Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A temporary plan as of 9 April 1941

The arrangements that General Wavell put in place on 8 April 1941 were apparently viewed as being temporary. For the present, Wavell continued the existence of a Cyrenaica Command, but that was not to last. We find that Wavell viewed the collapse in the desert as mainly being due to the poor mechanical condition of the tanks in the 3rd Armoured Brigade. Wavell wrote that in a letter to General Blamey. The concept for the immediate future was to garrison Tobruk as a strong point and to gather mobile forces, such as a reconstituted support group under the command of Brigadier Gott, newly arrived to the scene. The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade was to be part of the mobile force, but the official history says that the brigade took heavy losses at Mechili. The description here made the brigade seem to have escaped, although parts of it were lost, such as the squadron caught in the wadi. We would blame Major-General Gambier-Parry and his sudden surrender as the cause of unnecessary losses at Mechili.

The forces available to General Lavarack on 9 April were two brigades at Acroma, with two artillery regiments and the machine gun battalion. In Tobruk were two more brigades, an artillery regiment, the support group remnants, the men of the 3rd Armoured Brigade, and miscellaneous anti-tank and anti-aircraft units. We believe that the 3rd Armoured Brigade was transformed into the 32nd Army Tank Brigade. A new artillery regiment was about to arrive by sea. The 1st RTR had just arrived. We heard that this was a makeshift regiment created out of available men and equipment. The 11th Hussars, from the 7th Armoured Division, was about to move up to El Adem from the Egyptian frontier. Further reinforcement for the reconstituted support group drove up the road from Egypt. A surviving unit from the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade, the 18th Cavalry Regiment, was located at El Adem. Over the next day, the surviving units of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade that had broken out of Mechili arrived at El Adem. One squadron, commanded by Captain Barlow, arrived after driving from Mechili. This is based on the account in VOl.III of the Australian Official History.

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