Friday, November 25, 2016

German activity near Tobruk on 11 April 1941

The night before the 11th, the 18th Cavalry had sent out a patrol of four small trucks to the west, looking down in the Derna road. They saw no sign of the Germans. That same time, a Support group column had an encounter with a German column about 12 miles west of Tobruk. What seems to be happening was that German columns headed into the desert from the coast road west of Tobruk. In "mid-morning" on 11 April 1941, on the right from the 20th Brigade, they saw a group of about fifty vehicles. Tobruk artillery fired on them and they scattered. The Australians sent out a platoon to look for the Germans. A report from the Support Group mentioned some forty tanks heading for El Adem from the south. The tanks came from an area where about 300 vehicles had been seen. The group of tanks split in two with one part heading east along the Trigh Capuzzo. The German intent seemed to be to completely surround Tobruk.

A little after noon, about ten tanks drove towards a post held by the 24th Brigade. They were engaged by guns from the 24th Anti-Tank Company. They succeeded in knocking out five tanks and drove off the rest. Near 1pm, 20 to 30 trucks drove up to Post R63 in the perimeter. They were engaged by the 104th RHA. The trucks were forced to withdraw. Other trucks drove towards the Bardia road. German infantry left their vehicles and attacked post R63. The Australians took casualties and the Germans sat astride the Bardia Road. Another fight took place between the 2/28th Battalion and the 2/43rd Battalion.

As he had been instructed, Brigadier Gott ordered the mobile portion of the Support Group to withdraw to the Egyptian frontier. He sent a message to General Lavarack, informing him of the move. The message used a code word that they had set for this occasion. The Support Group supply vehicles were trapped in Tobruk by the German moves. By 1pm, at about two miles east of Tobruk, the Germans brought infantry. They moved up to within a half-mile from Tobruk and started digging positions. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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