Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The afternoon of 6 April 1941 in Cyrenaica

When Lt-General Neame had left his headquarters, that left General O'Connor in charge. O'Connor had gone to the airfield to talk with reconnaissance pilots. When he returned to the headquarters, he issued orders for the 2nd Armoured Division to head for Mechili, which was threatened. The orders ended up not being implemented, however. The 2nd Support Group had been at Tacasis at 1pm. They got orders by radio to withdraw by the coast road, because of the enemy forces at Mechili. They believed that the orders came from Major-General Gambier-Parry's chief staff officer. While the armored division had ordered the 3rd Armoured Brigade to Mechili, Cyrenaica Command overrode those orders and told them to head for Maraua in the north. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade received orders from Cyrenaica Command to send a petrol convoy to meet with the 2nd Armoured Division. Perhaps the Germans were listening to British communications because they expected the 2nd Armoured Division to head for Mechili. As the support group headed north, they met Neame. He ordered the support group to hold the "outpost line" that had been held by the 1/KRRC. O'Connor then ordered the 3rd Armoured Brigade to head for Mechili. About this time, O'Connor agreed to let the 9th Australian Division to withdraw to Gazala. Two battalions, the 2/13th and the 2/48th would hold some key points on the route to Gazala. The 1/KRRC was back to reporting to the Australians. Their task would be to cover the engineers as they demolished bridges and supply dumps. The Australians had to use improvised transport in their withdrawal. Brigadier Kisch, the British commander of Cyrenaica Command engineers suggested that the Australians withdraw by the inland road that had been improved, so they avoided possible bottleneck situations farther north. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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