Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Reorganization at Tobruk about 19 April 1941

On 19 and 20 April 1941, the situation had stabilized such that there was time to reorganize the defense. The immediate crisis had subsided. The men were able to return to more routine work after being released from the heightened level of alert. The engineer were able to return to working in the inner defense line, "the Blue Line". The mines had been laid on 19 April, although there were still positions to be dug. The engineers also placed demolitions on all the fortress "plants and wells".

The defenders were reorganized to increase the available reserves. The Indian cavalry regiment (a survivor of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade) now reported to Brigadier Tovell. They took possession of the area near the coast that had been held by the 2/24th Battalion. The 2nd/23rd Battalion sat astride the Derna Road. The 2/24th Battalion now became part of the fortress reserve force. General Morshead had an infantry company formed from Australian Army Service Corps men. They took over an area near the coast on the east side. That allowed the 2/43rd Battalion to also move into the reserve under the 24th Brigade.

The "grand plan" was to have each of the three brigades in the perimeter to have a reserve battalion. There was also the 9th Australian Division reserve with three infantry battalions and one pioneer battalion. General Morshead wanted a defense in depth.

The fortress armor was also reorganized. There had been four infantry tanks in Tobruk manned by the 4th RTR. They gave up their tanks to the 7th RTR when they arrived with a squadron of tanks. All light tanks now belonged to the 3rd Hussars. All cruiser tanks, now about 15 in number, were in the 1st RTR. They were grouped into two squadrons. They had the armored brigade headquarters with a new commander, Colonel Birks. He had the 7th RTR under his direct control. General Morshead was immediately impressed by Colonel Birks.

The Australians had evidence from diaries and from talking with prisoners that both the Italian and German troops were in poor morale and were low on food. They were dispirited by their heavy losses in the first attack on Tobruk. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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