Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Defending Tobruk from April 1941

General Morshead, the 9th Australian Division commander, was also the commander of Tobruk, after General Lavarack's departure on 14 April 1941. Before there were time to reorganize the men in Tobruk, there were about 35,700 men in Tobruk. Of that number, only about 24,000 were "combat troops". One of the first steps was to ship out unnecessary men and prisoners from the base area. Most of the 2nd Armoured Division were to be sent to Egypt.

The defense of Tobruk was based on aggessive principles. They would not allow any ground to be taken. They would patrol the no-mans-land at night. The defensive positions would be improved and increased in depth. They would keep reserves ready to counter-attack. They would build an inner defensive perimeter ("the Blue Line").

Only after General Lavarack left did the 18th Australian Brigade become under General Morshead's control. As soon as that happened, he had the 18th Brigade's engineers start work on the inner perimeter. As all this played out, General Morshead was constantly inspecting to be sure that his policies and plans were executed well.>/p>

General Morshead had his chief staff officer, Colonel Lloyd, the four Australian brigadiers, and two British artillery commanders. The 18th Btigade commander, Brigadier Wooten, was a professional soldier at the start of his career, when he had served at Gallipoli in the Great War. He left the service in 1923 and became a lawyer. He rejoined the army at the start of the second war. It was Brigadier Wooten who had captured Giarabub. The British artillery commanders, one for the field and anti-tank guns and one for the anti-aircraft guns were able men. The field artillery was sited so that it could be used for anti-tank fire. The defeat of the first German attack showed the wisdom of that policy. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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