Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Miscellaneous groups trying to escape past Derna on 7th and 8th April 1941

Supposedly responsible officers in Great Britain had sent tanks to North Africa that were at the end of their service life. Churchill, the prime minister, did not realize the condition of the tanks, and he took great risks to send the tanks by sea to North Africa. They tanks sent, because of bad behavior by senior officers in Britain, were close to useless. 28 of the tanks in the 5th RTR were lost because they were in bad condition and finally broke down, not from action with the enemy. The men of the 5th RTR were not the last unit to leave Derna. One group that was coming late were support troops from the armored division. They got left behind after Giovanni Berta. As they tried to move east, they kept finding that the engineers had already carried out demolitions. They were forced to keep clearing the road so that they could advance. They only reached Derna at 8pm on 7 April. They exchanged fire with the Germans and then were able to settle down for the night. They moved out early on 8 April, at 4am. Sadly, C Squadron of the 6th RTR was still to the west. They were chagrined to find Germans to their south. They had one tank left running, which finally broke down later that night.

The 9th Australian Division was fortunate, which had moved further east, had a much easier trip. Once they had left Martuba, Some of the men reached Tmimi, they had to deal with five German armored cars about 2,000 yards away. They initially were engaged with anti-tank rifles. Gradually, anti-tank and field guns arrived and were deployed. At the sight of the guns, the Germans held back. Further east, at Gazala, the 20th Brigade organized defenses. There were roving German armored cars, but they stayed out of range. When General Morshead arrived at Tobruk, he found two Australian brigades at the fortress. They were the 18th and 24th Brigades. Brigadier Wooten, of the 24th Brigade was directing the defense. Brigadier Harding, the acting Cyrenaica Command leader, was now at Tobruk. Morshead consulted with Harding and then ordered the Australians at Gazala to move east to Acroma. The 26h Brigade was a brigade group. By 5pm, they started the move from Tmimi to Acroma. By 7pm, the 20th Brigade started to withdraw from Gazala. Everyone had gone without sleep for a long period, so the withdrawal was not very smooth. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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