Friday, September 30, 2016

More action after the German attack at Mechili, apparently on 8 April 1941

There had been two 2-pdr anti-tank guns in the rear-guard at Mechili. Both guns were eventually knocked out and only one crew member was not killed or wounded. The guns were being charged by German tanks when the situation got out of hand. After this, the biggest German tanks had reached the old Italian fort in the center of the position. The headquarters of the 2nd Royal Lancers had been established near the fort. We had seen that Brigadier Vaughan had successfully broken out from Mechili. When he stopped to observe the progress of others leaving Mechili, he found that the breakout had stopped. He got on the radio with General Gambier-Parry to find out what had happened. The general replied that the enemy fire had gotten so heavy, that it seemed impossible to take the soft vehicles out through the gunfire. Vaughan suggested that they break out in different direction.

When Brigadier Vaughan had ended his conversation with General Gambier-Parry, he told his associate that he was going back into Mechili to get his rear-guard out regardless of the others. This tells us a lot about the caliber of the man. Those who had broken out with Brigadier Vaughan who did not go back into Mechili were able to drive to El Adem. Brigadier Vaughan found General Gambier-Parry and suggested that they try to break out to the east. They started underway, but drew heavy fire. General Gambier-Parry's reaction at this point was to surrender, but Brigadier Vaughan being the man he was, drove onwards. M Battery of the 3rd. RHA were there, but did not want to surrender. Indian cavalry troops were following M Battery. Major Rajendrasinhji turned the breakout attempt around and they turned to the west. There were two squadrons of Indian cavalry. Not every vehicle in either squadron made the breakout attempt, but of those that went, very few were hit by enemy fire. The drove spread out wide and charged the Germans. They were driving at a German artillery unit. The Germans raised their hands in surrender. although the troops in the breakout just drove past them. This was at the point where some troops from one squadron got trapped in the wadi. Most did not, but of those who did, only one vehicle got out and escaped to Tobruk. The rest were eventually captured. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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