Monday, August 15, 2016

Traffic, rumours, and things going badly later on 6 April 1941

The 9th Australian Division provosts arrived in the traffic area and attempted to impose some sort of order. At one point, a German battle group had blocked the crossroads where the Giovanni Berta, Martuba, Mechili, and Derna tracks intersected. The situation was so bad that soldiers of the 9th Australian Division pretty universally believed that the Germans had captured a British provost and then replaced him with a German who misdirected traffic. In retrospect, the best guess was that the German battle group had been Group Ponath. As we had noted, they proceeded to the "Rocknest" at Derna. The Australians believed that the probably mythical German provost had sent traffic towards the ambush near the "Rocknest". A liaison officer for the 9th Australian Division headquarters took the inland route later in the evening and noticed that the traffic control was bad and that all units had become intermixed.

Things took a turn for the worst when General Morshead had left generals O'Connor and Neame and Brigadier Combe left by the inland track. They took a wrong turn and ran into the German ambush. They were all captured. The writer of the Official History thought that Major Fell may have seen them make the turn. An Australian group with secret documents and ciphers also ran into the Germans. One man went around in back and "shot the German soldier". That enabled the men to get back into their truck and escape.

Later, some Australian engineers turned left and took the road to Derna. They saw the abandoned staff cars and trucks from what probably was Neame's vehicles. They attempted to pass the mass of vehicles, but took fire that stopped them. They waited until the sky started to lighten. They finally were able to escape and drove to Martuba, where they got medical attention for their wounded from the 2/13th Battalion medical officer. Another engineer group also ran into the ambush. A group of about30 men got away in trucks. They got back to the crossroads and arranged for someone to keep others from turning towards the ambush. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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