Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The forces available to defend Tobruk from 8 April 1941

The forces available to General Lavarack to defend Tobruk were scattered and distributed as of 8 April 1941. General Lavarack at once decided how to organize the units that he had available. One group would be used to defend Tobruk. He put General Morshead in command and designated him as the Tobruk commander. He had assigned his own 9th Australian Division and its supporting troops. The division at this time had eight battalions. They had four British artillery regiments and a machine gun battalion, along with engineers. They were also assigned the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, the armored car unit. The second group would be under Brigadier Gott's command and would be mobile. He had most of the 11th Hussars and part of the 4th RHA. They would stay outside of Tobruk. The third group would be reserves, with the 18th Australian Brigade as its main unit. They would have some anti-tank guns and all the tanks that were present. This plan meant that the 18th Brigade would have to withdraw from its Tobruk defensive position. As of 8 April 1941, Lt-Col. Drew was appointed to command a new 3rd Armoured Brigade. From available tanks, they were equipped with 4 cruiser tanks and 18 light tanks. There were other mobile units, such as the French motor battalion, the 1st KRRC, and the remnants of the Tower Hamlets Rifles. The Indian 18th Cavalry were to enter Tobruk to support the 9th Australian Division. Brigadier Gott's men were to operate south of the coast road and would harass the advancing German and Italian troops. Since the 9th Australian Division had gone to Cyrenaica without artillery, they needed help forming a division artillery command. That task fell to Brigadier Thompson, recently arrived from Palestine. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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