Monday, December 19, 2016

The Germans attacked Tobruk on 13 April 1941

The German attack on Tobruk on 13 April 1941 was based on a sketchy map. They had decided to attack Post R.33, where the anti-tank ditch was very shallow due to rock. The ditch there was only about two feet-six inches. The post was about 2-1/2 miles west of the El Adem Road. German engineers were to make the attack. The attack was made at 11pm by about thirty infantry. They had "two small field guns, a mortar and eight machine guns". They first had to break the wire. They moved in and dug themselves in about 100 yards east of Post R.33. The post commander, a lieutenant, first returned the German fire. When that did not stop the Germans, he led an attack with bayonets. The Australians shouted and then attacked. The men in Post R.33 also shouted. The Australians threw grenades along with shouting and were into the Germans, who fled by then. The next wave of Germans also fled. The one wounded Australian, Jack Edmondson, fought despite his wounds. They carried him back to Post R.33, where he died the next morning.

Right after midnight, a German tank came forward to inspect. By 2:30am on 14 April, about 200 German infantry attacked near Post R.33 and broke through. British artillery fire was called in on the German attackers. The original Australian attack on the Germans had caused a change of plan. Australian infantry was called upon to attack the Germans. When the German tank attack happened, 200 rather than 300 men from the 8th Machine Gun Battalion went forward. At about 4am on 14 April, they saw German tanks near the El Adem Road. They drew artillery fire that seemed to be without effect. There were about forty tanks moving along the wire. The officer who was supposed to guide them to their destination got lost. They had gone in too far east and had to drive along the wire to the west. German guns opened up on the Australian defenses. These included 88mm anti-aircraft guns firing. Around 5:20am, German tanks towing anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns drove into the fortress. A troop of the 1st RHA fired on them. The tanks were organized in waves with the first fifteen towing the guns. British artillery fire was called in on one battalion headquarters with good effect. The tanks carried German machine gunners who were killed or wounded by the artillery fire. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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