Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Reinforcements and improving defenses on 8 April 1941

As well as defending Tobruk, more units were heading for the Egyptian-Libyan frontier on 8 April 1941. The 22nd Guards Brigade, a fixture in the desert, had two battalions at Mersa Matruh on 8 April 1941. The other battalion was moving forward to Sollum with light tanks from the 7th Hussars. Another one of the 6th Infantry Division's brigades was moving towards Mersa Matruh. The 6th Division was eventually renamed the 70th Division. The 4th Indian Division was being shipped to Egypt to augment the defenses. At some point, their commander was Frank Messervy, who fought in the desert against Rommel during the campaign.

Early on 8 April, the 9th Australian Division still had a large presence outside of Tobruk. There were troops near Acroma, watching the coast road, expecting to see Germans approaching. During the morning, they learned of the surrender at Mechili. The 9th Australian Division spent much of 8 April getting organized so that battalions were with the correct brigades. During the last several days, they had become jumbled. That put the 26th Brigade on the right, holding from the coast road to the Mediterranean coast. The 20th Brigade was in the south, watching the "open desert flank". On the eighth, the troops had a hot meal served for supper. The Germans did not challenge the British and Australians near Tobruk on 8 April. That is not to say that they were totally absent. There were German armored cars conducting reconnaissance.

When General Morshead heard that generals O'Connor and Neame were being held near Derna, he put together a group to attempt a rescue. The commander of the King's Dragoon Guards were concerned about Morshead's plan to use armored cars on the road at night, as he was concerned about the risks to them under those circumstances. He had nothing to worry about, it turns out, because the group was delayed at Gazala due to road demolition, so they could not get near Derna in the dark and had to turn back. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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