Thursday, October 06, 2016

The aftermath of the breakout at Mechili and the surrender

At the time of the breakout at Mechili and Major-General Gambier-Parry's surrender, there was a sand storm. The sand storm kept many people from initially knowing about the surrender. Word was passed between soldiers and many gradually learned about the surrender. By 8am, the fighting at Mechili had ended. Some 3,000 men were taken prisoner. Of these, there were 102 Australian soldiers captured. Even worse, a large number of vehicles were surrendered along with thirty days of supplies for the armored division. No one had taken the time to destroy the supply dump. There was really no excuse for surrendering at Mechili. The fact was that General Gambier-Parry had lost his nerve and used the excuse of the soft vehicles to give up the fight. The men of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade and their associates, such as M-Battery of the 3rd RHA proved Rommel's dictum about breakouts by motorized troops to be true. The second breakout by Brigadier Vaughan's headquarters, and Eden and Rajendrasinjhi's squadrons, and Barlow's unit are examples of what could be done by well-disciplined troops that have bold leadership.

At the time that the breakout and surrender were happening at Mechili, the men at Acroma were in a sand storm. They half-expected to see Germans approaching, given what they knew. As the sky got light, some of the troops that were not in their forward positions now occupied them. Other men in positions worked at improving their situation. They had artillery backing. The 1st RHA had their guns pointing to the south, while the 51st Field Regiment had their guns pointing to the west. When General Morshead, the 9th Australian Division commander, visited Cyrenaica Command headquarters, he found that General Wavell had flown in with Major-General Lavarack, who was the newly-appointed commander of Cyrenaica Command. General Wavell told them that his plan was to hold Tobruk for two months. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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