Tuesday, February 07, 2017

More raids on 22 April 1941 from Tobruk

While the company-sized raid from the 2/48th Battalion achieved success, another raid by a company from the 2/23rd Battalion was carried out. They were protected on the right by two troops from the 18th Cavalry, a survivor of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade. The Indian cavalry group was commanded by Captain Barlow, who had been involved with the breakout from Mechili.

The Australians from the 2/23rd Battalion moved forward along a wadi. Enemy troops at the end of the wadi opened fire with machine guns that forced the Australians into a side wadi. They took heavy shelling and mortar fire in the side wadi. In a quick decision, the captain commanding the raid decided to attack across open ground. The enemy troops proved to be Italian. They opened fire but the attack by the Australians with bayonets and grenades broke into the Italian positions. The Italians surrendered in the face of the attack. With open ground covered by heavy gunfire, the Australians returned with about 40 Italian prisoners.

The 2/23rd raid was divided into two parts. We just saw the right hand portion of the raid. The left-hand group was moving south of the Derna road. They ran into a mixed battery of anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. Beyond them were two batteries of artillery. Again, they were fighting Italian soldiers. The Italians had fired on Australians on an open slope. A flanking move with carriers got them within grenade range. After throwing grenades, they charged with bayonets. The Italians reacted by surrendering in the face of grenades and bayonets.

The left-hand group had a hard fight and took heavy casualties. 24 men, including Lieutenant Hutchinson, did not return from the raid. 22 men returned wounded. They had done good execution. They had hit an Italian company which lost 90 of its 100 men. The two columns from the 2/23rd Battalion had captured 87 men, some anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and mortars. The 18th Cavalry conducted a reconnaissance mission and drove seven miles west without seeing any Germans or Italians.

Another raid, by the 20th Brigade, failed. They were a mixed force of tanks, infantry, and artillery. They started while it was still dark. When the sky got light, they found themselves under heavy artillery fire. They were forced to withdraw, losing one light tank to an anti-tank gun. Fortunately, they were will-supported by British artillery fire and were able to withdraw. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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