Tuesday, November 08, 2016

From 9 and 10 April 1941 at Tobruk

General Wavell suggested that the commanders at Tobruk reconnoiter the fortress to gain a better knowledge of the situation. The group consisted of General Lavarack, General Morshead, Brigadier Harding, and Brigadier Wooten. General Wavell had been under the mistaken impression that there was an inner line that could be defended. What the officers found was that the outer perimeter was the only defensive line that existed at Tobruk. There was no inner line. The conclusion drawn by General Lavarack was that they would have to hold the outer perimeter. They would decide where to locate the brigades. Later in the day, a large group of vehicles approached the Tobruk area. They were probing Acroma to see what was being held. Eventually, armored cars probed the area. Finally, artillery commenced firing and received replies from the Tobruk guns. During the 9th, more equipment arrived at Tobruk. They got the 51st Field Regiment, and four infantry tanks from the 4th RTR. During the night, the units near Acroma moved into Tobruk.

We find that this early in the campaign, Rommel was already setting up ad hoc battle groups taken from the German and Italian divisions. They had the 5th Light Division, the Italian Ariete armored division, and the Brescia Division. The Trento Division had started to arrive at Agedabia on this day. Already, elements of the 15th Panzer Division were to be sent to Africa earlier than had been planned. They had not been to arrive until May, but all that changed. During 9 April 1941, Rommel ordered his forces to approach Tobruk and to besiege the place. What Rommel wanted to do was to attack prior to the British having time to prepare their defenses. We find that on 9 April, General Wavell was planning a visit to Greece. He heard of General Lavarack's decisions about Tobruk, but did not immediately reply. General Wavell knew that General Blamey, the Australian general in Greece disapproved violently with the decision to hold the 7th Australian Division in North Africa, rather than sending it to Greece. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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