Thursday, March 09, 2017

On 30 April 1941, the situation at Tobruk changed

The position at Ras Medauuar was a critical point in the defenses of Tobruk. As the sun rose on 30 April 1941, dust from moving vehicles was observed from Ras Medauuar. The dust was seen in from Acroma. Eventually, some 100 vehicles were seen in transit. There were also about twenty armored vehicles moving on the escarpment. Once artillery fired on the armored vehicles, they retreated. British air reconnaissance reported vehicle movements around the perimeter and at Acroma. By 9am, observers on Ras Medauuar could see enemy infantry. The infantry had been on the trucks that had been seen. They moved up to within some 4,000 yards from the Tobruk perimeter. Major Fell at Ras Medauuar asked for artillery fire on the infantry. The artillerymen were uncertain that they could reach the infantry, but finally started firing a few rounds. The shells seemed to be falling short, from what could be seen. As the morning progressed, dust was blown up by a rising wind. As the infantry approached, they were seen to be Italians. Beyond the infantry, there was a great deal of dust, more than just from the wind.

The Tobruk defenders were used to seeing signs of an attack. The 2/24th Battalion was expecting to use the usual tactics to repel any attack. As the day progressed on 30 April, the only further action was 105mm artillery fire on Ras Medauuar. The men on the west side were attacked by dive bombers. The 2/23rd Battalion was busy planning a company-sized raid for 1 May. The onset of night seemed to be the end of action. As the day grew later, there was an increase in artillery fire on the western side. At 7:20pm, a report arrived at headquarters that the 2/24th Battalion was being dive-bombed. There were also reports of infantry about 1-1/2 miles from the wire. There were reports of more vehicles about two miles out from the wire. The dive bomber attack had been made by about 40 aircraft. One of them had crashed during the attack.

By 8pm, the entire fortress area could hear a heavy artillery bombardment. The attack was made against the 26th Brigade position. A "long-range gun" started firing on the air field. This was near the 9th Australian Division headquarters. The headquarters had an underground operations room cut out of rock. At about 8pm, the 24th Brigade reported an attack by about forty infantry. The activity seemed to have died down, until flares were reported along the perimeter wire. By about 11:20pm, there was an ominous report that the 2/24th Battalion had been penetrated and that the details were as yet unknown. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Australian Official History.

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