Monday, March 13, 2017

From late on 30 April 1941, a penetration of the Tobruk perimeter

General Morshead was told of the penetration near the 2/24th Battalion when he woke on 1 May 1941. At this point, no one above the effected battalion had any good information. The 2/24th Battalion had been penetrated in the center and right of their position. So far, the penetration was by infantry with tanks outside the wire. By this time, some German prisoners had been captured. To find out more about the situation, patrols from both the 2/24th and 2/23rd Battalions were looking for information.

The 9th Australian Division operations room was receiving reports from the 26th Brigade staff. Tobruk depended on a wire-line telephone network. They lacked too much equipment to use wireless communication. The wire lines connected from headquarters to their up line commander. The equipment and lines were mainly Italian in origin. The telephone lines were laid on the ground surface, as in the dark, there was no hope of finding cable breaks with buried lines. The drawback was that artillery fire could break lines as could enemy infantry on the attack.

The 2/24th Battalion commander, Lt-Col. Spowers' headquarters was located near a road that ran to the west. The furthest soldiers from the 2/24th Battalion were located about two miles to the west. The road continued on to Acroma. The 2/24th reserve company, Company B, was about one thousand yards from the battalion headquarters. The high point nearby was at Ras el Medauuar. The hill was topped with an observation post. AT the perimeter, posts were about 500 to 700 yards apart. The company nearest the penetration had seen troops moving forward as early as 5:55pm on 30 April. By 7pm they could see that there were tanks behind the infantry. This was all followed by air attacks and artillery fire. There were enemy flares fired. Finally, there was a white flare at 8:30pm. Shortly after that there was an explosion that broke the perimeter wire. The explosion was near the Acroma road.

The defenders were supported by defensive fire from the 51st Field Regiment. At 9pm, there was another white flare seen and the enemy artillery fire stopped. They still could hear infantry firing automatic weapons. Then the enemy artillery fire stopped, the 51st Field Regiment stopped firing as well. The defenders could see periodical enemy flares fired. Communications were disrupted by broken wires, so they started sending encrypted messages by wireless. This explains the lack of good information at the division level. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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