Tuesday, December 20, 2016

German tanks inside Tobruk on 14 April 1941

Once the German tanks were inside the Tobruk perimeter, they moved eastwards towards the El Adem Road. From there, they turned north along the road and than stopped to wait for daylight. The German tanks fired tracers so that allowed the defenders to know their location. With that information, the 1st RHA fired on them. Where they had passed through the perimeter was kept under heavy fire to stop any non-tanks from getting through. When the Germans started firing near the headquarters post, Australians started sniping and killed the crews. As the day got lighter, the German machine guns were eventually silenced.

When General Lavarack heard about the penetration, he went to General Morshead's headquarters so that he could be involved in decision-making. The British had cruiser and infantry tanks available in Tobruk. The cruiser tanks covered Pilastrano while the infantry tanks were near the junction of the Bardia Road and El Adem Road. The 3rd RHA with 2pdr anti-tank guns on portees engaed the German tanks. They got several tanks but also lost two portees with their guns. British 25pdr guns firing over open sights were deadly. They lacked anti-tank rounds, but their high explosive rounds knocked out five tanks as well as the Pzkw.IV, probably the battalion commander's tank. When some tanks tried to go around the flank, the Australian 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment engaged them. The II/5th Armored Battalion turned around and ran into the following I/5th Armored Battalion. When the German tanks ran to the east, they were engaged by the Australians of 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment. Australians attacked the Germans in the house they had taken. They were taken out, with 18 captured and 18 killed. They thought that a few men had escaped during the attack. At one point, the fighting was so intense that the German tanks turned around and made for the gap through which they had entered. British anti-tank gunners engaged the tanks. They were also engaged by the Australians of the 2/3rd Anti-Tank Regiment.

When the German tanks got back to the gap in the perimeter, they caught some Australians engaged in cleanup operations and captured some. In response, Australians fired Bren guns at the tanks and German infantry, allowing the Australians to escape. Some German tanks started to two the 88mm guns, but were fired on, so left them behind. A group of Germans were holding out near the house, but Australians attacked and ended up taking aboug 75 men prisoner. The battle had been won by 8:30am, but fighting continued to mop up remaining German resistance. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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