Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Into 7 April 1941 in Cyrenaica

The British and Australian engineers carried out a very complete demolition program on 6 April 1941. They left a few watering spots near Maraua, but when the Germans came through, they found obstacles at every turn and large numbers of land mines. The Cyrenaica Command Headquarters arrived at Tmimi at about midnight on 6 to 7 April. Brigadier Harding on the staff was very worried because generals O'Connor and Neame were missing. They had, of course, been caught in Ponath's ambush near Derna. General Morshead arrived at Tmimi at about 4am. He and Harding figured out that the generals were probably German prisoners. Morshead and Brigadier Harding realized that they needed to make a plan for what to do next. They decided to withdraw to Gazala and create defenses. Gazala is where the escarpment reaches up to the plateau. They ordered the units at Mechili to withdraw to El Adem. The message was misaddressed, so that the Mechili garrison did not receive the orders. The Cyrenaica Command and 9th Australian Division headquarters were to withdraw immediately to Gazala.

There is the road that heads to Derna and then climbs to the pass to the east of the town. That road was packed with slowly moving vehicles. There was a long line, sometimes with three or four vehicles alongside each other. One company of the 1/KRRC was blocking the track from Mechili that came to Giovanni Berta. The Tower Hamlets Rifles were at the pass to the west of Derna. There was actually still a 3rd Armoured Brigade column approaching Derna, but with vehicles stretched back a long ways. Brigadier Rimington had an accident in the night with his command vehicle. He and his associate tried a shortcut and ran into Ponath's ambush where they were captured. At this point, Major-General Gambier-Parry was in Mechili, which was surrounded. Thhis is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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