors light AA gun also joined the fight. The enemy group withdrew in the face of the heavy fire. A company of Free French motorized troops arrived. The 1st RHA left a battery, but the main body moved on down the road. The 104th RHA arrived and got on the coast road. Most of the King's Dragoon Guards then arrived at the airfield. They left a squadron to provide protection for the airfield while the main group continued on down the road. Part of the 1/KRRC came towards the sound of the fire. Their rearguard fought the attacking Germans for several hours. Finally, the last seven cruiser tanks of the 5th RTR arrived and were trying to climb the escarpment. Three of the tanks broke down and were stripped for later destruction. One of their tanks blocked the road for quite a long time, causing a bottle neck. With them were some of the troops of the 3rd Hussars. All of their tanks had broken down on the trip. The remaining components of the 2nd Armoured Division had passed through Derna by 2:30pm. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History

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