Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Events on 12 and 13 April 1941 near Tobruk and the Egyptian frontier

Rommel had finally received two copies of maps from the Italians on 12 April 1941. He kept one set for himself and gave one to General Streich, the commander of the 5th Light Division. Rommel planned to attack Tobruk on 13 April 1941, using the 5th Light Division as the main attack force. The enemy forces were lining up with the Australian brigades that were defending Tobruk. The 24th Brigade had the Schwerin Group opposite them. The 5th Light Division would attack the 20th Brigade. The Italians sat on their left. The Ariete Armored Division was on their immediate left. One regiment of the Trento Mechanized Division was to their left. There was also the Brescia Division still blocking the Derna road.

At the same time, primarily German forces were pressing to the east from Tobruk. One thing that happened was that the Germans took Fort Capuzzo. By 4pm they took the barracks at Salum. There was some fighting between British and German troops and some Germans were taken prisoner. General Evetts, the commander of the 6th Division (eventually renamed the 70th Division) sent the 3rd/Coldstream Guards up to reinforce the Support Group at the Egyptian Frontier. we learned that the 11th Hussars, at this point in time, were equipped with Marmon-Herrington Mk.II armored cars. They were the vehicles built in South Africa. They were lightly armored and had machine guna and an anti-tank rifle. The Australian historian noted that what they needed on the frontier were British cruiser tanks.

13 April 1941 was Easter Sunday. The enemy forces at Tobruk were preparing for an attack. During the afternoon, General Lavarack was informed they would receive eight infantry tanks and four medium guns. The medium guns were 60 pounders. The appearance was that the 2/17th Battalion was to receive special German attention. The German plan was that Ponath's 8th Machine Gun Battalion would attack at 5pm. At that time, the Germans directed heavy artillery fire against the battalion. German machine guns commenced firing on the battalion. After that, tanks moved towards the perimeter, but were stopped by anti-tank gun fire. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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