Monday, September 12, 2016

Action with the Australians at Derna, Gazala, and Tobruk on 7 and 8 Aprl 1941

While the rearguards near Derna were being hard-pressed, 9th Australian Division troops were in action. This was on 7 and 8 April 1941. One of the Australian battalion commanders, Lt-Colonel Burrows, had arrived at Tmimi. This was near the sea, on the edge of an escarpment. When the first troops arrived, they found the five German armored cars. Men from the 2/28th Battalion had anti-tank rifles, so they used those to harass the Germans. At a fortunate time, two British cruiser tanks arrived. They moved up in support and the Germans wanted nothing to do with them. Lt-Col. Burrows was a up-front, hands-on leader, so he moved to a position near the road. He was armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun and had his pockets full of grenades. As men arrived from the west on the road, he positioned them to aid in the defense. When J Battery of the 3rd RHA arrived, they were a welcome addition. After them, the 51st Field Regiment drove up the road, and after them, the 104th RHA.

Some 25 miles to the east, at Gazala, a defensive position under the command of the 20th Brigade was established. They had two complete battalions and the rifle companies of the 2/15th Battalion. German armored cars were on the prowl during 8 April, but they did not approach closely during the afternoon. German reconnaissance units seem to have been probing the back areas, behind the mainly Australian defenses. As we mentioned, by early afternoon on 8 April, there were now two Australian brigades at Tobruk. Acting Cyrenaica Command leader, Brigadier Harding was located there, as we mentioned already, so General Morshead thought that he should pull the 9th Australian Division in close to Tobruk. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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