Monday, January 23, 2017

The need to halt to buy time on 18 April 1941

The Italian Supreme Command complained to the German High Command about the need to stop the advance to give time for reinforcing the existing units, to reorganize the remaining units, and to build up supplies. Rommel, in good infiltration-style, had tried to rush the attack to see if he could panic the Australians in Tobruk and get a low-cost win in the process. What Rommel found was that the Australians, with their British supporters, would not panic.

The German High Command and Hitler agreed with the Italians about the need to regroup and resupply. Even Rommel agreed to an extent. He wanted to build up the German forces in North Africa so that he could use them, not Italians, to attack Tobruk. The successful British destroyer attack had delayed the arrival of the 15th Armored Division. Now, they seemed likely to arrive in mid-May. What seemed to be the answer was to capture Tobruk.

In front of the 2/48th Battalion, tanks and other armored vehicles lay at wait, just beyond the perimeter wire. They fired on any movement that they noticed. The purpose was to allow their infantry to withdraw. They had been caught close to the wire and had to dig in to survive. However, more infantry congregated near the 2/48th Battalion and tried to push in on the right and center of the battalion. Fire from the 51st Field Regiment stopped the advance. In a reply, mortars and field guns were brought up close. The defenders took casualties from the fire. This seemed to portend a new attack, but one did not materialize. General Morshead considered using the 2/12th Battalion from the reserve and would have supported them with carriers and tanks from the 3rd Hussars and 5th Hussars. The proposed operation seemed to hazardous and was canceled. Fortunately, no enemy attack happened right then. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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