Friday, August 05, 2016

Later on 6 April 1941 in western Cyrenaica

Two separate situations were unfolding in western Cyrenaica later on 6 April 1941. First, the 9th Australian Division received orders to withdraw. Second, the enemy were closing in on Mechili. The order for the 9th Australian Division units to withdraw was issued at 4pm on 6 April. Some movement out started as soon as 5pm. About the time that the western-most units received the orders, German forces were coming in contact. One company of the 2/15th Battalion fired on a small German reconnaissance group at 4:15pm. All of the Germans were killed. By 5pm, another mixed German group consisting of a light tank, armored cars, and motorized infantry drove by the 2/48th Battalion, just as they had received the order to withdraw. The infantry dismounted and the situation looked to be difficult. Supporting machine gun fire my the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers kept the Germans from advancing and allowed the Australians to withdraw. The machine gunners took some casualties in the process. A written account gave the Australian attitude towards the situation. They thought that they were in a good position to defend against an attack, which they were abandoning instead of fighting.

By 5pm, the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade commander asked for help, as the force surrounding the brigade in Mechili was getting larger. Rommel was very unhappy with how the day had progressed on 6 April. He had hoped to have enough strength at Mechili to take the place, but instead, they were forced to sit and wait. Once the Fabris unit had arrived at Mechili later on 6 April, Rommel planned at attack at 7am on 7 April. The 3rd Armoured Brigade finally started to move out. The route chosen seemed likely to conflict with the 9th Australian Division withdrawal route. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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