Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Fighting during late morning and early afternoon on 1 May 1941 at Tobruk

A feature of the fighting on 1 May 1941 at Tobruk was that the phone lines were cut early on so that the commanders of the men fighting got no information. There was also a lot of smoke and dust. There were burning vehicles giving off smoke and there was smoke laid to cover movement. As the day progressed on 1 May, the wind increased and picked up even more dust.

By midday on 1 May, the Germans had the upper position near the hiil Ras el Medauuar. They also had penetrated some 2,000 yards of the perimeter on either side of the hill. They also were sitting on two tracks. One was the road to the west and the southwest track. They also controlled the track going north to the water tower. There were seven tanks strategically located so that they could stop anything that tried to climb the escarpment towards the area that they controlled. There were "Axis infantry" (presumably both German and Italian) dug in outside the perimeter. They provided cover to the troops and vehicles occupying the area were the penetration had been made.

In the early afternoon, the Axis forces started pushing to widen the area of the penetration. On the northern side, a few tanks moved past Post S.7 until they were fired on by the 51st Field Regiment. They were stopped and forced to pull back. Infantry that had been with the tanks, traveling in trucks, stopped and got off the trucks. They mounted an attack on Post S.7 and the posts past that one, but were stopped by a stubborn defense. Lt. Rosel, having taken command of his platoon, asked for ammunition from a neighbor and got "several thousand round".

The next push was in an eastward direction to try and increase the size of the penetration. Post R5 was taken and infantry and tanks moved forward. They took fire from the 1st RHA and the 107th RHA. The infantry had to disperse, but the tanks kept moving forward. They drew two squadrons of the 1st RTR sent to engage. The British tanks were asked to engage the German tanks. The British tanks consisted of 7 cruiser tanks and 5 infantry tanks. Things were desperate enough that the other cruiser tank squadron was sent to Pilastrano to guard the Tobruk headquarters. To support the attacking tanks and infantry, the Germans sent dive bombers to attack the British artillery. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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