Monday, December 05, 2016

Events on 11 April 1941 at Salum, Halfaya Pass, and Tobruk

From early on 11 April 1941, Australian anti-tank guns were involved with backing British troops at Salum and Halfaya Pass. The Free French Motor Battalion had one company at Halfaya Pass, and they had a troop backing them. There were German and Italian forces headed east, towards the frontier, but were only south of Tobruk. A group from the 1/Durham Light Infantry had headed for Halfaya Pass, accompanied by an Australian anti-tank gun troop. The 1st/DLI group arrived at Halfaya Pass later in the morning. By 5pm, gun were pulled back and were repositioned along the coast road. By 10pm, British columns arrived from the desert at the "top of the pass". For the next several nights, Australian anti-tank guns were on patrol with British troops to the west.

At Toburk, General Morshead had issued his operational order that included brigades holding one battalion in reserved. They also were to start aggressive patrolling. At night, the Australians dominated the area between the fortress and the enemy troops. The Australian engineers were involved with laying mines and building anti-tank defenses.

Wavell's chief of staff was concerned about blockage of the Bardia road. He also was thinking about pulling tanks out of Tobruk for use on the Egyptian frontier. General Lavarack had replied back on the 12th that he would be looking for an opportunity for breaking the enemy hold on the Bardia road. He also argued that they needed the tanks in Tobruk, and could use more, due to the size of the perimeter. They had already lost two tanks on 10 April. Wavell had discussed the situation with General Blamey in Greece. He was open to adding one brigade at Tobruk, if it could be done. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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