Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The German attack on Tobruk winds down on 14 April 1941

The retreat from Tobruk mixed infantry and tanks. While the tanks had towed in 88mm anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank guns, they were abandoned with the crews killed. There had also been Italian artillery that was also abandoned. The Australians fired on the infantry and tanks. The fire was heavy and caused some of the German infantry to hide in the anti-tank ditch. The infantry was eventually captured. Three German tanks stopped and hitched up 88mm guns, but the heavy artillery fire eventually caused them to leave them behind. The surviving German tanks were retreating by 7:30am. Some forty German dive bombers to bomb the harbor and town. Some attacked anti-aircraft guns. British fighters shot down two dive bombers while the anti-aircraft guns got four planes.

At the house near the attack path, there were about one hundred Germans hiding on a reverse slope. The house had been captured, but the men were a continuing problem. An Australian platoon attacked and succeeded in capturing 75 men, while there were casualties and some got away. The main battle ended by around 8:30am, but there were still pockets of resistance. Thirty Australian infantry attacked one group of Germans in a tank trap. They finally had two carriers and some mortars to aid them. They captured 87 men, some badly wounded, and captured many weapons.

Rommel's first attack on Tobruk failed completely. The Germans planned to attack at 6pm on 14 April, but decided to cancel. There had been an attempt to penetrate the perimeter again, but British artillery fire stopped the attack. In the attack that had been defeated, the Germans lost 150 killed and 250 men taken prisoner. Of the 38 tanks actually engaged in the attack, 17 were knocked out. The Tobruk defenders lost 26 killed and had 64 wounded.

Rommel had observed the attack from close to the perimeter, but he was forced to withdraw by British artillery fire. Rommel then drove over to the Italian Ariete Armored Division. By the time Rommel was back at his headquarters, he learned that the German tank force had returned from the attack. The division commander and tank regiment commander were yelled at by Rommel. He blamed them for not supporting the infantry and leaving them to be taken. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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